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Boite outils : Light fastness

Brancher - Encres dimprimerie

Light fastness

Light fastness is the resistance of colours to fading, changing shade or darkening under the
influence of light (independently of the direct influence of weathering).

The reasons for such modifications in the appearance of prints are mainly due to the degradation of
the colouring agent used (pigment or colorant). However, light not only affects the pigments but
also the binders, the substrate and even the overprint varnish.

The printed material should therefore be considered as a whole, of which the ink film is
only a part, and the colouring material only one of the constituents of the ink film.

It should be noted that other factors can cause premature ageing of the printed material :
Humidity : which ends up leaching the prints.
Atmospheric pollution : which can cause rapid deterioration.
The packaged product : which can migrate or release vapours that can alter the print.

Factors that influence light fastness

The characteristics of light that have an influence on the fastness of prints are :
Its nature : daylight or artificial light.
Its intensity : season, latitude, reflections, etc.
Light fastness also varies with :

The thickness of the ink film : the thinner the ink film, the lower the light fastness.
The transparency of the ink film : the more transparent the ink film, the lower the light fastness.
The pigmentation of the ink : the lower the pigmentation concentration, the lower the light
A high filler or white pigment content : pastel shades have low light fastness even when they
contain light fast pigments.
Did you know ?
Varnishing or lamination never improve light fastness.
Measuring light fastness

The light fastness of inks or prints is exclusively expressed in terms of an alteration in their
colorimetric appearance in comparison with standardised blue wool samples.
The DIN 16519 (printing test samples), AFNOR Q64-022, DIN 16525 and ISO 2835
standards detail methods for printing test samples and measuring light fastness.

The most commonly used method is exposure to artificial light. A xenon arc lamp, whose spectrum
is similar to natural daylight, is used as the light source (Suntest).

The test samples are exposed at the same time as a standard colour scale known as the blue wool
scale (or simply wool scale). This colour scale is composed of strips of wool fabric, tinted with 8
blue colorants, whose light fastness increases regularly in an arithmetic scale from 1 to 8.

The light fastness test ends when a fadingon the test sample. The limit of fading of the blue zone
read off at this instant on the blue scale determines the light fastness index of the ink or print run.

It is very difficult to provide an exact equivalence between the light fastness of prints and their
durability. In fact, as mentioned above, different factors combined with light can alter the printed
material (intensity of the sunlight, humidity, etc.).

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Boite outils : Light fastness

The following table gives an indication of the average equivalent :

Solidity index Wool scale - Durability of the print

NB : Above index 5, if the modification falls between two indices on the wool scale, the light
fastness is noted with both indices (e.g. 5-6). Furthermore, if the colour darkens, the letter N is
added to the index
Did you know ?
Basic principles for calculating the light fastness of mixtures
The light fastness of a mixture is equal to that of the constituent with the lowest light fastness.
Adding around 50% of Transparent White or Opaque White to a mixture reduces the light fastness by 1 point.
Adding around 90% of Transparent White or Opaque White to a mixture reduces the light fastness by 2

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