Why You Should Use Lightfast Paper

Why You Should Use Lightfast Paper

I’ve written many times about the importance of using lightfast colored pencils. Today I’d like to show you why you should use lightfast paper, too.

Why You Should Use Lightfast Paper

I was recently repackaging a few pieces for a presentation. After looking through the collection of artwork on hand, I decided to take West of Bazaar, shown below, out of it’s frame and mat and repackage it in a more presentable way.

This post is all about what I found and what I learned in the process.

About the Artwork

West of Bazaar is an old piece dating back to 2005.

West of Bazaar ~ Colored Pencil on Mat Board.

I looked up the painting journal on it and found the following information on the support:

I went through all the pieces of mat board I had assembled some days ago and chose this piece of medium blue because it presented a good foundation color for the sky and rainy landscape.

Note the use of scraps of mat board. I don’t remember where I got the scraps, but it’s possible they came from a framer who gave me a collection of scraps left over from mat cutting. The words “archival support” hadn’t even entered my art vocabulary at the time.

I remembered something about how I drew this piece. As I thought, I had left the distant hills untouched. They are the color of the mat board, with no colored pencil layered over it.

About the Framing

I didn’t frame West of Bazaar under glass. Instead, I mounted it in a single mat (non-archival) and stuck it in a frame without glass. It had been hanging on a wall in an area that received no direct light at all. Then I moved it to a north wall adjacent to a west wall with two large windows. Sunlight still couldn’t reach the artwork, but the artwork was exposed to elevated levels of light in the afternoons.

In preparing for the art presentation, I noticed West of Bazaar hanging on the wall and decided to repackage it. When I removed the mat, I got a big surprise. This is what I found.

The drawing and the mat board it was drawn on.
The Problem

It’s easy to see the differences in color between the blue-gray mat around the drawing, and the light gray mat of the drawing.

For further comparison, some of the drawing wasn’t exposed to sunlight. You can see the difference between it and the main part of the drawing.

In the illustration below, I filled two circles with color. The circle on the left is the color of the mat board that wasn’t exposed to light. This is the original color of the mat board.

The circle on the right is the color of the mat board now. There is no colored pencil on this part of the drawing because I used the color of the mat board for the distant hills. That’s one of the reasons I chose this color of mat board.

I don’t need to tell you there’s a difference, do I? A big difference!

Lessons Learned
  1. Make sure your support (paper, mat board, etc.) is archival. If you use colored paper, make sure it’s also lightfast.
  2. Use archival mats when framing work. The same applies to back boards. There’s no evidence the mat or back board caused damage in this case, but why take the chance?
  3. Use UV resistant glazing when framing artwork. UV resistant glazing doesn’t stop fading, but it does slow it down.
  4. Don’t display finished artwork where bright sunlight can reach it, no matter how it’s framed.

In My Defense

I drew this scene a long time before I knew anything about lightfast pencils or archival paper. I drew on what I could get and what I liked. At the time, I was doing a lot of work on mat board, and I wonder how many of those other pieces have also faded.

Having said that, I also can say that the drawing itself doesn’t look bad. The color of the mat board faded evenly, so there are no blotches or other visible damage. At least not as long as the drawing is matted and framed.

However, I cannot now in good conscience sell this piece because it’s impossible to know how much more the mat board might fade.

What do I want you to take away from this experience?

Be just as careful when choosing the paper you draw on as you are when choosing the pencils you draw with.

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