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Archival Pigment Prints

Archival pigment prints, as their name suggests, are long-lasting photographic prints that offer a high level of permanence and quality. Due to their longevity, archival pigment prints are valued among collectors.

Archival pigment printing uses materials that are acid-free, which helps images to maintain their quality far longer than many traditional photographic prints. Archival pigments are made up of tiny particles that remain on the surface of paper rather than soaking in to the fibers, which leads to a breakdown in the capsules and can cause fading. These prints are sometimes referred to as giclee prints, a name coined in the 1980s by a technician in a print shop who wanted to distance them from the negative association with digital processes.

Archival pigment printing is now well respected as a fine art process and used widely by professional photographers. Galleries regularly represent artists that make use of these methods, and archival pigment photographs routinely command substantial prices at auction.

Quick Facts

  • Photographer Annie Leibovitz was one of the first professional photographers to print using archival pigments. Leibovitz's famed photographs include images of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Demi Moore, and many other celebrities and public figures
  • American artist Wade Guyton uses inkjet printers and computers to create images, then scans and prints them multiple times over. While Guyton is taking advantage of the technology of archival pigments, his process exposes the streaks and blurs that can still occur with mechanical printing techniques
  • Well known portrait artist Chuck Close uses archival pigment prints in his works, evolving from painting and drawing to a modern process. Close often paints over a digital image, or creates and prints a digital image to invoke the effects of a watercolor wash

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