As a general rule, anything not labelled ‘artist quality’; or not specifically marked ‘lightfast’ is usually not lightfast. Some dyes and pigments are just not stable and undergo chemical changes even without light.
Some of my favourite-to-use art supplies such as water-based and alcohol markers, liquid and cheapie watercolours, old coloured pencils ( which I LOVE), plus many neon and fluouresent colours may not only fade, but change colour over time – even in their packaging! Some are are described as ‘fugitive’ (short life).
Many of the surfaces I love to use, such as vintage books, have issues too and can yellow and become brittle over time.
If you intend to sell your work, does that mean you can’t ever use these art materials?
Absolutely not! I love using all the art supplies I mentioned above, so that is why I scan my work and then sell prints of it on archival, lightfast papers. That way I feel free to use whatever art supplies I like, on whatever vintage ephemera and papers I find. I recommend my workshop ‘Print and Scan’ to anyone who is worried about these issues as I discuss them in detail and my personal strategies.
There are sprays and varnishes you can add that may lend some more archival properties to your work, but you would have to test them on the individual products. Also, most will smear or alter the underlying artwork layers anyway.
If you do want to sell your original artwork that uses art materials that probably are not lightfast, or may deteriorate, at least advise that the artwork be framed under glass and not displayed where it gets much light. Be open about the products you have used. If the artist is open about what they use, the collector can ask questions and make their choice knowing they may need to take extra care with it and the beauty may be fleeting. Consumer Protection Laws probably have a say here too. Fading and colour change could potentially be considered ‘faulty’ goods!
Personally, I wouldn’t like to buy artwork and have it fade or decline in quality, so it’s my choice to create beautiful, archival prints.
Not all art materials are intended as a ‘fine-art’ product.
Lightfast, professional standard materials are more expensive in part, because you are paying for the lightfast pigments. If you are interested in what the lightfast properties of your ‘go-to’ supplies are – go to the manufacturer’s website and see what they say.
‘Gallery Standard’, ‘Gallery Quality’ ‘Fine Art’ or ‘Museum Quality’, isn’t a judgement on the aesthetics of the artwork, but a judgement on the art materials used to make it. A professional gallery would inquire into your art materials, so they don’t have future problems with upset collectors that could damage their reputation.
‘Student Quality’ products are labelled that because they are intended for learning and practice before the emerging artist creates ‘gallery standard’ work.
Children’s art products usually have very low pigment loads, and will rarely last any test of time. Again, they are great to practice with, but for work you may want to sell, may not be the best choice.
‘Professional Quality’ or ‘Graphic Design’ standard art supplies are intended for the commercial designer who’s work is scanned or used for story boards etc immediately. Most markers where created for this market where longevity is not an issue.
Depending on where artwork using these art materials are displayed or kept those changes can happen within a very short time.
Now you know why I rarely sell original work, and offer Gallery Quality prints instead! Besides, most of what I create is in my journals, and they are precious to me, so I would never sell the pages. It’s my choice to create beautiful, archival prints.
Maybe that will work for you too?
The reasons I use Society 6 for my prints are because the quality is excellent, the collector can decide on a wide range of sizes, substrates, framing and formats, AND! The customer Service is excellent.
Important issues like this one are exactly why I created my ‘Print & Scan’ workshop.
There are so many options for creative people to share their gifts with the world now. It is so much fun and with the right know-how it’s quite easy to get your artwork out of your journal and into the world.
You can find out more here: