Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fade Test

On May 11, a little over three months ago, I put a few stripes of color on a piece of card stock. I cut the paper in half. One half went in a cool, dark drawer and the other half in a south-facing window. When I restored both pieces, it was possible to see how much each color faded.

The Caran d’Ache water-soluble colored pencils fared surprisingly well. But the markers faded considerably. The newsprint paper went from a light gray to a yellowish brown.

The Sharpie Accent highlighter went through a strange transformation. It started out a light fluorescent yellow. A few weeks later it darkened as it lost the component dyes that convert ultraviolet light to visible light. Eventually the yellow color disappeared entirely.

The Sharpie Permanent marker turns out to be not very permanent.

Today I made up a bunch of new swatches with oil, watercolor, pastel, marker, dyes, colored pencils, ballpoint pens, fountain pen inks and inkjet printer inks. Anything else you’re curious to see put through the test?

A few months from now I’ll let you know how they come out.


Erik Bongers said... it's not easily available in Europe, the Sharpie fine point permanent marker (black) would be a nice test.
And to go all snobbish : on Moleskin paper !

In your test, the only surprise I see is the quality of the Caran d'Ache pencils.

In return my own tests so far:

* Schoellershammer Duria paper with Talens Indian Ink :
Extremely permanent : I used it for my door bell label - the best test ever! I use these materials for my comic book pages.
(I'd trust Indian Ink from any well known brand.)

* Schoellershammer gray/brown recycled acid free sketching paper : fairly permanent. I put a piece in the sun for half a year now and it gets slightly more brown, but not lighter nor darker, so it is suitable for highlighting with white paint or crayons.

Note that glass is a fairly strong UV light filter. Thick multi-layer windows are not ideal for testing.

Tim said... has done a bunch of tests on watercolors, but I'm sure you already know about them. I'm very interested in how the different alizarin oils fare after a few months. I have a few different brands, i think ill join you in setting them up!

Daroo said...

My first thought was the Alizarins too.

I have a W&N Alizarin Crimson, a W&N Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Gamblin's Alizarin Crimson and their Alizarin Permanent. (Maybe you could throw a Permanent Rose in too.)

I finally tried James Perry Wilson's limited palette (see earlier GJ post)so how about light red vs. terra rosa in a head to head?

I've heard greens (like sap green) tend to fade.

Anonymous said...

Well that's relief! I use mostly Caran d'Ache supracolors for all my works. Nice to know they will hold on for a little while!

Paolo Rivera said...

I'd be curious to see some of the varnishes (damar and retouch, among others), perhaps some inks too. I use Pelikan Drawing Ink A, which seems to hold up well, at least in storage.

BobN said...

The Colored Pencil Society of America ( has been working on the lightfastness issue for many years. They were instrumental in the creation of an official ASTM standard for colored pencil pigments. Members of CPSA can purchase the latest results of lightfastness testing for all the major brands. I'm no longer a member (since I'm now strictly digital), but as I recall cost for the results booklet was about $12. I'd hate to see you reinvent the wheel, so you might want to check them out.

I find it ironic that "traditional" media are held in high esteem by museums, while digital is not considered "real art." Perhaps the inks used in inkjet printers are fugitive (100 years or so from now, they'll fade), but I was at an exhibit of the Dutch Italianates here in Pittsburgh, and one painting had blue leaves, due to the fugitive yellow disappearing. (That's what the info card said, by the way.)

Roberto said...

This is an interesting area to explore. As a mural painter I find fugitive colors to be a real problem. I’m not at all surprised by the dyes (marker pens), but I am impressed by the colored pencils’ performance. There are layout pencils for sign painters that are indelible to water based, or oil based, paints that are designed to fade-out with exposure to light. I have even used color markers for this on very large projects on rough surfaces such as stucco. The most durable paints for exteriors are oil-based enamels, but they are harder to work with when blending, and especially over-glazing. For most paint systems the reds seem to fade the most, followed by the blues. There are also clear over-paint coatings that have UV inhibiters. The most versatile I have found is an industrial vinyl coating which can be applied over acrylics and oils, (and also painted over with acrylics and oils!) and it is flexible so it san be used on canvas.
The best part of this post today is the link to your past postings on color, what a fantastic voyage! I strongly suggest my fellow bloggers take the time to explore Mr. Gurney’s archive. Thanks again Jim for the journey! -RQ

Mike Manomivibul said...

Would love to see a comparison between water colors and gauche

Bookish said...

Perhaps if you did the samples you made today, but on several different papers, just to see how the paper made a difference? I.E. The same colored pencils on a sketch pad, newspaper, and water color paper?

Anonymous said...

I did a test like this years ago using different types of inks/ink pens, with and without marker over top. I didn't put the test strip directly in a window, but on my desk in my studio (which has windows on three sides) to sort of mimic normal wear on art that is not UV protected.

I tested rapdioliners, copic, faber-castell pitts, triplus, penstix and pilot pens. The winner by far was, and continues to be, the FB pitt pens when straight india ink is not available. Rapido used india ink (which survives), but they are no longer produced. All the others faded, the worst of which being the penstix. It turned sepia in as little as two months! Perhaps a cool effect, but only if you're expecting it. ;)

Bookish said...

Another interesting test would be to use the primary colors and black of each medium to see which color is more light fast.

Dan Gurney said...

Practical homemade scientific inquiry at its best. I'm delighted.

vivien said...

I use the Caran d'Ache occasionally - so that's good news :>)

Anonymous said...

What about Derwent Inktense pencils? :)

Anonymous said...

Do you have any Copics or Derwents?
If not, I might try this for myself.

Anonymous said...

In your test, the only surprise I see is the quality of the Caran d'Ache pencils.

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