The Science of Scrapbooking and its Terminology

When we want to buy supplies for paper-crafting we lookout for the terms "acid-free" and "lignin-free" but do we really know what it means and why it matters? Today I wish to share my knowledge of the science behind scrapbooking, which I have acquired from my ongoing research over a period of 10 years.

Acid Free & Lignin Free
Paper is made from wood, which is acidic. Lignin is a chemical within the paper that causes yellowing and deterioration of paper. There are processes which can make the paper ‘acid free’, and that process involves neutralizing or eliminating lignin. Therefore, the two go together. (Read this article which explains what acid free paper really means, and why it’s important.)

Archival Quality” is not equal to acid free is not equal to safe forever
"Archival Quality" is the term used by vendors to imply long lasting or permanent. However it doesn't mean that the product is acid free and it definitely doesn't mean  that it is safe forever! (Read this article to know more on this)
Important terms (Click here for the glossary of paper terminology) -

pH - measures the acidity or alkalinity of a substance.  A pH scale (shown above) runs from 0 to 14 and each number indicates ten fold increase. 7 is pH neutral. Numbers below 7 indicate increasing acidity and numbers above 7 indicate increasing alkalinity.

Acid Free - products are without acid in the manufacturing process but does not mean that they will remain acid free for any length of time. Acid free paper has a pH of 7.0. The higher the number on the pH scale, the less acidic the product.

Lignin Free - Lignin is a natural occurring bonding element in plants that holds the wood fiber together. While lignin is not an acid, it does give off acids as it deteriorates. Therefore if you have a paper that is only acid free, but still contains lignin, it will become acidic over time.

Buffered - a rarely known term amongst most Indian crafters - buffered paper often is an acidic paper that has had an alkaline solution added to neutralize it.  It has a pH higher than 7.0, but only at the time of its production.  In time, acids eat through the buffering and the paper becomes acidic, usually in about 7-10 years.

Colorfast - A color that is resistant to the action of external agents, such as light, acids and alkalies. Paper color that is resistant to change from aging or from exposure to light, heat or other adverse conditions. Color that is non-fading over long exposure to daylight. Lightfast and sun-fast are variations of the term.

Acid and lignin are the enemies of photographs. Over time lignin in untreated paper will break into acids that will harm your photographs. The presence of acid in your scrapbooking materials will accelerate the aging process and cause photos to become brittle and distort the original coloring of your photograph.

Acid is used in many different manufacturing processes including paper, photo albums, scrapbooks, adhesive and plastics. Today nearly all scrapbooking supplies and photo storage devices are created for archival longevity. However, as early as 10 years ago manufacturers were not as savvy as they are now about the dangers of acid and lignin. Check your old photos albums to make sure they are being stored properly.

The aging process can be stopped by simply removing photographs from dangerous storage devices and placing them safely in photo-safe, acid- & lignin-free or archival quality  photo boxes, memory albums or storage cabinets. Do not automatically assume that because an item it purchased in the “scrapbook” section that it is photo-safe. If it does not say “photo safe”, “acid-free” or “archival safe”, assume that it is not.

For safe memory-keeping beware of the following environments that will harm your photos:

Extreme Temperature and Fluctuation
Light and UV Rays
Excessive Handling by Human Hands


1 comment:

  1. Thanks - nice and informative post. How does one make the photos - "photo safe"?