Why is black paper so hard?


Carbon Black

Black paper is one of the more difficult products to produce, or at least to produce well. Most black papers contain the ever-present carbon black, which is essentially soot produced from incomplete combustion of carbon containing materials. Carbon black is chemically stable but tends to rub off over time. Alternative products are typically more expensive or less stable. They bleed when exposed to moisture or fade when exposed to light.

When I was at Creative Memories, we were able to identify a combination of pigments that was stable and did not rub off. This paper was more expensive, but it met the requirements for permanence and photosafety.

One way to cut costs is to use white paper and dye the surface black. Paper made this was has a white edge wherever it is cut.

I have not kept up with the market for black paper and do not know what manufacturers are doing now, but I suspect that they are not producing the same quality paper that was available a few years ago.

In a related project, last year I had to redo my home driveway, and I wanted to use a dark colored concrete. It turned out that many of the formulations that were available were based on carbon black with many of the same problems I had seen firsthand with album pages. Fortunately, I was able to identify a manufacturer that used iron salts instead of carbon black. I am very pleased with my new driveway. For more information see Black is black… Or is it?

About Mark Mizen

At Creative Memories, I evaluate photographic products and related materials so that today's memories are not lost to the future and then communicate this information to Creative Memories Consultants and their customers. My interests extend from preservation of traditional photographs to the production of photo books to the expected longevity of electronic image files. My long-term objective is to direct the development of technology that meets consumers needs for high-quality products.
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One Response to Why is black paper so hard?

  1. Nicole says:

    Thanks, Dr. Mark, this was fascinating.

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