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

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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1 Response to Why is black paper so hard?

  1. Nicole says:

    Thanks, Dr. Mark, this was fascinating.

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