Archival scrapbooking requires careful attention to using materials that will last a lifetime or longer. Archiving is about making sure that no harm comes to precious photos by understanding some photo-archival facts.

Acid-free does not always mean the product is photo or archival-safe when it comes to archival scrapbooking. One day I finally purchased a special pH marker that when applied to the objects surface, revealed whether the material was really archival safe. To my surprise at the time, I discovered some of my material certainly was not safe, and so since then, I have learned how to mingle the unsafe with the safe (when I just had to use a piece of material), thus minimizing the chances of harm to my photographs.

The Photographic Activity Test (PAT), developed by the company, Image Permanence Institute, and performed by several manufacturers, predicts or shows possible interactions between photographic images and the enclosures in which they are stored. If a scrapbook product passes the PAT, it only means the material is safe to use with photographs, but not necessarily safe for archival scrapbooking. It is a good idea to make sure the product has also been pH tested. Also look for archival products that have the CKOK Seal of Approval, as these particular products have met definite requirements to ensure safe merchandise.

Tips for Selecting Commonly Used Scrapbooking Products:

Any paper product used should be acid-free and lignin-free and buffered, which is a process that adds a buffering agent, such as calcium carbonate to the paper, acting as a neutralizer and controlling the pH level from changing over time.

Different kinds of metal will react in various ways with paper ad photographs. It is best to use a coated metal and to be cautious of sharp edges that would scratch or otherwise ruin photos.

Only use lead-free paint. Be cautious with water-soluble paint as it can fade and also run or bleed through to other pages.

Be aware when using natural products, such as corkboard, leaves or flowers, that all of these materials contain the substance lignin and will discolor your pages over time. Take care to use safe methods in combining them in archival scrapbooking.

Use rubber stamp ink that is pigment-based as opposed to dye-based. (Colorbox brand is pigment-based). Not only are dye colors generally less stable over the long run, they are soluble, while pigment colors are non-soluble. Always powder-emboss the ink to prevent the color from fading or changing over time.

Stickers should be judged by the same criteria used for choosing paper and adhesives. The sticker should be acid-free and lignin-free and buffered, and the adhesive should meet the safety guidelines of a good adhesive.

Sometimes you come across unique treasures from the past or an article from a newspaper, a certificate, or letter to be included in a layout. Following are some safe options for using these items for archival scrapbooking.

Newspaper articles can be washed to de-acidify the paper by allowing the article to soak in distilled water in a shallow dish or bowl for 20 minutes. Let paper dry and store in an acid-free environment.

For certificates, letters or larger newsprint items, use a de-acidification spray. Certificates and other documents cannot be washed because they often have ink on them that will run or bleed. Krylon and others have adhesive sprays that can help protect and adhere the document.

Rather than using glue or tape on a valued document, or fiber-based black and white photo, use safe mounting corners. You could also scan the item and print it out. Ideally a laser printer is best, but an inkjet printer can also be used.

Several printers now offer archival ink, but not all printers do so. Companies such as Lyson, Bulldog, MIS Associates, Cone Editions, and others have been providing after-market, pigment based inks for printers by Iris, Epson and other manufacturers. Epson has ownership of their own patented pigment.

Do use the printer/ink/paper combination recommended by the manufacturer. Pigment ink lasts longer than dyes. The manufacturer should know his product. Check to see if he or she has conducted longevity testing of their printer inks (for your printer type) to understand what combinations work for you.

A very safe way to handle original photographs is to scan these photos and original documents, and then the original documents can be stored in an archival-safe photo box or other organizational system. Also, when handling photos, wash your hands on a frequent schedule to avoid transferring your natural skin oils to the photos. If you are working with unique photographs, consider wearing cotton gloves.

Many methods of archival scrapbooking exist. Learn about them as you learn about the art of scrapbooking. As with all art, there is a wrong way and a right way to do it well. Remember, it is your choice what you do with your page. Being aware of what the best choices makes for a more successful page as you stretch the boundaries of your own imagination.


Sharon Olvera is passionate about all things scrapbooking and feels strongly that family memories are very important and worth preserving properly. She started scrapbooking in the year 2000, beginning with family photos of her much loved nieces and nephews. She believes one of the most important things in life is to remember and be remembered and that is, in part, what scrapbooking is about. Find out more at

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