Paper manufacturers have implemented the use of Optical Brightening Agents (OBAs) in their products. OBAs increase the perceived “whiteness” of the paper by absorbing UV light and emitting visible light in the blue/white range of the color spectrum. This makes the paper look incredibly white through a process called fluorescence. OBAs can pose a threat to the integrity and longevity of the fine art print due to a couple of factors.
Metamerism occurs when two different color objects have the same color appearance under one light source, but look different under another light source. It’s a result of OBAs in the paper becoming more active under UV light in the daytime and less active without UV light in the evening. This means fine art colors will shift for prints displayed with exposure to daylight and appear much different at night under incandescent lighting.
Paper manufactured with OBAs are known to decompose over time. This decomposition becomes apparent when yellow stains begin to appear on the print. The use of UV inhibiting products and overcoats on the print have not proven successful in stopping OBA decomposition. As a result, it’s safe to say that any fine art print made on paper manufactured with OBAs is a print risk.
It’s a surprise that OBA-Free paper is not used more frequently than paper manufactured with OBAs. Especially in an industry concerned with color accuracy and long-term print stability. There’s no room for error in the fine art industry since art sells because of how it looks. Any business selling printed art has a genuine incentive to make longevity and color integrity top priorities.