signing prints

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by John Di Leo, May 3, 2021.

  1. I would like to write the title of a photograph as well as sign and date it on the photo itself. I am using a Canon Pro 10 and usually resin coated paper, usually glossy or semi gloss (Kirkland and Canon so far).
    I have tested a ultra fine sharpie (0.3mm) and it seems to work fine, no smearing, no bleed through.
    The only hit I found on was from 2012 and one response says "never" use a sharpie, yet searching online says sharpies are fine. I've seen Picma Micro recommended, but if a sharpie is fine, why not just use it.
    Thoughts and advice appreciated. I've read the pros and cons of signing a matte, but I am not asking about that. These prints will not be matted by me.
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

  3. I spent about all of my adult work life in photography, with the majority in lab work and "beyond," whatever you might take that to mean. We used to do extensive testing of color films and papers (it was a very large outfit and I was a QC guy for a lot of years). Sharpies were our standard way to label test prints. After a lot of years the Sharpies would sorta "bleed" within the paper.

    As I recall they came out with a photograde Sharpie which we used a little. Completely different ink, which I know because you could see it through an infrared scope (the regular Sharpie is "blank" to an IR scope). I would PRESUME that the photograde ink doesn't bleed, but I dunno for sure (it just wasn't our "thing" to study this aspect; we weren't gonna be writing on customer prints).

    I'd personally be looking at Henry Wilhelm's 1990s book (free download from his website) for any recommendations. Aside from that, if I was gonna be inclined to listen to someone's personal recommendations on some certain ink/pen, I'd be asking them how they held up after ten or fifteen years.
    Ricochetrider and John Di Leo like this.
  4. I believe for signing you want an acid free ink pen. There are some on the market. I think Sharpie makes ones. Try googling acid free pen.
    John Di Leo likes this.
  5. Normally resin coated means that liquids, and especially water, don't go in.

    Sharpies, as well as I know, are not water based. Even so, I would expect them
    to either bleed through or not, and that once dried they would stay that way.

    Otherwise, I think I would write at the edge, which ever one, where any bleed
    through would be least noticed.
    John Di Leo likes this.
  6. Op I've used both. I use baryta paper though.
  7. I use Pigma Microns. I like the very fine point--I usually use either .2 or .25mm--and they produce no visible spreading at all. I have no experience using sharpies for this.
  8. As both a collector of fine art photographs, and a photographer who is represented by fine art galleries, signatures and titles are ALWAYS in pencil.
  9. The OP doesn't mention fine art. While RC papers are very good, at least traditionally fine art photography was done on non-RC paper.

    I suspect also that pencil works less well on RC paper, though I haven't tried it recently.

    It doesn't seem that the OP even indicated marking on the front or back, though bleed through suggest the back.
    (Considering that oil painting are normally signed on the front.)

    But yes, one should consider the desire, or lack of, permanence in the chosen method.
  10. In my experience, pencil doesn't work well on coated papers.

    I'm not sure what counts as "fine art", but quite a few serious photographers print on coated papers. However, for serious prints, it's usually something like a baryta or platine, not a non-resin coated paper. Before the advent of inkjet printing, most serious photography was necessarily done on coated papers, and people often evaluate high-end coated papers partly in terms of how similar they are to wet-darkroom papers. The high-end photo paper companies, e.g., Hahemuehle, Canson, and Breathing Color, all sell coated papers. Many people (I'm one) choose the paper based on the image. A good coated paper provides finer detail, greater dmax, and a wider color gamut than uncoated papers, and for some images, those advantages are a big deal.
  11. I am not sure what is "fine art", but when I see them in museums near oil paintings, then I assume fine art.

    Personally, I think I still like wet process prints, even if they are printed from a digital image.
    That is, even though inkjet technology is very good, the digitally optical printed prints still remind me
    of the days of enlargers and trays, but are much more affordable than enlarger prints.

    I am not so sure if that has anything to do with fine art.

    I also never got into other optical printing methods, such as platinum prints, which I
    have seen in museums.

    And yes, pencil works less well on coated paper.
  12. Pencils don't work on most papers, only use it to sign on mats. Sharpies fade fast, who needs/wants that!? (great for notes on the back of proofs, and since those are not usally out in the light, last for decades then).
    I have used Pilot Extra Fine Point 'paint markers'. Don't fade, dry fast, write on all papers I've tried. Used them for decades now, and inks still look good decades later too. I use the silver, neutral, but comes in gold too.

    PS, they do sometimes 'blob out', so practice on something before use to make sure it's coming out fine. I have lighter fluid handy in cast of smears, blobs, as it dries quickly and removes it quite well. Then sign again.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2021
  13. There are special sharpies

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