Over the years I have made a few quilts which have included photos printed directly on fabric.
Before I started doing this in earnest, I did some research, and found that after the question of wash-ability had been solved, fading from light exposure was the biggest problem.
I found that there was a new (to me) ink being used, pigment based ink, which was said to be much more light resistant than the ordinary printer ink, which is dye based.
Luckily, by then, some printers using this new pigment ink were on the market, and I got hold of one.
I wanted to test for myself, to see if what they said was true.
I chose a random photo, which had all the main colours in it to some degree, and printed this same photo onto four pieces of fabric of the same kind.
This was in January 2003. So the test began, and it has been going on for more than 10 years by now.
One of the prints, shown in the photo above, has been kept in the dark ever since, except every time I had it out to check against the others. It is printed using pigment based ink.
Two of the prints have been stapled to cardboard and standing in a window facing west. The window is exposed to direct sunshine from 2PM to around 10PM when the sun is at the highest in summer.
The print above was printed using pigment based ink, and the photo shows how it looks after 10 years.
This is the other print that has been standing in the same window. This one was printed with dye based ink, and there is almost nothing left after 10 years.
During one of my firs tests, I found that this kind of ink showed considerable fading after just a few months, even if an UV spray was used. See photos on my website here.
The fourth of my prints was hung on a wall, 2-3 meters from a window. This is where we typically would hang a wall hanging, for instance, not directly in a window.
This print was also printed with pigment ink, and has fared quite well compared to the one kept in the dark.
In this photo I placed all the prints side by side when photographing, so they would all have the same light exposure in the photo. The two at the top have been in the window, the bottom left has been hanging on the wall, and the bottom right has been in the dark.
All the ones that have been exposed to some degree of light, have had a yellowing of the fabric itself, while the one kept in the dark still has very white fabric after 10 years.
The test will continue, although I think I have found that I can trust my quilts to look almost as brilliant as when they were new, even after many, many years. Especially if they are not hung directly in a window.