What’s the Best Way to Store my Woodblock Print?

Woodblock prints are higher quality when stored away from light because light exposure can cause the pigments and paper of the print to fade or discolor over time. This is because light contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can break down the molecular structure of the pigments and paper. Additionally, prolonged exposure to light can cause the paper fibers to become brittle and fragile, which can result in tearing or other damage to the print.

Most pigments used in woodblock printing, such as those made from organic dyes or inorganic compounds, are susceptible to damage from UV radiation. When these pigments are exposed to sunlight, the energy from the UV radiation causes chemical reactions within the pigments that can lead to fading or discoloration.

A Japanese woodblock print with crisp colors that was stored in an album away from light

To preserve the quality of woodblock prints, it is recommended to store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or other sources of light. This can help to prevent fading, discoloration, and damage, and can extend the life of the print. It is also recommended to use acid-free archival storage materials to further protect the print from deterioration.

This is why, when you find an amazing collection of Japanese woodblock prints stored in an album, you might notice how crips and full color they look.  Here are the main benefits of finding woodblock prints in album format (versus loose leaf individual):

  1. Protection from light and dust: Album storage protects woodblock prints from dust and light, which can cause the colors to fade and the paper to deteriorate over time. The protective sleeves used in albums can help to shield the prints from harmful environmental factors and keep them in better condition.
  2. Preservation of context: When woodblock prints are stored in albums, they are often arranged in a specific order or thematic grouping. This can help to preserve the context in which the prints were originally intended to be viewed, and can provide additional insights into the subject matter or artistic style of the prints.
  3. Ease of handling: Individual woodblock prints can be fragile and difficult to handle without risking damage. By contrast, prints stored in albums are often easier to handle and view, as they can be safely removed from the album for closer inspection.
  4. Enhanced visual appeal: Album storage can also enhance the visual appeal of woodblock prints by presenting them in an organized and aesthetically pleasing manner. This can create a more immersive and engaging viewing experience, and can highlight the artistic qualities of the prints.

Aside from storing prints in an album, if you want to preserve your Japanese woodblock print for a long time against the harsh realities of the environment, we recommend using archival storage methods.  Archival storage can help with the following:

  1. Prevents acid migration: Many types of paper contain acids and lignin, which can cause the paper to yellow and become brittle over time. Archival paper is made without these harmful substances, which prevents acid migration and ensures the longevity of the paper and the prints it contains.
  2. Resists fading: Archival paper is also designed to resist fading and other forms of deterioration caused by exposure to light, heat, and moisture. By using archival paper to store your woodblock prints, you can help to protect the vibrant colors and fine details of the prints for years to come.
  3. Maintains value: By storing your woodblock prints on archival paper, you can help to maintain their value over time. Archival storage is the recommended method for preserving valuable works of art, and can help to ensure that your prints remain in excellent condition for future generations to enjoy.
  4. Easy to find: Archival paper is widely available at art supply stores and online, making it easy to find and purchase. It is also relatively affordable, and can be a worthwhile investment to protect your valuable Japanese woodblock prints for years to come.

Therefore, properly preserving your woodblock prints can help to maintain their value over time. Woodblock prints that are in excellent condition, with vibrant colors, crisp lines, and minimal signs of wear or damage, are generally more valuable than prints that have been damaged or poorly preserved.  These types of prints are likely to command much higher values at Auction houses such as Christies and Sotheby’s.

Strong vivid colors in this print stored away from light

By storing your woodblock prints in a cool, dry, and dark environment, using archival paper and materials, and handling them with care, you can help to ensure that they remain in excellent condition for years to come. This can help to maintain their value and increase their appeal to collectors and buyers – which the expert collector will meticulously scrutinize the quality of your print, and so will the auction houses.

However, it is important to note that the value of a woodblock print is also influenced by other factors, such as the rarity, quality, and historical significance of the print. While proper preservation can help to enhance the value of a print, it is just one of many factors that can influence its overall worth.

Good luck collecting and please feel free to reach out with any questions on your woodblock print, help determining its value, and with any questions about purchasing from our online collection of genuine, rare, original Japanese woodblock prints.

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