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Signing Photographs and Prints

For prints of current or future value then a conservative approach favoured by many collectors and gallery owners would be as follows

- print would be signed with a light-touch on the back (verso). The signature/description should always be made with an archival pen (pigment based and acid-free) or pencil. If using a pen, we recommend you use a Sakura Pigma Micron archival pen. The date, title and any any other important details could also be added by the author.

- if a visible signature on the front (recto) is also desired then for a framed print the mount board could be signed with an archival pen or soft pencil. The disadvantage of only signing the mount board is that it could eventually become separated from the print so it would be better to also sign the back or front of the print.

- An alternative approach for front-side signatures (recto) is to leave a white border around the print which can signed (again using an archival pen or pencil). During framing it can then be decided whether or not to reveal this border-signature by changing the size of the mount board aperture. Some people prefer not to see a signature; it is really a personal preference and sometimes worth discussing with the client/recipient.

- if signed at the front on the mat or in the border of the print it is common to put a signature sometimes accompanied by the date in the bottom-right-corner. If it is a limited addition then that would be written in the bottom-left -corner in the format 4/20 (4 of 20). If the image has a title then that could go in the bottom-centre.

- generally it is better not to sign the printed area as it can often devalue a print however some people like to sign dark B&W photographs with a pen containing white or metallic silver or gold ink over the image itself. If you do this make sure your pen is archival quality (i.e. solvent and acid free)

- We would advise you to not use pens containing solvents or acids. If you have any doubt about the constituents of the ink in a pen then it is usually better to just not take the risk. Many pens can damage the media and ultimately will fade to unexpected colours and this will not be evident immediately. Contrary to popular belief, most permanent markers like the Sharpie are not permanent at all and when it comes to light exposure will fade and discolour. Many so-called permanent pens and gel rollers contain solvents and acids which can antagonize the print. One brand of pen that we can safely recommend is the Sakura Pigma Micron. It is a fine drawing pen from Japan that contains a very pure pigment ink, is acid free and water and fade resistant.