Okay, this will probably seem a bit sacrilegious to those who do not want to mark a print in any way, so I apologize.
First, a preface to avoid responses telling me not to do it (though those prefaces rarely seem to work):
I am going to write on the back of my 4x6 prints; always have. These are just snapshots in an album. I do have the negatives in case anything bad happens, so can always print them again. Also, I usually order double-prints, so have "backups" that are not written on. Anything to be framed, presented, or otherwise done nicely is not written on.
Yes, I have thumbnail lists to identify some rolls. However, labeling the prints themselves will make them identifiable if they are separated from everything else. These are not "art" or "craft" photos - they are simply my memories, just like all of the 70-year-old (or more) photos my grandfather had of people and places we wish we could now identify (most of which fell off the pages of lost albums).
Again, I do this and will continue.
What fine or ultra-fine tipped writing utensil would you suggest? I'd like brand/model and place to purchase if you can.
I don't want it to bleed through print for at least a couple decades, nor "crease" it. These are just wet prints from minilabs, and I put them in sleeved album pages.
Now, I have done this since I was a kid. I write some description (usually people's names or places) and the date on the edge of the back of the photo. I'd used whatever was available (marker, ballpoint) until college, then tried to stick with felt-tips or really nice gel pens (read, very easy flow).
I currently have two problems that have led me to ask this question.
1) It has become difficult to find good non-repro blue pens/markers.
2) RA-4 paper keeps getting thinner.
I don't care if I can see the writing with a back light as that is not how they are viewed.
I had searched online photography stores to no avail - perhaps I merely missed them.
Recently I tried a couple from pens.com. Close enough to the blue I want. However, one is a ball-point, and can leave pressure creases if pressed hard enough to write, the other is a gel that does not flow well enough, and can cause the same issue if I am not very careful. These pens are otherwise decent, so have been re-purposed.
I'm testing ultra-fine tipped ("precision") Sharpies, and they seem to not bleed through, but may be dark enough to see from the front. Also, I'm testing on prints from a 120 roll so I only have to reprint 10 photos if something bad happens immediately.
Sharpies are likely to fade.
I'm not sure how it reacts with photo paper, but you could have a look at Noodler's permanent inks. They're for dip pens and fountain pens, but a dip pen can be bought for very little money.
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I don't know if the thicker Sharpies fade - we used them at the lab all the time and I never saw fading. They just aren't easy to write small. They do make a super version that doesn't come off with alcohol or anything else, too.
But, that said, I'd check the scrapbooking section of a craft store (like Michaels or ACMoore) or the drafting supplies section of a craft store. Read packaging - there might be something there that won't fade.
And I'm all for IDing subjects, dates, and locations on prints. I have a huge pile of negatives and prints that aren't labeled and the people who could ID them have mostly passed away. Reminds me I should be better at labeling prints.
You might want to look at the Rotring or Kon-I-Noor type drafting or drawing pens for the finest lines. Lots of inks available. They're not cheap but with care will last a lifetime. Cheap art supply shops or even Amazon. You might want to pick up a cleaning kit as well.
I've an old Waterman Hemisphere, but have to replace the nib sometime as it's slightly bent (and I've always wanted a fine-tip on it). I have two refillable cartridges for it as well.
How permanent are the Noodler inks on the fountain pen itself? Will solvent clean the nibs, or do I need to dedicate a pen to them?
We have some dip and calligraphy pens somewhere around the house - even one my parents used on old albums; white ink on black pages, using adhesive corners to hold the photos in place. Unfortunately, the photos have fallen out. My mother is still alive, so at least I can catalog those photos (her memory is as good as when she was 20-years-old, though that was not very good, lol).
The only problem I've had with dip-pens (and some cheaper fountain pens) is it the flow can sometimes be too much. Thanx for the reference, though, I will definitely look into it.
Yes, that is why I want to write on the actual prints; I'm running out of relatives old enough to identify the pictures. Some of the ancient negatives I've acquired I will print myself, and I can leave a border so-as to not encroach on the image.
Hey, I'd not thought of that. I'd used drafting pens in a couple high-school "technical drawing" classes. They are very nice (and I do like a nice pen). How do you feel the inks are for bleeding through or being too dark?
I have stuff marked w/ Sharpies that are 20 years old. They still look fine now. If you're really concerned, go to art store and they will direct you to pigmented ink pens. India ink is also definitely archival. Or mark it w/ acrylic paint and a little brush. It will last longer than the photograph. The pigmented stuff will sit on the surface and never bleed through. I don't think any of the other stuff will bleed either. It's more about proper storage.
Truzi, I've mainly used the black India inks in the past but these look interesting http://www.illinoisblue.com/kohinoor-transmix_media.htm
they are mixable and archival.
If you have a good art supply shop near you they might be worth a visit.
Thanx for the advice. The sharpies seem ok so far (no bleed-through, not too dark).
I will definitely look into some of the suggestions after holidays.
Why not use a label such as one of the Avery labels you could write with ink as suggested or pencil or print with a computer.