Types of Sealants for Photographs

By Jenny Miller

Updated September 26, 2017

Technology has created a new way to develop photographs. Digital cameras and affordable inkjet printers have made printing at home a popular choice for the amateur and professional photographer alike. Preserving the image beyond typical manufacturer's shelf-life often requires use of a photographic sealant.

The Need for Sealants

Although experts' opinions vary on the exact amount of time home-based prints will last, most experts advise consumers to reduce the time the printer manufacturer estimates your prints will last by at least 50 percent. So when your printer guide says the ink will last for 10 years, you can only realistically expect a shelf-life of five years--unless you protect your prints from exposure to light, air, humidity, heat and ultra-violet (UV) rays. Sealants can preserve prints well beyond the time printer manufacturers estimate in their literature.

Features to Look for in Aerosol Sealants

Life-long photographer, award-winning digital designer and author of "Mastering Digital Printing," Harald Johnson says, "Ideally you want an inert, odorless, colorless, non-yellowing, anti-fungal coating that's easy to apply. In addition, you want to know that the coating is not going to shorten the life of the print." Also check that the sealant contains UV protection and is water-resistant and acid free.

Aerosol sealants often come in two finishes: matte and glossy. Choose the finish that matches the type of photographic paper on which you're printing.

Popular Aerosol Sealants

Coating brands that have developed followings with digital printers include Clearstar ClearShield and ClearJet, Superfrog Frog Juice, Lyson Print Guard, Bulldog Ultra Coating, Krylon Crystal Clear and UV-CLear and Sureguard and Lacquer-Mat. Other brands that rated high with consumers are Premier Art Print Shield and Preserve Your Memories II Spray.

Testing Your Sealant

Krylon is a brand that is readily available at many retail stores that carry artist, scrapbooking and photography supplies. When Krylon spray is used, it leaves a course finish and darkened the colors in the photograph.

A sealant that is popular with amateurs and professionals alike is Preserve Your Memories II. The most impressive feature is its water resistance. With a single coating of the spray, you are able to drop water on a photograph, let it sit for 10 minutes and wipe it off with a soft cloth without any damage to the photo.

Always test whatever sealant you've chosen on several different photographs to ensure it will give you the effect you desire.

Option When Framing Photographs

Picture Shields are a relatively new idea for protecting photographs displayed in frames. They are laminate sheets that come in pre-cut standard photograph enlargement sizes (8 by 10 and 5 by 7), block 99 percent of UV rays, are scratch resistant and have a matte finish for glare control. The sheets are also available in custom sizes from pictureshields.com.