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Scrapbooking Glossary

Glossary contents graciously provided by the Scrapbook Preservation Society

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acid - A chemical substance that has a pH of less than 7.0. Acids can react with photographs, paper memorabilia, metals, and scrapbook products shortening their life span, causing corrosion, discoloration, brittleness or a variety of other problems. 

acid-free - a material tested to have a pH of 7 or above indicating that the material contains no mobile or available acid ions for chemical reactions. 
Scrapbook implications: This does not imply the material is long lasting or scrapbook safe.

adhesive - Any substance that allows two or more surfaces to be bonded or stuck to one another. Adhesives come in many forms including liquids, solids, and pastes.

alkali, alkaline, or base - A chemical substance that has a pH greater than 7.0. It can be added to materials containing acid to neutralize the acid or act as a reserve for the purpose of counteracting acids that it may come contact with in the future. 
Scrapbook implications: An alkaline paper is preferable to a acidic paper, but there are other paper qualities that must be also taken into consideration. (i.e. lignin content) 

archival - the dictionary defines the term "archival" to mean that a material or article is kept in or for use in a special area for long term retention (as in an archive). Today the definition has become blurred, especially in the arts and crafts areas. Many companies place "archival" on products to imply permanence, durability, or chemical stability, meaning it could safely be used for preservation purposes. Scrapbook implications: Currently, the various organizations that produce, sell, or use archival materials have not agreed to one standard definition or a quantifiable method for verifying a material's archival properties. 


binders board - A thick paperboard used to add stiffness to book bindings, boxes, photo albums, scrapbook binders, and slipcases. While acid-free and lignin-free binder's board is available, most have high lignin content.

black-and-white photograph - A black-and-white photograph is made by images recorded on transparent film in negative tones. There are now two processes that can produce a black-and white photograph depending on which film is used. The traditional method uses true black-and-white film whose images are made of metallic silver. This is then processed in black-and white chemistry, which produces a black-and white negative. This is in turn processed on black-and-white photographic paper using black-and-white chemistry. In recent years, color film (C-41 Process) has been used to produce a black-and-white photograph. These contemporary processes create either a black-and-white negative image on color or black-and-white photograph film, which is then processed on color photographic paper using color chemistry. These black-and white images made on color films and papers will not have the same life expectancies as those made on traditional black-and-white films and papers.

bleed - The migration of ink or adhesive through or across the surface of the material to which it has been applied. This applies to either bleed immediately upon application or over the long time.

bleed-proof / resistant - An adhesive or colorant that will not go through to the reversed surface of the material to which it is applied (such as a sheet of paper). Similarly, this term has also been used to describe specially treated or coated papers that prevent liquids from soaking in or going through to the opposite side. Note too that, historically, the ink industry (not just for scrapbooking) has used a slightly different meaning - Ink was considered to "bleed" when the colorant went through the paper being written on and onto a second sheet of paper beneath. However, consumer use of the term has broadened the meaning of bleed to include movement of ink across the surface of the sheet, through to the back of the sheet or even onto an adjacent sheet or material such as a photo.

bleed-through - When an adhesive or colorant goes through and becomes visible and/or tacky on the reverse surface of the paper or substrate to which it was applied. It is difficult to test for this characteristic because the results are dependent on such variables as thickness of the paper or substrate and the amount adhesive or colorant applied.

blocking - When two materials unintentionally stick together. For instance, when the top layer of a photograph softens (as a result of high humidity) and adheres to some other surface such as a plastic binder, page protector, or another photograph.

buffered - The addition of an alkaline reserve to a material to control the pH over an extended time. The term is commonly used in the paper industry to identify that alkaline filler has been added during the papermaking process to offset any acid that is present or that it may come in contact with later. Common buffers for paper are magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate. In addition to papers, buffering is sometimes used in adhesives and other materials where the manufacturer wants to control the pH. 


colorant / substrate system - Colorant is the dye or pigment used in inks, paints, crayons, etc. Substrate system refers to the surface to which the colorant is applied. Because of potentially harmful interactions, manufacturers often recommend to their customers just which materials should be used together to obtain the best results. 

color dye coupler - A special chemical within photographic papers that reacts during photo-processing to create the image forming dyes. Over time, any unused color dye coupler has the potential to react with its surroundings causing staining of the photograph.

color photograph - A traditional color photograph is made by recording images on transparent film in opposite tones within three dye layers - cyan, magenta and yellow (negative). These tones are then reversed onto color photographic paper to recreate the image in its natural color scheme. Digital prints may also be considered color photographs, but different preservations issues are involved.


dark stability - A material's ability to resist degradation when stored in the dark. 

dark storage - A photo or memorabilia storage environment in which the materials are not regularly exposed to light. 

degradation - The process of a material breaking down from its current state or appearance to a lower grade or into its individual components. Examples include when paper yellows or becomes brittle or when a tape becomes yellow or looses its tack and falls off.

degradation-induced acidification - A term used when a manufactured product is initially low in acid but becomes increasingly more acidic over time because of chemical reactions from aging.

digital image - An image based on electronic data and storage rather than on the chemical processes of traditional photography. These images can be obtained by using digital cameras, camcorders, scanners and a variety of devices that capture and store pictures without film. Digital images can be used in computer software and printing applications or for transfer over the Internet. 

dry adhesive - Any adhesive that does not require the drying of a liquid to be used. Examples are hot-melt glues that flow at high temperature but are solid at room temperature and tapes that are always sticky and do not require wetting to be used.

dye - A soluble, colored substance that is added to ink, paper, and textiles. Generally speaking, dye colors are less stable over the long-term than pigment colors but usually allow a greater color variety.


fade proof / resistant - A color that does not fade over time when stored in the dark. 

fading - The gradual loss or change of a color. Fading can occur when an item is exposed to light or by a variety of other environmental factors. 

fiber-based print - A photograph printed on a photo paper that has no plastic coating. These papers were used predominantly before the 1960s and are still used for fine art images today. 


glassine - A translucent paper made into envelopes or sleeves for storage of photographic negatives. This material is potentially very harmful to photographic materials and is not recommend for photographic storage by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

groundwood - Paper pulp created by mechanically grinding logs. This low cost pulp is chemically unstable and should be used only for short term paper needs such as newspapers and magazines.


inert - A material that is stable and does not react with itself, the environment, or any other materials surrounding it. When the term inert is used, always look for further information such as: inert to what materials, under what conditions, and for how much time, etc.

ink - A fluid, semi-fluid, gel or paste material that contains coloring matter and used in pens, brushes, and pads for drawing, writing, stamping, and printing. Inks for each of these purposes differ from one another in their composition and physical properties.

ISO - The abbreviation for International Organization for Standardization, this is an organization that develops manufacturing and performance standards for a wide variety of industries including photography.


lightfast - A colored material that resists fading induced by natural and artificial lighting.

light stability - A material's ability to resist degradation when exposed to light. Materials that are not light stable can become brittle, discolored, and react adversely with neighboring materials (the items can adhere to each other, become sticky, stretchy or pliable, bleed through or stain the other item).

lignin - The binding material in plants that gives them their strength and rigidity. Paper that contains lignin, such as newsprint, will turn yellow quickly when exposed to light, heat, and humidity. Lignin will degrade paper (causing discoloration and brittleness) and photographs (causing staining, fading mirroring and spotting).

lignin-free - To be considered lignin-free, paper can contain a maximum of 1% lignin.


migration - The movement of chemicals (such as acids, plasticizers, or inks) from one item to another. One example is the migration of acids from degrading paper to other scrapbook materials and photographs. Migration can occur without physical contact. 

moisture-resistant - A material's ability to resist change in high humidity. 


neutralize - This is the process of making a solution or material pH neutral (pH of 7.0). If a material is acidic, it can be neutralized by adding an alkali or base material. If it is alkaline or base, it is neutralized by adding an acid. Pure water has a pH of 7.0, which is considered neutral.


oozing - When an adhesive seeps out from under the edge of the item to which it was applied. With a wet adhesive, oozing can occur before it has dried; with a dry adhesive, oozing can occur over time such as with tapes or stickers where the adhesive seeps out from around the edges. 

out-gassing - The gaseous emission of pollutants from solids or liquids. An example of this is the gaseous emissions from vinyl binders that result in a strong odor. 


PAT - The abbreviation for the Photographic Activity Test. The PAT is currently the only test that can predict harmful chemical reactions between scrapbook products and photographs. This is an ISO standard method.

pH - A measurement that indicates the degree of acidity or alkalinity of a material. On a scale from 0-14, pH 7.0 is neutral, above 7.0 is alkaline (acid-free or base), and below 7.0 is acidic. The scale is a logarithmic progression, meaning 6.0 is 10 times more acidic than 7.0. pH can only be measured on water-soluble materials. 

pH neutral - The center reading of 7.0 on the pH scale of 0-14. It is neither acidic nor alkaline. Pure water has a pH of 7 and is considered pH neutral.

pH testing pen - A pen containing an indicator dye that when applied to the surface of a material discolors in relation to the material's surface pH.

Photographic Activity Test (PAT) - see PAT. 

photo-safe - This term is often used to imply that a product will not react adversely with photographs. There is currently no standard definition or set of test methods that fully encompass this term. The basis for such a claim is unclear.

pigment - A non-water soluble substance used to color ink, paper, and textiles. Pigments are generally more stable than dyes, but they produce a narrower color selection.

plasticizer - A material used in the production of plastics to make them more flexible and less brittle. They are considered unsuitable for being in contact or even close proximity to photographs and many other materials used in scrapbooking.

polyester - A clear, inert, strong, long-lasting plastic used in preservation products. 

polyethylene - A soft, chemically-stable plastic used in the manufacturing of preservation products.

polypropylene - A clear, flexible, chemically-stable plastic used in the manufacturing of preservation products including scrapbook page protectors.

polyvinyl chloride (PVC) - A plastic, generally referred to as "vinyl", that may exude plasticizers or emit corrosive and acidic hydrogen-chloride gas. PVC is often identifiable by its strong plastic odor. Page protectors, binders, photo enclosures, corners or any other products made from vinyl should never be used with photographs or in scrapbooks Vinyl and vinyl products are sold by a number of trade names. 

pressure-sensitive adhesive - An adhesive that bonds by contact and pressure. 


rag paper / board - A paper or board manufactured with a high-content of long, cotton fibers. 

resin-coated paper (RC Paper) - A photographic paper that has been coated with polyethylene on both sides. All consumer color photographic prints are now printed on RC paper (processing time is significantly faster than with fiber-based paper). Black-and-white prints can be printed on either RC or fiber-based paper.

RH - An abbreviation for relative humidity, a measure of moisture content in the air. Reducing air moisture content can significantly extend the life of photographs and most scrapbook materials. Some of the negative effects of high humidity include the bleeding of inks, the softening of materials, the bonding of adjacent materials, the reversal of adhesive bonds, and breakdown of paper fiber. High humidity also fosters the formation and migration of acids and bases as well as mold growth. However, extremely low humidity can cause irreversible physical deformation of photographs and some papers because they become too dry.


UV light (ultraviolet light) - Radiation present in sunlight, fluorescent light, and to some degree incandescent light. UV light degrades photographs, papers, plastics, adhesives, fabrics and colorants. Special filtering material can be placed over fluorescent tubes, on windows, or in frames to reduce the harm that can be caused by UV radiation.


water-proof / resistant - A materials ability to resist change when in direct contact with water. This includes, but not limited to, softening, migration, swelling, bleeding, or dissolving.

water-soluble - A material that can dissolve in water. 

wet adhesive - An adhesive that is applied while still in liquid form and dries to solid in order to achieve its full bond strength with another material.

wood pulp paper - A paper manufactured with wood pulp. Wood pulps are manufactured to a variety of lignin contents and therefore have various levels of stability. Fully purified wood-pulp papers appear to be as stable as cotton-pulp papers when used for preservation purposes and are less expensive.

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