Q) When you sign your prints, do you sign the photo itself or on the mat?
A) It’s funny you should ask. I recently reacquired some treasured Ansel Adams prints and was saddened to see that his signature on the border is fading.
There are three places that can host the photographer’s signature: within the print, on the white border around the print or on a cut mat being used to frame the print. I always leave a border around the print to facilitate handling. I used to sign within the border, just below the image, but found that matting treatments often obscured the signature. The mat used to last longer than the print, so it made some sense to sign there; however, if the print was re-matted, the signature was lost. With the new inkjet professional printers, my prints will last 100 years and probably will be remounted and framed several times in their lifetime. For all these reasons, I now place my signature and the year within the image, typically on the lower-right edge, but sometimes the content will suggest a different location.I always use a permanent, India ink-based fine-point marker pen in a color that contrasts well with the area hosting the signature. Pigment-based metallic pens in silver and gold can be used. Hopefully, it’s about the image and not about your signature, so discretion should be used.
The signature on this panoramic print was inscribed with a gold metallic pigment pen (Pilot). Later, the print was laminated, protecting both the print and the signature. Whenever I sign a print using black ink, I make sure that the ink is pigment-based. Not all “permanent” inks are pigments, and those that aren’t tend to fade quickly.