The truth about Optical Brightening Agents - OBAs
Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 3:13PM
Admin in Paper, flourescent whitening agent, fwas, oba, oba paper, obas, optical brightener oba, optical brighteners, optical brightening agents, paper brighteners, what are obas

Optical Brighteners…everyone has a different story about optical brighteners, more commonly known as OBAs. But more importantly, what are they and how do they effect your printed output. Well, here are some answers that you may be seeking.

So…What are OBAs?

OBAs (Optical Brightening Agents) are chemicals used in the paper making process to increase the white point of the paper. Brightening paper via chemical process is very similar to using “bluring” techniques used to make your laundary more white. Compounds used in the brightening process absorb UV light and re-emit it as blue visible light, making the paper’s natural yellow color, white.

Another synonymous term for OBAs is FWA or Fluorescent Whitening Agent. Some paper companies may use the term FWA, due to the negative connotation of OBAs, in reality they’re really referring to the same chemical process of whitening paper.

How Will OBAs Effect My Prints?

OBAs are not permanent, over time your fine art and photographic prints will lose their white color and fade to a yellow or darker color if exposed to light for an extended period of time. So, if you’re looking to create a piece for a gallery, you may want to consider papers that do not contain optical brighteners, unless your print is protected by UV glass or UV resistant spray.

Should I Choose a Natural Paper or a Paper Containing OBAs?

Well, there’s no definite answer to this one as personal preferences vary amongst users. You’ll want to consider factors like: where your print will be displayed, are you selling your print and will your print be stored in an archival box or protected by some type of UV Blocking material?

My Question Regarding OBAs Still Hasn’t Been Answered

Great, we’d be glad to help answer any questions regarding OBAs that you may have. Feel free to post a comment below and we will find an answer for you.

*Big credit to Innova Paper for explaining OBAs and their paper products in their recent newsletter.


-IT Supplies Team

Article originally appeared on IT Supplies | Everything for the Perfect Print (
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