Manifests as: Colorant loss, gloss change, smearing
Primarily caused by: Physical contact and rubbing against a broad surface

Abrasion is a wearing away of the surface, and possibly the colorants, of an image or object by rubbing.  Abrasion and scratch are not the same thing. Abrasion is caused by the motion of a broad surface over a large area of a print (such as when a print is inserted into or removed from a paper storage envelope), while scratch is damage caused by a small point pushed or pulled across the surface of a print, such as the corner of another print or a finger nail. Because of these differences we treat scratch as a separate deterioration manifestation. 

Abrasion has become a great concern with digital prints because in many cases the colorants sit on or close to the surface. Text or images are, therefore, easily damaged even with mild abrasion.  For example, with many digital prints something seemingly harmless, like common interleaving paper, can act as an abrasive during the vibrations of transport. The result can be a significant degradation in print appearance and readability.

Abrasion damage can appear in many forms:

  • Colorant loss– abrasion resulting in removal of colorant from the surface of the print
  • Smear – abrasion resulting in the movement of colorant from dark areas to light areas of the print
  • Transfer– migration of colorant from the surface of a print to the abrading surface
  • Polishing– abrasion resulting in an increase in gloss over large areas of a print
  • Scuff– localized abrasion resulting in an increase or decrease in gloss

Colorant Loss

The image below is an example of colorant loss. Colorant was removed in the area of the child’s face when the back of another print on top was rubbed against it.

Abrasion - Original
Original Image

Abrasion - Colorant Loss
Colorant Loss



The print below shows how colorant can be smeared from the dark areas of the print into the white areas. The black ink from the woman’s jacket has been smeared by abrasion across her neck and the lower part of her face as well as her hand.

Colorant Smear
Colorant Smear



The print below was abraded by an archival-quality envelope paper.  Note that the abrasion has caused some of the colorant to transfer from the print to the envelope paper.

Abraded Print
Abraded Print

Envelope Paper with Print Colorant
Envelope Paper with Print Colorant



The prints below show an example of polishing. Some digital prints such as this pigment inkjet photo can increase in reflectivity if abraded, even slightly, with an adjacent surface such as the back of another print or a plastic sleeve. The dark areas of the print (especially the butterfly’s wings) became “polished” when the abrading pressure compacted the colorants together.

Original Matte Print
Original Matte Print

Color Shift in Image
Gloss Increase Due to Polishing



Polishing of smaller, localized areas of the print is often referred to as “scuffing”. In the print below a light streak is observed from the lower center of the image moving up and left. While it looks light in color, the streak is actually compressed pigment on the surface of the paper. Compressing the pigment caused it to be more reflective than its matte surround.

Scuff Across the Bottom of a Pigment Inkjet Print