How safe is vellum?

By Lori Elkins Solomon Premium

The word vellum used to mean a thin parchment made of animal skin. To modern scrapbookers, vellum is the translucent paper that creates elegant effects on album pages. But depending on how it gets that delicate translucence, vellum can be bad for photos — even if it is acid- and lignin-free.

Some vellums are made translucent through the application of petroleum-based resins that can cause photos to deteriorate, says Bob Toth, vice president of marketing for Canson <>. Other vellums — such as Canson’s — are made transparent through a safer nonchemical process.

To make its vellum, Hot Off The Press <> uses “a process that naturally refines the fibers of the paper to such a level that they lose their opacity and take on a translucent nature,” says director of marketing Sara Naumann. Staedtler <> also uses a non-chemical vellum manufacturing process.

Because he knows of no definitive tests that determine whether vellum is safe to use in scrapbooks, the Image Permanence Institute’s Daniel Surge urges caution. “I think at this point, I would recommend keeping it out of direct contact with the fronts of photos.” Scrapbookers should also be sure their colored vellum papers don’t run or bleed when wet.

From the May 2004 Preserve Your Family History