The Deterioration of early Kodak Kodacolor Prints, 1952 to 1964, when viewed in 2021

All the following prints are shown by courtesy of Angelia McDaniel of Oklahoma, USA.
To download the whole as a pdf, please click here.

The text below is taken from Michael Talbert's research, also shown on this web page.
Early Kodacolor prints suffered badly from unused colour couplers left in the emulsion layers reacting with the print dyes, mainly the magenta coupler, and caused the print to take on an overall 'dirty' yellow appearance. It is said that there are now no Kodacolor prints made between 1942 and 1954 which remain in reasonable condition. This is commonly referred to, though somewhat incorrectly, as 'Thermal Yellowing', though more likely it is 'Coupler Staining' that is the reason why the earliest Kodacolor prints now appear an overall dark yellow. “Coupler Staining” means that unused colour couplers in the paper, not used in making up the coloured image, remained in the paper and caused staining by being exposed to light. “Thermal Yellowing” is more correctly caused by heat and hunidity. In the very early Kodacolor prints it was usually the magenta coupler that caused most problems.

Weaver and Long, in their book “A Study of Kodak Color Prints, 1942 – 2008”, state in their time line: “1954 – Magenta stability improved, Coupler Staining Dramatically Reduced, dye order reversed.”

Judging from the prints shown below, there is a definite improvement in the colour quality of the February/March 1955 prints and these were almost certainly made on Kodacolor III Type 1348, introduced in 1954. The residual colours are more magenta than in the previous prints. It was the cyan and yellow dyes in prints made in the mid-1950s to 1961 that faded most quickly in sunlight, giving the prints a resultant magenta cast. Much the same could be said about Agfacolor prints made during the same period. Very generally, Kodak prints made between 1954 and 1961 now look magenta, while Agfacolor prints now look red. There are exceptions, depending on how and where the prints are stored.

Kodacolor III paper Type 1384 brought about a marked improvement. Although Kodak introduced two other colour papers in the late 1950s (improved versions of Kodak Color Print Material, Type C), it was Ektacolor paper Type 1583 from 1962 which gave a substantial improvement in colour dye stability, especially for greens. Yellowing was virtually eliminated. By 1962, it was the yellow dye that faded more than the green dye, leaving prints (made then) now appearing slightly blue. Agfacolor papers were arguably less stable than Kodak at this time, and it was Agfacolor MCN III Type 4 paper introduced in 1972, that was the first to approach the dye stability of Kodak’s Ektacolor papers.


August 1952 to May 1953
These first five KODAK KODACOLOR developed prints date from 1952 to 1954

They show a definite yellowing of all colors over the entire picture which has occurred in the past 67 - 69 years. Repeating information taken from my Kodacolor web page:

Kodacolor Type II paper was introduced in 1950. It was very similar to Type I, but had an ultra violet (UV) absorbing layer above the emulsion layers.

Kodacolor Type III paper superseded Type II in 1952 and was used for enlargements and prints from Kodacolor negatives. The paper contained a new magenta coupler.

The Kodacolor print below was made in August 1952 and belongs to Michael Talbert. It seems unique in being in such good condition. Henry Wilhelm says in his book 'The Performance and Care of Color Photographs', that he knows of not a single Kodacolor print taken from 1942 to 1953 that survives in reasonable condition. All have faded and developed an ugly, overall orange or yellow stain, regardless of whether they were exposed to light or kept in the dark in albums. Michael Talbert believes this print is most likely on Kodacolor Type III paper, before the improved version 1348. "It hasn't faded to sepia/brown yet".


August 1953 to January 1954

Below, for comparison, are similar dated prints on Agfacolor paper. The upper print is believed to have been more exposed to light during the intervening years than the lower print, which was kept in an an album. The album print is more magenta/blue. The different storage of the prints is likely to have contributed to their change of colour and the amount of fading. These early Agfacolor prints don't show 'thermal yellowing' nearly as badly as early Kodacolor prints.


February 1955

Kodacolor III Type 1348 paper
The last named Kodacolor paper was known as Kodacolor III Type 1348. This paper was first manufactured in 1954. The layers on this paper were coated in reverse order, the red sensitive layer now coated on top, the blue sensitive layer next to the base. There was no yellow filter layer, but the UV absorbing layer was placed in between the red sensitive and green sensitive emulsion layers.

The prints alongside were probably made on Type 1348 paper and show an improvement of colour quality compared to the previous.

Angelia comments ".....still shows a yellowing of the photo after 63 to 66 years of deterioration, but the yellow is not as dark as in earlier prints. Also at this time, the magenta is becoming more prominent.


The pictures alongside can also be seen here.


April 1956 to February 1958

Kodak Color Print Material Type C was marketed from August 1955
followed by
Kodak Ektacolor (no longer called Kodacolor) Paper Type 1384 in 1957

Notice that, despite Kodacolor paper being renamed Ektacolor paper, the identification marking on the reverse of the prints continue to refer to KODACOLOR PRINT right through to those made in January 1964.


September 1960 to January 1961

By 1961 KODAK seem to have finally hit upon a combination of papers, chemicals, equipment, and processes that produced a developed print that would maintain the majority of its colours - even after 57 to 60 years of deterioration.

The 1960/61 prints are most likely on Ektacolor Paper Type 1502, introduced in 1959, thought to have been introduced with its emulsion layers sufficiently 'hard' to enable its processing to be carried out at 85°F, in the P-122 processing chemicals.


June 1962 to January 1964

By the mid-1960’s, KODAK KODACOLOR photos were able to not only retain their original colors - but retain them vividly, brightly and with a high degree of clarity - even after 60 years of deterioration.

Ektacolor Paper Type 1502 was followed by Ektacolor Paper Type 1583 in 1962.


This page last updated: 6th June 2021 (previously 25th March 2021)