This is the final article on hardware around digital painting for artists. Also useful for traditional artists interested in getting great prints of their art.
You thought painting in Photoshop was tricky? Go try printing in large size with Photoshop and you learn a new definition of tricky
If you are not just limiting yourself to pixels and online usage, the printing process is as vital to an artist as the canvas to the traditional painter.
If you take on the challenge, printing yourself opens up a door to complete new freedom of expression.
Which Printer is the best?
I believe there is no easy answer to this question. Brands to pick from are Canon, HP, Epson, Roland and Mimaki to name a few. Every one of them has their advantages.
In this article, I can only point to some resources that I found useful along my way and tell from my own experiences about advantages and disadvantages of some printers.
These experiences come with pro´s and con´s and are not unbiased, it is my own experience after all.
So llet’sdive right in.
Why printing yourself?
Before even thinking about getting a wide format printer it is vital to answer the following points:
- What size do I need?
- What material do I need?
- What number of prints do I need?
- Do I need these frequently?
- Do I have the space?
- Am I able to overcome obstacles on my own?
If you are already ordering prints frequently, you know or may not know the benefits of being your own printer:
- You can print when you need to
- You have direct results
- You can print in last minute
- You have a direct impact on the quality
- You can experiment with sizes, materials, framing, overpainting, coating, beatgold, etc.
- Big investment, one time and for material upfront
- Cost of repair and maintenance are on you
- The bigger the printer, the more place you need
- Time consuming
When do I need a WFP (wide format printer) and when is ordering better?
- When you need to print frequently on demand, lets say for an online shop you are running.
- It makes also sense when you print last minute before a convention or exhibition.
The most trivial truth is the following: The less colors you want to print, the more colors the printer need to have. That is the reason why Epson uses 4 blacks and is the best printer for black and white photographs.
The reolution is a very technical topic, but not as difficult as it seems. The standard dpi (density of pixel per inch) determines how many of your pixels are visible on the print. Most printers specs confuse more than they help when stating up to 9600dpi…
That is bullshit. the dpi in photoshop determine what is visible, the dpi of the printer just depict how much of your software-dpi can be printed. That means the usual resolution of 600×600 dpi will print your images pixel perfect if your image has 300 dpi in Photoshop.There are some exceptions; if your material is a banner that will only be seen from 20 meters distance, 90-120 dpi will be sufficient. Also the texture on the canvas will draw from the resolution at least 20%. So if your image only has 240 dpi you don´t need to upscale it. It should work fine on canvas. On glossy photographic paper the same image might come out crappy.
So much for the theory
My recommendation for a large format printer, therefore, can most likely go to HP. The advantages that count for me are;
- They are easy to use
- The inks don´t dry within a month of not being in use such as Epson and Canon printers do.
- The inks can be out of use date and work still fine, which makes original ink cartridges cheaper on the aftermarket.
- There are service manuals around that can help doing maintenance that usually can only be done by professional service personnel.
- The only downside with the z2100 that I can speak of is that the printer takes long to boot.
- The downside on the Designjet 90 is that it can´t really print black and white only, there is always a green tint
- Epson printers do need regular printouts to prevent the pigment inks from drying in the cartridges or tubes.
- Printheads are more expensive than on HP. HP uses 2 colors in one printhead which means you only need 4 for 8 colors. On the aftermarket, you get 1 package with two printheads for as low as €25.
- Epson is best suited if you need near proof quality black and white prints, perfect for bw photographers
Canon printers especially the IPF series is only interesting for professional users with a contract. Even then there is a long list of known issues. For some folks, they are the least effective machines even though they are the fastest. It seems speed comes at a price and if that has to be invested in Technician, replacement and service costs – it is not recommended for smaller businesses. If you can get one of these cheap on Ebay, calculate another €2500-4000 on top for repairs.
Other plotters or large format printers such as Roland, Mimaki or Kodak have their specific advantages depending on the material. It takes a lot of time to review or learn about the known issues of a certain model. It is vital to understand the techniques and what they are used for. There are latex printers or solvent printers that are best suited for outdoor use when printed on canvas, the result is plain awful. So if you can get one of these cheap, it might not help you but take up space and time.This time is better spent in research upfront. Can´t stretch this enough.
I use to print from Photoshop via LAN and I never had any issues besides getting used to it.Printing from Photoshop by Jeff Schewe: http://www.peachpit.com/articles/art… shows how it works, the rest is just making it a habit.
However, I would not worry too much about that matter.
The easiest way to get perfect colors is to print thumbnails of all images that you want to print. Then compare these images with your display version in RGB. If there are some darks too dark or greys tinted, you can use color changes to work against this or change ICC profiles or materials. Then save a jpeg version of the working version in a separate folder.
The jpeg version can save the ICC profile and printer settings with it!
That in turn saves you time when you need to print this file again.
You will never get the perfect print always. There are difficult images. Even the best printers will have trouble with some images. So this is not a question of money but gamut.
Understand color gamut and the printing technology and you find a way to make your image look fine.
- learn as much about the topic as you can, understand the technology
- Get to know Color Gamut – make it your new religion
- Always use original ink cartridges from the manufacturer
- Same goes for printheads
- Paper or canvas can be from third-parties, but try to match weight and material with existing ICC profiles otherwise the longevity of your printer is at risk
- Keep an eye on original inks on Ebay or Amazon marketplace (At least for HP)
- Keep the printer plugged in always, power voltage keeps the lifespan up
- Get a Large Format Rolling Trimmer (even used, it´s a life saver)
- Order stretcher bars online and save on discounts instead of buying every single bar in a local store
- Save a working print file as jpeg including the ICC profile, that saves time in the long run
- Do always make test prints with thumbnails of new images before printing in the correct size