What is the most advanced photo printer
What is the best way to print your work?
In order to print works of art for exhibition purposes or for online sales, you should be able to produce a quality output called “giclee”. The term is based on the French word gicleur, the French technical term for splash or spray. In short, an inkjet printer is required for giclee printing.
This article discusses suitable printers, but since Giclee printers are quite expensive to purchase, operate, and maintain, it also introduces the results that can be achieved on a budget and gives some tips for outsourcing. No matter what you choose, however, you always have to choose the highest quality that you can afford. If only because your art should make you money and not ruin your reputation.
Today, giclee is associated with inkjet printers that use pigmented printing inks as well as archival media (also called substrates). The leading providers for this are Canon, Epson and HP. Only printers that can print on A2 media (at least 24 x 20 inches) or larger will provide the required quality.
An office printer doesn't work for this, mainly because you can't linearize it properly and manage it in terms of color. A photo printer that prints A3 size (or 16 x 12 inch paper) can compromise on paper size and, to some extent, quality.
In short, you will need:
- The highest quality output you can afford. For example, if the technical data specifies an ink drop size of 3.5 picoliters, it is small enough to ensure a very high resolution.
- The highest print resolution available with the highest number of inks - for example, a resolution of 2400 x 1200 dpi and the use of six to ten inks.
- Inks that ensure high lightfastness (degree of light insensitivity of the color ink over time) and archival quality (durability).
- A device that can print on a wide variety of substrates including cotton swabs, glossy photo papers, satin and matte papers, canvases, transparencies, vinyl, textiles, etc.
This is the difference between home printing and professional printing
All devices in the highest market niche are by definition PostScript printers and are best controlled by a raster image processor (RIP). This program allows you to control how ink is dispensed from each individual printhead onto the media. This is important because:
- You save money because you can control the amount of ink sprayed on the media.
- It increases the quality above what is possible with the printer driver alone.
- This enables very accurate color reproduction.
- Some printers increase the length of the printable surface, which in turn can save money.
All of these printers must be calibrated (also known as linearization) for the media to be used before creating the color profiles. This is the most important step in the process as it puts the printer in a known and stable state for any given ink / media combination.
These preparations are part of professional printing, regardless of which type of printer you use or to which professional you submit an output order.
If you're just starting out or are on a budget, a photo printer is likely the best choice to print your pictures. It is still a good idea to use a RIP whenever possible. Only when your budget is close to zero should you use the printer manufacturer's printer driver. In doing so, however, you have to forego quality and, above all, control. This is fine as long as you are aware of it and do not use these printouts for an important exhibition. In this case, it may be better to have your images printed by a print-on-demand service or even a local print shop.
The ideal way to print artwork is to work in the CMYK color space, as you shouldn't rely on the manufacturer's printer drivers and color profiles for accurate color reproduction and complete control over the ink on the substrate. That means you have to invest a bit of money in a good, real raster graphics processor, from here on referred to as RIP. There are also pseudo RIPs, but these are printer driver dependent and not really useful. A relatively inexpensive, but decent and easy-to-use RIP is EFI's Fiery RIP, which a large number of vendors use in their mass production machines. Other RIPs are typically much more difficult to use than the EFI Fiery.
The printer you will need for exhibition prints is a large format inkjet printer.
The price range for the printer-RIP combination is between $ 1,300 and $ 11,000. That depends on the size, output, resolution and functions of the device. For example, some printers have a paper cutter.
If you want to manage your own printer, that assumes that you also have to maintain the printer yourself. To set up a printer in CMYK mode, you need to linearize the printer and create the print / color profiles for each substrate you want to print on. This process must be repeated for each set of new inks and media that you purchase.
Often you can buy or download common color profiles for the required printer-medium combination. However, since the production batches of ink on paper or canvas differ slightly, you will always get falsified results with these color profiles. If you're just starting out, on a tight budget, or just trying it out, keep this in mind.
For real exhibition quality, you also need to invest in a spectrophotometer. Right now, the X-Rite i1Pro is the only professional that is affordable.
If you're just starting out or on a budget, you can use a Datacolor kit. This does not provide the same accuracy as the X-Rite equipment, but it is less expensive. But if you do have money to spare, invest it in an X-Rites i1iO. This is an automatic scanning table for creating color profiles, which was developed for photographers, designers and printers who want to forego the manual reading of strips. The i1iO does the job in minutes, while reading strips manually is very frustrating and can drag on for ages.
If you also want to print your art on cups, clothing and other three-dimensional products, you can buy a heat press (e.g. one like the one on Amazon), but it is unwieldy and tedious. For this type of printing, it's probably better to outsource your work to a service provider.
Outsourcing of the printing process
If you're just starting out or on a tight budget, consider outsourcing printing to a print-on-demand (POD) service provider. Without investing a lot of money in equipment and even without knowing how to manage a professional printer, you can get good quality at a slightly higher price per print than if you did it all yourself. However, I advise against using POD services for the presentation of your work at important art exhibitions, as it then becomes really important to control the entire process.
If you hire a POD service like Printify and Kyte.li to do this, submit your files in a print-ready format based on their printing regulations and they will print your artwork. You can then sell your printed materials online through a number of e-commerce service providers.
The initial workflow with a POD service is very similar to working with a professional print shop, which is another alternative if you can find a knowledgeable and helpful employee. However, although there is a higher cost to contacting a local print shop, depending on their flexibility, you can instruct the press operator during the test print and the actual print.
Some online art sales have their own print shops or outsource the printed part themselves. For example, Society6 handles, prints and ships orders internationally. You not only print on sheets of paper, textiles and canvases, but also on 3D objects such as mugs and iPhone cases.
Basic introduction to different types of printing
What types of printers are there for printing works of art?
The large format inkjet printer. It uses printheads that contain tiny nozzles. The nozzles spray microscopic drops of ink onto the substrate. Printers that can process substrates that are 24 inches wide are called large format printers.
Small photo and office inkjet printers are inkjet printers, but they have too few nozzles, lack of advanced drop technology, and are generally unsuitable for control by a RIP. They are not very good at printing artwork, with the exception of lower quality prints.
Great photo printer differ from small photo printers in size and quality. As the size of the equipment increases, so does the price, and it becomes profitable for manufacturers to include more functions.
Most Inkjet printer With UV curing are also inkjet printers. However, these are massive industrial printing machines that fix the ink on the medium by "curing" it with UV light. They're great for signage, banners, and large wall art.
A Dye sublimation printer uses solid ink that must be heated before it can be applied to a medium. The ink feels a bit waxy after drying and is permanent. These printers can be used to print on mugs, clothing, and metal.
Color laser printer are extremely difficult to manage color and do not have RIPs available for them. A color toner is neither permanent nor lightfast. Laser printers can only process paper.
Hot presses are not printers per se. They are used to apply heat transfer (colored sheets made of synthetic resin or plastic such as vinyl) to clothing, mugs and glasses using temperature and pressure.
The A2 model from Epson, the SureColor SC-P800, has a minimum ink droplet size of 3.5 picoliters and variable droplet technology, with which up to three different droplet sizes per print line can be generated with a very high resolution.
The HP DesignJet Z9 has a resolution of 2400 x 1200 optimized dpi and uses nine inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, matte black, photo black, chromatic red, chromatic green, chromatic blue, and gray). A gloss enhancer can be installed as an option.
For aspiring artists on a budget, the Canon A3 + Pixma Pro-100S Mk II offers a good printer with a high resolution of 4800 x 1200 dpi, eight colors and ChromaLife100 inks for a price of around $ 500. For this price you also get good ink resistance and the ability to run the printer with a RIP. Even with a RIP, you cannot print on media sizes that exceed the printer specifications, as other printers can. However, this is a minor disadvantage.
What to look out for with a print provider and how you can check the quality of a print
Before you hire a print provider to do your job, there are a few customer reviews to read. You can search for the provider on Google and see comments about the service. If that's satisfactory, send them a test file, preferably one that will give you an idea of the color accuracy and the quality of the lines (e.g., pixelated or not) that they can output.
Look for registration errors, such as edges with misaligned colors. If there are, it means that the equipment is either poorly maintained, old, or the operators are unaware of their work. Check the resistance of the ink to abrasives, cleaning agents and scratches on cups and other 3D objects.
Make sure your work is ready to print
Align your images at 300 dpi or higher (300 dpi is giclée quality) or follow the instructions from the printer or the POD service. Raster images (JPEG, TIFF, PNG) consist of pixels and cannot be enlarged without being pixelated. Vector-based graphics can be resized as required. If you save your file in vector format, you can export it to a raster file of the exact size you need in a format like TIFF and repeat that later for different sizes - TIFF is what most printers can print.
When printing, convert your art to CMYK using a RIP and check that your conversion settings are correct. You should always check the first printout - the test print - for color accuracy. If you are using your printer, you will need to print out a control strip on the edge and check it with your spectrophotometer. You also need to check the ink density with your spectrophotometer (or a special density meter).
If you work with a POD service provider or supplier, or with a local print shop, you should color-match your work with the color profile of their printing device that is used to output your file and then correct any color mismatches with your program.
Common factors preventing a file from being ready to print include:
- The file is in the wrong format.
- The size of the document is not correct.
- The file is set to the wrong color space, such as B. RGB instead of CMYK.
- There are errors for spacing.
- The resolution is not high enough.
Where and how to sell art prints
When you've successfully printed your artwork, it's probably time to display it or put it up for sale. You can do both online! Below are some examples for each category.
Art competitions / events
CGTrader Digital Art Contest
World Illustration Awards
Society of Illustrators
Artists Magazine Annual Art Competition
Sunny Art Prize
Acrylic Works 7
ArtStation (Concept art)
Concept Art World competitions page
Websites that offer a comprehensive service from print to shop
Design by Hümans
Fine Art America
Websites that offer services and / or POD services
Heat press fun
CG Pro Prints
Websites that only offer shop services
About Erik Vlietinck
Erik Vlietinck became an independent writer and editor 30 years ago creating high quality content in both English and Dutch. He is familiar with industrial print, video and audio production on the Mac platform, as well as graphic design, digital publishing, color management and much more. As a journalist and reviewer, Erik has contributed to a number of publications in the US and UK while serving as a technical copywriter for Fortune 500 companies and SMBs worldwide. He is an avid amateur pencil drawing and painting with acrylic paints and has had some of his works of art exhibited in his hometown Antwerp.
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