Archive for the 'printing' Category


An update on the protective spray

A while back, I bought a can of the Hahnemuhle protective spray, which I wrote a piece about here.

Now, I have used much more, and I am still pleased with the result. I only use it on Photorag and Fine Art Pearl, but for those papers I think it improves the final result. The Photorag gets slightly more dense black, which gives the print just a bit more punch to it. It does offset the soft proofing a bit, but would argue that the soft proofing is not that accurate anyway. It will get you very close to the target, but only actual printing can get you spot on.

I have had some mixed feelings when it comes to Fine Art Pearl due to the gloss difference. The whites (or the paper base) is not as glossy as the ink, and I think it is a bit disturbing. This is more or less eliminated by the spray, and I think the paper surface becomes very pleasing. On this paper, the colors are practically unchanged.

I have no idea about longevity, and I don’t really care that much. I usually hang prints in my home without glass, and I haven’t seen any effects on that yet.


print swapping

A couple of weeks back, Eric Jeschke and I started a print swap. I sent him this shot


and I got this one back, called “Evening Swim“.

It was a really nice picture contrasting the action of kids having fun jumping into the water with the calm mood of the sunset. It was also printed well.

I’ve been doing these swaps for a while now, and I’m starting to accumulate a stack of prints from different people. No doubt the technical quality varies, but they are all a joy to own, and I’m starting to learn more and more from this. First of all, don’t ever underestimate the kind of abuse the postal service will do to your envelope. Sturdy packing is essential, even if it is a bit more expensive to ship due to weight. The important thing is how they work as a reference to measure my own effort against. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys the printed image, and want to improve their own skills.


some more Epson 3800 insight

I’m getting more and more under the hood of my Epson 3800 as time goes by, and as I learn to work around its quirks, I’m getting better and better prints. This last one is something I have struggled with for quite some time:  

Micro banding!!!

This nasty beast is the killer of all inkjet prints, and an immediate giveaway of the technology used. Objectively it is hardly visible, but it just connects with the some hidden parts of your brain and ruins the illusion. It is just plain unacceptable.

Here is the whole story.

It started when I began using the Harman Gloss paper. This paper has some very good, but unforgiving properties. It will show sharpness and details unmatched in any inkjet paper I’ve seen, but if there are some minor technical glitch, it will also show up. Other papers, like matt rag paper, is much more forgiving due to the lack of resolving power. Anyway, now and then some micro banding started to show up on my prints. These are horizontal lines, either light or dark, that supposedly are caused by the paper feed being inaccurate. The fix, according to Epson and other sources, is to adjust the paper feed slightly, which is something that can be easily done in the driver. I happened to get some dark banding, which indicated that the paper feed was too little, and I should adjust it upwards to get it right. So I tried, but to no avail. The only thing that happened was that I git light micro banding as well. 

Then at some point, micro banding gone – Me happy.

Then suddenly, micro banding back – Me frustrated again.

But then I did something I usually don’t do. I started an automatic head alignment from the Epson printer utility. I usually do this from the printer itself, as the user manual recommends. Micro banding is gone. I do the alignment from the printer panel. Micro banding is back. Hmmmm….

The alignment initiated from the printer panel is the recommended way, and the Epson manual say it is both faster and more accurate. It is faster, but for the rest I’m not that sure anymore. It may have been right back in 2007 when the latest firmware was released, but maybe the latest printer utility which was released recently does a better job after all. And the best part is that it does bidirectional alignment as well. In fact I suspect it does both uni- and bi directional alignment since it needs two sheets of paper, not one as the printer alignment does.

So, with the alignment in place, printing at 2880dpi and bidirectional, the prints are right back to stunning (at least technically), and I’m happy. 

What puzzles me is that this does not make sense. The alignment is designed to take care of vertical banding, not horizontal. Why it fixes my horizontal banding problem is beyond me, but I’m not complaining.

Just in case you want to do the same, here is what I did:

  1. Download the latest Epson LFP remote panel
  2. Open the LFP remote panel
  3. Select “Media Adjustment”
  4. Then select “Auto Adjustment”
  5. Then select the media type. I usually use Epson Enhanced Matte (Archival Matte). Don’t worry if you have glossy black installed, It won’t change the ink.
  6. Hit the Start butting just below the “Auto Bidirectional Alignment” heading and wait

I must be close to blind

I really don’t understand how I could avoid seeing this before.

Just now, I looked at some photos in LightRoom, and I flipped between the Develop and the Library module. The colors changed!!! aaaaah. This should be a color managed app. What is happening???

The reason is of course how Library and Develop handles sharpen settings when showing images in less than 1:1. For some reason, Adobe has decided not to preview the sharpening in Develop when you’re not zoomed in to 1:1. They say it isn’t accurate anyway due to the low resolution of the computer screen. In the Library module on the other hand, the image shown is a rendered jpg version, baked with sharpening and all. If I zoom in to 1:1, the images are exactly the same.

So, how do I handle this?? I guess about the same way I handle color mismatch in PHotoshop at odd zoom levels. Did you know that?? If you have a layered photoshop file and show it at, say 33% zoom, the colors may be way off (wrote about it back here). This is not real, just a symptom of the fast, but inaccurate resize algorithm used for the screen. The solution is to zoom in to 1:1 or flatten the image. 

Moral:  Never do critical color adjustments without double checking at 1:1 zoom level.


reduced sloppyness

Even if the printing tutorial didn’t introduce that much new knowledge, it still manage to push my printing up a notch or two. The thing about knowledge you accuire before you are really ready for it, is that it gets stuffed far behind and never used. Once you are reminded of it again, at a stage where your skill has reached a level where you can take advantage of it, it can make a huge difference.

Lately, for me, I have just been too sloppy. Just churning out prints on autopilot without really examining them. A comment I received on email by Doug Stockdale regarding a print I send him (first prize in the big print lottery), and now this tutorial kind of woke me up. A couple of hours spend, and a dozen of test prints wasted, the print I made today is much, much better than the print I made yesterday. But then again, the print I made yesterday was not as good as the one I made 3 months ago.

The thing with printing isn’t really with the doing part. Doing is usually not that difficult, at least not when you start to know your tools. Ok, there is a couple of black magic areas left, aspecially when it comes to B&W, but most problems are solved using ordinary photoshop magic and soft proofing. The real issue is in the seeing. It is so darn hard to actually see the shortcomings. Once spotted, it is just a matter of time spend before it is solved.


camera to print tutorial

Before I upgraded my Lightroom to version 2, I bought the Luminous Landscape LR video tutorial, and I thought it was good. It helped me to utilize the tool much better, and it was well worth the money. Fueled by this I went and bought the “Camera to print” tutorial as well.

This tutorial was nowhere near as useful to me. It skipped through the subjects from capturing the image to printing explaining in depth some of the aspects, but I didn’t feel it gave me much more than what I already knew. This of course is very individual, but for my part I had already read most of this at different web sites, like Luminous Landscape, Northlight images, Outback photo, and others. Especially I think they covered the art of B&W printing very lightly. Even thought the Epson Advanced B&W module is pretty good, it is still some black magic involved. You don’t get any soft proofing, and when you use non Epson papers, you may run in to problems. The tutorial just walked briefly though the printing of one single image without mentioning the use of the different controls in the driver for adjusting the tonality. I say this because I find the ABW module extemely difficult to use well. Much more than color printing where you have profiles and soft proofing.

The ImagePrint RIP on the other hand is better on BW printing simply because of profiling, but you still lack a decent soft proofing (there is a sorry excuse in page layout view…). However, when you print through that RIP, you can be pretty sure that the 255 value will be white, the 0 value will be as black as it gets, and all the other values are mapped on the straight line between. This is also the case with ABW using Epson papers, but not with third party papers that I usually use.


Another print swap

Just got a bunch of prints from Les R. He doesn’t have a web page (yet??), so I can’t link to the pictures.

In my previous swaps we have always looked through each others pictures and chosen one that we liked, which is printed and mailed. This time, only Les did that with my pictures, and I send him one of this. Since I had no way of looking at his pictures in advance, I told him to send me one of his favourites, but he obviously wanted to make sure that I got one I liked, so he send a small stack. And it paid off. Among those prints, I found a couple I liked very well.

I guess my print is still in transit.

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