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Thursday, May 24, 2007

High-End Printers For Your Studio

The current generation of professional-level inkjet printers can give your studio a steady stream of lucrative print business

Inkjet printers work by squirting a droplet of heated ink through a nozzle onto the media. Today's top-end printers render extraordinary detail and the most subtle of tonalities.

Dye-based inks have ruled the photo printer market for years. The rich color available with dyes provides prints that rival traditional photographic printing processes, such as Cibachrome. Canon and HP are the primary vendors for dye-based printers with the Canon imagePROGRAF and HP DesignJet series of printers. Dye has suffered from two drawbacks, though, that keep it from being the ideal method of printing. First and foremost for anyone doing prints for sale, dye ink has historically been limited in the archivability of prints. Until recently, it wasn't uncommon to see color fading or color shifts in dye-based prints in as little as several months of display life.

Both Canon and HP have gone to great lengths to improve the longevity of their dye inks—Canon's new ChromaLife 100 is certified to last 100 years, while HP's Vivera inks are certified for 80 or more years when printed on the appropriate media. Which brings us to the next challenge with dye-based inks: media choices.

Dye-ink printers work best with photo-type papers such as gloss or luster finishes, and to a limited degree, matte paper. These papers have a coating that swells to absorb the ink and limit spreading, or bleeding, of color. Although you can often print on fine-art papers such as Moab Entrada or Crane Museo, among others, the display life of the print is greatly diminished and print quality is often lower than what many of us would consider acceptable for our best work. One way around the longevity issue is through the use of a sealing spray, such as Premier Art Shield, which greatly improves print life and durability.

As mentioned earlier, dye inks have the advantage of rich, vibrant color. Canon and HP have introduced printers with extended color sets—Canon as many as 10 and HP up to 9—to achieve high-quality blue, red and green colors rather than mixing the standard cyan, magenta and yellow inks to create these colors. Again, these changes have been slow to migrate to the large-format market, and currently HP offers its DeskJet line with six colors (Canon no longer sells dye-based photo printers in the large-format size).




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