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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Printers For Black&White

For making gallery-quality prints, you need to have the right tool

Labels: Printers
Epson's newest pigment-based ink technology is called UltraChrome HDR. It's available in the Stylus Pro 4900, and it features a combination of new colors and Epson AccuPhoto HDR screening technology. UltraChrome HDR was developed for professional and commercial printers who need absolute consistency as well as perfect-looking images.

Dye-Based Inksets
On the dye-based side of the business, Canon has its ChromaLife100 technology. The PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II uses this system of eight individual ink tanks, and when used with the appropriate Canon paper, it renders prints with good longevity. Canon claims that the combination of its ink formulation, Canon FINE print head and Canon media produces prints that rival the quality of silver-halide images.

Hewlett-Packard PhotoREt IV technology uses six individual ink tanks to create a print. The HP Designjet 130 and Designjet 130r both use the PhotoREt IV system, as well as HP Color Layering Technology to produce vivid prints with good contrast and smooth tonality.

Size Matters, But Don't Get Too Carried Away
One aspect of print technology that we haven't addressed has been the issue of printer resolution and droplet size. Early on, printer makers made a big deal about their resolution, and many photographers were confused. A printer would come out with "2880 dpi!" on the label, and we'd start changing our image settings in Photoshop to match that number. It was all very confusing and gave rise to the ppi vs. dpi debate. When printers list a dpi number, that's the physical number of individual dots they can lay down on the paper in a square inch. Those dots don't directly equate to the number of pixels per inch that your image file is comprised of. The printer dots get laid down in various patterns of color to create your image's pixels. In other words, let's say that a pixel in your photograph is assigned the value of GRAY 127. To make that up, the printer might lay down a dot pattern of MATTE BLACK-CYAN-YELLOW-MAGENTA-PHOTO BLACK-MATTE BLACK-MAGENTA-CYAN-YELLOW-MATTE BLACK. In this hypothetical example, the printer laid down 10 printer dots to make up one of your image's pixels. Having a higher printer resolution theoretically gives the printer the ability to more precisely create each possible color combination and, therefore, better fidelity and smoother tonality.

Just like in a wet darkroom, there's a real art to making a fine black-and-white inkjet print. It's a craft that's honed with experience, patience, and no small amount of ink and paper. The rewards are beautiful images that hang on the wall where you can enjoy them and share with friends and family.


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