Sunday, July 1, 2007
Today's Technology In Inkjet Printing
Improved (and more) inks, better papers and the latest printer technology mean inkjet prints that look better—and last longer—than conventional photos
Canon, Epson and HP offer a wide variety of print media optimized for their printers and inks, and with profiles provided in their drivers. There’s also a growing list of independent inkjet paper brands on the market, including Adorama, Forte, Hahnemuhle, Harman, Ilford, Legion by Moab, Museo and Tetenal.
The hot thing in large-format inkjet printing today is fine-art papers. In fact,
major printer manufacturers are marketing fine-art papers from the likes of Hahnemuhle and Crane & Co. (Museo) along with their own papers. Fine-art media include a variety of textures and smooth surfaces, including watercolor and canvas. The textured ones lend a painterly feel to landscape images; the smooth ones are better when fine detail is important. The making of archival inkjet prints on fine-art papers even has a fancy name: giclee.
Inkjet papers consist of a number of layers, generally a base with resin coatings on each side and an ink-reception layer on top, sometimes with additional reflective layers. Each paper maker has its own proprietary technology controlling how the ink-reception layer absorbs the inks, as this plays a large part in the image quality and longevity of the resulting prints. The coating layers and often a protection layer above the reception layer determine the glossiness of the paper.
With glossy papers, the ink sits right on top, where it yields the widest color gamut and greatest image brightness and "snap," but also is most susceptible to fingerprints and other damage. Glossy surfaces also can reflect light sources in the viewing area, making them less suitable for display prints. Inks "bite into" luster and semi-gloss surfaces more, producing slightly duller but more durable images. Most fine-art photo prints are made on nonglossy media.
The brighter (whiter) the paper, the more "snap" a print can have, but sometimes an image is better suited to a less bright paper. Also, the optical brightening agents used to brighten some papers can break down with time. The standard print-longevity test results you see in printer/ink/paper specs don’t take into account yellowing caused by the breakdown of optical brighteners.
Some inkjet papers are designed for pigment-based inks and some for dye-based inks, while others will work with both ink types. Be sure to check for compatibility with your printer’s inks before buying new paper.
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