Step 2 in Color Management: Printer and Media Color Gamut | LexJet Blog
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Step 2 in Color Management: Printer and Media Color Gamut

In Step 1 of the color management to-do list we discussed how the quality of your monitor impacts the precision of your output. Step 2 of 3 focuses on understanding how your printer and the inkjet media choices affect color.

Print accuracy doesn’t rely solely on your use of a custom profile and an accurate monitor, though these two components guide you toward the closest possible result. There are two additional variables that can have a big impact on the types of colors you can hit with any printer…

The first is the gamut of the printer. How an ink is formulated in order to print a Coca-Cola red or a Pepsi blue, for example, may differ slightly from technology to technology.

These days I field a lot of questions about choosing between an 8-color system and a 12-color system.  Or, should I use the 9-color or the 11-color printer? Is there a noticeable difference between them?

The answer is yes, there is a noticeable difference any time you add colors. However, the next question I usually follow up with is, “What are you using the printer to print?”

When considering printing technology, there are printers made for higher-speed production (HP Z5200, Canon S Series, Epson T Series, to name a few) that can print a sellable photographic image, but would not be the ideal to use for an artist, photographer or fine art reproduction house. These printers have fewer inks, which cuts down on gamut but improves on speed in most cases.

If you’re in the market for a printer, talk to a LexJet customer specialist and explain the market you are in. We will make sure that you are using the right equipment for the job.

If you are seeing a color that is in your photograph or art piece that you just can’t nail with your printer, it may be out of gamut for the printer or out of gamut for the media you chose to print to.

If you’ve calibrated the monitor, make sure your printer is running at 100 percent capacity, that you’ve soft-proofed the image with the chosen rendering intent, and used a specific printer profile to print. If it still doesn’t portray what’s on your screen, then either of the above mentioned may be at fault.

Now I just spit out a bunch of jargon that may be foreign to you, so click on the links to the tutorials here to find out more…

Download and install ICC Profiles:

PC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8W-F-k8z5io

MAC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuOhztAqoyY

How to Softproof before Printing using Photoshop:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahf9yEPO4zA

How to print using ICC Profiles (find your printer and computer combination):

http://www.youtube.com/user/LexJet/search?query=Printing+Through

Color gamut difference between a gloss and matte photo paper.
Figure 1 shows the difference in gamut between a gloss and a matte paper in the high, mid and low range of color (top to bottom). The gloss paper is our Sunset Gloss Photo Paper (red line) and the matte our Premium Archival Matte Paper (green line) as profiled on the Canon IPF8400 with the X-Rite DTP70. Click on the image for a larger version.

You can’t do anything to increase the gamut of the printer, but you can make the right decision based on your needs at the time you purchase the equipment. Making sure you use the right equipment for the type of work you are doing will dramatically increase the quality of your print.

Our second extremely important variable to understand is the media with which you choose to print. The less reflective the media, the less light that reflects back into your eyes, and therefore, the lower the gamut and detail your print will realize (see Figure 1).

Artists have come to love matte watercolor papers and canvas, yet always demand the best color on those surfaces. This is where the owner or production manager at a fine art reproduction house runs into the biggest conflict.

The reflectivity of your media is not the only aspect of the printable supplies that affects color outcome.  White point can change your gamut as well. The brighter the white point, the more gamut you’ll pick up, not to mention an increase in that lovely term the experts like to use, Dmax, which is the darkest measurable value your printer-media combination can hit.

For canvas, Sunset Select Gloss Canvas has the highest dynamic range and color gamut of the canvas offerings LexJet produces. The highest-gamut matte canvas is our Sunset Select Matte Canvas, which has a very punchy white base. Partnering the Sunset Coating line with Sunset Select Matte Canvas has been a very popular choice amongst artists and photographers.

If you are trying to appease the artist crowd who prefer fine art papers, the highest-range matte paper is Sunset Fibre Matte (a very smooth bright-white fiber cellulose paper). If you need 100% cotton with a smooth finish, Sunset Hot Press Rag will be close behind.

If they would like texture on their cotton paper our latest addition to the line is Sunset Bright Velvet Rag.  This paper has the highest Dmax of our cotton line and prints very elegant-looking velvet-textured prints.

On the photographic side of media options, all of our bright white glossy and semi-glossy fibre-based papers put out a phenomenal range. They are all meant to emulate different versions of old-style air dried chemical bath papers that film photographers were used to exposing in the darkroom. These papers include Sunset Fibre Gloss, Sunset Fibre Elite and Sunset Fibre Satin.

Our newest paper in this category is Sunset Fibre Rag, which is 100% cotton and has a warm tone to the base. Even though it is warm in tone, the range is very large and the texture is very fitting to that style of paper.

For RC photo-based paper replicas, nothing tops the gamut of the Sunset Photo Gloss Paper. It reflects the most light, has a high-gloss wet-looking surface like one you would receive from a photo lab providing chemical-style glossy prints.

Also ever so popular for printers looking for a beautiful thick luster paper (e-surface) is our Sunset Photo eSatin Paper. This paper has a very cool white point and the surface is the most popular amongst the RC-emulating class of papers.

LexJet will provide you with the ICC profiles for every media above mentioned. If we do not list one here for your technology we will happily make one for you free of charge! Next time, we’ll tackle Step 3 in the color management to-do list: understanding ICC Profiles and settings. In the meantime, feel free to call us any time at 800-453-9538 with questions.

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Going on 10 years with LexJet, Michael has played an integral part in sales of wide-format printers. Having amassed extensive product and application knowledge, Michael was named the head of LexJet’s “Experience Center” where customers can gain knowledge of wide-format printing with all technologies and applications. He is also a team leader in charge of LexJet’s Tech Support and installation division.

4 Comments

  1. David B Miller

    What media type to select?

    Equipment:
    Mac with Mt Lion
    PS CS5
    Epson Pro 9900 matte black ink only
    canvas=Lexjet LexJet Sunset by Fredrix Matte Canvas- 44in x 40ft (44 in x 40 ft)

    I only use my own custom .icc profiles!

    Thanks you

    • Michael Clementi

      Hi David,

      Try Watercolor Radiant White and let me know if that works.

      Michael

  2. John Hill

    What about the length-wise “shrinkage” that’s caused by selecting the Watercolor Paper Radiant White media type setting? This is a very common problem, especially concerning the Epson 9900. Why not select a canvas media type instead?

    • Regan Dickinson

      If you’re measuring the canvas as it is coming off the printer and it is short or long, the shrinkage is not actually product related but printer related. This does tend to happen more on canvas as it feeds differently than most materials. You can refer to the manual on creating a custom media feed adjustment if this is the case. It takes about 55 inches of canvas and plugging in some information from that print into the printer itself. I would recommend this for every canvas product as it is essential to get the correct dimensions for stretching to bars.

      As it relates to the Canvas selection as the media type and why we chose to use Water Color Radiant White, the saturations for Canvas were too high for the solution. The feed may be closer but still may not be exact, especially with longer prints. Every canvas is different in thickness and how it feeds is different also. If you do the media feed on your end you’ll be dead-on every time you print with that product.

      If the product is the right size right off of the machine and you have measured it before and after it is coated with whichever sealant you use and it shrinks after applying coating, you will have to account for that percentage when setting up the original document for printing.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions on this subject.

      Sincerely,

      Michael Clementi

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