and the Merger of Technology and Creativity

Inkjet Canvas Decor by MyPix2, an Artful Color brand, reproduces photos and fine art using a variety of LexJet Sunset inkjet media, including Sunset Reserve Matte Canvas, for photographers, fine artists and consumers.


Is creative engineer an oxymoron, like military intelligence? You might think so, but think again. Damon Rando, owner of, an Artful Color Inc. brand in Apex, N.C., breaks the mold in more ways than one.

Rando studied both computer engineering and fine art photography in college, inspired by his mentor uncle, who was also an engineer and photographer.

Coating Canvas at MyPix2Rando had his own brush with military intelligence when he worked for the Air Force in weapons system testing. It was one stop along an interesting career path that eventually led to the formation of his fine art and photography reproduction company that included a stint at Waterford III making modifications to the control room at Three Mile Island and, most importantly, Apple.

“I got fed up with military bureaucracy, packed up, moved to California and went to work for Apple in engineering, and then in channel marketing where all my big accounts were in the emerging desktop publishing and photo editing fields that were starting on the Mac,” says Rando.

Canvas Gallery Wraps at MyPix2Rando worked his way through Apple for ten years, finding his way from engineering to color and how to best produce it for print. Rando and his team at Apple introduced ColorSync 2.0 and the ICC standard in the mid-’90s.

“During my last four years at Apple, my job was to get adoption of the ICC standard as the color business development executive for the U.S. sales force. I worked with People magazine, Time Inc., Simon and Schuster, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery and others to introduce them to and teach them about modern color management,” recalls Rando.

While he was at Apple, Rando started “tinkering,” as he puts it, with inkjet printing. Using the early ENCAD inkjet printer, he began putting together the pieces and parts of a color managed system for wide-format inkjet.

Epson Inkjet Printer at MyPix2“The whole color management process was one of the more technical aspects of the computer world to explain to people, which is why I was moved into the sales group supporting them because color management was so hard to communicate. I wasn’t about to pitch people on something that wasn’t a developed workflow so I dug into the best practices for color management,” says Rando. “Within that system in the early days, many of the applications didn’t have implementation inside the workflow; there were so many pieces that weren’t put together the way they are today. As an example, in the inkjet world, black build, even today, is a challenge with pigmented inks. When I was doing this in my house I was uncovering a lot of the shortcomings and working with the vendors to improve the process.”

In the early years of the 21st Century, Rando launched a fine art reproduction business on the side while he worked in the photo personalization group at Kodak with the NEXPRESS.

Gallery Wrap Frames at MyPix2“I learned a ton about the photo market, and saw where silver halide was not the future of printing and that inkjet was the future. I figured it wouldn’t be long before production equipment and workflow would replace silver halide, but I thought it would happen a lot sooner than it did,” says Rando. “There is a lot of investment in the silver halide process, which slowed down the transition, plus it’s very low cost per square foot.”

Rando began researching and testing inkjet papers and pushed the highest performing and most affordable papers into the market. He was invested in inkjet early on, employing a battery of Epson printers for his work.

A break came in August 2010 when Rando pitched Living Social on a daily deal to market photos on canvas to consumers, leading to the launch of Artful Color’s consumer brand, MyPix2Canvas. Rando developed an e-commerce site and a production workflow for the brand and started selling coupons regionally.

Production at MyPix2“Within a few months we moved production out of my home and into an 1,800 square-foot building at a business park. Three months later we got our second building, three months later our third building, and three months later our fourth building. During that time we became a national deal on Living Social and were featured on the Today Show twice as a part of Jill’s Steals and Deals. In August of 2012 we moved into a large facility and occupied 13,000 feet of a 21,000 square foot facility, and just this last month we took over the remaining 8,000 square feet.”

To cap it off, Artful Color recently took delivery of Epson’s new SureLab, a “dry lab” production machine that utilizes a special formulation of archival dye inks and is designed to replace the chemical process for producing portrait-sized photo prints.

Epson SureLab
The Epson SureLab, of which’s owner Damon Rando says regarding the dry lab’s output: “The amount of color gamut, tonal range and image fidelity is like nothing else I’ve ever seen.”

“The incredible thing about the SureLab is the archival dye inks it uses, instead of pigmented inks. The amount of color gamut, tonal range and image fidelity is like nothing else I’ve ever seen. We’ve refined the pigmented inkjet printing process, but the one area that still has some issues is that the five percent dark tinted gray tones have bronzing issues; you can still maintain the detail but you can’t quite maintain the richness of the blacks in that toning. The SureLab blows that away; it’s absolutely stunning,” says Rando. “What we can tell so far is that there are no shortcomings with the SureLab in image fidelity. The entire tonal range in every shading and the richness and vibrancy of every color in the rainbow is stunning.”

The SureLab complements the already tightly-managed wide format inkjet color management workflow where Artful Color uses a blend of LexJet Sunset inkjet media.

Canvas at MyPix2“We look at LexJet as one of our secret ingredients. I’ve worked with LexJet for about 14 years now. The great thing about LexJet is that they have distribution across the country, the finest media at an affordable price and they meet our high-volume demand while maintaining quality,” says Rando.

With the launch of the new website, will offer fine prints and posters in addition to its popular canvas products. “We’re the modern day photo lab; the photo lab of the future: totally eco friendly with no chemicals. It’s environmentally sustainability in fine art reproduction that offers customers the best quality prints,” adds Rando.

Get a Free iPad Mini and Don’t Pay until Jan. 31

Buy a printer and get a free iPad MiniA sweet deal just got sweeter as LexJet is giving away an iPad Mini with every purchase of a 42″ or wider printer and/or laminator plus $500 of qualifying LexJet media (inkjet-printable media, laminates, adhesives and backers) for the next 30 days or while supplies last. The sweetener is the fact that when you take advantage of this promo you don’t have to pay for anything until Jan. 31, so there’s a good chance you can pay it off before you pay for it.

“When we saw the LexJet promotion that was going on, especially with the rebate from Canon, it was so inexpensive that you could almost not afford not to buy a new printer. And, who wouldn’t like to have an iPad Mini?” says Douglas Spurlock, owner of StudioWest in Anthem, Ariz.

Go to to see how much time you have left to take advantage of this special promotion for a free iPad Mini. Then, contact a LexJet customer specialist by phone at 800-453-9538 to cash in on this offer (the promotion can only be redeemed by calling in for it and is not available online).

“I thought the pricing was great and the iPad Mini was icing on the cake. We’re getting up and running on the Canon iPF8300S we got through the promotion and everything is looking great so far. We installed it ourselves and it took only about an hour with all the how-to installation videos LexJet has posted on its YouTube site,” say Donald Stocks, owner of a PIP Printing location in Greenville, N.C.

Printing fine art with an inkjet printer
Douglas Spurlock, owner of Studio West in Anthem, Ariz., put his new Canon iPF8400 to use printing Alexei's Pride, a limited edition by Russian artist Alexei Butirskiy.

Qualifying printers at LexJet include, but are not limited to: Canon’s iPF8400S 44-inch printer and iPF9400S 60-inch production printer; Epson’s SureColor S30670 low-solvent production printer and Stylus Pro 11880 64-inch photo printer, and; HP’s L26500 61-inch and L28500 104-inch production latex printers, Z3200 44-inch photo printer and Z6200 42-inch and 60-inch photo printers.

Qualifying laminators at LexJet include, but are not limited to:  GBC’s 2080WFt 79-inch cold, hot laminator, Seal’s 44 Ultra Plus 44-inch cold, hot laminator, Daige’s Solo 55-inch cold laminator, and D&K’s Expression 42 Plus cold, hot laminator. For all the qualifying brands, equipment and media/laminates, go to

As an added bonus, all printer and laminator purchases come with free shipping and a $9.99 flat rate on all other orders from LexJet’s nationwide network of distribution centers. Plus, you’ll get free and unlimited product and technical phone support from your customer specialist.

With additional bundled offers from LexJet, Section 179 tax incentives from the Federal government, and end-of-year rebates and specials from our printer manufacturer partners – Canon, Epson and HP – this iPad Mini Giveaway Countdown offer is the perfect head start into the Holiday season.

For more information and to take advantage of this offer, contact a LexJet customer specialist at 800-453-9538.

Digital Art Creation Magazine App Now at iTunes

Magazine for digital art and productionAs noted earlier in July here at the LexJet Blog, Digital Art Creation magazine premiered as a digital publication and is now available optimized for the iPad at Apple’s iTunes store. The app is free and a monthly subscription is $3.99.

However, you can access the July issue for free by using the code: issue1_preview. To use the code, click on this link, then click on subscribe>current subscribers and put the code in the window. A free read-only text version is also available at the website.

Published monthly, Digital Art Creation focuses on photography techniques, post capture software and techniques, printing and post-printing ideas, and an exploration of a variety of other techniques and platforms.

The August issue is expected to be ready around Aug. 15 and will be available at both iTunes and the Digital Art Creation website. Here’s a preview of the subjects that will be covered in the August issue: 

  • Attorney Carolyn Wright talks about copyright issues
  • Artist Melissa Gallo demonstrates some Corel Painter techniques
  • Renoir is featured in the Old Masters section
  • Marketing Buzz profiles Cookie Monster, Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross’s Happy Trees
  • Find out the truth about the color wheel as Scott Naismith urges you to choose between the proverbial red and blue pills. Part two of a three part series
  • The Great Output section provides helpful direction on fine art and fine photo printing, plus choosing the best rendering intent
  • Skip Allen shows how to build custom libraries for you brushes in Corel Painter

For more information, go to Back issues of Digital Paint Magazine – the precursor to Digital Art Creation dedicated primarily to digital painting – can be found at June 2012 was the last issue.

Learn How to Maximize the Digital Workspace with Digital Art Creation Magazine

Magazine for digital art, printing and paintingProsperity Publishing Group, North Platte, Neb., is launching a new free virtual magazine, optimized for the iPad, called Digital Art Creation.

The new magazine is dedicated to educating and inspiring artists and photographers that utilize a part or whole digital workspace. Digital Art Creation will be published monthly and is expected to be available at the Apple newsstand later this month.

“Digital photographers, painters and even traditional image makers utilizing digital negatives will find useful information and inspiration in the magazine”, says Tim O’Neill, owner of Prosperity Publishing. “We will focus on blending traditional art with new techniques available in the digital realm,” he adds.

Digital Art Creation magazine is essentially a re-branding and an expansion of the content found in Digital Paint Magazine. While Digital Paint Magazine was primarily a magazine dedicated to digital painters, as the title of the magazine implies, Digital Art Creation expands the focus and includes photography techniques, post capture software and techniques, printing and post-printing ideas, and an exploration of a variety of other techniques and platforms.

Sections of the magazine include: Capture, Image Processing, Marketing Buzz, Great Output, Post Print and a Marketplace. A Reader’s Gallery will be added in the second issue.

“We are not abandoning our love and dedication to digital painting; Digital Art Creation encompasses many different arenas in image capture and processing and distills that information with a focus on fine art,” says O’Neill.

The Digital Art Creation app is free, the iPad magazine download is $3.95 and the Web version download is $4.95. A free read-only text version will also be available from the website. For more information, go to Back issues of Digital Paint Magazine can be found at June 2012 was the last issue.

A Decorative Art Original: Soicher Marin

Soicher Marin, based in Sarasota, Fla., is the classic American success story. Ed Marin, who is the second-generation owner of Soicher Marin, has maintained the original vision, aesthetic and point of view of the company when it was conceived in the Los Angeles area in 1959 by Harry Soicher.

Inkjet printing decorative artworkEd’s father joined Soicher in 1960, coming to America from Argentina with $125 in his pocket he had borrowed to make his way in the land of opportunity.

Marin was a framer by trade, and the pair took their individual talents into the decorative art market, serving the interior design, home furnishings and home fashion trades. By 1972 Soicher Marin was national with showrooms in every major market. Harry Soicher passed away in 1974 and Ed Marin eventually took over operations in the early ‘90s.

“At that time a lot of us were showing up at trade shows with the same types of products, because the universe of printed art was supplied by a handful of people out of New York and London,” says Ed Marin. “My dad was buying antiques and other artwork that was in the public domain, or he would find an artist he wanted to publish, and we would go to offset printing and do limited runs. It was great because it gave us our own identity and point of view, and we were able to do things exclusive to us. The problem was that you had to be right all the time; if you made a mistake you were sitting on a lot of wasted paper, so we were very cautious about the images we put out and how we put them out.”

Art reproductions for home furnishing and decorWhen inkjet printing became a viable method of art reproduction, Soicher Marin outsourced it at first, but when it became more affordable to purchase the equipment it was brought in-house with an Epson printer and an Onyx RIP.

“We were 100 percent exclusive with our art within a year; we didn’t have anything we were buying from anyone else. We were and are very much a content-driven company and it’s been allowed to happen because of this breakthrough in technology,” says Marin.

All of Soicher Marin’s artwork is produced in-house. Marin acts as the “chief art director,” as he puts it, to ensure that a consistent look is achieved. The Soicher Marin “look” is drawn from both natural history and contemporary art. Either way, it has what Marin calls “a historical perspective” unique to Soicher Marin, which you can see in the accompanying photos.

“If we have a point of view in the industry it’s driven by the aesthetic I want to put out in the market. I have catalogs from our company that date back to the mid-‘60s and ‘70s. Obviously, the artwork and colors are different, but the aesthetic and point of view is not. There’s a common thread that runs through the product line. It’s not a conscious effort; it’s just how we think and the people who come to work here and have become involved in our design process come to see it that way as well.”

The Soicher Marin aesthetic is not forced; rather, it’s a natural extension of a corporate culture that encourages creativity, independence, leadership and customer service. Moreover, the emphasis is on the art, not the technology used to create or reproduce it.

Producing decorative artwork in-house“We don’t over-embellish, over-layer or over-digitize the artwork. We let great art speak for itself. Our biggest responsibility is to reproduce it with the highest fidelity. And the same goes for our framing; we’re very careful about the materials we pick and how we treat the art. We have a less-is-more approach to our design,” says Marin. “Although we have densitometers and other devices that help us reach the optimal, our employees have it down to an art – it’s less science and more art.”

The young artists who work at Soicher Marin are intimately involved in the design process. Marin says they’re given a lot of leeway to “go off the reservation,” and it’s encouraged. By immersing them both in the Soicher Marin aesthetic and independent creativity, the Soicher Marin brand is enhanced.

“There’s another component that’s less obvious and it’s that there’s a certain rightness to our design and point of view. In the biography of Steve Jobs I found that there was a lot of discussion about his obsession with design. There’s a design thread that runs through Apple’s products, and you can see that someone put a lot of thought into each product. There’s a certain organic nature to it,” explains Marin. “We can’t say why it is exactly that the iPhone and all the other products are so pleasing to the eye, but they just are. We look at it the same way. We obsess over small details that change something very slightly, then people stand back and say it looks right, whether it’s scale or color, and that’s the part of organic design that people have a hard time describing, but they know it when they see it. It’s something I think we accomplish here as a team.”

Designing decorative artwork for residential and commercial applications
Soicher Marin designer Thom Filicia (left) and Ed Marin.

This is an integral part of the culture, but most important are the elements of customer service and leadership. For Soicher Marin, customer service begins within the company itself. If that element is lacking, serving the end-use customer will surely lag.

Therefore, great emphasis is placed on interpersonal and interdepartmental customer service. The art department is the digital department’s customer, for instance, so the digital department must please its internal customer first. “That’s the service culture we want,” says Marin.

To foster leadership, Marin explains, “Everyone is a leader and has a responsibility to someone else. My responsibility is to mentor them, teach them, give them my time, listen to their concerns, bring them into the general conversation of the company and work on their leadership skills. Then, their job is to do the same thing with everyone under them. Even if they leave our company, we may hate to lose them, but if they lead somewhere else because of something we taught them, we look at it as a service to the community.”

Like Soicher Marin’s design aesthetic, it’s the little things that make the difference in customer service. In other words, it goes far beyond providing a great product on time. It means answering the phone, showing courtesy and giving customers all the time they need.

Framing decorative art
Ed Marin, second-generation owner of Soicher Marin, Sarasota, Fla.

“Our customer service people have the best job because they get to talk to the customer, even when that means fielding a complaint, since a complaint is often an opportunity to not only make it right, but to solidify that relationship. My dad used to say that it costs so little to keep a customer; it’s much more costly to find them than it is to keep them,” says Marin.

Marin adds that the recession has made things difficult for the entire decorative art market. Soicher Marin made because of a brand that’s more than 50 years old. “The power of the brand is almost infinite when times are tough,” says Marin.

The Soicher Marin brand is strong because the company takes a collaborative approach to branding. Soicher Marin chooses partners wisely; partners that have the same dedication to quality and detail. For instance, Soicher Marin designs artwork for Lillian August’s furniture collection for furniture maker Hickory White.

“Lillian August has a beautiful furniture collection with Hickory White and she will collaborate with us on the design of all the pictures that are supposed to go with her furniture, so it’s a de facto collaboration with an important brand like Hickory White. Our customers know that the licensing relationships we have are really strong and collaborative, which makes our company still relevant after all these years.”

For its art reproduction, Soicher Marin’s choice of giclee materials is purely subjective and vary from LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper to LexJet Sunset Fibre Matte and Sunset Hot Press Rag, as well as canvas reproductions with LexJet Sunset Select Gloss Canvas and Sunset Select Matte Canvas.

Soicher Marin releases four sets of collections per year. Its two “major” seasons are spring and fall, and its two “minor” seasons are summer and winter.

“The type of art we bring to the table will determine the medium we put it on. If it’s photography, for instance, it could end up on an eSatin, a fibre-based or rag paper, based on what the image is,” says Marin.

Again, it’s the seemingly minor and subtle choices that make Soicher Marin so unique and successful in its offering. As Marin puts it, “We don’t just sell prints.”

For more information about Soicher Marin and its collections, go to 

If You Print, Expect Glitches with the Latest Mac OS, OS X Lion

Updating to Mac OS X Lion 10.7Apple is weeks, if not days away, from releasing its latest operating system, Mac OS X Lion 10.7, which will be available only through Apple’s App Store for about 30 bucks. As with all changes to any OS, whether Apple, Microsoft or any other platform, there has been much speculation about the impact on software that runs on the new OS, especially RIP programs, and the market in general.

Whatever the general impact may be, the best advice for anyone who’s ready to upgrade is… Wait. If anything has been learned from past OS updates, it’s this simple axiom.

For anyone who runs a wide format inkjet printer this is especially important since waiting allows printer and software manufacturers to fix any problems associated with the switch. Rest assured, engineers and developers are busily working out the kinks right now. However, they cannot possibly fix everything that users will run into as Lion rolls out.

So wait, and consult with your vendors before, during, and after any installation of a new OS. No one likes surprises when they have a color-critical job that prints off-target due to an unseen glitch in the operating system. Call a LexJet account specialist at 800-453-9538 if you have any questions about the compatibility of your print-oriented software with Mac OS X Lion.