Breaking the Mold with Large Format Inkjet Printing

Printing and framing at American MouldingIt wasn’t a stretch for Melbourne, Fla.-based American Moulding to re-direct its business into large format inkjet printing, but it did break the mold and continues to do so with great success. American Moulding started out about 12 years ago as a distribution company for picture frame moulding and supplies. When the economy took a turn for the worse, American Moulding’s primary distribution business took a hit.

Rather than mourn the decline, American Moulding took a proactive approach and decided to start printing. Since that time three years ago the company has tripled its revenues, outpacing its original picture framing distribution business model. In other words, American Moulding’s product line has shifted almost entirely to large format inkjet printing for artists, corporations and interior decorators, while leveraging its previous expertise in framing by offering a fully finished, high-quality product.

“We do art reproduction and framing, so now it’s the total package. We had brand equity in the American Moulding name and we didn’t want to lose that with companies we were already working for. We have one large client who helped drive that for us. We did most of the framing for their art galleries and other venues. The door opened up for us when they asked if we could print a small background for them, so we bought an Epson 3800. Then the requests came in more frequently and that’s when we expanded into a 24-inch [Epson 7880] and two 44-inch printers [a Canon iPF8100 and an Epson 9900],” says Chris Bryant, owner of American Moulding. “Cutting out the distribution business was nerve-wracking at first, but we’ve been able to exceed our revenues. We’ve managed to grow it and continue to grow it by introducing new products and becoming more of a credible source with our clients. Every day and every week we continue to win more business.”

Printing fine art and photographyAnother key component of American Moulding’s success has been customer service. Bryant has a simple explanation for American Moulding’s customer service philosophy: “We become an extension of who they are.”

Bryant explains that their concept is to be on call as if they were in the office next door, ready for action at a moment’s notice. “That way, if there’s a problem, they can call us as if we were right there on their property with them. The more we do that the deeper we ingrain ourselves in the fabric of what they do, so it makes us more in line and in tune with their philosophies.”

The most difficult part of the transition to large format printing was getting the workflow and color management issues down pat. The team at American Moulding buckled down, learned the software and utilized the technology to its fullest so that it was print-ready almost from day one.

“That was probably the biggest adjustment – making sure we had a critical eye in evaluating the art and colors and that we were getting it right every time. We’re still learning every day, but we did a good job from the beginning. The feedback we were getting from our clients was that we were getting it right the first time, rather than having to color proof it two or three times to get it right. They started having confidence in what we were doing and began shifting more work our way. We have a three-person signoff on each piece of art we produce just to evaluate color,” explains Bryant. “We went from printing small jobs of one or two prints to running limited editions. Now we have about 150 pieces of art that are still active and it grows every day.”

Building a large format inkjet printing business
Chris Bryant and Heather Bailey of American Moulding. Their customer service philosophy is simple: To be an extension of their client's business.

Bryant adds that keeping up with the latest technology and printable media has played a crucial role in the company’s growth. American Moulding is not afraid to experiment and try new media out, much to the delight of their clients.

“Canvas always comes out great, but I like playing with the fine art and watercolor papers. We also love the Sunset Photo Metallic Paper and the artists we work with love it as well. We don’t put it on everything and overuse it, but the art we print on it just jumps off the paper and the artists jump at the chance to work with it. Some paint specifically for that paper,” explains Bryant. “LexJet is constantly introducing new products to us, and they have lot of the same philosophies we have in customer service. They touch base regularly to learn more about who we are and what we do so that they’re able to give us new product ideas to effectively move our business forward. Our customer specialist, Rob Finkel, and his team have been awesome and helped us get over some of the learning curve. LexJet has been a catalyst in our growth.” 

Inkjet Printing Workflow: Tiling Images for a Large Display

There are two methods for tiling images to create a large display. First, you can use software like Adobe InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop to crop the image down into individual sections for print. However, the easiest and most efficient way I have found to do this for printing is in a RIP software.

Here, I want to cover an 18-ft. wide x 80-in. tall wall. I'm printing on a 36-in. wide roll of media, so I need six tiles of 36 in. x 80 in. to complete the graphic.

Tiling is a pretty common task for the signage industry, so RIPs for that industry seem to handle tiling best. If you’re running Onyx, for example, you have a lot of control over how you tile large images.

ImagePrint, which is more geared toward photographic and fine-art printing, has a more simplistic version of tiling that will also allow you to perform this task. Think of the sign industry RIPs as more industrial for large production runs, and ImagePrint as more custom, for shorter runs in a photographic/fine-art workflow.

In ImagePrint, you simply fill the tiles with the image you plan on breaking up into panels, and hit print. It's that easy!

Either way, a RIP will make all the difference in the world for the quality of your images, and the efficiency and profitability of your workflow, including tiling large images together.

How to Replace Printheads on a Canon Inkjet Printer

Canon printheads are rated to go through a certain amount of droplets before they need to be replaced. The printer will let you know when it’s time to replace the printhead.  When that time comes, here’s a step by step video on how to replace Canon large format inkjet printheads. Though this is a Canon iPF6100, the steps apply to all Canon wide-format printers…

High Five: Profiting from Large-Format Printing

UPS Store owner Don DeSmet says that large-format printing gives his store access to additional markets and a larger potential customer base.

“Large-format printing is not a supplement to our business; it’s a necessity,” says Kyle Yeager, owner of two UPS Stores in the Atlanta area. “It’s a major part of our product line, and a piece of our business that we use to define and separate ourselves from most of our competition.”

Yeager’s UPS Store has something in common with photo studios and other types of franchise businesses, namely a built-in market ready and willing to buy large-format prints. Yeager’s stores have been printing banners, canvas wraps for photo enlargements and other display graphics on their 44”-wide Canon printers for almost four years.

“Banners are easiest for the consumers to understand and see the true value in, because banners are a focused product for anyone from small businesses to even residential clients,” says Yeager. “We print a lot of graduation banners during the high-school graduation season, and throughout the year we print banners for businesses and organizations that are having a grand opening, a product special or a special event… The possibilities are endless.”

Yeager has set aside a space along the wall for samples and signage product suggestions that works as a silent salesman to spark ideas with customers who walk in the store. Plus, Yeager’s outside sales reps are actively selling both stores’ large-format output.

“LexJet has been a tremendous help recommending materials for specific jobs. If I tell them the type of job I’m working on, they’ll tell me the best media to use, whether it needs to be indoor or outdoor, if it’s a high-impact poster or a volume job, or whatever the case may be,” says Yeager.

Big Photos

Allen and Autumn Thomsen, owners of Thomsen Photography in Eagleville, Mo., have had a similar experience. They added a 44”-wide Canon printer this past summer and found that the large-format printer not only added profit but also cut down on outsourcing costs.

Easy-Install Fabric Photo Posters Honor Movie Theater’s History

SLJLizzaDietrichMain500p
The black-and-white posters in the new lobby of The Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock, PA were printed on Photo Tex PSA, an inkjet-printable fabric with a respositionable adhesive for easy installation.

Going to the movies was more of a community experience in the decades before national corporations started building huge, multiplex movie theaters at shopping malls. If the weather was nice, you could pile your friends into a car and head off to a drive-in. But most of the time, you had to go downtown to the local theatre to see the latest releases from Hollywood.

Civic leaders in small towns across America are hoping to recapture some of that sense of community by restoring old theaters and reinventing them as community arts centers.

Such is the case at the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock, PA.  The Dietrich Theater first opened in 1937 with just one screen. That was fine until the mid-1980s when the Dietrich Theater couldn’t compete with the new breed of corporate-run multiplex theaters at malls.  After being closed for well over a decade, the Dietrich Theater reopened in 2001—this time with two screens to meet the changing expectations and diverse tastes of moviegoers.  And earlier this summer, the Dietrich Theater opened a new addition to the theater that includes two additional screens as well as space for arts classes and community events.

SLJLizzaDietrich2posters500pOne of the most eye-catching features of the addition to the theater is the series of larger-than life black-and-white photographs hanging above the new lobby. The photo posters were designed by Stephen Hendrickson, a NY-based production designer for television who helps design special events and displays for the Dietrich Theater.  The posters were printed by Lizza Studios, a Tunkhannock-based business that provides large-format, fine-art reproduction services for artists.

The posters were printed on Photo Tex PSA fabric for solvent printers and an Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 solvent inkjet printer from LexJet. The posters were  installed by Bob Lizza, Doug Wilson, and Betsy Green of Lizza Studios.  

The seven posters in the series include three 80 x 82-in. posters on each side of the lobby and a 106 x 80 in. poster at the center. The posters feature some of iconic stars you would have seen in movies at the Dietrich Theater in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, such as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, John Wayne, Cary Grant, and Katherine Hepburn.

According to studio manager Betsy Green, this was the first time Lizza Studios had ever attempted a project like this, but they were more than happy to help The Dietrich Theater succeed as an arts center.  She said Lizza Studios typically uses the Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 for reproducing art that features bright, saturated colors. But she reports that everyone was extremely pleased by how well the printer reproduced the black-and-white movie stills.

Lizza chose to print on Photo Tex PSA because it is so easy to hang that it doesn’t require any specialized training in installation.  Photo Tex is an inkjet-printable fabric, backed with a repositionable adhesive. The adhesive cures over time so that the mural will stay put, but if you make a mistake when you are installing the printed panels, it’s easy to fix. And, because the fabric “breathes,” you don’t have to spend a lot of time removing the trapped pockets of air.  The adhesive removes cleanly from the walls when it’s time to take the mural down.  Photo Tex PSA is available for both aqueous-ink and solvent-ink printers.   

“If we hadn’t used the Photo Tex material, the job would have been nearly impossible for us.” Green admits.  During installation, they had to work from a high lift and precisely align each panel in the recessed areas the architect had included in the lobby walls.

They had to take the posters on and off a few times to get each poster installed exactly right. But they succeeded, and Green now calls Photo Tex PSA a miracle material: “Whoever invented it is genius. It is user-friendly in every way.”

The addition the Dietrich Theater opened in June and everyone agrees that the black-and-white images look stunning. The prints provide a striking, historic contrast to the ultra-modern design of the lobby below. Hildy Morgan, of the Dietrich Theater, says “It’s the most beautiful visual tie-in that you can imagine.”

At LexJet, we love hearing how customers such as Lizza Studios are using their inkjet printers and alternative materials to contribute to community projects. We’ve published other stories about Photo Tex murals in our In Focus newsletter and we’ll be showing some other examples in upcoming posts on this blog.

For example, you can read about the photo mural Advanced Signs & Graphics installed in a health-care facility or the wrap-around photo murals Tom Grassi of Image-Tec installed as a scenic backdrop at a rehabilitation facility.

If you have any questions about the material or how to use it, please call one of the helpful account specialists at LexJet at 800-453-9538.

You can read more about the extraordinary art-reproduction services offered by Lizza Studios on a separate post on this blog or by visiting their website: www.lizzastudios.com