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.” 

Prints that Win: Stepping Back in Time with John Gladman

Award winning photography and print

Actually, the title of John Gladman’s LexJet Sunset Award and best Electronic Imaging prize at the PPA North Central District photography competition is Morning Rounds. While quite appropriate for the image, it evokes a simpler and more rustic time in the past, though the main landscape image was taken near Lawrence, Kansas quite recently.

Gladman stitched together a panoramic shot of a spot near the river and just around the corner from his studio. He took out the modern distractions, power lines and whatnot, and added the horse and carriage. The result is a story, and “story” is a crucial element in an award-winning image.

“I’m big on taking an image and trying to tell a story with it, so whatever I need to do to tell the story I’ll do it. I come at it from an artistic standpoint; I’m trying to create a piece of art from the things I find in life,” explains Gladman. “I’ve been entering competitions for 25 years and I’ve been a judge myself. I’ve learned that you have to create the details that draw the eye to the image. If you think to yourself, ‘I want to go there and see that,’ then it’s drawing you in enough to score well. Judges look at hundreds of prints, and if it doesn’t grab their attention and quickly tell a story it just gets an average score as they fly on by.”

Gladman printed Morning Rounds on Sunset Photo Metallic Paper, his first experiment with it as a competition print paper. Gladman says he’s tried the Fuji and Kodak versions in past competitions, but didn’t score as well. A big difference for Gladman was being able to control the process to his liking by printing it himself on his Canon iPF6100 printer.

Pinup photography“I’m getting requests from other people to print their competition prints now that they’ve seen what I did with the Sunset Metallic. When the light hits it you get a subtle reflection back, while the others are brighter. I’ve had trouble with the other papers balancing out the highlights and shadows; the shadows go muddy and the highlights get blown out, whereas with the Sunset Metallic I was able to nail the entire spectrum,” says Gladman.

Gladman has recently embarked on a new bit of nostalgia that started as a sideline but has since blossomed into a full-blown business called Bombshell. Bombshell is a photo and fine art studio that creates vintage pinup art reminiscent of the height of the art form during the ’40s and ’50s.

“It’s all photographed and then digitally painted with Corel Painter. A lot of what we shoot is printed on LexJet Sunset Hot Press Rag, and they look amazing on that paper. We started it last May and it blew through the roof so much that I don’t have time for seniors, weddings and other types of regular work. We have girls fly in from all over the country to get this done, so it’s kind of insane,” says Gladman.

Step One in a Fine Art and Photography Support System

Furthermore, based in Washington, D.C., is on its way to being much more than a print shop, thanks to the vision of its founder, Jose Ruiz, and Bridget Sue Lambert, Director & Digital Print Open house inkjet printingSpecialist for Furthmore Print, the company’s production studio. The goal is to make Furthermore an alternative incubator for comtemporary art in D.C., New York and beyond. The first step in that goal is to make printing more accessible to those artists.

Furthermore recently kicked off the concept with an open house at its studio, an event that drew hundreds of artists from the surrounding area. Though Furthermore opened its doors late last year, they took time to execute a creative printing project for the open house to show artists all the different possibilities they can explore with inkjet printing and the variety of printable media available to them.

“We recruited artists from New York and Washington, D.C., and we assigned those artists to work on a specific paper,” explains Lambert. “One artist used LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper, another used Sunset Cotton Etching, and so forth, for 18 prints on 12 different papers and materials in all, including Photo Tex and LexJet 7 Mil Absolute Backlit film. We matched their work with the medium we thought would work best.”

Open house fine art reproductionUsing mainly LexJet materials and a smattering of Hahnemuhle papers, the work was produced on Furthermore’s Epson Stylus Pro 9900 through the ImagePrint RIP. The aim, says Lambert, was to show the broad spectrum of inkjet printing possibilities and how each artist’s work can be reproduced to either stringent specifications or into something completely new and different.

One artist, Patrick McDonough, reproduced his work as a windsock with LexJet Water-Resistant Satin Cloth. Another, Isabel Manalo, whose work is originally created on Mylar, had theirs printed on the 7 Mil Absolute Backlit film. The result was a wall of diverse, unusual and innovative work that was the highlight and focal point of the open house.

“The whole idea of the print shop is to provide more economical pricing that’s still high quality and archival on nice papers so that artists have a chance to experiment more and make this part of their studio practice, instead of just for exhibitions,” says Lambert. “Before we created this wall of art and photography it was difficult to demonstrate all of the possibilities with just stock samples. Now they can see everything and all the possibilities in a loose exhibition format.”

Artists and photographersLambert estimates that 200 to 300 artists and art appreciators attended the open house. MillerCoors donated about 20 cases of Peroni and Blue Moon to help with the event, underscoring the widespread community support Furthermore has for its overall concept of being a support system for the arts.

“We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in without the help of LexJet and our customer specialist, Rob Finkel. If I was having trouble with the software or the printer he was right there to help me get it set up. I’ll call him up and tell him what I’m trying to accomplish and he lets me know about the hottest papers and what will work best for the situation,” says Lambert. “I had a lot of struggles with the software I originally chose to use, because I didn’t listen to Rob. He kept telling me to use ImagePrint and I was against it, but then I finally came around and it’s been so much easier.”

Weekend Viewing: LexJet’s YouTube Channel and Coming Attractions

YouTube printing videosOver the past few weeks tech guru and video maestro Sean McGettigan has been posting a slew of how-to videos at LexJet’s YouTube Channel.

Right now there are 35 educational videos, three product demonstrations (Canon iPF printers, LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper and LexJet Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl) and a general LexJet video about ordering and tracking shipments at

While we’ve been posting them here on the blog as they go up on YouTube’s LexJet Channel, we’re entering the next phase of educational videos. The current videos primarily address pre-printing workflow issues, such as how to download and install ICC profiles, printing through various configurations and software for Canon and Epson printers, tips using the ImagePrint RIP, how to print borderless and so forth.

The next round of videos will concentrate on hands-on production, such as how to set up and install various printers and printer troubleshooting (there are already some Canon iPF troubleshooting tips at the LexJet Channel) as well as step-by-step production tips for various large format print applications.

So check out everything that’s been posted so far and keep an eye out for the next round of videos. Please let us know if there’s anything you’d like to see demonstrated or explained and we’ll do our best to put it together for you.

Trio of LexJet Photo and Fine Art Inkjet Materials Win Hot One Awards

Professional Photographer magazine announced the winners of its annual 2011 Hot One Awards in conjunction with Imaging USA, which starts Saturday, Jan. 15 and runs through Tuesday, Jan. 18 in San Antonio. The award recognizes innovative products introduced in 2010 that made an impact in the photography and fine art markets.

A panel of judges selected LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper, LexJet 8 Mil ImagePro Satin and LexJet Sunset Select Gloss Canvas as Hot One Award winners in three of the five Inkjet Media categories. This year’s Hot One Award winners will be featured in the March issue of Professional Photographer magazine, which wrote about LexJet’s award winners:

Taking home the prize in the Glossy category, LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic brings high-quality metallic paper to the people. Previously, only pro labs using chemical photo processing equipment could output prints on such paper.

To score the award in the Semi-Gloss/Luster category, LexJet had to overcome a strong challenge by two other LexJet papers. The 8 Mil ImagePro Satin edged out its siblings for its easy paper handling through the production cycle. It has an upgraded white point for sharper image quality, a wide color gamut and good contrast rendition. Its new microporous coating dries instantly, perfect for high-speed, high-volume reproduction.

LexJet Sunset Select Gloss Canvas is a 430g, bright white, poly/cotton blend canvas with an Oxford two-over-one weave treated with a high-gloss, ink-receptive coating. The canvas does a superb job with subtle details in shadows and highlights, and with a wide gamut of colors. This water-resistant, pH-neutral, acid-free material works harmoniously with the newest generation of wide-gamut, wide-format aqueous-ink inkjet printers. Ideal for gallery wraps.

Blue Ribbon Printing with Sunset Photo Metallic Paper

It was Rodney Clark’s first experiment with LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper and the results were award-winning. Clark won a first place and three blue ribbons this past October at the Professional Photographers Association of Pennsylvania (PPA of PA) competition held in State College, Pa.

“I’m one of those photographers who’s used to working with high-gloss lacquered prints on f-surface paper for competitions. With the Sunset Metallic it’s that way out of the box. Even if you do laminate, it still shows the same principles and properties that make a metallic paper so nice,” says Clark.

The three blue-ribbon prints – images taken of Main Street in Shepherdstown, W.V. – were photographed in HDR. Clark says Sunset Metallic was the perfect fit for the extreme saturation produced by HDR. The judges agreed.

The other image won first place in the commercial category and was also printed on Sunset Metallic. The metallic inkjet paper, designed to replicate the same look as the old Kodak metallic used in the darkroom, brought a pearlescent shine to the image that helped catch the judges’ eyes.

“The image you see is basically au naturel, other than taking out a couple of dust spots and pulling the density down for competition-quality printing,” explains Clark. “It’s a bridal dress showing the designer’s ribbon and wedding rings shot at a 45-degree angle. Sand, water and sky in the background account for the gradient you see from beige to dark blue. I used a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on a Canon 1D Mark III to capture it.”

Clark says he’s hopeful that his success locally will translate to more regional and national competition recognition, all that are within grasp thanks to his ability to print his own work with the addition of the new paper and a Canon iPF6100 inkjet printer he bought about four months ago.

“Pretty much right out of the box it was as accurate as you could get. The only thing I had to do was add the 10 points of brightness through my Photoshop plug-in for the Canon, which I use instead of the print driver. What I get out of it is absolutely phenomenal,” says Clark. “With some help from Kelly [Price, LexJet account specialist] and the gang at LexJet, I have the profiles I need to print accurately every time.”

Rodney Clark, M. Photog., Cr., CPP, owns Clark Photography in Waynesboro, Pa. Photos courtesy Rodney Clark.