Getting the Most from Your Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000

Did you know that when you purchase a new Canon PRO-Series printer, you get a full 330 mL ink set? While some brands include a small starter set of inks at time of purchase, Canon includes full-sized cartridges. This means you can print and sell more graphics before purchasing more ink, increasing your return on investment.

LexJet is now giving you another way to increase the profitability of your printer. For the remainder of June, when you purchase a Canon PRO-4000, choose a roll of TRIBUTE Satin Photo Paper 240g or Premium Archival Matte (up to 42-inch). TRIBUTE Satin Photo Paper is an instant-dry photo-realistic paper for high-volume print reproductions like posters, displays, and portraits. Premium Archival Matte offers a smooth, matte finish that is perfect for high-quality fine art prints.

With a new printer, full set of inks, and a full roll of media, the Canon PRO-4000 will be a profitable addition to your business. If you would like more information on how to improve your printer ROI, contact a LexJet printer specialist at 800-453-9538 today.

Another Classic Success Story: Cali Color

Inkjet printing photos and fine artIn a previous post, we profiled Keith Fabry Inc., a traditional reprographics company that embraced digital and responded to market demand accordingly. In the same vein, but from a different traditional path, Cali Color in Sacramento also embraced digital technology and its market response was similarly successful.

Where Keith Fabry Inc. gravitated toward more commercial point of purchase and corporate work, Cali Color explored the niches that made the most sense based on its experience and expertise. The commonality between the two, beyond large-format digital inkjet printing, is a savvy sense of customer awareness. Both understood and continue to understand demand and what, exactly, their respective markets demand.

Cali Color always had a handle on where its markets were headed, which is why the evolution from chemical process to digital process was relatively smooth and seamless. In short, Cali Color listens to its customers, anticipating demand so that its supply in the demand-and-supply equation is a perfect match.

While all this may be common sense, particularly in hindsight, as many similar companies found out in those revolutionary emerging-digital ’90s, it was difficult to see the forest for the trees, to repeat a cliché. Cali Color not only saw the forest, but the surrounding countryside as well.

Reproducing artwork on canvas with inkjet printingAs Cali Color’s owner, Patrick O’Kane, explains: “In the early ’90s we got into digital because designers were making the transition from traditional mock-up to computer mock-up. They didn’t have any way to proof the images they were doing on the computer because there were no desktop digital printers at that time. We invested a lot of money in a Canon color copier and a Fiery controller, which allowed us to hook the computers to the color copier to output.”

Though Cali Color made the move, it wasn’t easy. Matching Pantone colors with a toner-based, four-color printer was quite challenging, to say the least, but Cali Color made it work. Cali Color then moved to wide format with the acquisition of a 36-inch Encad NovaJet Pro to better serve those same designers. Cali Color had not yet purposed the printer for photographic and fine art reproduction since everything was still transparency-based. “We thought it was a great thing, but looking back it had a dot pattern the size of golf ball dimples,” says O’Kane.

Once digital cameras arrived on the scene, the possibilities for digital printing arrived as well. Cali Color, as O’Kane puts it, took a step back and evaluated their business and the landscape around it, plunging into inkjet photo reproduction with an Epson 9600.

Laminating photo inkjet prints“We had the option to go inkjet or LightJet. The reason we decided to go inkjet was the initial cost of getting into the technology and because there were a lot of substrates available that we could offer our customers that we couldn’t with LightJet,” explains O’Kane. “We offered the entire giclee process and that took off quite quickly; a lot of people were looking for alternatives and the quality was much better than any offset processes available.”

O’Kane says that since that time, Cali Color shut down its negative development processes and stopped doing traditional photographic printing and E6, becoming fully digital about three years ago. Cali Color’s earlier assessment at the digital crossroads proved prophetic as the versatility of inkjet ensured a satisfied and secure market.

“With all the materials LexJet was coming out with and improving, it gave our customers many different options. Now we offer most everything LexJet has to offer in the Sunset line. We found that our volume increased, so we’ve built a very nice niche in the fine art market. We also do a fair amount of trade show graphics, which has gotten us into other substrates like LexJet’s Water-Resistant Satin Cloth and cold PSA laminates,” says O’Kane. “What we’ve found, even in this economy, is that our client base is actually getting wider, including other states and the Bay Area. We’ve built a reputation based on quality. We’ve combined our equipment and our darkroom techniques from years ago, transferring those techniques for use on the computer.”

O’Kane says Cali Color prints a lot of canvas, from limited editions and custom gallery wraps to large décor jobs. The keys are consistency, economy and value-added service, he says, to be competitive in this market.

Mounting inkjet prints on art boards“When it comes to a price point, LexJet’s Sunset canvases are great; they’re perfect for bidding on larger jobs, and I’m confident that the material we’re printing on will look great for years to come,” says O’Kane. “And, the Sunset Coatings are the best products I’ve seen in the way of protecting canvas prints… ever. I was using another coating, but it had to be diluted with distilled water and the dilution varied depending on the time of year I was doing it. I ruined more prints than I save. The Sunset product is ready to use out of the can and it doesn’t matter what humidity or temperature I’m dealing with. It’s an incredible product.”

O’Kane says his favorite print media for fine art and photography, aside from canvas, are Sunset Textured Fine Art and Sunset Hot Press Rag. “Our clients love those papers,” he says. “They’re consistent from batch to batch so I don’t have to worry about printing the same image six months down the road and having an issue with matching texture or anything else.”

For bin prints that people buy off the shelf from the artists and frame themselves, O’Kane uses LexJet’s Premium Archival Matte. “The fine art papers are generally reserved for limited editions, but if they’re selling prints that people can leaf through a bin to buy, Premium Archival Matte is a lot better paper for that since it’s less expensive. It also behaves a lot better than other matte papers I’ve used in that weight, and it’s archival.”

It’s all about options, and Cali Color makes sure its customers have plenty of them, whether it’s a large décor project or a laminated trade show graphic. It’s also about taking time to educate customers about those options, the thinking behind choosing materials and the printing process itself.

“We take time with our customers. The one thing digital has done it has made the photographer a darkroom technician. Some like it and some don’t. Some people have a handle on color, and some don’t. So, when we get a file from a customer, we take time to look at it. If we see deficiencies in that file – color, density, size, enough pixels to do the size they want – we’ll stop and talk to the customer to let them know our concerns,” says O’Kane. “I arrange a time with new customers to come in and we go through each individual file so we can show them if we make changes what the images will look like and how I feel it will be better. Back in the day when we were doing traditional processes, that’s what we did and made the best possible print we could by altering it – changing color density and burning and dodging.”

In other words, Cali Color is an open book to its clients. O’Kane shares information on how they calibrate their equipment, offer tutorials on color management and file preparation and gives talks to art and photography groups.

“I don’t think there are any huge trade secrets, so the more information I can give my customer, the more predictable the results are every time I get a file from them. It makes a difference, and it really doesn’t take that long,” says O’Kane.

Asymmetrical Symmetry in Fine Art Photography and Printing

Printing a fine art photography exhibitionIt’s been a busy month for Hutchinson, Minn.-based photographer, Jon Otteson, as he finds himself in the midst of his latest project, “The Image Within” art exhibit at the Hutchinson Center for the Arts.

This is Otteson’s first time exhibiting his abstract work, yet it seems to be going quite well for him. “Everybody who’s stopped in has been impressed with it,” he says.

The display consists of a mixture of 56 framed abstract prints on canvas, art and photo papers, all of which he produces himself on his Epson Stylus Photo 2200 and Stylus Pro 7800 printers.

Even if this is new territory for Otteson, he’s no stranger to the world of photography. He’s had a passion for photography for more than five decades.

“I was raised in a conservative Midwestern farming environment. At an early age I took an interest in photography and was fascinated by the process of capturing a moment of time on film.” It wasn’t until his college years, when he first “gained access to a 35mm camera and a darkroom,” that Otteson was able to really hone in his skill and passion.

Printing fine art photography for an exhibition
Race of the Water Beetles, by Jon Otteson, printed on Sunset Select Matte Canvas.

After that, Otteson was actively involved in portrait and wedding photography as well as working at other jobs, including 30 years at 3M in quality control related areas.

“In 2002 I retired from my career at 3M and began the transition from film to digital,” Otteson explains. “The entry into the digital world has given me a portal to focus my skills on creating fine art photography with the primary emphasis being on traditional landscapes and the natural elements while at the same time branching out into experimental abstract photographic images.” This was the time that Otteson really mastered the digital techniques that make his photographs so unique.

Inkjet printing on canvas for an exhibition
Black Hills Gothic, by Jon Otteson, printed on LexJet Premium Archival Matte Paper.

“The Image Within” is a showcase just a few of his experimental abstract images printed on LexJet media, including Sunset Select Matte Canvas, Sunset Velvet Rag, and Premium Archival Matte, seen here in one of Otteson’s favorite pieces, Black Hills Gothic. “The training, customer service and advice that LexJet has provided me over the last nine years have been important resources for my business.”

“Most of my abstract images involve exploring the mathematical randomness of nature,” Otteson says of what inspires and creates his work. “When studying images of rock walls or bark, I sometimes find colors and patterns that I wasn’t aware of at the time of the image capture.  I will then use post production techniques to enhance these colors and patterns.”

Of course Otteson takes some pieces a step beyond with some fine tuning. “Some of the images are merely nature providing me with the main image, which I then crop down to highlight patterns or colors,” he says.

Other times Otteson will take an image and manipulate it, creating a whole new outcome. One of Otteson’s techniques is what he refers to as “asymmetrical symmetry,” which involves mirroring various areas of an image and then placing the mirrored sections back into the photo. Otteson especially likes this technique when applied to tree bark, as with Race of the Water Beetles. “It can create unusual mystical images and landscapes that tend to play with one’s imagination,” Otteson says.

“The Image Within” can be seen now through July 31 at the Hutchinson Center for the Arts in Hutchinson, Minn. 

Transitions to Success: Red River Photo Services

Inkjet printer matte canvasLeighton and Katrina Kirkpatrick, owners of Red River Photo Services in Oklahoma City, have created a business that emphasizes the experience. What Red River Photo means by that is how the customer is drawn in and made a part of the entire printing experience from the beginning.

“This is an open place; there’s no front counter where customers have to talk to someone in the front about what they need, where it then gets passed to someone in the back who passes it to someone else in the back who tries to interpret what three other people said about the project,” explains Leighton Kirkpatrick. “That’s been a big part of our success and one of the reasons we grew last year… Personal involvement and letting them be part of the experience. We bring them right into the shop right where we’re working and sit down at the computer with them to go through their project. We combine a place that’s enjoyable to visit – where they will be treated in a friendly and helpful fashion – with a final product that exceeds their expectations.”

This is not idle “customer service” talk. It’s based on more than 35 years of experience in imaging, first in film and now in digital output. Red River Photo Services has been based in Oklahoma City for more than eight years. Previously, Leighton had a successful lab in New York City for more than 18 years, catering to modeling agencies, advertising firms and other high-end clientele.

Inkjet printing canvas
Red River Photo's showroom features the work of some of Oklahoma's most prominent artists printed on LexJet Sunset Select Matte Canvas.

Katrina is originally from Oklahoma City, so the pair decided to settle down there, bringing some of the New York-based business with them. “We were doing work for agencies all over, so for many of them it didn’t really matter where we were located,” says Leighton. “I’m glad we had that business because it took us a couple of years to get established locally.”

And get established they did. Shortly after making the move, Red River Photo began making the transition from a chemical lab to fully digital. As Leighton explains, it wasn’t an easy transition, particularly for someone who had been so immersed in all the ins, outs, nuances and details of the chemical process.

“I love it now. It’s irreplaceable and we’ve become very skilled at it. I wouldn’t go back in the darkroom,” says Leighton. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years. Katrina’s been doing it for five to six years and her enthusiasm helps keep me enthusiastic. She’s very good at what she does and she’s as good at printing as I am, which takes a lot of heat off of me. Plus, she is very good with our customers.”

Not only did Red River shift from film to digital, the business itself and the market it serves has evolved, particularly over the past few years. While the company’s specialty is still true-color fine art and photographic reproduction, its growth has been mainly on the commercial side. Red River works with design and architecture firms and corporations to help them full realize the potential of their branding and image.

Inkjet printing on photo paper
Red River Photo printed this 36-in. x 96-in. display for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the city's NBA franchise, on eSatin, laminated and applied to MDF.

“We do just about everything here, and you have to do that as a small business in a relatively small city. We had our best year last year, and it’s been mainly word of mouth and attention to quality that has helped build this business,” says Leighton. “We’re the only art and photo company other than the larger graphics houses that have a 64-inch printer, which has also enabled us to gain more business. We wouldn’t be able to print what we’re doing for the Thunder [Oklahoma City’s NBA franchise] if we didn’t have that machine.”

Red River Photo has an Epson 11800, an Epson 9800 and two Epson 9600s. While the added horsepower and width certainly helps, an important differentiator has been Red River Photo’s willingness to experiment, and experiment successfully, with a lot of different inkjet media.

“I need to know about new products, and my reps at LexJet tell me what’s coming out and what’s being changed or discontinued across the industry, so I’m always in the know. It also helps with sales because it enables me to go to my clients and let them know about those new products and what they can do for them,” says Leighton. “Product delivery from LexJet has been perfect as well. They tell me when it’s going to get here, and it gets here, and if it doesn’t, they fix it.”

Leighton says his favorite products, which are also customer favorites, include Water-Resistant Satin Cloth for both backlit and frontlit applications, Polyvoile for large, lightweight banners, Sunset Photo eSatin for all kinds of applications, Premium Archival Matte for non-reflecting poster work and Sunset Select Matte Canvas.

Inkjet printing photo paper
Photo by Shellee Graham printed by Red River Photo on the always-reliable Sunset eSatin Photo Paper with an Epson 11880.

“We’ve been applying graphics to a lot of different substrates. We recently produced about 55 prints mounted on Aluma-Panel for Chesapeake Energy. We used eSatin and applied a luster laminate over the prints. I love the eSatin. We use it more than anything else, because it has very good color saturation and when you put it in the machine you know what you’re going to get,” says Leighton.

Leighton expects to continue growing in this direction in the future, blending Red River Photo’s color and image expertise with commercial displays, or what he calls “fine art displays” for commercial clients.

How Art Warehouse Brought Chattanooga to Life with Inkjet Wall Art

Custom wall mural inkjet printing

Mark Lakey, owner and president of Art Warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn., strives to be in the “top two percentile” of his trade, and judging by the quality of the photographic and graphic reproductions shown here, Art Warehouse is there.

Lakey’s work is more than simply reproduction; it’s art and science. He’s meticulous about maintaining the fidelity of the original image and enhancing subpar images so that they meet his high requirements for the printed and finished product.

Lakey had both situations in front of him recently for two separate but similar and related projects: One for the Chattanooga Visitors Bureau and its Visitors Center, and another for Rock City Gardens, a local landmark and favorite spot where visitors from all over enjoy the scenery and rock formations.

Both projects were printed with an Epson GS6000 solvent inkjet printer on Photo Tex PSA Fabric – Solvent Printers from LexJet. Printing and installing the images was a cinch. Lakey chose Photo Tex because the customers wanted something they could tear down and easily replace if they wanted to try a different wall mural or remodel in the near future.

Inkjet print custom wall mural“That’s probably the greatest advantage of the Photo Tex material. All they have to do is have the contractor clean up the wall a little bit, and it’s done. From their perspective they have the freedom to decide if they want it up to leave it up for as long as they want. They love the possibilities it opens up. Particularly in the case of the Visitors Bureau, if our skyline changes in the next couple of years they can put up an updated mural that reflects those changes,” says Lakey.

Lakey adds that he offered to clear coat the murals, but the clients preferred the matte finish because you can view it from any angle in any lighting situation with zero glare. That worked for Lakey too, since he’s a self-described “matte finish freak” whose favorite photo paper is LexJet’s Premium Archival Matte.

The real challenge was in pre-production and processing the images for printing. In the first instance, at the Visitors Center, he had an amazing image with which to work, courtesy of local photographer Lawson Whitaker. Whitaker’s capture of the Chattanooga skyline was right on, but the challenge was the sheer size of the file and the final output size, about 17 ft. x 13 ft. in four panels.

“Each file presents its own algorithm to make it that large. It starts with a proper workflow to be as good as it can be. That workflow can change so it’s not written in stone,” explains Lakey. “Typically, I’ll either de-noise it or instead of doing a line sharpening I’ll do a radial sharpening to separate the shadows and highlights a bit, and run it through either PhotoZoom Pro or Genuine Fractals. Data is data. If you don’t have it then you try to make it as close as you can so you don’t see over-Photoshopping. I don’t want to make it into something it’s not.”

The other image for Rock City Gardens was much more of a challenge and required a lot more work to the file to make it just right. The image was originally taken in the ‘70s then drum-scanned, and it wasn’t a great drum scan to begin with, says Lakey.

“Scanners are great, but just like a camera lens, they have a sweet spot. You can hit below it or above it and not have a good photo. It’s all about knowing your equipment so you hit that sweet spot, but they did not hit the sweet spot,” explains Lakey.

Lakey and the graphic artist on the project spent most of their time on the signature portion of the image, the waterfall area called Lover’s Leap. It’s the piece that’s used in all of Rock City Garden’s marketing and basically works as a brand.

“In Photoshop I did a color selection of that particular section. I used Nik Software’s sharpening tool and Photoshop’s sharpening tools. Depending on what the file has in it, I’ll either go into unsharp mask and do more of a radial sharpening, and then go back into Nik with a line sharpening. Then I’ll do a color selection on parts of the photo I think have the most noise and do a Noise Ninja process on that,” says Lakey.