What I think of inkjet printing sometimes

Watch your step

Key: 20091219-130023

I just finished half a day of frustrating print testing on my ink jet printer.  I need to produce a folio for a workshop that is coming up and was trying out some new matte papers for which I did not have good profiles for my printer.  After a long afternoon of printing, tweaking, googling, making notes, installing a new firmware for the printer, installing a new driver for the mac, more printing, tweaking, googling, etc. etc. I finally came up with a set of profiles that works well with these papers, and was able to use my method of printing the folio on them. But Lord I don’t want to go through that again for a while.

Looking back I can remember what a pain it was getting things working with my usual set of glossy and semigloss papers, but I had forgotten how painful that was and how many test prints I’d had to make to get good results.  Once you’ve got the process right it’s nice and repeatable, but my feeling tonight is that we are still a long way from where we ought to be regarding home fine art printing, at least as far as ease of use.  It’s like walking through a pasture–you’ve got to watch out for all the crap you’ll step into!

The driver software for my HP9180 is particularly crappy.  It produces some nice output, but has some very non-intuitive settings, frustrating interfaces and just plain bugs.  Half the time I spent today was trying to get these thicker matte stocks to feed through the straight feeder (so called “specialty media tray”), since they are a little too thick to go through the usual paper tray without causing scratches on the prints due to print head strikes.  The printer kept giving me an error message that the paper size was too small for the print, which was nonsense, because I could print the same image on different paper of the same size in the regular paper tray.  I finally figured out that any paper type that I selected from the “fine art” papers submenu would cause this message.  Choosing a matte paper from a different submenu, changing the tray to the specialty media tray and then selecting the correct ICC profile did the trick, but I had to try several paper types in the alternative submenu to find ones where the ink distribution matched the paper effectively.  Rrrrr!

I’ve now owned printers from Epson, Canon and HP.  They’ve all had their problems.  Where is the dark horse?  I outsourced the printing of the exhibition images and that worked out well, but I like to be able to print at home.  Still seeking that elusive ink jet.  Almost thought I’d found it in this HP, but I don’t think so anymore.

6 thoughts on “What I think of inkjet printing sometimes

  1. Printer drivers and printer software settings are a royal pain in the butt no matter what the brand. It’s so commonly crappy almost no one expects anything different. I’ve recently outsourced a number of print jobs I could have done at home for that very reason. By the time you figure the wasted paper and ink into the cost per print for finding the right combination it’s cheaper often to outsource. But even out sourcing is a hit and miss gamble as you trust someone else’s results in dealing with the process. In answer to your question, I suspect there is no dark horse in this lot and for the life of me I don’t know why this is still such a crappy process.

  2. Hi Earl,
    I think it has the most to do with how fast the products are rushed to market, and how short their shelf life is. With the rate of technological innovation, no one wants to be selling such “old” printers when their competitors have more advanced models out there. Consequently, the software is rushed, and little effort is made to support the old product as most resources are turned immediately to developing the new product.

    I think the digital photography market has to mature a little more before we finally see a successful model on the shelf for a few years and with good support. One would think that printers are getting to the point where we really don’t need more permanence or resolution; just more stability and longevity.

  3. Haha, Eric. Perfect picture to go along with the story. However, I do remember that printing color pictures, back in the day, was no picnic either. You had to adjust filters to get the balance right, go through developing, stop bath, bleaching, fixing (or blixing), etc. I like B&W in both worlds, wet or dry darkroom. Color, well, I’d have to side with Earl … outsource it. 🙂

  4. Hi Paul,
    So true. I’m not saying it was easier “back in the day”. I guess a lot of the promise of digital is that it makes some things more accessible. But printing has a long way to go yet, I think.

  5. Pingback: Inkjet printing: I’m not alone « Red Skies at Night

  6. Pingback: More folio activity « Red Skies at Night

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