Since going through this process throws light on several issues, some perhaps peripheral, but important, I decided to post the process. Everything from why it was required, through execution and completion may be applicable to others in a variety of situations. When I first started inkjet printing there were no good coated fine art papers at all. Iris prints had sparked our imaginations, and affordable desktop Epsons raised our hopes. The only papers that seemed to be able to take the ink were some heavily sized papers from Arches, and the mainstay of the times, Somerset Velvet Radiant Fine Art, all still beautiful papers. They could take very little ink, were far from accurate with any driver setting, which threw us into the world of profiling, and when under control still have small gamuts and low maximum densities. Suddenly Luminos, Media Street, and several others came out with coated fine art papers that took ink remarkably well, and we were off and running. All of them seemed the same, I was using a lot of Lysonic Fine Art, which seemed identical to papers from the others with different names. Then, the Hahnemuhle brand appeared, and we all learned they were making these beautiful papers, and others were rebranding them. This 400 year old company has been making some of the finest art papers in the world, but as photographers they were new to us. It turned out my Lysonic Fine Art was Hahnemuhle German Etching. What remains remarkable to me is that Hahnemuhle’s earliest offerings back then, their fine art papers for which they had developed ink receptor coatings to prevent wicking, hold ink dots tight and sharp, handle high ink loads, and present the ink with remarkable densities and gamuts, those very first coated papers.. few have met or exceeded that performance in all this time. Many wonderful papers have come out under a variety of brands, and are viable choices for a variety of needs, but Hahnemuhle remains among the best for fine art matte density and gamut performance.
I realize this hardly rises to the level of issues we love to talk about here , but I run into this so often it’s worth noting in the hope it saves even one person some inkjet grief. I run into this time and time again, someone calls, their color is not right from their Epson and they want to troubleshoot the entire system, wonder about recent paper batches, ink batches, and usually want new profiles. Given the dramatic failure of the digital graphics community to keep color management viable, from Apple to Adobe to Epson messing something up with almost every update, no wonder the assumption is that something has gone horribly wrong.
In 2002, Epson introduced their first improvement to black & white printing when they added a light black ink in the then new Epson 2200 desktop printer. It would take Epson nearly five more years before they would deliver two shades of light black ink in the R2400 desktop printer. Epson considered the Ultrachrome K3 inkset to represent “a turning point in the history of inkjet printing.” With three unique levels of black, Epson claimed that the new Ultrachrome K3 color inkset “dramatically improves both color and black & white prints.”
The two light shades of black did dramatically improve Epson Ultrachrome K3 prints, but only in comparison to earlier Epson Ultrachrome prints. Over the same time span and even several years earlier, specialized black & white inksets flourished. Piezography® transformed from a quad-black (four shades black) inkset in 2000 to a septone (seven shades of black) inkset in 2005.
Note: This post is adapted from a paper by the same title originally published in The International Journal of the Book, vol.7, no. 1
Regardless of education or career path the question of how to find an audience eventually becomes a singular concern for many photographers. For those entering the commercial world this is a marketing issue: how to locate clients willing to pay for services rendered. The traditional solution for fine art photographers is exhibition and publication, where cost and access are predictable barriers.
My photographic print background is grounded in the high standards set by the acknowledged masters of the pre-digital era. Having been exposed to a wide variety of amazing prints, historical, contemporary, all the various methods from hand coated, west coast master silver, color processes, historical, etc… the concern is that those qualities and standards that make photography, and fine photographic prints, unique and amazing as a medium, and as objects of art, do not become lowered or even forgotten. As the technology we use moves from the hands of developers aware of long accepted high craft to a new business culture with no footing in that history, we see many examples of prints made today that just don’t seem to rise above, with that something extra a master managed to work from the available tools and materials. Continue reading “The State Of Inkjet”