Inkjet Printing – How Do I Get the Best Results?

There are many suppliers of inkjet printers in the market today, from less than A�50 to over A�5000 depending on the size, speed, versatility you require. However are they good enough to print your images or fine art reproductions?
In a word YES with the caveat that the ink, material and colour setup is all of a good enough quality.
You may still find some labs producing prints on Durst Lambda and Mitsubishi Light Jet. They invested heavily in this equipment and in some cases are too stubborn to let it go. I will give you the fact that printing on the Lambda or Light jet is quite a bit cheaper in materials than even a modest wide format inkjet is. However they also require chemicals which can be harmful, and crazy service charges. Most importantly the modern inkjet has a larger colour space than a Lambda or Lightjet even when printed on the best quality material.
How to get the best out of a Inkjet?
There are few things than need changing. We know you want to save money so you may have moved to another ink supply rather than the OEM inks. This is not always a good idea. The printer manufacturers spend millions in research and development of inks and produce quite brilliant results. Some have even reduced the carbon in the black to eliminate ‘bronzing’ where some colours can appear to have a bronze glaze when viewed at certian angles. However using OEM ink is expensive. If you must use a third party ink make sure it has been tested, and has a bluewool scale or equivalent certificate for light fastness.
Once the ink has been decided upon the next thing is the paper you print on. As a rule the brighter white then the more optical brightener it has. The more optical brightener then the bigger the change in appearance your prints will have under different light sources. There are some higher quality medias which create white and quite bright white without the addition of OBA’s. These are on the higher end of the scale price wise but in my humble opinion worth every penny. You will also find the higher end papers have less acid content which in itself will cause the inks to fade. I can point you in the direction of Fotospeed, Hahnemuhle, Canson papers as a starting point.
Canvas is much the same as paper for fine art. It’s vital to have as little OBA and acid as possible. I can recommend Breathing Colours Lyve canvas which comes with a certificate to guarantee its quality and lightfastness as well as Fotospeeds range.
Once the papers and inks are established the colour table needs to be created. This is the method in how your RGB or CMYK images are represented by the colours of ink in the printer. These days the method of translation is by ICC profile. This is a mathematical library of colours for every printer, print mode, paper, ink combination, as well as what to do with colours outside the colourspace of your ink and paper combination. If you should buy your papers and inks from the same place then you may be fortunate enough to get supplied ICC profiles free of charge. Of course there are good and bad profiles.
Should I use a RIP?
If you are a photographer then a RIP will offer a few helping hands such as scaling, nesting, cut line for tomba or other auto cutting machines, and of course re-linearisation of the printer.
What is Re-linearise? Your printer WILL drift, be it from humidity changes, temperature changes, ink changes, paper batch changes or usage and lack of usage. ALL of these effect the colour. If you are a photographer then the chances are you will never print the same image for checking side by side with a great deal of time between prints. However if you print fine art there’s a serious chance you may do just that, linearisation allows you to get the printer back into a KNOWN state and correct for any variations in the aforemention variables. Thus a reprint of an artists work is the same time after time.
I hope this article has been of interest and I hope to get time to write a few others.
Kind Regards
Ken Thomson
White space media limited