Epson Stylus Photo 900
A New Improved Model That Prints On CDRs And DVD-Rs

Epson adds a new capability to their newest ink jet printer model. Now for the first time the individual user can create professional labels printing directly on a CD-R or DVD-R disc to obtain a professional appearance and avoid the problems and hassles of stick-on labels. Epson's new Stylus Photo 900 with CD/DVD disc label printing is also a much-improved upgrade of the popular 890 model at an attractive price of under $200.

A CD label design and printing utility is included in the Epson software package for the Stylus Photo 900 printer. Users can either create graphic CD labels with or without using the provided clip-art backgrounds, or import their own designs created in applications like Photoshop. The software utility also supports adjusting the size and position of the label.
Photos © 2003, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved

New Performance Features
Epson retains the well proven six-color ink cartridge system that is common to the 1270/1280 and 890 model Stylus Photo printers. This well proven feature is combined with a maximum printing resolution of 5760x720dpi and 4-picoliter ink droplet size to achieve the finest photo-realistic print performance. In addition to photographic reproduction the new 900 is capable of providing all types of print capability to reproduce a variety of documents and office-type functions yielding sharp, high quality results at a high-speed output rate. And to make the 900 capable of printing recordable discs, a straight-through manual feed slot at the back of the printer also allows printing on much thicker paper stocks, including card stock and illustration board. The firmware and software supporting the Stylus Photo 900 provides the latest advances including borderless printing, P.I.M. color matching as well as Exif 2.2 compatibility.

CD/DVD Disc Printing
Ink jet printable CD/DVD-Rs have been available for some time from volume commercial outlets. But now, with most computers being sold having a CD drive that will burn CD-Rs, and some even DVD-Rs, disc labeling is a problem in need of a solution for everyone.

The Stylus Photo 900 facilitates disc printing with a plastic disc support tray that has an indented circular area to secure the disc. In addition, a software utility for designing and creating CD/DVD labels, as well as printing them, is part of the Epson driver software package for all popular operating systems. This disc label printing utility includes the ability to apply simple color backgrounds, or select from a supplied library of clip-art background designs. There's also a text input function to add titles and other copy information to the label design. A label design can also be created in Photoshop incorporating photographic image(s), and then imported into the Epson CD label utility. Once the label is finished it is really no different or more difficult printing a CD/DVD disc label than printing any other file on any other media.

Whether for creative fun or to provide personalized identification, a photographer can easily incorporate personal images into label designs to be printed with the Epson Stylus Photo 900.

Printing With The Epson Stylus Photo 900
The announcement of the Epson Stylus Photo 900 could not have been more serendipitous as I had just begun a modest publishing effort distributed on CD-R discs. So, of course when the 900 printer arrived, I installed it immediately and tested it printing CD labels. Anticipating the arrival of this new Epson printer for some days, I had time to design a number of labels, one for my new publication and also several more designs for the different categories of CD discs I burn to store image files in my growing digital image library. Others will be attracted to the desirability of creating and imprinting labels for discs sent to friends and relatives, as well as discs with portfolios of images to be sent to potential clients.

Because my label designs all incorporate my own images, and being most comfortable working in Photoshop, I created the label background, as well as my logo and title in a .TIF file. The Epson CD label utility supports importing an image file as part, or all, of the label you may want to print.

Once you have a label design made and open it in the Epson CD label utility, you can add text on top of the design to apply a series number, for instance, if you want a different number ID for each disc you print. The Epson CD label utility provides adjustment capabilities to shift the label position so you can center the label impression perfectly on the CDs. The Print command brings up the print driver window just like when printing any other media. Just be sure to select CD/DVD as the print media before you click on Print.

In the deep canyons of the upper reaches of Lake Powell in America's Southwest, color and texture are so strikingly etched to create an abstract art out of nature. The Epson Stylus Photo 900 captured both the drama and richness of the scene quite vividly on Epson ColorLife paper.

Ink Laydown
From my experience with a number of brands of CD blank discs, I found each accepts ink differently. This affects the density and saturation of the printed label. With some versions of the Epson print driver (Windows and Mac OS 9) the driver provides an ink intensity slider adjustment. With the Mac OS 10 (Discus) CD label utility, you are limited to using the Epson driver Color Control options to alter the lightness/darkness and saturation of the label imprint. This accommodation to different brands of discs is easily learned from a little experience, and once you have it set for a particular brand of disc you'll get consistently good results. However, please note that I found photographic image label designs reproduce best on white CD/DVD discs, and not as effectively on ink jet printable discs that have a silver background.

This backlit scene of the mission church at the Taos Pueblo reproduced excellent detail in both highlights and shadows while preserving the rich earth colors uniquely characteristic of the area.

Paper Printing
I checked out the paper printing capability of the Epson Stylus Photo 900 after I had satisfied my curiosity about CD/DVD disc label printing. I made numerous prints with just about every Epson paper choice available, as well as with my favorite third-party paper and a couple of other popular brands. Compared to this printer's predecessors among Epson six-color photo dye-ink printers there is general improvement in both print quality and printer speed performance. At optimum settings the Stylus Photo 900 reproduces photographic image files that are precisely color corrected with a very smooth range of realistically intense colors and crisp definition of detail sharpness.

However, I found that even though, and maybe in part because, this printer has a potential to produce a greater range of color values, the driver option settings for the 900 produced some unexpected results compared to what I have experienced with the printer's predecessors. First of all, there are both differences and similarities in the driver options offered by the 900 compared to older Epson Photo printers. Most notably, the discrete numerical printer resolution settings have been replaced with "quality" settings like Photo and Best Photo. But you can still select to adjust print output by means of ColorSync/ICM, or opt to print Profile To Profile with "no color adjustment," which obtains the fullest range of values in a print. However, my experience in selecting from the Automated and Photo Enhance4 options produced prints that yielded less intensity of values compared to what I had learned to expect from previous Epson Photo models. In other words, I found I had to re-learn what settings to use to achieve desired results. That process is explained and detailed in a recent (April 2003) Shutterbug article, "Toward The Perfect Print."

A Kodachrome scanned from my first assignment photographing flowers reproduced with all of the rich colors of the original when it was made printed with the new Epson Stylus Photo 900.

Evaluation And Recommendation
I believe anyone who has a substantial need to print labels on CD/DVD recordable discs will find the reproduction quality and efficiency of the Epson Stylus Photo 900 more than justifies its very reasonable under $200 purchase price. That it does all kinds of printing from simple document printing in black and white with high quality quite rapidly, as well as reproducing photographs on glossy or matte papers better than its predecessors, makes it a double value. Add to this the fact you can also print on quite thick, inflexible card and
board stocks, and the value is even greater. The Epson Stylus Photo 900 is now a must-have printer for my
digital darkroom even though I have several printers already installed.

Make Your Own Disc Template
If you have any kind of flat-bed scanner it is easy to create a template for designing CD labels. Just put a blank CD/DVD disc label side down on your scan surface and scan it 1:1, size it at 300dpi, and place a piece of black paper on top of the disc. The resulting image will be a light doughnut on a dark background.

Use Levels to make the light portion pure white and the dark portion pure black. You may need to do some clean up in the black of those parts of the disc that are clear plastic and contain circles, as well as brand names and serial numbers. Then, using the Magic Wand, select the white label portion of the image. Next invert the selection and Edit/Clear it to a white background color. This leaves a white page with a selection of the label area of a CD/DVD disc. Save it as a >PSD Photoshop template file on your hard drive, and open it to begin each new label design. Then Copy/Paste "into" to create your label within the selection area.

Technical Specifications
Printing Technology: Advanced Micro Piezo, optimized for photo printing
Ink Palette: Six colors (CcMmYK)
Ink Cartridge Configuration: One black cartridge and one color (CcMmY) cartridge
Maximum Resolution (dots per inch): 5760x720 optimized dpi
Print Speed: Black text--Up to 9 PPM; 4x6" photo--50 seconds
Maximum Paper Width: Single sheet--8.5"; Roll paper--8.3"
Maximum Printable Area: 8.3x44"; on letter-size: full bleed possible on 8.5x11"
Printer Dimensions And Weight: Storage: 19.4x12.0x7.2"; Printing: 19.4x21.5x11.9"; Weight: 15.18 lbs
Interface And Connectivity: USB/Parallel (IEEE 1284)
Operating Systems: Windows USB/Parallel--Windows 98, 2000, Me, and XP; Macintosh USB--Macintosh OS 8.6-9.x, OS X 10.1.x and 10.2.x
Software Included: Epson Software Film Factory, CD printing software, and PRINT Image Matching Plug-In for Adobe Photoshop 6.0, 7.0, and Elements 1.0 and 2.0
Price: $199

More information is available by calling (800) 463-7766 or visiting their website at www.epson.com.

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