ImagePrint RIP
Finally, Quality Black & White Digital Prints

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All Photos © 2004, Jon Canfield, All Rights Reserved

If you're anything like me, you have wasted time, paper, and ink, and pulled hair out trying to achieve the perfect print from your digital files--especially neutral black and white prints. There are many solutions available, some that are very specific in nature, and others that cover a broad range of needs. One of these solutions and the focus of this report is ImagePrint, published by ColorByte Software (www.colorbytesoftware.com). Currently at Version 5.6, the new release, Version 6.0, should be shipping by the time you read this.

ColorByte markets two levels of functionality with ImagePrint. A Lite version, reviewed here, with support for the Epson 1270/1280/1290 dye-based ink jets and the Epson 2000P/2100/2200 pigment-based ink jets, sells for $495. The Full version features additional printer support, including the large format Epson, Roland, HP, and Iris printers along with Postscript support, picture package templates, auto-print for shared printing, and the ability to tile across multiple pages. It ranges in price from $790-$5995. Upgrades are available from the Raster version to the Postscript version as well.

My testing was done on a Windows XP system with the Epson 2200 printer. ImagePrint also supports Windows 2000 and Macintosh OS 10.2 or later. Some features of ImagePrint are available only for the Epson UltraChrome inks used by the 2200/7600/9600 printers--I'll get to these extra "goodies" in a bit.

What Is ImagePrint?
First, ImagePrint is not a replacement for your image-editing application. While some control over contrast, color, and such are available, you are best served by preparing your image in Photoshop or its equivalent.
ImagePrint is, however, a masterfully implemented color managed environment that focuses on printed output. ImagePrint bypasses the fragile color management chain of OS, image-editing application, printer driver. Just open or drop your edited image in ImagePrint, select the appropriate printer profile and print.

ImagePrint Version 5.6 layout window. You'll start here by opening or dragging your image onto the page area. All of the common layout features are available as buttons on the toolbar. On supported printers, center on page automatically centers the image on the actual page, not the printable area.

ImagePrint is a RIP (Raster Image Processor) that talks directly to your printer. The advantage to this method is three-fold. First, ImagePrint uses very high quality profiles designed to match your specific printer, paper, and ink. Second, ImagePrint manages multiple print jobs--you can place multiple images on a page and each can have separate profile settings. Finally, ImagePrint has very versatile layout options to give you complete control over placement of single or multiple images to take full advantage of your expensive paper.

The quantity and quality of the printer profiles cannot be beat unless you are willing to spend $10,000 or more on a spectrocolorimeter and create your own. Even then I think you'd be challenged to improve on ColorByte's profiles. Along with a broad assortment of profiles that ship with the product, ColorByte is constantly adding new profiles which you can download from their website. I've found that the profiles for the Ilford and Hahnemühle papers that I normally use have been better than anything I've seen elsewhere.

Getting Started
If you're one of those who don't read manuals (like me), this is one time that you'll want to break that rule. ImagePrint has a wealth of options available at installation time and choosing the correct ones will save frustration later. ColorByte is evidently a bit paranoid about theft. ImagePrint requires the use of a security dongle so you'll need a free USB port to complete the installation. To activate the program, you need to log onto the ColorByte website and get an activation key, which is then stored with the dongle.

ImagePrint has a lot of functionality. Luckily, ColorByte provides plenty of help--there is an animated tutorial that will walk you through the process of using ImagePrint's tools. In addition, there is an extensive manual in PDF format that is well written and I suggest you print a copy out for reference.

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