Enhanced Radiant White paper produced beautifully balanced,
bright colored prints with a finely textured look that
speaks quality in every dimension. Its high level of
ink acceptance with a full range of color and tone also
contributed to the greatest variation with the screen
appearance and match prints made on Epson Heavyweight
© David B. Brooks, 2000
There is a certain excitement when
you go to the corner drugstore to pick up your prints from photofinishing.
By just standing and watching people doing this, you soon realize why
photography is a popular hobby. For me, a more serious darkroom addiction
began just after the holidays when I was still in grade school and my
next-door neighbor got a Kodak Brownie darkroom kit. He and I had our
first experience making contact prints. Seeing an image gradually appear
on a piece of paper in the developer under a dim red light was a thrill
I recall most vividly. Recently that thrill has been renewed digitally
by Epson's new Stylus Photo 870/1270 printers.
The combination of longer lasting media and finer print quality made
possible with these new Epson products excited my interest in doing
serious color printing, while adding a new dimension to the attractiveness
of the digital darkroom. This excitement is heightened by adding the
already existing supply of fine art papers, which greatly extend the
selection of final print effects in tone and print texture. They further
enhance the output of these new Epson printers. But this new, color
print quality also imposes demands on the photographer to apply equally
refined techniques if the quality potential is to be fully realized.
This article details what is needed in software and equipment, including
descriptions and resources for fine art papers, and a step by step how-to
scenario based on my experience testing and evaluating this new ink
jet photo printing potential.
Hahnemuhle Albrecht Durer
Giclee Natural is a bright, warm white paper with a bold,
canvas-like texture. It reproduces color richly and accurately.
It is an excellent choice for large prints that are intended
Equipment And Materials.
First, the hardware basis of a digital darkroom is a computer: a recent
Apple Macintosh G3/G4 with OS 9, or a newer PC with Windows 98/2000.
The other essentials are the new Epson Stylus Photo 870/875 or 1270
ink jet printer, and a good quality color flat-bed scanner (I used the
Epson Perfection 1200U Photo). The software essentials are Adobe Photoshop
full Version 5.02 or 5.5 (Photoshop 5.0LE is bundled with the printer
including a full version upgrade offer of $299), and Monaco EZ Color
1.5 (a trial version is bundled with the software CD with the Epson
Stylus Photo printers, including a special half price offer of $149
for the full working version). Monaco EZ Color color management profiling
software is an essential element needed to make fine prints with the
Epson printers, especially if non-Epson fine art papers are used. It
is included in the software bundle that comes with Epson's Expression
The basic supplies you should have are an adequate color ink cartridge,
and Epson's Heavyweight Matte paper which is recommended by Epson for
making the longest lasting prints. This paper is a good basis for evaluating
the printer's performance with independent brands of fine art papers.
Liege Radiant White test
prints reproduced the most brilliant colors from saturated
images, while also maintaining subtle variations in image
tones made up of slight shades of neutrality. Liege reproduces
fine detail cleanly across a full range of tones from
shadows through mid tones and highlights. It would be
the fine art paper of choice if it also had a long and
assured archival life expectancy.
Fine Art Papers For Ink Jet
Printers. Papers used by artists for drawing, watercolors,
hand lithographs, woodcuts, serigraphs, and other media have been made
for centuries by a few select producers in Europe and America. In recent
years these traditional high quality art papers have been offered with
special coatings (sizing) specifically designed to accept the imprint
from digital printers. There is a great variety available in all sizes,
characteristics, and qualities. Some are archival, but all would be
considered relatively long lasting because of an acid free, neutral
pH, and usually a natural fiber base, including many that are 100 percent
rag content. The textures vary from fine, smooth matte to quite accentuated,
rough surfaces, and the weights of these papers range from a little
heavier than the Epson Heavyweight Matte to very heavy. The color varies
from antique or warm to natural to enhanced, very bright neutral white.
For my tests I chose a few, offered by two different distributors, that
are recommended for reproducing color photographs. The first is Legion
West Paper, 6333 Chalet Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90040; for technical information
and retail seller references call (800) 727-3716, or (562) 928-5600,
or visit their web site at: www.papertech.com
The papers I tested are:
Liege: An extremely bright
white paper on a medium weight 100 percent cotton base with a neutral
pH. Its fine surface limits ink dot grain enhancing image sharpness
and brilliance. It should be chosen for maximum image performance, but
not for long lasting characteristics because of the coating used. Per
sheet suggested retail prices range from $1.83 for 8.5x11" to $3.93
Hahnemuhle Natural White
is a bright, warm white strongly textured paper that reproduces
subtle and saturated color accurately with equal brilliance.
It is an excellent choice for printing large color images
for exhibition whether portraits or landscapes.
Another resource is The Hahne-muhle Collection
of Digital Fine Art Paper sold by Digital Art Supplies, 3065 Rosecrans
Pl., Ste. 104, San Diego, CA 92110; (877) 534-4278; www.digitalartsupplies.com
From this large collection of papers in different bases including Alpha
Cellulose, 25 percent and 100 percent rag, I received five samples from
which I selected three to test. All of the Hahnemuhle papers are from
a paper mill in Dassel, Germany, established in 1584, and meet the DIN6738/ISO9706
specifications for archive grade paper.
Hahnemuhle Albrecht Durer Giclee Natural White: A 210 gsm coated, medium
textured paper in sizes from 8.5x11 to 17x22".
Hahnemuhle Natural White: A
230 gsm weight medium to coarse textured, watercolor style paper with
a bright, warm, natural white color. It is available in sizes from 8.5x11
through 17x22" sizes.
Hahnemuhle Etching Board Natural
White: A 310 gsm weight fine to medium, subtly textured, and bright
white paper in a heavy and quite rigid stock. It is available also in
8.5x11 through 17x22" sizes.
Concorde Rag Antique White
was the one off-white paper in the test set. It has a fine
surface texture and reproduces detail with exceptional crispness.
Color images that are strongly saturated reproduce richly
and accurately, while subtle tones close to neutral are
influenced by the underlying paper color. This along with
the fact the paper has a long life expectancy encouraged
testing black and white image printing using gray scale
files converted to RGB and subtly toned. The results were
equal to if not superior to printing the same image on the
best fiber-based silver photo paper.
With limited quantities of these papers
my testing involved making a Monaco EZ Color test print for profiling,
then making a print of an image scanned at 4000dpi from a Leitz color
and resolution slide. This image provided a basis for comparison between
the papers: as to how each medium printed fine detail as well as accepted
color accurately. My guide for this evaluation was a pair of prints made
with the Epson Stylus Photo 1270 using Epson's Heavyweight Matte paper;
one using the Epson Standard profile supplied with the printer, and the
other made after custom profiling the printer with Monaco EZ Color. The
remaining samples of each paper were then printed with a variety of images
of different characteristics, images that were also printed on Epson Heavyweight
Matte paper using the Epson Standard profile.
Fine Art Ink Jet Printing Setup
And Technique. If you've made even one print with an ink jet printer,
I'm sure you're aware that in the print driv-er dialog you are asked to
specify what kind of paper is being used, as well as the resolution setting
and Mode, which is usually a print quality or type of image designation
like choosing between graphics and photo printing. These options actually
set how the print driver applies inks according to default values. With
just about any contemporary printer, these values are "coordinated" with
your computer's system information identifying the monitor in association
with the values in the image as displayed on screen. In other words, under
the surface the system is using color management to assure an acceptable
tolerance range of reproducing in the print a reasonable facsimile of
what you see on screen. For fine art printing you'll need to take an active
role to assure the color management functioning available with your system
and software. The references involved (ICC/ICM profiles) specifically
and accurately describe all of the factors involved, your monitor, the
printer, and inks, as well as the paper being used. This latter specification
in the form of a profile is a must when using papers other than those
recommended by the printer's manufacturer.
Hahnemuhle Etching Board
Natural White is a very heavy weight paper (310 gsm) with
a fine unpatterned texture. It reproduces color richly and
precisely, while defining detail sharply with good contrast.
Etching Board's weight, color, and texture conveys the look
of an art print regardless of image size.
Monaco EZ Color is bundled with the Epson
Stylus Photo printers and the Expression scanners to specifically provide
the tools to custom profile all of the elements in your system--scanner,
monitor, and printer--to achieve top quality input and output. In addition,
the full version of Photoshop 5.02/5.5 also has its own internal color
management which works in concert with the system, providing precise control
of how the application functions in the process through color correction
and adjustment. With the system, Monaco EZ Color, and Photoshop the cornerstone
of the system is the monitor. It must be precisely calibrated to secure
a tight relationship between what you see and do to adjust an image, and
how that affects output. Due to limited space, I'll not detail the calibration
and profiling procedure. Monaco and Adobe provide excellent Wizards as
well as documentation to keep you on track to a successful conclusion.
Once Monaco EZ Color, Adobe Gamma and Photoshop's color management Wizards
are used, a profile for your monitor is made. First be sure that the profile
is used by the system: open the Colorsync Control Panel with a Mac or
use the CMS tab in Windows/Control Panel/Display dialog window to identify
the profile. Finally be sure that only Adobe Gamma is started up when
you boot your system. In other words, the Monaco EZ Color Startup must
be turned off (unless of course you are not using the full version of
Color Managed Print Workflow.
You must follow a correct and disciplined set of procedures to successfully
make fine art ink jet prints using Monaco EZ Color, Photoshop, and the
Epson Stylus Photo printers. To use one of the particular fine art papers
successfully, or even the Epson Heavyweight Matte, you need to make a
profile with EZ Color for that paper. This is where a color flat-bed scanner
becomes a necessary part of the picture, as it is needed to read the test
chart that is printed on a sample sheet of the selected paper, using the
Monaco application. This reading results in an ICC/ICM profile file which
must be saved in the Colorsync Profile folder on a Mac or in Windows/
System/Color folder on a PC. Again by following the EZ Color Wizard precisely
you'll get this done easily.
The Monaco EZ Color User Guide documents three different workflows in
Chapter 5, Using Profiles. For the most reliable and best print quality
results, I'll only recommend one: Profile To Profile printing from Photoshop.
To begin the workflow, have a photographic image file open in Photoshop
that is fully color corrected and sized for the dimensions of the paper
on which you are going to print it. The first step in the workflow procedure
is to click on the Image menu, then go to the bottom selection and click
on Profile To Profile. A dialog box will appear with four selection boxes.
The first box is titled From: in this box you may choose "RGB Color" if
Photoshop color management is fully set up. (For photographic imaging
purposes in PS color management, you should choose the Adobe RGB (1998)
colorspace). The second box is To: in which you identify the profile for
the printer and the paper you have made with Monaco EZ Color. The third
box is Engine: the default is Built-In, and should not be changed. The
fourth box is titled Intent: in this box the choice should be "Perceptual."
Below these boxes is a check box titled: Black Point Compensation, which
should not be checked. When you click OK, the image will change, and likely
appear very strange. Don't be alarmed, this appearance change has no affect
on the result.
The next step is setting the variables in the print driver to command
the application to send the image data to the printer. The rule governing
this is that the print driver be set exactly the same as it was to make
the test print for profiling with Monaco EZ Color. With the Epson printers
the paper type must be selected, Photo Quality Inkjet Paper, for instance;
the printing resolution, 1440dpi or possibly 720dpi; and then go to Mode/Advanced
and in the Advanced window dialog select No Color Adjustment. Click OK
on everything, and then click on Print.
This selection of factors may seem strange and illogical. However, what
you are doing is using Photoshop's color management and its CM engine
to make the translation between how the image appears on screen based
on the "profile" of Photoshop's colorspace and the profile made with EZ
Color that characterizes how the Epson printer outputs on a particular
paper, instead of doing it through the print driver. In other words, you've
transferred the print driver function of color adjustment from the driver
to Photoshop's built-in color management. The result has been superior,
cleaner, and more WYZIWYG in my test experience with Epson's own Heavyweight
Matte paper, plus the six fine art papers. Between using Monaco EZ Color
and Photoshop it is possible to produce predictable print image color
with a very high degree of accuracy with the perceptual values of the
image on screen. Any variations in the prints are very slight and correctable
through the acquisition of the experience that would be acquired and used
in doing the original color correction of the image file in Photoshop.
Warning: you must follow the documentation carefully
to set up color management and use the Photoshop color management and
the Monaco EZ Color Wizards. If you cross all the t's and dot all of the
i's, you'll get prints with qualities which match the quality in your
image file. What more can you ask for?