ImagePrint RIP
Finally, Quality Black & White Digital Prints Page 2

You'll see that ImagePrint is actually in two parts. First, ImagePrint itself is where you'll do your layout and printer selection. The second part is SpoolFace, which is a print spooler that manages your print jobs and frees up your computer while the job prints.

Driftwood, Cannon Beach, Oregon. The four prints included here show the dramatic range of toning available with ImagePrint Version 6.0 and Epson UltraChrome printers. The Tint Picker control allows separate adjustment, or split toning, of shadow and highlight detail, making emulation of traditional darkroom techniques easily possible.

As you explore options in ImagePrint, you soon find that it isn't designed like most Windows or Macintosh applications. There is no "undo" available anywhere. If you make a mistake you'll normally need to start over again with that particular image by deleting it from the layout and then adding it back in. You'll also find that most dialogs have an "Apply" and "Cancel" button but no "OK." When you're done with the dialog you click the close button in the title bar.

You'll start by either dropping your image file onto ImagePrint, or opening the file from within ImagePrint. Opening multiple files at once in Version 5.6 can only be done by using the drag-and-drop method. Version 6.0 introduces a very useful Image Browser that adds the ability to see thumbnails of your files, and perform multiple select operations.

The ImagePrint layout control features are quite good. You can repeat an image, set precise offsets and spacing between repeats. New to Version 6.0 are file groupings. It's now possible to scale, move, and perform other layout functions to some or all images in a layout at once.

Settings dialog with Step/Repeat options. ImagePrint does a very good job of setting up the page for multiple copies of the image.

One of the most amazing features of ImagePrint is in the control over the output choices. Each image in the layout can have its own profile, rendering intent, and, in the case of gray scale on the supported Epson printers, each image can be output with a different tint. This makes for an excellent proofing method, especially for the large format printers. The ability to proof all of the output options in one print job saves on expensive roll paper and time.

ImagePrint Version 6.0 adds some new functionality to make workflow easier as well. There are two new options in the Settings menu--Best Fit and Proof Sheet. Best Fit will automatically rotate and size your images for the selected layout. Proof Sheet will create a layout optimized for multiple images with user control over spacing both horizontally and vertically. A new annotation option will allow you to include file name and date information with your prints, very useful with proof sheets. Auto Flow is another new feature. Anytime an image will not fit in the current layout, a new page will be created for the image.

Once you've opened your image or images for printing and have the layout you want, you'll need to select the correct printer profile. If you've selected a gray profile and are using the Epson 2200/7600/9600 series of printers, you'll have the ability to set the tint for your photo. This is a great feature, allowing you to have different tints from the same photo--you can try your photo with a warmer or cooler tone.

As I mentioned earlier, ImagePrint is a completely color managed system. You'll set the monitor profile, printer profile, and image color space all within the Color Management dialog. Again, each image in the layout can have a different profile assigned to it, something particularly useful when mixing black and white and color images on the same page.

New to Version 6.0 is the ability to embed multiple profiles in a single image. This feature is used to great effect for giving your black and white prints a handcolored look. To see how well this new Colorization option worked, I opened an image in Photoshop CS and then created a duplicate of the background layer. I next desaturated the duplicate layer, and erased the areas I wanted to have color applied, in this case the barn. By changing the Opacity of the eraser, you can control the amount of color saturation.

In ImagePrint, you'll assign a gray profile for the overall image, then select a color profile for the colorized portion of the image. This gives you all the benefit of full control over the gray scale, including the ability to tint on supported printers.

ImagePrint Color Management dialog. If you've selected a gray scale profile and you are using a supported Epson printer, the Monochrome Tint control will allow you to change the tonal value of your black and white print. You can simulate platinum or other alternative print tones.

The final step is to select Print. With this version of ImagePrint, quality and ink choices are filled in automatically based on the printer profile. In previous versions the user needed to fill these in. Kudos to ColorByte for this update! If you are using the supported Epson printer, you also have the option to print centered. This actually works to center your output on the page, not the printer margins as with the Epson drivers.

Printing is the one trouble spot I had. I did my printing on the Epson 2200 with sheet paper. ImagePrint defaults to roll paper. I kept sending the print job only to have my printer flash a red light and do nothing. Finally, after some exploration I noticed the check box in the Print Setup dialog for Auto Cut and Sheet. If nothing is checked, ImagePrint defaults to roll paper. Once this was corrected, I was rewarded with beautiful prints.

The Results
I've struggled with getting neutral black and white prints for years. Prints always had a green or magenta hue to them that I could not correct on a consistent basis. My struggles are over now. ImagePrint delivered gorgeous black and white prints with the first page. I can detect no color shift whatsoever. I was surprised at the improvement in my color prints as well.

I have been very happy with color output using the Epson drivers. ImagePrint tends to deliver slightly less saturated color images but they have improved detail, particularly in shadow or dense areas of the image. I have now quit printing directly from Photoshop and use ImagePrint exclusively for my photo printing. Another new feature in Version 5.6 is "Wide Gamut Technology." ImagePrint sets separate ink limits to each chromatic area of the image. This helps to reduce the bronzing effect that you may see with the Epson print drivers since they set ink limits based on the entire image. Finally, there is now a shadow point adjustment slider that allows you to control the richness and detail in the shadow areas.

The Lite version of ImagePrint is all that most individuals with a desktop printer will ever need. The package printing (templates) option would be a nice addition to the Lite version but the other differences--color correction, page tiling and auto-print--are all more suited to production environments. These features are enabled in the Lite version but you'll have "DEMO" overlaid on all your prints. ColorByte makes upgrading to the full-featured version easy should you decide later there is a need for the additional features.

For more information, visit ColorByte Software's website at: www.colorbytesoft

Jon Canfield, a landscape and macro photographer, has been involved with digital imaging from the earliest days, both as a user and on the software development side. His first (co-authored) book "Photo Finish: The Digital Photographer's Guide to Printing, Showing, and Selling Images" is currently available from Sybex. Jon can be reached through his website at: