Which wide format inkjet color printer and which PostScript RIP reproduces all the nuances of color?

As long as you have a hardware or software PostScript RIP and a good large format printer over 600 dpi, you can expect exhibit-quality color print. If you have images of exceptional quality and are a whizz at Photoshop you can possibly squeek by at 300 dpi. But at 300 dpi your images will show a dot pattern (especially if printed with an Encad printer).

If you use a 600 dpi Hewlett-Packard you get better quality. Yes, the Epson 9000 is great but their print heads may clog. Also, it may take up to an hour to print a single image. Epson ads may be misleading on their "speed." Epson ads used to claim their printers were fast....what the ads neglected to admit was that when the printer was in fast mode the quality dropped down to about 360 dpi. An image at 360 dpi on an Epson printer is so ugly it is useless (also, the colors will fade in a few weeks, or fade in a few days if put outside). With a Hewlett-Packard you get exhibit quality at 600 dpi faster than the Epson can print. Also, the HP inkjet heads are self-cleaning and self-adjusting. The Epson is so cheap they don't put those features in the printer. You may not even get a network card installed (they may ask you to pay about another $300 for that).

When faced with the decision of what wide format printer to buy, you first need to decide which printers are least appropriate. For example, many printers will work (to some degree) without any RIP. But such a RIPless printer is so slow that if you are a repro shop, copy shop, sign shop, photo lab, or any establishment that needs speed, then attempting large format printing without a RIP is not a wise choice.

But if you need only one print a day, and don't mind if your system is a tad slow then an HP DesignJet 2500 or 3500 CP printer is a good choice. These printers have a built in RIP so you don't have to buy an external RIP. This also means you do not have to install a RIP and don't have to take a 2-day course to learn how to use a RIP. You also don't have to get a headache over trying to decide which external RIP to select ! The HP 2500 and 3500 already have a RIP built in. You unpack the printer from its shipping box, plug the printer in, and it starts producing colorful prints.

If you prefer a bit more speed, you can opt for the HP 2800 or 3800. These come with the EFI Fiery RIP. No training course required; faster than the 2500 or 3500. Now you can get even faster speed and higher dpi with the HP DesignJet 5000. We replaced our 2800 with this newer printer and are very happy with the results.

If you want even more speed, especially for signs, posters, or banners in Adobe PageMaker or QuarkXpress, then you want an HP 5000 with an external software RIP. We recommend BEST Color, DCS Software PosterJet, Wasatch or ColorGate. To help you reach an informed decision we have additional discussions and FAQs on PostScript RIP for wide format printers.

close-up enlargement of rollout of polychrome Maya vase, color print from Encad NovaJetPro color wide format ink jet printer with EFI Fiery PostScript RIP server.

Close-up detail; this (and all the other pictures in this section) are the actual color print from the Encad wide-format inkjet printer. The complete throne scene is reproduced on a separate page.

I taped each print on the wall and took a snapshot of each print with a Nikon CoolPix 950, then JPEGed the prints to lower download time.

Despite being a copy of a copy, you can see that the original wide format print is quite a professional reproduction.

The best way to make your lethargic RIPless printer work more efficiently is to get an Ilford RIPStar solution (of course the best way is not to have made the mistake of getting a slow printer in the first place). Ilford Imaging can reincarnate certain models of HP printers and increase their speed (especially if you are attempting to RIP from a Macintosh, which is inherently slow). This is why any hardware RIP solution is best for a Mac, because then the hardware print server takes the job immediately and lets you continue with your non-multi-processing Mac on other jobs.

If you need a Mac solution then PosterJet from DCS Software is a good option. You can load this in an iMac and get a fast solution (yes, you can also load it in your Mac G3 or G4, but since no Mac is multitasking most graphic pros load their RIP software in an adjacent printer which then functions as a printer server. You compose (do digital imaging) on your main Mac, then send (via mini-hub or your network) to the RIP server. Your main Mac could not care whatsoever whether the RIPing is done from an iMac, from any of your leftover older Macs, or from a PC outfitted as a Windows NT print server. The current generations of operating systems allow Macs and PCs to work together quite nicely on any network.

Monitor here is the Nokia, the brand preferred by Ilford Imaging in Germany. The PostScript RIP software pictured here is Ilford's version of Onyx PosterShop. More complete listings of other RIP options are elsewhere in this site.


Most recently updated July 11, 2001