Informative review of wide format giclee fine art color printers from ColorSpan, Roland, Iris giclee, Epson.
Are you a fine art painter, digital artist, or photographer who wants to move into digital fine art giclee printing? Tips, help, and links both for the newcomer as well as for the fine art print collector or museum. What about the Epson 7500 and Epson 9500? We actually saw them presented at DRUPA trade show. Our recommendation is that you might wish to wait until Seybold trade show to see how they have improved. As of July they were still prototypes.
Iris cornered the market on prestige fine art Giclee wide format printers, but then ColorSpan introduced the Giclee Printmaker. Now the Roland Hi-Fi wide format printer is also producing Fine Art wide format prints used in the giclee print market. Roland and ColorSpan large format printers now offer options to the high price of Iris from CreoScitex if you wish to print giclee fine art color prints. Product comparisons of computer hardware peripherals, wide format printers.
Tip if the ads for a printer claim it is for fine art printing, portrait photography, etc first make sure that the prints don't fade. Most inkjet printers are made for point-of-purchase signs that have to be displayed just a few weeks. After that the signs fade; in some cases the paper turns ugly colors as well. We have seen ads for printers where there is no indication that pigmented inks are available yet they claim you can do fine art prints.
Other fine art printers were actually originally made to be proofers (proofs for magazines, books, or anything that was subsequently printed on a regular printing press). Inkjet proofs were never intended to be archival since they were thrown away after a few weeks.
If you don't have $30,000 for these printers (naturally more for the Iris), but you still want to produce fine art prints, an excellent printer at half that sum is available. This other fine art printer offers inks that last over 100 years.
The controversy over who first used the term giclee (should have French accent over final e) and whether it is possible to trademark a word that has long ago been redefined in the common public usage, can best be found by going to any Web search engine. For the end user, however, the result is clear the hegemony of Iris for large format fine art color prints has been broken. Quality alternatives of wide format giclee fine art prints, at reasonable prices, now exist. In the meantime, the world giclee has passed into the generic language, sort of like Kleenex and Xerox.
The CreoScitex web site (in the section on the Iris Gprint(er), defines glicee in a scholarly manner and makes no particular issue of any trademark or any controversy relative to the term. You might also enjoy subscribing to the Digital Fine Art Magazine, giclees.com or digitalfineart.com (same organization, two web sites).
The Iris printer is still considered the absolute tops in prestige. Indeed the name "Iris" is synonymous with fine art giclee prints throughout the United States.
After seeing the new Epson 9000 it was evident that Epson has produced a wide format printer that may produce as good a quality as ColorSpan or the Roland. Only trouble is that the Epson 7000 and Epson 7000 are made for proofing, hence their inks were never intended to be archival.
Which printer should you buy, ColorSpan, Roland....or the Epson 9000? What about the Epson 7500 or Epson 9500? Watch out, you might want to read our reviews before you decide! If you need help deciding what wide format color printer to buy, send an e-mail to the review editor, Nicholas Hellmuth, at [email protected] Please be sure to mention what kind of images you reproduce, what your market is, your level of experience such as whether you are new to digital printing, and what printers did you consider before reading the reviews on this site. Just remember, that to print at full photo quality is very very slow, up to an hour per print. Some inks will fade, so you need to be realistic. If you need a printer that can do photo-realistic quality today, now, that will last hundreds of years with archival inks, alternatives are available. Thus check in advance to be sure that archival inks are available. For example, pigmented inks with archival quality are available for most HP printers.
We tested a ColorSpan HiFi 8-color wide format printer. This was the Ilford IJT version. The model Ilford sells now is the ColorSpan 12-printhead model, set to run six colors in a double set (2x6=12) to give you faster speed.
Although this is not labeled as a fine art printer, I found the results to be extraordinarily beautiful. On this Maya jade you could see every aspect of the artist's tool marks. You could see all the colorations of the mineral jadeite.
This Colorspan wide format printer produced an image which was closest to a real continuous tone photograph. The dot pattern of other 4-color ink jet printers was not as evident.
In other words, ColorSpan offers three great printers for producing fine art prints: the Giclee Printer, the 8-color printer and the 12-head wide format printer.
We can also offer practical information on RIP (help on whether you need hardware RIP or software RIP. For example, if you have any HP the HP 2500 or HP 3500, which which have a rather slow RIP, we can help you solve your situation and improve speed and productivity. All it takes is an external RIP and your HP 2500 or 3500CP will be considerably improved, both in speed and also in print quality.
For fine art printers we also have partners, experts in the production and marketing of your fine art prints (after all, once you buy your fine art giclee printer you will wish help in selecting paper, inks with longevity, etc. So send us an e-mail, we will answer those questions that we can and forward your other questions to specialists in long-lasting color inks and professional fine art papers.
No color print will last forever, but as long as the print outlasts me, and as long as the original digital image is safely stored, it can be reproduced every half-century on the then-current technology. Longevity estimates all seem to come from one test center, so there is not much critique, but everything else in American life is made to wear out eventually, so colored inks are as American as apple pie. The new inks are considerably better than inks of a few years ago and I like to enjoy my prints now. I certainly don't wear myself out wondering when they will fade (relatively speaking, I do like my prints to last at least several years and not fade in a few months). Print them, enjoy them today.
Your choice of a scanner is as important as is your selection of which fine art giclee printer, inks, and paper.
Most people practice false economy with the scanner. They budget for a good printer but a cheap scanner. That way, they get a wonderful print of a lousey scan. How to avoid crappy scans? Read on... help is available from the folks at the FLAAR Digital Imaging Technology Center.
Since FLAAR specializes in photographing indigenous art, ancient art, and exotic tropical flowers, we have thousands of images which can show off the quality of any fine art printer. Our images are primarily on 4x5 inch or 6x6 cm transparencies so are easy to scan for wide format. We recommend the Scitex EverSmart scanner for producing fine art prints from slides or transparencies. Scitex scanners are described in more detail on www.flatbed-scanner-review.org and www.cameras-scanners-flaar.org.
People always want to obtain the images they see in our studio, but, being nonprofit, we do not often sell them. But now with wide format prints with longer-lasting inks, we will gradually offer Fine Arts prints. The above textile is an attractive design that would look good in a corporate board room or on any living room wall.
Do adequate research: everyone who is keen to buy a new fine art printer gets so excited that they often make the mistake of buying a printer that might not have been an appropriate choice. That is why FLAAR has set up this and the other web sites in the FLAAR Network. For example, most people have no idea that it can take up to an hour to produce one single print. So don't have the illusion that you can set your printer up and knock off instant prints for crowds at a mall, for example. Of course you can set the printer on Fast Productivity mode (as claimed in the reassuring ads). Be careful; "fast mode" is jargon for "this mode prints fast because it skips most of the dots and prints at such a low dpi that the resulting print is barely good enough for a proof...you definitely can't sell most quickie prints resulting from productivity mode..." For additional information on fine art giclee printing, check out davescoolart.com. That site offers helpful facts and is written by a person with considerable experience in digital imaging and large format printing in particular.