Application Spotlight: Into the Heart of the City

It was a surreal moment when acclaimed digital artist Bert Monroy first saw someone pose for a tourist photo in front of a massive 5x25-foot backlit display used to showcase his latest work of art entitled “Times Square.”  “It was really exciting to see people react to this image the way they did,” he said. “Some spent so much time in front of the image that I think they were starting to feel as if they were really standing there in person, in the middle of all the excitement that Times Square offers at night.”

Displayed at this year’s PhotoPlus Expo in New York City, Monroy’s “Times Square” is action-packed with color and detail. People lean forward to study the print’s many stories depicted under the illuminated signs and bright lights of the city’s iconic landmarks. Hundreds of colorful characters can be seen throughout the image in groups, traveling solo, pointing at the sights, dodging yellow taxis, aiming cameras, shaking their fists, chatting amongst each other, dragging luggage, gazing longingly out of windows, and in some cases even thwarting crime.

Printed on Epson’s DisplayTrans Media with the wide-format 64-inch Epson Stylus Pro 11880 printer, Monroy’s masterpiece is the culmination of four years of painstaking work. The digital artist meticulously created each element using Adobe Photoshop and AdobeIllustrator. He built the 6.5GB image pixel by pixel, using more than 750,000 Photoshop layers. Monroy spent countless hours creating intensely detailed scenes, the likenesses of his family, friends and many luminaries in the imaging industry, and landmarks in and around Times Square.           

Beyond representing a designing and printing feat that will be talked about for years to come, the image is a “who’s who” in the world of digital imaging, featuring individuals who have made a significant impact in the industry. Adobe Photoshop founders John and Thomas Knoll stand in the main foreground, surrounded by digital imaging experts such as Russell Brown and Jeff Schewe. An assortment of photographers includes John Paul Caponigro, Greg Gorman, Jay Maisel, and Jack Reznicki, each telling their own story. Monroy even included a cameo of his younger self, looking out from the window of a yellow taxicab, reliving a brief stint as a New York taxi driver.

Born and bred in New York, Monroy selected Times Square as the subject for the challenging project as his tribute to the city that never sleeps. “Discovering new ways of doing things, and then seeing the results using Epson wide-format print technology, is what I love about the work,” he said. A Photoshop Hall of Fame Inductee, Monroy is considered one of the pioneers of digital art, known for pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in digital imaging. An accomplished lecturer and teacher, he has also published several books, including his latest, “Photoshop Studio with Bert Monroy: Digital Painting,” with tips and techniques to create photo-realistic paintings like “Times Square.”

Epson’s DisplayTrans Media

A defining moment in his quest for new digital art techniques was seeing “Times Square” printed for the first time with Epson’s innovative new backlit material designed for inkjet printing. “I was halfway into the Times Square project when I heard Epson was developing DisplayTrans Backlight Media for creating backlit signage to be used in a lightbox,” said Monroy. 

The opaque, polyester film has an opacifying layer that diffuses light throughout the printed image so it is evenly lit. The images are front printed on a micro porous surface that holds heavy ink loads while maintaining vivid color reproduction. DisplayTrans is compatible with the latest generations of Epson Stylus Pro roll-based printers, and is easy to use with free downloadable profiles.

“That extraordinary final print of ‘Times Square’ on DisplayTrans media with the Epson11800 printer was exactly the way I’d envisioned the result,” said Monroy. “I’ve tried other wide-format printers and media to reproduce my work, and this time, I really see a difference. The colors are beautiful and vibrant, the blacks are rich and dark, and the flesh tones are warm and natural.”

The “Times Square” image constantly surprises its fans. “Not only can you see all the facial expressions and look right into windows, but you can spot the trees at the very end toward Central Park,” commented one viewer. Another said, “I feel I could step right into it and hear that taxi driver hitting his horn and that motorcycle roaring right before I walk right into the toy store.”

Monroy was asked if he plans to top the artistic and technical achievement of the “Times Square” work. “With this technology behind me, who knows where my imagination will go?” said Monroy, who now has established roots in Berkeley, CA. There are other iconic landmarks to recreate in wide format, but “Times Square” will always be close to this former New Yorker’s heart.