Looking Good – Better Than Ever, Actually

Not pleased with her official senior class photo, my daughter, Kirsten, had her high school graduation pictures taken in the JCPenney Portrait Studios at the mall. The hand-stretched canvas print, now framed and prominently displayed, is absolutely gorgeous. Its artistic, textured finish looks like gallery-quality wall art, and the price was surprisingly not expensive.

More so than ever before, digital photography and printing are bringing fine art to the masses. On a lower-end scale, shoppers can walk the aisles of retail stores, such as Target, and browse breathtaking framed prints and posters. For large custom prints and posters, competing Walmart Photo Centers employ HP Designjet models.

Nationally acclaimed aerial photographer Mike Gustafson has the perspective of being a printer as well as a photographer. He is one of four brothers running sheetfed packaging/print firm JohnsByrne, based in Niles, IL; their father, John, founded the company on Chicago’s Printer’s Row in 1959. Gustafson’s photos specialize in the famous Chicago skyline and “cityscapes” as well as sports venues—he has photographed some 160 stadiums throughout the US. It all began 24 years ago next month, when he shot the first-ever night game played at historic Wrigley Field. That, of course, was before Gustafson used a digital camera. Cubs fan or not, chances are you’ve seen his work on a Graph Expo poster or two. Especially popular among sports memorabilia collectors, the 27x39-inch lithographs are available online.

Today, you can go online and buy a canvas reproduction of Van Gogh’s “Irises:” $285 at zazzle.com, which outputs its prints on 18-mil., heavyweight matte canvas. For wide-format printers who want to play in the fine-art space, a 50-foot, 42-inch-wide roll of HP’s large-format, mid-grade artist matte canvas sells for around $340. (A 24-inch by 20-foot roll is $78.) Swiss firm Folex also produces traditional classic textured canvas for giclee fine-art inkjet prints, classic paintings, and photographs. The canvas gives superb image quality and wet smear-resistance as well as good light stability, says the film and paper coating manufacturer.

At drupa 2012 in May, Folex highlighted its fine art and photo papers for eco/solvent and water-based inks. The matte white, lightly structured materials are ideally suited for fine art and digital photographic output, the company said. The papers offer excellent archival properties along with good light stability and “brilliant” colors with high-density, solid blacks. Also, its nanoporous photo papers can be used for photographic poster prints, presentations, point of sale, short- term proofing, and exhibition panels. Images dry instantly due to a highly porous coating, ensuring production speeds are optimized. The photo papers offer excellent handling, stability, and lamination properties, according to Folex.


Professional Quality

In New York City, Joel Meyerowitz is a former art director turned “street photographer.” Meyerowitz, 74, is a one-time digital skeptic who served as a spokesperson of sorts for Hewlett-Packard from 2007 through 2010. He also was the only photographer permitted on the scene at Ground Zero, where he spent months photo-documenting the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.

HP culminated its partnership with Meyerowitz with the exhibition “Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks” at the Museum of the City of New York in 2010. Capturing the parks throughout the five boroughs, the exhibition showcased the majesty of the city’s coveted park areas in large photographic prints. To print the images, Meyerowitz relied on HP’s large-format printing portfolio, including the Designjet Z3200 Photo Printer and the Designjet L65500 Printer, to produce high-quality prints and large-scale graphics.

“You can see the softness of light that comes through with HP printing,” Meyerowitz praised. “I won’t print on anything else.”

Another digital convert is fine art photographer Albert Watson, who also relies on HP Designjet Z series photo printers and HP printing materials. “A print needs to feel like what’s on the screen. HP printers are brilliant at doing that interpretation for you,” Watson added. “I get the same quality, charisma, and depth as a platinum print—that’s pretty impressive.”

The HP Designjet Z6200 Photo Printer prints up to 60 inches wide at speeds up to 1,500 square feet per hour. It uses an embedded spectrophotometer to print with color accuracy and consistency. Photographers are never more than a few clicks away from professional ICC profiles customized for the printer, paper, and environmental conditions, says HP.

“I think photographers should always print their own work—it gives you the ability to explore another dimension of the original image,” Watson explained. “When you send work out to be printed, it’s a compromise. Where I might want a print to be dark for the effect, a technician might say it’s too dark. The advantage of my HP printers is that it’s my choice whether it’s dark or light—not somebody else’s.”

One of Watson’s exhibits, “UFO: Unified Fashion Objectives,” supported in part by HP, is a retrospective of four decades of work, much of which first appeared in the pages of Vogue and Rolling Stone magazines. The images were printed almost entirely with Watson’s HP Designjet Z3200 Photo Printer on HP Matte Litho-realistic paper and HP Super Heavyweight Plus Matte paper. With his HP Designjet Z series, Watson can achieve the gallery-quality colors and sharp blacks that meet his standards. “There’s a depth of color and black-and-white. It feels three-dimensional,” he said.

Of course, even the most brilliant prints are impressive only if they last. By relying on HP printing materials and HP Vivera pigment inks, Watson knows he’s getting exceptionally fade-resistant prints. And thanks in part to ARTtrust, a self-certification system developed by Prooftag in collaboration with HP that Watson uses with some of his prints, he can give buyers even more confidence that the prints are authentic. “I think it’s a necessary innovation in this day and age,” said Watson. He sees ARTtrust as a promising solution in the digital era to help combat counterfeiting—and make it easier to certify authenticity.


More drupa Showings

To cater to increasing demands from display producers, photo labs, and sign makers wanting higher image quality capabilities at production level speeds, EFI announced the VUTEk QS2 Pro UV hybrid printer at drupa. This two-meter printer, driven by the Orion OS platform, combines grayscale print quality with production-level speeds for customers looking to take on more color critical and higher-premium jobs.

“Customers visiting the EFI stand at drupa … commented that the image quality, speed, and overall performance of the new QS2 Pro are impressive,” stated Ken Hanulec, VP of marketing for EFI inkjet solutions.

Flexible EFI UV inks offer a wide color gamut for greater PMS color matching and consistency, and ensure the maximum reliability and performance of the printer. The ruggedly constructed VUTEk QS2 Pro is designed for extended operation and has an optional roll-to-roll feature for even more throughput.

The QS2 Pro is supplied with the Fiery XF proServer to increase productivity, performance, and efficiency. It comes with an expanded set of Fiery RIP options, a high-performance hardware platform, JDF integration to EFI Web-to-print and MIS/ERP solutions, and a complimentary13-month support and maintenance plan.


Epson Attacks the Fine Art Market

Featuring high resolutions and advanced ink and color technology, Epson’s new large-format Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900 printers are especially conceived for art prints and proofs. Eleven new UltraChrome HDR pigment inks, including orange and green, provide a large palette of colors as well as soft color gradation. The smaller of the two printers, the 7900 model, has a printing width of 24 inches, while the larger 9900 offers 44 inches. Both use the new TFP technology, which gives a resolution of 2,880 by 1,440 dpi and produces droplet sizes starting from 3.5 picoliters. The system uses Epson variable ink droplet technology and operates at speeds of up to 131 square feet per hour. Prints produced are supposed to have a durability of up to 200 years.

From China, Hongsam Digital Science & Technology’s JETALL is a water-based, eco-solvent ink that can be used for fine art printing. At drupa, it was demonstrated on an Epson Stylus Pro7908. The firm also manufacturers four-, six-, seven-, eight-, 11-, and 12-color pigment inks for Canon, HP, Mimaki, Mutoh, Roland, and other wide-format printers. Their water-based structure also can prolong printhead life, Hongsam says.

The first solvent printer from Epson, the Stylus Pro GS6000, also was shown in Germany. This model, with a printing width of 64 inches, is equipped with the capacity to produce water and UV resistant, scratchproof, and quick-drying prints for indoors and out. When printing with special solvent inks, no VOCs are said to be set free, because the inks are based on ecological solvents where no additional ventilation is needed.

Redefining and Monetizing Fine Art Reproduction

In Switzerland, an artist has boosted profit margins of her fine art reproduction business by using the HP Artist Solution for Nikon. It all started when an art dealer approached Ines Hulftegger with what seemed like an impossible task: Create a digital reproduction that captures the rich gold and silk details of an ancient Japanese panel.

Hulftegger, an artist herself and founder of IN_EX design GmbH, was up for the challenge. Her company uses the HP Designjet Z3200 Photo Printer along with the HP Artist Solution for Nikon to create high-quality digital fine art reproductions. Fine art reproduction systems and solutions powered by HP Artist Software complement the 12-ink printing capabilities of the Z3200 series and HP Media portfolio.

“Prior to having the HP Artist Solution, we wouldn’t have thought it was possible for an inkjet printer to produce anything close to a true representation of these details,” Hulftegger said. But to the delight of her and her client, the Designjet Z3200 reproduced all of the colors with stunning accuracy. “The yellow color, in particular, reflected exactly as if it were gold,” she noted. “The quality of the print was amazing.”


Fewer Steps, Greater Value

Hulftegger founded IN_EX design eight years ago as a platform for selling her own artwork and a commercial opportunity to produce digital reproductions for other artists. She saw the profit potential in fine art reproduction, but said that until she invested in the HP Designjet Z3200, the steps required to produce a quality print were time-consuming and wasteful.

Hulftegger and her team spent a lot of time manipulating images and making multiple prints to ensure accurate color. The Designjet Z3200 and the HP Artist Solution for Nikon streamlined the process significantly. The HP Artist Solution for Nikon includes the HP Designjet Z3200, the Nikon D3X or D3 camera, and a special edition of the ErgoSoft StudioPrint photo RIP software, powered by HP Artist Software technology.

Hulftegger explained, “This new streamlined approach ultimately translates to cost savings and more time to process jobs, positively impacting our bottom line.”


Getting it Right the First Time

To create a fine art reproduction, Hulftegger first photographs the original artwork and background. She then uses the HP Artist Solution for Nikon to evaluate the color accuracy, adjust colors as necessary, and creates a final print.

The HP Artist Solution for Nikon and HP Designjet Z3200 ensure that the final print accurately re-creates what the camera captures. The Z3200 makes it easy to profile and calibrate colors with its embedded X-rite spectrophotometer. And, it features 12 HP Vivera pigment inks, including the HP Quad-black ink set, for true neutral grays and nuanced color reproduction.

“The software automatically corrects the light and colors, so we only need to print once,” Hulftegger says. “Plus, the HP Vivera pigment inks enable us to create prints with exceptional longevity and outstanding color accuracy.”

This seamless integration from camera to final image means fewer unnecessary prints along the way. Hulftegger says this efficiency has lowered her operating costs by 30 percent to 40 percent, which means higher profit margins. “There is no mistaking that this solution has improved the efficiency of our workflow, and IN_EX design GmbH is reaping the benefits,” said Hulftegger.