Many modern artists sell fine-art reproductions or giclées created with pigment-based inks on high-resolution inkjet printers. This kind of digital print making saves them from buying and storing in inventory more prints than they need. Pro sailor-turned-nautical photographer Onne van der Wal estimates that his wife, Kristin, outputs between 30 and 40 prints weekly on a 44-inch Canon IMAGEprograf iPF8100 model in their Newport, RI, gallery. “Sizes range from 11x14 up to 40 inches long,” he notes, adding that they’ve done some six-panel jobs as large as 6x10 feet.
The newer high-resolution printers from Canon, Epson, and HP use water-based pigment inks to produce prints that can last for decades when properly protected and displayed under normal indoor lighting conditions. Solvent-based inkjet printers also produce long-lasting prints, but struggle to match the resolution and color gamut of the latest aqueous inkjet technology. Out west in Colorado, Gary Haines, a fine art photographer specializing in nature and wildlife scenes, offers fine-art printing for his and other artists’ work on an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 that he added to his Grizzly Creek Gallery almost four years ago. The 11-color printer uses proprietary Ultrachrome HDR archival ink technology for color consistency and a rich gamut of colors that show depth and detail, said the manufacturer. The 9900 simultaneously uses black, light black, and “light light” black inks, significantly improving gray balance while eliminating color cast for impressive black-and-white printing.
To ensure accurate color fidelity, “calibrate your monitors to the printer,” advises Haines, a former oil painter with an eye for color. He has invested in a high-end, 24-inch LCD photographic monitor from LaCie. “It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it. It’s totally color-balanced: calibrated from edge to edge,” he reports. Reflective art never looks the same as the screen, cautions van der Wal. “You need to do a proof or two and tweak shadows and highlights in [Adobe] Photoshop,” he says, adding that the quality of the Canon printer is “superb” and “the printed work looks awesome.”
For photographers and artists doing their own premedia graphic editing/photo retouching, the basic tenet is: the larger the final print, the more care needs to be taken.
“When using Photoshop, gradient lines need to be smoothed out carefully for larger sized prints,” explains Joanne Hartzell, owner of EyeDesign & Photography, which offers professional portrait and other photographic services near Chicago. van der Wal is a Canon Explorer of Light photographer, who now shoots all digital, and also is a Canon Print Master, using all Canon paper and inks.
“If a printed proof looks a little dark, Kristin knows to go over two clicks or so to correct the color. Then that becomes our default [setting] on the printer,” he illustrates.
For landscape shots, Haines uses Fuji Velvia large-format film. “I can blow them up bigger, and the 100f film shows more detail in shadows and scans nicely,” he notes.
His next purchase probably will be a Nikon D800e, a 36-megapixel digital camera in 35mm fomat. “With that, we’ll be able to blow up to close to 48 inches wide,” he says.
Most of Grizzly Creek’s film-to-digital conversions are done on drum scanners. “They are about 400-megabyte files,” Haines reports. “We shoot on transparencies, which are positive, from 4x5 inches to medium-format [sizes].”
Haines’s media of choice is LexJet, which he usually buys in 100-foot-long rolls. “We’ve gone as big as 44x90 inch [7.5 feet] prints,” he says.
The Sunset line includes photo gloss, semi-matte, and archival matte paper as well as a select matte poly-cotton blend canvas. Eleven-mil. Sunset Photo e-Satin 300g is a heavier, more substantial photo paper with excellent ink retention characteristics and a color gamut that is second to none, LexJet said. The paper maintains a traditional E surface finish, providing an elegant texture consistent to that of a darkroom.