Monday, October 8, 2007
Buyer's Guide 2008: Papers & Inks
Printing your best images with the latest and greatest in inks and papers
The whiteness of a paper can also cause a dramatic difference in your printing. The quality of color balance and contrast, particularly in black-and-white prints, depends on the whiteness of the paper. A whiter paper reflects more light, making it brighter. Be cautious, though, as brightening agents used on papers can break down easily, "yellowing" your prints over time.
When you purchase a printer, most major companies will have their own proprietary inks and methods for making great prints. With competition from third-party manufacturers, you can count on proprietary inks to produce top-notch quality, especially because they're consistent with the profiles of your printer. Alternatively, you can often find high-quality inks from other companies at a better price. Lyson, MediaStreet and Pantone are good places to start.
With inkjet printers now using as many as 12 different color cartridges, they produce smoother, more accurate and greater ranges of color than ever before. Monochromatic selections are no longer limited to black, either. Varying shades of blacks and grays are found in some printers for extended black-and-white printing on fine-art papers.
There are two competing ink types in home printing: dye-based and pigment-based. Many papers, though not all, work with both for extended compatibility with a wider base of printers.
Dye-based inks dissolve colorants and additives in a liquid form. They generally provide brighter, bolder color, but the trade-off is a shorter life span when compared to pigment-based ink. Pigment-based inks use large colorant particles and additives that are suspended in liquid, rather than dissolved. Though colors may seem more muted compared to dye inks, advances in technology and an almost doubled life span have made pigment-based inks the preferred choice of many pros.
Canon, Epson and Hewlett-Packard use both kinds of ink, depending on the type of printer. Canon's ChromaLife 100 dye-based inks are used in its PIXMA line of photo inkjet printers, with prints lasting up to 100 years. The high-end large- and wide-format imagePROGRAF printers use the Lucia 12-color, pigment-based ink system, which delivers top-notch colorfastness and stability.
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