Printing photographs well is both an art and a science. The science of printing involves all of the technology made for inks, papers and printers. It also includes monitor calibration, color profiles and other printing technology built into your software and computer.
The art of printing is based on how you look at a print and how you tweak that image to make the best print possible. It’s not about simply matching a print to your monitor—that’s the science part. A good print needs to be truly good as a print and not simply trying to replicate a monitor. The good news for photographers is that any photo printer can give you great results.
Printer Technology Today
Ink is a critical component of any printer. Traditionally, dye-based inks had a greater range of color or gamut but a shorter life. Pigment-based inks had less gamut with incredibly long lives but were more likely to clog printer heads. Life of the inks refers to how long they retain original colors before they start to fade when the print is displayed in the light. Check out print and ink life for all manufacturers at Wilhelm Imaging Research, www.wilhelm-research.com.
Today, pigment-based inks have a very good range of color, and new formulations of the inks make them less likely to clog. Dye-based inks now have a much longer life. Still, if you’re not printing frequently and you don’t need 200-year print life, a dye-based printer may be a better choice because you won’t have the frustrations of head clogging. Pigment ink printers need to be used constantly.
Canon uses its ChromaLife100+ system for its dye-based inks, with an album life of up to hundreds of years. Print life is about 20 to 30 years when displayed. LUCIA inks are a 12-color pigment ink system that includes gray, black and matte black inks and offers a projected life of more than 200 years.
Epson has been a leader in pigment-based inks with its DURABrite 4-color inks, its UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2 large-format inks and its UltraChrome K3 9-color inks that include three levels of “black” (K is for black) and what it calls Vivid Magenta inkjet technology. Projected life is more than 200 years. You may have noticed that both Canon and Epson offer multiple “blacks” (black and grays)—this can help you get a better black-and-white print. Epson also offers its Claria Hi-Definition 6-color, dye-based inks with a projected life of more than 60 years.