Printer for fine art on OSX
October 23, 2004 2:13 PM   Subscribe

What's the best color printer for "fine art" printing, using OSX? I might consider color laser, but a good inkjet would also be acceptable. [More Inside]

Things I'm looking for:
1/ Good tonal quality, especially on plain paper.
2/ Fairly wide paper sizes, if possible.
3/ Reasonable price of consumables.
4/ Postscript a plus.

I especially appreciate suggestions on printers that you actually have experience with...

posted by jpburns to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can reccommend without a doubt the Epson 2200. Prints 13" x19". I used to work in a service bureau doing poster prints and fuji pictrography prints. Saw my fair share of Iris prints come in-- the Epson 2200 does a fine job of matching up to those. IMO Epson has paid the most attention to getting things right when it comes to fine art printing.

So, thats what I actually have experience with, but I've heard incredible things and have seen the output from the Epson 4000. You didn't mention a price point because the 4000 is mucho expensive $1800 or so, but the prints are beautiful.

Here's a review . Btw, the linked website luminous landscape has great reviews of printers.

When it comes to ink refills, well, there's really not much you can do. All the inkjet printers will kill you, the problem with fine art printers is they have more ink cartridges- thus more replacements.
posted by jeremias at 2:58 PM on October 23, 2004

Any HP or Epson inkjet that uses more than four ink colours. (ie. More than CMYK.) Buy glossy paper, configure the supplied driver to print on said glossy paper, and it will look fantastic.

Avoid a laser.
posted by Mwongozi at 4:08 PM on October 23, 2004

I can second the Epson 2200 recommendation. My only caveat is that running large prints on photo paper is sloooooow.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:35 PM on October 23, 2004

I'll second the Epson 2200. My cousin who's a very very very high end graphic designer swears by it. Invest in pigmented inks. I'll look for some of his emails and try to distill it but with the pigmented inks and good paper you can get archival quality. You don't even have to do glossy. They make papers that have the feel of standard graphic design materials. He made me a print of one of his illustrations and the print quality is just amazing.
posted by substrate at 7:17 PM on October 23, 2004

If you're going to use a significant amount of ink you should look into continous ink systems.
posted by O9scar at 8:06 PM on October 23, 2004

Don't neglect to look at the Canon i9900.
posted by kindall at 8:30 PM on October 23, 2004

IAAPP (I am a Professional Photographer) and thought long and hard about printing solutions. This might help you.

The Canon 9900 and Epson 2200 are the two biggies. The advantage to the Canon is that it prints crazy-fast. If you have high output needs, it will run rings around the Epson. The Epson, on the other hand, has archival inks that will last a good 20-25 years if printed on good paper.

"Great!" you think, "Epson it is, then." Not so fast, bucko.

Pigment-based inks (the archival kind you'll get with the Epson) are prone to metamerism -- color shifts at different viewing angles. Ugh, right? And these printers aren't exactly cheap, you know. The new UltraChrome inks are better than the 2000P, but not perfect. Then there's the fact that the prints look bleh on glossy paper.

So what do you do? I'll tell you what you do. Save your money on other things, and take your prints to CostCo.

"THE FUCK?" you say. That's right, CostCo. Why-oh-why? Because the printers they use there are Frontier model 390's and Noritsu model 3101's and they print on Fuji Crystal Archive Paper. You will never, ever, ever be able to do better with your Epson. Never.

And the cost? HA! That's what I say to people shelling out the dough for their own print solutions. There are 7 inkwells to keep filled in the 2200 -- each replacement cartridge goes for $65 retail. Then your archive paper -- $30 for a hundred sheets.

You can get CostCo prints up to 12x18 for $2.99 a pop.

But what about printer profiles, you ask? Problem solved. Dry Creek Photo offers printer profiles for just about every serious printer in your area. CostCo, Sam's Club, even the local "high-end" guys. Piece of cake.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:08 PM on October 23, 2004

I own an Epson 2200 and I agree with C_D here--I've seen the Costco prints and I can see why many people swear by them (I'm not convinced either one is really better though). Although I think C_D's prices are a bit overstated, since a good CIS will make the overall printing costs somewhat cheaper than Costco et al., but he's still basically right--the difference in hassle is enormous. I'd save printing at home for smaller prints you want now and let other people handle your larger prints.

So as a 2200 owner who thinks its output is wonderful, I'd still recommend Epson's newer Epson R800 instead and have your larger prints made elsewhere. Costco is great for this.
posted by DaShiv at 1:05 AM on October 24, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the insights and suggestions.

To clarify, by fine art I mean digital illustration, not photography (if that makes a difference). Most of it is continuous tone stuff, but some is also flat fields of color.
posted by jpburns at 6:12 AM on October 24, 2004

The other thing I forgot to mention is that the printers at CostCo are calibrated every day. Most people just don't have the time to do pro-level calibration once a month, let alone every day (hint: you can't do it by eye). I see so many people calibrating their monitors and thinking their job is done. Every D/A conversion needs calibration. Camera -> Computer ->Monitor -> Printer. The camera profile doesn't really change much over time, but monitors and printers do. That's a royal PITA.

As DaShiv points out, having your own printer is good for very small jobs. But even then, you just can't compete on price-point. The price I quoted above was for their large-size. Know how much a 4x6 will cost you? $0.19.

Nineteen friggin' cents.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:14 AM on October 24, 2004

jpb - Data is data is data. Flat fields of color will eat through your ink cartridges one at a time, but then, I guess any regular photo would do that, too. I like your stuff -- just go into Photoshop (or Illustrator) and set your output resolution to 300 dpi and you're ready to print.

I can tell you, there's nothing quite as visceral as having a real-world copy of your own digital artwork in your hands.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:18 AM on October 24, 2004

Worst case scenario: about $25 bucks for a 100 pack (4x6 paper and ink) for Epson's PictureMate 4x6 printer, or $0.25 per print. That's the worst case--a tiny quantity of ink and a small pack of pre-cut paper. You can definitely halve that or more with a CIS and cutting your own paper (or even just buying larger quantities). But as I mentioned, I don't think cost is the real issue here--convenience is. It can actually be pretty darn inconvenient to print for yourself if you're not ready to do the profiling work, etc. Color management is pretty intimidating; I'm so glad I work in black and white.

Since your original question was "which printer" though, I should also add another issue to the Canon vs Epson printer decision: color gamut. Epson's pigment inks (i.e. the 2200) produces colors that look a little flat compared to Canon's. The guy who sold me his Epson 2200 switched to Canon because as a portrait photog, he needed faster print speeds and brighter, more sellable colors from the printer. Epson's newest generation printers (R800 and on) supposedly add some dye to their inks to brighten the colors and reduce metamerism. So for 8x10's and smaller I'd choose Epson's R800, or Canon's i9900 for larger prints (Epson's next-gen 2200-replacement isn't available stateside yet).

By the way, I believe that the fancy photo printers don't work so well on regular paper--you may be better off with just a regular, non-photo color desktop printer for that.
posted by DaShiv at 8:44 AM on October 24, 2004

Epson's inks have better longevity, although I've heard that Canon is working on archival inks for their printers as well. (Canon print longevity currently depends largely on what paper you use and how much ozone the prints get exposed to. Certain Ilford papers get the nod here. Avoid using Kodak papers in Canon printers.)

Epson "chips" their print cartridges so you can't refill their cartridges. (They say it's for more precise monitoring of ink levels and that the fact that you have to buy Epson cartridges is just a side-effect. Suuure.) I think the third party ink suppliers have got around this, but it's an arms race -- if your printer is a fairly new model, you may have to buy Epson inks until the third parties crack it, assuming Epson hasn't finally totally outwitted them. Canon does not do this.

Canon printers are faster and quieter than Epson printers. And they tend to be a bit cheaper.
posted by kindall at 9:39 AM on October 24, 2004

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