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A Short Primer on Ink Jet Printers

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Ink Jet Printers - image of an ink jet printerFor our purposes, I’m covering only Epson and Canon printers in this short primer on ink jet printers. Fine art prints require a wide gamut (range of colors) which requires printers using 6, 8 or 10 colors. Other than size—13″, 17″, 24″ are the most common—the main difference in printers is dye versus pigment inks.

Dye is exactly what it sounds like. A colorant (dye) is added to a binder (carrier) along with “secret” sauces for each manufacturer. Dye soaks into the paper and is less fade resistant if longevity is important as it generally is for fine art reproductions. It also smears and runs when exposed to liquids. Its most endearing quality is low cost.

Pigment, on the other hand, comprises tiny (0.1 – 2 micrometer) particles suspended in a binder. When applied, the pigment adheres to the surface and is much more color fast over time. It’s generally more resistant to smearing or running but the cost is greater. For fine art, pigment printers are a better choice.

Six colors is the minimum which includes CMYK + LC + LM (cyan, magenta, yellow, black, light cyan, light magenta.) Eight-color printers usually have CMYK, LC, LM, gray (light black) and light gray (very light black.) Most printers in this category also have separate matte black (MK) and photo black (PK) inks. However, you can only use one at a time.

Newer printers have 10 colors including CMYK + LC + LM + LK + LLK + Orange + Green (Epson) or Blue + Red (Canon). Canon also counts their gloss optimizer called Chroma Optimizer. As the name implies, CO is for glossy prints and doesn’t make any difference for fine art on matte surfaces. Claims of 12 colors usually count both PK and MK. However only one can be used at a time and Canon adds 1 for CO.

Ink Jet Printers - image of the ink cartridge tray of a SureColor P900 17-Inch Photo Printer

When new users first unpack this class of ink jet printers, they may not notice that some ship with “starter” ink cartridges that contain less than the full size cartridges (carts). This often leads to some angst as prepping the printer can consume as much as half the ink to fill all the internal ink lines and prime the print head. Epson ink carts range from 150ml (milliliters) to 350ml to 700ml while Canon carts include 160ml, 300ml and 700ml sizes. The larger the cart, the lower the cost per milliliter.

Smaller 17″ printers use smaller carts including 50ml for the Epson P900 and 80ml for the Canon PRO-1000. Thirteen-inch printers like the Canon PRO-10 have even smaller ~14ml carts. These can prove costly over the long run. Also, 13″ printers tend to use dye inks as opposed to pigment inks.

The last differentiator is roll versus sheets only. If you intend to print long (tall) prints such as panoramas or tall verticals, a roll feeder is handy. It is possible without a roll feeder but will be awkward. It’s very frustrating to print a long landscape and create a crease while trying to unload it.

Like everything else these days, software is critically important. Both Epson and Canon have eminently usable printing software but a 3rd party printing program like QImage Ultimate can make life easier.

For our jobs, we use an Epson SureColor P7000 24″ ink jet printer and a Canon ImagePROGRAF PRO-4000 44″ printer, both with 10 usable colors.

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Is Everyone Seeing the Same Color?

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

When the Right Color is Critical

When reproducing art for artists, matching colors is important. But, even when the client is just across town, taking time to meet and compare prints against the original is time consuming. Using video conferencing, we can cut out the hassle of driving to a meeting.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have calibrated monitors. That means what the client sees on their uncalibrated monitor probably doesn’t match what I see on my calibrated monitor. Even if the client’s monitor can be calibrated (some can’t) it needs to be checked regularly to ensure it hasn’t drifted. To quickly test your monitor, compare a can of Coke or Pepsi to the images below.

The left capture is off my calibrated monitor while the right is off an old laptop monitor. This is an extreme case but you get the idea. If color accuracy is important to you and you don’t have a calibrated monitor, you need a printer who will work with you to ensure the colors match.

color calibration - image of a pepsi can and a coke can from a calibrated monitorcolor calibration - image of a pepsi can and a coke can from an old laptop monitor

The best way to ensure a good color match is to mail the original to me. Then I can digitize, color correct and print proofs. I will mail the proofs back to you along with the original. This maintains a consistent workflow throughout the process. Having the initial digital capture (conversion to a digital file) created by the same person who will perform the color corrections and print the final reproduction will go a long way toward reducing “Oops!” moments. However, that’s not always possible.

The next best method is to digitize the original yourself and email the file to me. Then I can color correct and print proofs. Again, I will mail the proofs to you. In order to make this process as smooth as possible, it’s helpful if the artist produces a palette of the colors used while creating the work. You can send your palette to me to match the prints. Below are examples of palettes sent by clients.

palette-1064    palette-0380

By doing this, the artist and I can very closely match the print with the original artwork. As you can see, printing accurate reproductions of your art requires attention to detail and close collaboration. Video conferencing applications make it possible to collaborate just as closely as in person. Further, we can collaborate much more often due to easier meeting coordination.

One last option is to buy a good monitor and a monitor calibration tool. This can seem like an expensive proposition but it can pay dividends in other ways. A “good” monitor generally starts around $500. A quick check of B&H, the largest online photo/video store, shows over 1000 choices ranging from well known brands like NEC and HP to totally obscure entries like GeChic and Upstar. You can certainly do your own research. I’ll give you a head start by recommending this short-list: Acer, Apple, ASUS, BenQ, Dell, Eizo, HP, NEC and Viewsonic. I further winnowed down that list to these 12 monitors that I believe will meet most artists’ needs. My favorite monitor is in that list but I’m not going to point it out to avoid biasing your choice.

Next, you’ll need a monitor calibration tool to create a “profile” that adjusts a monitor’s colors to match a known standard. With your monitor and mine adjusted to the same standard, we can be assured we’re both seeing the same colors on our screens.

Again, turning to B&H, I narrowed down a list of 74 tools to just 9 that will meet most artists’ needs. Prices range from $150 to $1400, but much of the price difference is due to included accessories and software. I’ve used both Datacolor and X-Rite tools. My preference is X-Rite but that’s only because they’ve been more helpful when I had issues.

In summary, depending on your volume, buying a monitor and calibration tool to make online collaborations more efficient and effective might be cost effective. In reality, I would suggest first going the less expensive route of comparing known colors or creating a color palette as you create. Regardless of which route you select, video conferencing has opened up a whole new world. Embrace it and get ahead of the curve.


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Collaboration in the Age of Covid-19

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Collaboration with Video Conferencing

Today, anyone who can fog a mirror uses Zoom, the video conferencing app du jour. To hear some talk, you would think they invented video conferencing. I first used video conferencing in the early 1990s to conduct engineering project status reviews. We were in San Diego, the customer was in Japan and the technology was in the Dark Ages. The video was herky-jerky and the audio snapped, crackled and popped worse than a bowl of Rice Krispies. Worse, syncing the two was laughable. We just waited 10-20 seconds for the image to catch up to the voice. Still, it was cheaper and more productive than flying 5 engineers to Tokyo for a week.

From that humble beginning, I knew video conferencing was the future. Ten years later, when I started teaching photography classes, I tried to use video conferencing to widen my market reach. The technology was vastly improved but the human penchant for clinging to “the old ways” was far stronger than I ever imagined. Students wanted a traditional classroom with a “real” live instructor. Even the college administrators where I taught wanted a warm body. Defeated, I gave up on video conferencing.

Covid-19 has reignited my passion for video conferencing as a way to collaborate with other artists in ways never before imaginable. Today, I’m semi-retired from photography and my interests have shifted to fine art printing. I no longer get up at “zero dark thirty” to catch “the first light”. Instead, I obsess over prints, searching for ways to better match the print to the artists’ original vision.

But, all is not yet peachy in this brave new world. Collaborating on works of art brings a new set of challenges.

TFine Art Reproduction by Yoshimatsu - Collaboration Video Conferencinghe photo to the left is Red Cloud by a local artist. In the lower left corner, you’ll see a stroke of purple that is just outside the gamut of inkjet printers. (cropped and enlarged to better see color, below)

Red Cloud corner-0302 -Collaboration Video Conferencing

Zoom has a Screen Share function that lets me share images on the viewers’ monitor. Unfortunately, most clients don’t have calibrated monitors so we can’t be sure we’re both seeing the same thing. It would be too much to expect artists to buy $1000 monitors and $500 calibrators, not to mention gain the experience needed to create accurate profiles.

My next post will address how people meeting via video can be sure each is seeing the same thing. (hint – this involves objects with known color.)

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Photography in the Age of Cell Phones

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

The More Things Change…

As I mentioned previously, I recently presented a talk to a retirement community photography club. I could tell my talk was way over most members’ heads. At the same time, having taught college and corporate classes, I’m always loath to “dumb down” my talks for several reasons. First, I don’t like being insulted and I don’t like to insult others. Second, people rise to their own level but will sit and rot if the water never rises. And, third, I dislike baby talk. If the audience doesn’t understand, it’s their responsibility to ask questions or simply ask me to repeat myself.

As I was writing this post, I read an article about photographs of the Chuckwalla Mountains and desert from the early 1900s by Susie Keef Smith and Lula Mae Graves. The photos themselves are just mildly interesting only because I’ve driven near, by or through places like Desert Center, Mecca and the Chocolate Mountains. However, the backstory of how the photos were saved was what caught my eye.

Susie Keef died in Leucadia, CA in 1988. Subsequently a county estate administrator threw her life’s work into a dumpster. A quick-thinking archaeologist saved it. Today’s cell phone photos are lost every day, every minute. The parallel struck me as the current equivalent of tossing photos into a dumpster. As each cell phone dies or is replaced and cell phone owners die, how many photos are irretrievably lost?

Photography in the Age of Cell Phones - The parallels with how today's cell phone photos are lost every day, every minute struck me as the current equivalent of tossing photos into a dumpster. As each cell phone dies or is replaced and as every cell phone owner dies, how many photos are irretrievably lost?

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Photo Printing Resources

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Photo Printing Resources

Retirement Community Camera Club – Articles, Videos & Tutorials

In January 2020, I was invited to speak to a local retirement community photography club about photo printers and printing. As any photographer knows, this requires knowledge and understanding beyond just which printer to buy. My program covered basic topics I deemed most crucial to photographers new to printing: monitor calibration, photo printers, viewing conditions and software. I created this post to list the photo printing resources and URLs, making it easier for readers to find them at one location, my blog.

Monitor Calibration

Good overview of monitor calibration tools/techniques
Good overview of common monitor problems/defects

Color Management

Color Management straight from the experts
Colorimeters explained
Clear explanation of color space
Fun test of your color perception
Glossary of CM terms
Spectrophotometers are used to produce printer profiles

Web Browsers & Viewing Environment

Are your online viewers seeing the same colors?

Printers & Printing

Epson Print Academy – tutorials mixed with marketing fluff
Jose Rodriguez, loquacious but some good info
B&H Explora, potpourri of everything electronics related


Analyzing & understanding color space, gamut and profiles
Affinity Photo, possible Adobe Photoshop alternative
Luminar, possible Adobe Lightroom library alternative
QImage Ultimate, quirky but useful printing program
Irfanview, lite, fast photo viewer

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Hello from My Little Corner of the World!

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Hello from My Little Corner of the World - we are here in the galaxy

Hello from My Little Corner of the World!

This blog attempts to simplify and explain the intricacies of fine art inkjet printing. Before we go further, my definition of fine art is any art of value that is intended to be framed and hung longer than a few days or months. Like all definitions, there are exceptions. Grandma may hang a grandchild’s cherished art with hopes that it will last forever. But its colors will soon fade and paper disintegrate. One might buy a colorful painting at a flea market but it soon loses its luster and heads for the next yard sale. Fine art is subjective so, with apologies to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it…”.

Like the image above, the field of inkjet printing is vast. My little corner tries to explain what I think I know but there’s a huge body of both known and unknowns out there. As I used to tell students “Keep an open mind but not so open that your brain falls out”. Professor Walter Kotschnig.

I’ll cover a range of topics from basic to complex, from easily proven to, at best, intuitively obvious but false. As H.L. Mencken once wrote, “Every complex problem has a solution which is simple, direct, plausible—and wrong”.

Starting with the next post, I’ll cover why monitor calibration is such an important task when printing fine art prints that require accurate color matching. After all, Thomas Gainesborough, titled his painting “The Blue Boy,” not The Purple Boy.

To properly set expectations, my posts aren’t tutorials or step-by-step guides. My posts are intended to be food for thought. That’s why Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie said, “…if you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn”. I plan to show you how to figure out your own printing problems. Then you won’t have to rely on some guy on the Internet who may or may not be blowing smoke.

Like any good blogger, my intention is to sell you something, in my case a training class. If you have questions, feel free to contact me so I can keep you engaged until you feel you absolutely need and are willing to pay for my knowledge, wisdom and wit.

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