I'm hearing various opinions about the value of professional fine art prints vs self-printing with a good quality printer (with archival inks on archival paper). Aside from the consideration of color management that Bruce and others mentioned, do others feel the professional prints are that much superior and why?

On Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 11:33 PM, Karen Ackoff <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

On the other hand, I had my old Epson printer for almost 8 years before I replaced it. The only issue I had was that it clogged all the time.

The enhanced matte paper is nice. I used the double-weight to print out student poster designs. My 3880 doesn’t have green and orange cartridges, but it has black (matte and photo), light black, light light black, yellow, cyan, light cyan, magenta, light magenta, and light light magenta. 

I recently replaced my 3200 Epson Perfection scanner with an Epson V700 Photo scanner. I don’t care for the software interface, but I can work around it. I get amazing scans that capture all the detail I could possibly want. I do tend to scan everything at 3 times the normal resolution (1800 dpi) because I can always down-sample. 

I should add that my work is small, so the scanner handles all that I need. The printer prints up to 17 inches - larger than I need. Should I ever need more, we have a printing house that can handle larger materials. I just have to remind them to dust off negatives (I had them scan a set of slides for publication a few years back).

Can’t beat the results.

Question for you Bruce… when you removed then replaced the cartridges, did the printer accurately represent how full the cartridges were? I just had trouble with my yellow cartridge, and it was quite low any way, so I just replaced it, ran a cleaning cycle, and all is well. Not bad considering it has been idle for a few months.


On Jan 6, 2016, at 6:53 PM, Deborah Shaw <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Thought I’d chime in with anecdotal and researched evidence: 
I had an Epson 4900, (archival inks) which I adored, especially using the Enhanced Matte roll paper (archival), 17” wide x 100 feet long. I used a ColorBurst Overdrive color management system and a color calibrated monitor, and could get wonderful prints on both archival sheets and roll paper. Never had a clog, ran like a champ.

And then it suffered a horrific electronic death last month. 

Turns out, it wasn’t the print heads (my maintenance turned out to be stellar), but the authorized Epson repair folks said they’d been seeing a rash of the 4900s where the entire electronics went around the three-year mark for those owners who printed less than 3,000 prints per month. In other words, they had come to the conclusion that that model was, essentially, a “professional, high-volume” machine. Of course, my extended warranty ended in April of 2015 (sigh).

I enjoyed having the “extra” green and orange cartridges in the 4900, although I’ve been told (again anecdotally) that the green ink pigment tends to precipitate out more than the other colors, and has a tendency to clog more. I never had that problem. I felt I could achieve more natural-looking and closer color matches with those two additional colors (I’m reproducing mostly botanical illustrations/watercolors).

Like Karen, I always used Epson inks and papers. I was told to print at least a test strip once a week if I didn’t have any other printing to do, and to remove, shake, and then replace each of the cartridges. Both the printer and the ColorBurst software had a test strip built in, so I didn’t have to program it. If I was printing at least once each week, no problem, I didn’t do anything extra. I’m near the beach, so lack of humidity usually isn’t a factor, although the musical instrument humidifier is a good idea. Some folks use Windex on lint-less cloths to keep the heads clean and to remove minor clogs. There are good videos online that show how to do that for specific printer models.

I’ve heard industry rumors that Epson is supposed to release a new version of the 4900, probably called the SureColorP900. About a month ago they released larger versions that are called the Sure Color P series 6000 - 9000. They have some printers with and some without the green and orange cartridges. I’ve heard all kinds of assurances that they’ve fixed whatever-the-problem-was in the electronics, and that the inks are more archival (up to 400 years, depending on the printer model), and clog less. They now have a choice of two different sizes of ink cartridges in some of the new models, which can be swapped out at any time. The smaller ink cartridges are for folks like me who don’t do volume printing — because of the size they’re even less likely to clog.

Personally, when I was researching which printer to buy three years ago, I found the Canon printers looked better for vibrant photographs, but felt too punchy and saturated for what I needed for reproducing illustrations and botanical art.

At the moment, the big table for the printer is empty, and I have not yet decided whether to save up and purchase another, or try to find an archival printing service that meets my exacting standards.

I get outside professional scans from scanning geniuses, even though I have desktop scanners. There isn’t anything I could ever do that would come close on the scanning end of things. I have found two acceptable printing firms in the past; once I had them all trained for what I was looking for, they moved away. So, I’m on the hunt again.

Hope this helps, good luck and have fun! And Happy New Year to all!



Deborah B. Shaw
dbShaw Studios

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On Jan 6, 2016, at 3:18 PM, Karen Ackoff <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I tend to like Epson printers, though some of the higher-end Canon printers are also highly regarded.

The newer Epson pigmented inks tend to clog less. However, if you find your inks do clog regularly, you can try one or both of the following:
  • I used to keep a guitar humidifier tucked inside the printer. You have to add water to the small humidifier about once a week, possibly twice when central heating is on. I tucked it inside and out of the way, and though I could print with it in place, I recommend removing it while printing. You could also make your own by using a travel container for soap, punch holes in the top, and put a damp sponge inside.
  • I wrote a small program that printed a page with a stripe of each color once each day. I believe these printers are designed for frequent use, and printing this page daily helped keep ink jets clear and working. When I did this, I only rarely had to run a cleaning cycle. You do waste some paper this way, but I re-used the paper, printing on both sides, and then used it as scrap paper. And then I recycled it.

I have a newer (used) Epson now, and it hardly ever clogs, and I don’t do anything to it.

Another major consideration is the size of paper the printer will take. Clearly this increases the price of the printer, but if you need to print larger prints, a printer that only handles 8.5 x 11(14) isn’t going to get the job done. Some people like printers that can use roll paper - that is how I got my new/used Epson (the owner needed to use roll paper, and this model doesn’t accept rolls). I print on sheets, so it doesn’t matter for me. Paper choice is a consideration for how the inks perform. I stick with Epson inks and paper. The paper isn’t cheap, so I always do a test print, at a lower res, on cheap paper first.

If you want archival, pigmented inks are the way to go.

I also recommend that you familiarize yourself with basic color management and that you calibrate your equipment. This can entail do-it-yourself or you can use color calibration hardware/software. Everyone I know that has worked professionally and has used the (expensive) hardware/software solutions ends up going back to do-it-yourself. I spent an afternoon with my new printer, and have got calibrated spot on. You might try REAL WORLD PRINT PRODUCTION as a reference.

Best of luck, Marla.


On Jan 6, 2016, at 9:38 AM, Marla Coppolino <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Dear Friends,

I'm considering purchase of an archival quality printer for producing prints of my art and photography work.

One recent online source (not affiliated with any printer company) recommends either:
- Epson SureColor P600 (uses pigment inks; higher end, in the $700 range), or
- Canon Pixma Pro-100 (uses dye inks; lower-mid range, the $300 range).

I am aware that the bigger, longer-term expense is the ink cartridges, plus the obligatory hassle of keeping the machine in regular use to avoid clogging.

I invite opinions on your experiences. Thank you!

Happy and creative wishes to all for 2016!


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Lore Ruttan, Ph.D.

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