Buying a printer can be a big decision and a significant investment. I’m posting these quick thoughts from an email with a client today to start your brain thinking about some of the decision points, and I hope to expand this into a full article in the future.
To buy a printer or not is a big question. It comes down to a couple things:
1. will it make you money?
2. will it really save you money?
3. Is the cost inconsequential compared to the convenience?
4. Will it give you control you can’t get with a lab?
5. Do you need the faster turnaround times.
A printer is like getting a dog, it has needs (ink, paper, maintenance, profile making/testing) that cost money and will always be there, and you need to take care of it. Unless you print a lot, the total cost of ownership is going to be close to just sending out, but if you want to print a lot, it makes those individual prints less expensive.
At the $400 price point, a printer can be more easily justified. Once you get to the $1,000 17×22 printers, you have to be printing enough to make it work out.
Printers should be viewed as consumable/disposable items, as painful as that sounds. They are made to work for a couple years, not forever, and the manufacturers expect you to upgrade. Do not look at it as a long term investment. It’s not like buying a car, it’s like buying tires, you expect them to wear out.
Thoughts or experiences? Share them in the comments!
Using printer profiles correctly when printing is essential to getting accurate color from your printer. The challenge is that you have a bunch of settings that have to be set up exactly right, every time, for it to work. That is further complicated because every editing software, OS, and printer driver has it’s own settings and names for those settings.
You’d think that there should be some good information out there on how do do all this, but even the paper manufacturers don’t have good guides. One of my favorite companies has German language screenshots in their English language document, and they note that their instructions don’t work for every setup. Uggg!!!! It makes you want to pull your hair out.
I’m going to make my attempt to solve this problem by sharing the settings I use with Photoshop on the Mac. These settings have been tested and verified to print my Color Test Sheets correctly.
The settings for Lightroom on the Mac are quite similar to these, so you should be able to translate them over. Understanding what each setting does may also help you translate this for other editing programs and setups. As time allows, I plan to make more of these, but the easiest place to start was with the software I print through.
Testing profiles and printers is an important part of ensuring your printer is “in tune” and maintaining a color managed workflow. To make sure my profiles are in tune, I use a reference print that I created that allows me to visually compare color that I find to be the best way to evaluate. This is the process behind the hundreds of thousands of prints I’ve made for customers.
Below are links for 8×10 sections of my reference print that you can print on your own printer and compare them to my validated reference prints. I bring my reference prints to select workshop, and I also sell them so that you can have a copy for reference.
I suggest you print these files using your normal workflow as a test of your process. I have found that in addition to color, they can uncover other problems in the printing process that you may not even be aware of.
The files are sized to print at 8×10, and should be printed to that exact size to make the most accurate and useful test.
You SHOULD NOT do any processing on them. That defeats the purpose of trying to see how the same file prints on different printer/profile/paper combinations. The file is our control to test the variables of printer setups.
How to use these test files in conjunction with my approved test prints:
Make a print on the paper you want to test using your normal printing procedures and profile.
Write the paper name, date, printing profile, and any other useful settings and data that will help you identify how when and where your test print was made. This will make it more valuable in the future when you want to compare new printers, papers, and profiles to it.
Use the right light to compare prints. I prefer to use SoLux 4700k bulbs, or if not available, actual daylight. Check out my blog post on SoLux for an explanation of why I use it.
Compare your print to my print. I like to stack the prints on top of each other so that I can view the colors right next to each other. Compare each image as a whole and then look at specific colors. Look at dmax (black density) and also be sure to consider white points. Warmer paper bases will make the image look warmer overall than color papers, and this warmth or coolness can not be added or subtracted in an imaging editing program as it is inherent to each paper.
If you are happy with the match, then “approve” your print by signing it and writing “approved” on it. This is now your known reference to use for your printer, and can be used in the future to test your printer against itself. Keep it in a safe place with the other reference prints you will be making. Why would you test your printer? If you are getting different results, if something significant changes, like settings, head replacement, three year olds, moving the printer, etc. It also becomes a record of what your printer was producing at a given point in time, and allows you to compare it to other printers, profiles, and papers.
MAKE YOUR OWN REFERENCE PRINT! Once you have a known and approved printing setup that has been validated with my reference print, pick some of your favorite images and make your own reference print so that you can have your own personal reference that you know is printing right because you validated your process with my reference print. Choosing a range of colors and densities will help, and you’ll learn over time which colors are most sensitive to changing with different ink sets and paper white points.
If my reference print was helpful to you, take a picture of your print overlapping mine and share it on social media with a few words on how it helped, and tag me in it so I can re-share it too.
To make finding the the exact ink for the Canon PRO-1000 easier, I’ve created this handy reference page with links to all the inks and consumables. I get a small commission every time you use these links, which help me continue to produce this site.
The Canon PRO-1000 printer is a true pro quality printer that allows you to make better than lab quality prints at home up to 17 inches wide. Canon printers have become my preferred choice for many reason including incredible color, deep blacks, ease of print head maintenance, and print longevity.
If you are buying a new Canon printer, you can save signifigant money by waiting for the regular rebates offered by Canon. You should be able to buy the PRO-1000 for about $999 or $1099. It’s worth searching multiple vendors as some rebates are vendor specific.
Most inks last for many prints, but when low ink warning for a color comes on, you should order that ink immediately. Inks are used at different rates, and that changes based on the content of your images. Depending on which papers you use, you’ll likely use Photo or Matte Black the most, along with the Croma Optimizer. If you print a lot of black and white, you’ll use the gray inks more quickly than the color inks.