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06/27/12 Media type is very important when working with custom paper profiles and the Epson 9900

Since mid 2011, I have been working with the i1 Publish profiling solution.  This included the i1 software, now at version 1.3.2 and the i1 spectrometer for scanning the printed test charts.  The process is very straight forward.  You pick the total number of color swatches you want to print which in my case is 1323.  Then save the chart and open it in Photoshop making sure you have all color management turned off.  Select the paper you wish to profile and the ink type, either Matte or Photo ink, then print off the test charts.  After they have dried for a day, then you use the i1 spectrometer to scan the colors off the test charts and then use the i1 Publish software to create your new icc profile based on the paper, ink type, and media used.

Note, I highlighted media.  The media you choose with an Epson printer has a definite correlation to the amount of ink that is laid down on the paper.  With Epson printers you have a large number of media settings both for Photo and Matte ink.  With thick matte papers, like Optica 1 from Breathing Color, the recommended media setting is water color radiant white, or WCRW.  When I printed my test charts, I used the WCRW media setting.  Note, it’s very important to write down on the printed charts the media setting you used and incorporate that into the icc profile name later on.

I had tested this new profile on a couple of sample prints, but for some reason I had forgotten to check the media setting I used when I created the test charts.  When I made the prints, I used the media setting Epson Ultrasmooth fine art instead of the WCRW setting.  I had been printing on the Ultrasmooth fine art paper the other day, and just left the media setting the same as I felt it would not make a big difference.  When I made a print with some deep blacks, I was really very disappointed.  The colors were all great except the areas that had deep blacks, mainly shadow areas.  Instead of a nice gradation, my black were all blotchy and just very harsh, no graduation.  It was like the printer had just laid down too much black in these certain areas.  The prints were not any good and I was really pulling my hair.  My first thought was that the profile I had generated had some errors, so I went back to the printed test charts and noticed the fact that I had printed with the media setting of WCRW not Epson Ultrasmooth fine art.  OOPs!

I went back to the print and made the same print again and only changed the media setting from Epson Ultrasmooth fine art to WCRW, and the resulting print was much better.  The blacks were laid down much smoother and had a very nice gradation. All of this was due to the fact that I had not paid attention to my original media settings of the test charts.  Much time and ink were wasted, but I was at least able to go back and find the problem.  If I had not kept the test charts, more than likely I would have never figured out the issue.

Here are some guidelines for printing with a thick matte paper on the Epson 9900 with the matte ink set.

  1. Most matte papers are thick, at 270gm to 310gm weight.  Because of this you need to be careful when loading the paper into the printer as it’s easy to scratch it on the guides.
  2. These papers, due to the thickness also will have a memory or curl, that gets much worse as you reach the end of the roll.  Optica 1 from Breathing Color, is an excellent matte paper, but it’s real downside is the curl issue.  You have be very careful  when handling the paper and it will try to pop back to it’s curl if you happen to let go of it while loading.  This can easily damage the paper.
  3. Make sure you brush off the printing surface with a soft bristle brush to remove any flakes.  Matte paper will always have some smaller particles trapped between the layers of paper.  Many times your printer will lay ink right over these, but as soon as you wipe the print, the flake comes off and you have a white spot.  Depending on the print this may ruin your print in that some colors are just hard to match.
  4. I would strongly recommend using perceptual for the rendering intent in Photoshop as a first try.  Overall perceptual seems to give a slightly better tone and gradient to the blacks and helps to keep them from looking blotchy.

The real key, it to keep the media setting consistent between your test chart prints, and after you create a profile, the final printing solution.