« Is Color Printing Easier Now? | Main | The Worst Thing About Digital Printing »

Sunday, 08 July 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Good (easy) color printing is just like good B&W silver printing -- the key is to have a good negative/digital image to start with. If your source material is crap, it will be a ball breaker no matter what system you are using.

Looking forward to detailed feedback as you work with the printer, with special attention to Epson comparisons if you are able.


Small comment, and not really on topic (or even necesarily for publication).

Just wondering about your "*" marked footers. and whether it would be possible to put larger asterisks in the body of your posts? I always find the footer, but when I go back up, I often can't find the original asterisk (well truthfully, I usually can, but it seems to take ages. I've reread today's post three times and, at the risk of unveiling my stupidity to the world, have to admit I can't find it). Don't know if this is a problem for anyone else, but thought you'd like to know, from a user point of view.



It doesn't exactly fill me with hope or confidence when I hear people who I damn well know are a lot more computer literate than I say that their lack of computer expertise is preventing them from becoming master (ie- competent) inkjet printers.

The whole digital revolution may have made picture taking a breeze (though you wouldn't know it from the last few posts on camera menus), but the printing end of the equation still seems a far fetched afterthought.

I don't know about higher end printers, but you have described perfectly my feeling towards my own low-end Pixma. Currently everything it produces is orange: no changes to the set up, it has just decided to turn the world tangerine. No idea why, of course, it is just the way it is,

Exactly. In the absence of $10,000 machinery, digital is easier, but that doesn't mean it's easy. It still requires one to know a lot about the process, have the equipment and experience to make it work well, and the sensibility to distinguish what's really good from just OK.

Actually, all those years spent in the darkroom laboring over the details of process control turn out to be excellent training for digital work. It teaches us not to be afraid to "twist the knobs" of computer software, printer settings and of course the camera itself.

So dive right in and see what happens. Hey, no toxic fumes, nothing will explode, at worst there will be a lousy print. But it's not like it didn't happen before anyway.


With your thoroughness and entourage, you will probably setup the printer the "right way", creating custom profiles and by-passing the Canon driver, etc.
But it would be interesting to do a little experiment; follow the steps on the "quick setup sheet" (that is now common with all the printers I encountered in the last few years), install the programs and all, put in a sheet of the "Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II" they provide as sample and then print a picture you like that is relatively difficult to get right.
Then do all the necessary profiling, the Photoshop trickery and try to get the best print on the paper you like best with the same image as before.
Now compare the two prints and evaluate the time and efforts spent to get the second one. Was is fun? Was it worthwhile?
It's like the exercise you suggested a few weeks ago about improving our printing abilities, but for the lazies and in reverse...

Good choice - I spent years beating my B9180 with my fists in frustration and then when migrating to W7 the Adobe plug-in was no longer supported which made sizing and border setting almost impossible.

All the Pixma series are a doddle to set up and the interface far easier to decipher. Default profiles are also pretty good. I think you will find it a major improvement!

Well if you had the digital equivalent of what you had for a color darkroom, you'd have a professionally managed printer with a fully and properly color calibrated and profiled computer, viewing station, and room lighting.

At that point, color printing would still be easier, because you'd just make your file look how you wanted, and click "print".


I'd like to thank you for unwittingly encouraging me to buy the HP B9180 which turned out to be as big a disaster for me as it appears to have been for you. I got it after reading your review of it in Black and White Photography magazine (it was either the B9180 or the A4 version). The reason for my gratitude is that I eventually realised that darkroom printing was much less hassle than digital printing - so went back to the darkroom! In truth, I should never have left it, especially not for one of the devil's instruments.

I've had a couple of excellent prints out of the B9180 - the kind of quality that no doubt encouraged you to give it some praise in the magazine review - but achieving consistency has been the problem. I really do hope that you get on well with the new Canon but just remember that you have a darkroom at hand should the sort of output you're looking for prove elusive. Like the snow leopard in the mountains of central Asia, it's your natural domain!

This promises to be a rich topic for TOP, Mike, and I, for one, can't wait.
I bought an HP B9180 myself several years back based, in part, on stuff I read here, and haplessly followed you into disaster with it. Don't think I've ever owned a more frustrating and ultimately disappointing piece of equipment.
I'm a reasonably happy owner now of an Epson 3880, but boy does it take a lot of time to get really good at using it.
Howard French

Setting a plate down, as in nourishing the body and soul in one's place of work, is more important than a place for the printer. We can wait.

But now I am curious about that printer. It looks (voice of Stuart McKenzie) "dead sexy".

The true beauty of digital printing is that an ordinary schlub can produce pretty good print without getting lost in the safelight zone.

Digital printing has a couple of things going for it: you don't have to mess with chemicals, and you can repeatedly make identical prints.

Unfortunately you have to mess with a whole bunch of other stuff and I sort of like the idea that each individual print really is an individual, close but not completely identical.

I admit I was exaggerating my computer incompetence for (hopefully) comedic effect. I'm not so bad.

It's funny, but in my experience there's no way to quantify or specify a person's general computer knowledge. I've heard people claim great competence who can barely open a folder, and I've known people who say they know nothing who can write code.

I'm kinda the same way with computers as I am with cameras or printers: I know what I want to do, and I'll generally learn enough to enable myself to do it. But I don't have very much interest in knowing things just to know them. And it doesn't come terribly easy to me.

Right now I'm just feeling sore because I arrived home to find a) no Internet, b) no AirPort, and c) no email. Had to spend what seemed like two days taking care of problems that really shouldn't have existed.


It's important to plan for printers before they arrive.

My Epson 7900 wouldn't fit down the stairs to the basement where our computer/print room is located. Fortunately I had extra room in my bedroom to set up the printer via a wireless bridge. Next I think I will move the computer upstairs too. It's not very efficient running up stairs all the time to check the prints.

There is something to be said about not having to deal with a spouse when it comes to making priorities for our hobbies.

Congrats on the upgrade. I had to purchase a Pro 1 after discovering that the used B9180 for which I had patiently acquired the ink for was actually DOA, although so far past the date of purchase that return to B&H was impossible.

I've enjoyed using the Pro 1, although I've not found it quite as easy to get right as the Epson 3880. Prints darker and redder, IMHO. I feel like I've not learned how to control it well, particularly in how it prints black and white. Anyway, have fun!

I may not be Ctein, or have his standards, but I do visit galleries often in Los Angeles, own quite a few photo books, and have outsourced prints to high end print shops. I still maintain that digital color printing is relatively easy these days. Maybe I'm taking my 5+ years of extensive Lightroom experience for granted, or maybe I've lucked out with my profiles, printer, and computer combination, but I find LR4 a very capable resource for "developing" pictures and preparing them for print, especially now that the program has a soft proofing functionality.

Now, several years ago, when Photoshop was in the mix for me, I did often get frustrated, but staying in Lightroom all the way to print almost feels like I'm cheating. Unless I was doing really dramatic photo editing, I can't imagine adding Photoshop back into my workflow.

Is anyone else printing straight from LR, or any other raw converter, these days?

The only B9180 was the only real photo printer I ever owned, and it convinced me that it is not worth the trouble or the ink. What an unmitigated disaster. It did convince me never to do my own printing again, however. I can't see ever doing it enough to be worth it. Maybe I'm wrong.

Regarding computer competence. I've always thought it's a bit like cars. There was a time with personal computing you had to be a bit of a mechanic, as well as holding a driving license. Now it's more about how good a driver you are. I've always been involved in the nuts and bolts side of computing, but all I really want now is to use the damn things to get from A to B. Knowing where B is has become the important thing

As I recall Mike, you started to construct a dark room, before it became a wet room.

Given the heat of a Wisconsin summer, would it be best to reconsider perhaps using said alloted space that was to be the "dark & dank"
room for you office?

If you think it's going to get damp, simply get some pontoons and mount your office on them. Then everything will float, and you can still print and work in the dark, sorry office! Simple eh?

A friend told me long ago that owning a printer is too much trouble. I thought he was crazy, but still I refrained from buying a good photo printer despite really wanting one. As so many do, I prepare files and have them printed. I let someone else purchase, profile, and maintain the printers.

After reading so many disheartening comments about the difficulty of keeping a printer in shape, my friend doesn't seem so crazy after all.

Technical difficulties about getting the print right aside, what is driving me crazy when digital printing are all the hassles that shouldn't be there: paper transport issues, roll marks on the surface, defective quality control in paper manufacturing (spots in half the sheets of Hahnemuhle different papers), and so on... I guess I'm not the only one.

Very interested on how your Canon behaves...

I was being rather more flippant in my earlier comment than you imply, but... OK. And sorry again about the confusing screenname. Incidentally, I've just taken delivery of an Epson R3000, after a printing hiatus of my own, so I'll just have to see how much of an "adventure" that turns out to be. So far so undramatic - from Lightroom, onto lovely Harman Baryta paper.

If you'd like, I'll be glad to hold the printer for you. I've got plenty of room. In fact, I'll even take it out of the box, set it up, and run test prints through it (just to make sure the print head is properly aligned and the nozzles stay clean).

All you have to do is ship it to me. Sure, I'm a complete stranger somewhere on the internet. Like all those kind people from my inbox looking out for my reproductive health and selling those beautiful replica watches, I'm completely honest. Really!

@ Patrick Dodds it sounds like you might be double color managing ie the Photoshop print dialog is set to 'Photoshop manages colors' and the color management is on in the Printer driver settings. You can have either Photoshop or the print driver manage the color but not both, otherwise you end up with something very red or orange.

Any particular reason for choosing this printer? Or did I miss that in a previous post? Only asking, as I may have a go at printing in the future.

Dean Johnston Problems finding the " * ":

If you're using a Windows PC, try the "Find..." command, by holding down the "Ctrl" key and pressing "F". Next type in what you're looking for. Useful time-saver when trying to locate things in lengthy documents. Can't comment on other operating systems, though I'm sure they'll have something similar.

Mark Janness's comment:
"There is something to be said about not having to deal with a spouse when it comes to making priorities for our hobbies."

That may have led to a pertinent question for the respondents in the high number categories of the poll that asked, "How many cameras do you own?"!
I laughed as I thought back to the motorcycle in the living room, for a couple of years (until the marriage). Numerous electronic repairs lying around the house, and the 17ft long sea kayak in the living room, after the marriage (ended).

I suspect a lot of TOP readers are looking to upgrade their printers and something like the Pro 1 looks about right.
My biggest frustration with digital printing has been struggling to get the monitor to match the printer output.
Any insight you gain in this area as you put the Canon though it's paces would be welcome.

I'm one of the people who bought a B9180 and have aged considerably as a result. A small but distinct part of my decision was that you liked it (then.) Like you, I've been in equal parts in love and in hate with it, and before I read this had just about decided to buy a Pro-1. Now I'm in two minds. Will I have more luck following this particular star this time? So I'm going to wait now until I hear what you make of it--maybe for just a couple of years or so!

Mike, about your lack of space at the TOP office, you need to get a 'closet fairy'. My wife has one working for her.
How it works. I take my motorcycle helmet or pair of boot, or coat or whatever from the closet so that I can go to work.
My wife goes to the closet, sees the 'new' space and puts something there.
I come home and find a new occupant for the space I vacated, its usually my wife's, in place of what I removed. It then becomes my problem to find space.
You can follow the same model, it does work for my wife. She has a similar fairy who lives in the basement. She keeps dumping junk there hoping it just goes away at the next ' never happens' yard sale.

Hello Dave Stewart!

Not sure if I should love you for showing me something new & useful (Cmd + F on a Mac - for some reason, I only ever thought of this as something for documents I was writing), or hate you for highlighting my ignorance in public (but to be fair, I did start it) ;-)

Anyway, thanks for that.

Thanks Kelvin, I will look into that.

Well, Dave beat me to the punch of suggesting using the Find command (I could add another method, just hit F3 to bring up the search box. A 50% more efficient method (g)).

For Mike, I would point out that the Canon Pixma Pro 1 supports connectivity via Ethernet. You could run a CAT5/6 cable to another room. It isn't like one needs to be next to a color printer insofar as it takes a bit to print, and more to let the inks cure to a reasonable state for critical judgment.


Mike- I can understand that computer expertise is relative. I think what may not be relative however is that even if one is fortunate enough to get everything functioning and coordinated to their satisfaction, the smallest change in either software or hardware means they often have to recalibrate or reconfigure the whole ball of wax. Home printing then becomes a question of how much money one has to continually update the subsequent learning curve. That said, I most sertainly can understand the allure of making your own prints and controlling the process from start to finish.

I have been printing digitally (with an Epson 3880) for slightly more than 2 1/2 years. I have no experience with darkroom printing. As I see it,the hardest part of producing a great digital print is producing a great image on the monitor. From that point onward, it's simply a matter of having a properly calibrated display and the correct profile for the printer/paper combination that you are using.

I never cease to be amazed that a non-artist, such as myself, who is well into his sixties, has managed to become reasonably proficient at producing prints that some people might consider excellent. The technology for accomplishing this feat is readily available and relatively affordable. I'm quite certain that if this were still the analog age, I never would have taken up photography as a serious hobby at this stage of my life. I consider myself very lucky that the digital age came along when it did. For the record, I am probably no more technically savvy than Mike is, and possibly a good deal less.

"Computer skills" is now such a big category that nobody is good at all of them. I've been writing software professionally since 1969, but that doesn't make me an expert at setting up a USB device on a Windows box, or at figuring out why I can't get an app on a tablet to navigate to the filesystem root.

Plus there's always the Dunning-Kruger effect to keep in mind.

My house is full of framed prints from my HP b9180. I've had no trouble with it since day one. Don't know if my standards are a bit low, but I've been pleased with the machine's performance and am sorry HP has abandoned that market.

HP cannot decide what kind of company to be, which is discouraging from the consumer's point of view (to say nothing of the suffering by rank-and-file HP employees). A printer plus ink is a size-able expense to this amateur so I want to hook my wagon to a company that will support and upgrade their products.

One really fast way to deal with printing problems is to have low standards. With about 99% of my photos, I don't care if there's a small blocked-up shadow area in the background, or if there's a burned-out highlight somewhere, as long as most of the print looks pretty okay. I will concede that the other 1% can be a problem.

I had three darkrooms of varying quality over the years, but never was a good printer. My problem was basically mental -- I like to consider things, rather than simply react, and, as with cooking, darkrooms require decisiveness and reaction. Once you've got a chemical reaction going, it's gonna go. You can stop it, or not, but you really don't have a lot of time for consideration. And sometimes, of course, there's no consideration at all, as when you've got the film in the tank. If you've messed something up, there's no going back.

For me, the best part of the digital lightroom is the ability to simply stop the developmental process, or even step backward. And, once you do press the print button, of course, you can look at a print and even then, go all the way back to the beginning of the process and re-do everything. I'd have to say that of the ten best prints I've ever made, all ten were digital prints...and I'm really not all that good a digital printer.

However, I have owned a lot of printers of all kinds, and I find Canon to be pretty good. (I've sworn a blood oath never again to buy anything from HP. I have had fairly good luck with Epson.) I think you'll be happy with your Canon.

I would find it interesting, if you ordered prints from an online commercial printer. You could then use them as baseline. Just an idea.

As an ex-dyer who had the pleasure of computer spectrophotometry when it was expensive and difficult, and calibrating your spectrophotometer was required once per day, I look upon color digital printing with fear and loathing. Metamerism, gamut fluctuating with substrate, color space fun, oh my.

I have TOP to thank, however, for my new printing methodology: digital capture, edit on computer, and outsource B&W printing to Digital Silver Imaging. It makes black and white digital possible without the enduring nightmare of dye/pigment printing (see first paragraph above).

I've been printing on my Canon Pro9500 II for over 12 months now. I mostly use Canon's Hahnemulle Photo Rag and sometimes the Platinum for both colour and B&W prints.

Nothing gives me a sense of achievement more than closing that long loop from capture through post processing to holding that piece of paper and saying "wow did I do that?"... then I have to do the sanity check because I should and could do better next time around.

Mike, I hope you get that buzz when the first good print emerges from the front of that box.

Thanks Kelvin will try that.

I've never found it that difficult to make a reasonable digital print. I orignally owned an Epson 1290S and that gave good quality prints once it had been custom profiled. I now own an Epson R3000 and that produced great looking prints straight out of the box just using a "canned" profile on Ilford paper. I only needed a custom profile once I moved on to using less generic paper. It's good at mono work too, having the benefit of several shades of grey in addition to black inks.

The 1290S suffered a clog but that was only after an ill advised experiment with third party inks. The R3000 (Epson inks only!) just works.

I believe climate can play a factor in head clogs. Here in the UK the summers are generally not as hot compared to the USA (especially this summer!) and the humidity rarely falls below 60% so maybe the printer heads don't dry out as quickly.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007