September 17, 2010

Hasselblad Flex X5 “Virtual Drum” Scanning

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:31 am

The “Virtual Drum” concept is something that started with the Imacon scanners, and even earlier- if memory serves, the first Imacon FlexTight Precision scanner was a development of an earlier design by a company that Imacon acquired.

It is, however, a great, simple concept. Curve the film as you scan it, so you have a predictable and flat plane of focus, without any cover glass or platen. The scanning workflow is remarkably fast- simply place the film in the magnetic film holders- they come in every imaginable format, including panorama and customizable- place the holder into the magnetic feed clip, and hit Preview. From there, it will make one of the fastest, highest resolution scans possible. Total elapsed time, from pulling the film to putting it back into it’s sleeve, for 4×5 film? About 7 minutes- depending on your speed with the software.

This video, most of which is originally from the Hasselblad site, but with our explanation, shows the system in action.

August 27, 2010

Multi-shot cameras… how they work

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:25 am

Multi-shot cameras like the Hasselblad H3DII-50MS take advantage of some huge leveraging of the basic data collected by the sensor.

Using the same basic strategy that you see in scanners- increasing the physical resolution of a capture by increasing the sample rate- the multishot camera does one better- since it overlaps the basic Bayer Array pattern, you’re able to use the data to filter noise and multiply resolution to a remarkably high level of accuracy and fidelity.

A while ago I put this video together, showing how a multi-shot sensor works.  You can see pretty clearly- the inherent problems of the Bayer Array- increased noise due to smaller pixels (a trade-off for higher pixel density and increased physical resolution), aliasing and moire due to the physical properties of a single-shot capture to an RGB reciever- artifacts from accelerated noise and color processing to compensate for loss of actual physical data- all these are completely bypassed by multiple sampling of the image.

Multishot shooting is, naturally, limited to subjects that are not moving…  but the cameras can be used in conventional single-shot mode with the flip of a switch.  For any application where the absolute highest resolution capture is required- the very top end of the capabilities of the optics of the system,  there’s simply no equal to the multishot camera.  Add to that the capabilities of any hand-held single-shot DSLR, and you have a tool that is unequaled in flexibility and performance.

-Ted Dillard

August 25, 2010

Well, we did it! An Epson 64″ Stylus Pro 11880 at Parrot!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:12 pm

You can’t hardly run a tool like the Cruse Scanner and be limited to old-school ultra-wide printers or 44″ wide printing, now, can you?  We think not.  To keep the stable fresh, we just updated to the best ultra-wide possible.  Introducing the latest and greatest in a 64″ wide printing machine- the Epson Stylus Pro 11880!

This printer has the remarkable Epson UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta inks, the improved MicroPiezo® TFP print head, real-time automatic switching between Matte and Photo Black inks, automatic nozzle verification and cleaning, and more. In Epson’s words: “The result is the world’s most advanced 64-inch wide photographic printer”.  We have to agree!

Combine that with our Angelica and Parrot ultra-wide media and it opens up a whole new world of printing capabilities- scanning and printing oversize paintings and artwork at life-size and bigger.  Whether you’re an artist with huge originals, a gallery looking to produce editions at actual size, or even a commercial lab with 44″ printers and the occasional need for the width of the Stylus Pro 11880, give us a shout, or stop by and see the new baby.  (

Here, just for the drool factor, is the list of features from the Epson site:

Nine-Channel MicroPiezo TFP Print Head

  • Print head design capable of handling nine separate ink channels
  • One-inch wide high-performance print head with 360 nozzles per channel
  • Low vibration meniscus control for highly accurate dot shape and placement
  • All-new ink repelling coating to dramatically reduce nozzle clogging

Eight-Color Epson UltraChrome K3™ with Vivid Magenta Ink Technology

  • High-density pigments for an extremely wide color gamut
  • New formulation of Magenta pigments for extreme blues and purples
  • Professional print permanence ratings for truly sellable quality prints
  • High-gloss Microcrystal Encapsulation™ technology for reduced gloss differential
  • Superior scratch resistance from improved pigment and resin chemistry
  • Color is stable immediately after printing – no short-term color shifting
  • Produces a black density up to 2.55 with an L* value of 2.9*
*Data based on Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper (260)

Epson AccuPhoto™ HD Screening Technology

  • Advanced screening algorithm resulting in prints with superior color and clarity
  • Maximum resolution of 2880 x 1440 dpi for incredibly sharp text and line art
  • Extremely accurate fine blends and photographic transitions

Variable-Sized Droplet with TFP Technology

  • Produces variable-sized droplets as small as 3.5 picoliters to greatly decrease print times while optimizing photographic quality
  • Exotic Thin Film Piezo (TFP), along with Low Vibration Meniscus Control technology precisely controls the curvature of every ink droplet within each nozzle before releasing it onto the media. The result is extremely sharp and accurate placement of ink droplets for the ultimate in photographic print quality,

Advanced Black-and-White Printing Technology

  • Unique driver technology takes full advantage of our three-level black system to produce professional black-and-white prints from color or grayscale image files
  • Produces a truly consistent print with no color crossover or color cast
  • Some of the world’s greatest black-and-white photography has been printed using this technology

Automatic Real-time Black Ink Mode Switching

  • Printer utilizes two different black ink modes Photo Black or Matte Black
  • This innovative solution optimizes black ink density for various media types, dramatically improving final print quality

Three-Level Black Ink Technology

  • Simultaneously uses Black, Light Black, and Light Light Black inks
  • Significantly improves the gray balance while eliminating colorcasts
  • Outstanding highlight-to-shadow grayscale accuracy for a smoother tonal range
  • Virtually eliminates any bronzing of the basic pigment chemistry
  • Enhances the ICC profiling process for ColorSync™ and ICM™ workflows

Superior Connectivity

  • Standard connectivity includes one USB 2.0 and one Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Professional Epson Photographic Drivers for Macintosh® and Windows®
  • Fully supported by most leading third party RIPs and workflows

Professional Media Handling with Automatic Roll Media Take-Up Reel

  • Prints on virtually any media type, in roll or cut sheet, up to 64-inches wide
  • All media is front-loaded via a unique straight-through media path
  • Accurate automatic loading of cut sheet media up to 64-inches wide in a variety of weights up to 1.5mm thick posterboard
  • User-adjustable Roll Media Spindle accepts either 2-inch or 3-inch media cores
  • Produces impositions based upon a work-and-turn process, allowing for printing on both sides of certain media types
  • Built-in Automatic Cutting System supporting most media types
  • Standard Automatic Roll Media Take-up Reel for unattended production of long print runs
  • Optional Retractable Fabric-Based Media Bin safely captures multiple prints up to 64″ x 36″

Automatic Media Bar Code Tracking and Identification System

  • System automatically tracks media type, remaining length, media width, etc.
  • Data is stored within the barcode and printed at the edge of the roll before unloading
  • Reloading partially reused media rolls is now very efficient with less chance for mistakes

Epson Intelligent High-Capacity Ink System

  • Pressurized ink cartridge technology ensures reliable ink delivery at all printer speeds, while dramatically reducing the physical size of the ink cartridges
  • Nine individual 700ml (fill vol.) ink cartridges
  • On-the-fly ink cartridge replacement for increased productivity

Unique Printer Activity Lighting System

  • Nine individual amber LED lights provide live feedback about ink and printer activity

Automatic Head Alignment

  • Built-in sensor reads printed data for highly precise alignments of all color channels
  • Aligns both single and bi-directional print modes

Automatic Nozzle Verification and Cleaning

  • Embedded sensors quickly verify nozzle status without using media
  • System automatically performs a head cleaning if required
  • Nozzle verification is performed in under 30 seconds
  • Nozzle verification process consumes less than 1 ml of ink
  • Can be set to automatically perform check before each job; periodically;
    or can be turned off

True BorderFree™ Roll-Based Printing

  • Capable of printing off both left and right edges of roll based media (up to 54″ wide), while automatically cutting top and bottom edges to produce a full-bleed print on all four sides
  • Fully trims finished prints more accurately and safely than by hand

High Performance Print Engine Speeds

Utilizing our latest print head technology, the Epson Stylus Pro 11880 printer is among the fastest wide-format printers in the industry.
Print Mode 16″ x 20″ 20″ x 30″ 40″ x 60″
Normal – 360 dpi HS 0:50 1:24 4:08
Fine – 720 dpi HS 3:09 6:19 19:45
SuperFine – 1440 dpi HS 4:42 8:17 25:52
SuperPhoto – 2880 dpi HS 7:39 13:24 42:10

* HS = High-Speed Print Mode (Bi-directional Print Mode) | Print speeds are shown in min:sec

Based upon print engine speed only. Total throughput times depend upon front-end driver, RIP, file size, printer resolution, ink coverage, networking, etc.

Epson PreciseColor™ Manufacturing

  • Unique production technology to ensure printer-to-printer color consistency
  • Colorimetric calibration is performed during the manufacturing process
  • This process automatically evaluates and adjusts the color performance of each printer
  • The result is extreme color repeatability for demanding color performance over time
  • Completely eliminates the need for internal printer calibration devices or procedures

August 12, 2010

Paper Glossary- more, from Legion Papers

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 2:49 pm

Not to be outdone by Ron Martinson and his awesome glossary of printing terms, we dug up the Legion Paper pdf from their site and double-checked to see that there was nothing missing.  We have a few notable, and some not-so-notable (read: extremely paper-geeky) additions.

Here you go, this excerpt, courtesy of our friends at Legion:

Buffering -The neutralizing of acids in paper by adding an alkaline substance (usually calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate) into the paper pulp. The buf­fer acts as a protection from the acid in the paper or from pollution in the environment.

Calcium Carbonate -An alkaline chemical used as a buffering in papers and boards.

Cellulose -The chief constituent of the cell walls of all plants. All plants contain tissue that, when properly processed, will yield cellulose. Cotton in its raw state contains about 91% and is the purest form of natural cellulose. Other sources for papermaking include hemp (77%), softwoods and hardwoods (57% to 65%), and kozo (66% to 77%.)

Chain Lines -The lines visible on laid paper, parallel with the grain direction, usually about one inch apart.

Cold Pressed -A paper surface with slight texture produced by pressing the finished sheet between cold cylinders.

Cotton Linters -Fibers that adhere to cottonseed after ginning. Used as raw mate­rial to produce pulp for cotton fibre content papers.

Cylinder Machine -A papermaking machine in which a wire covered cylinder rotates partly submerged in a vat containing dilute paper stock. The sheet is formed on the outside of the wire as the water drains throughout. The paper is lifted from the wire by an endless felt. Also referred to as a mould machine or cylinder mould machine. “Mouldmade” paper is made on a cylinder machine.

Dimensional Stability -The degree to which a paper will maintain its size and shape when subjected to changes in moisture content and relative humidity. Very important in maintaining registration in printing.

Dye -Colored soluable substance that imparts a more or less permanent color to another material by staining or by chemical reaction with substrate.

FeltSide -The top side of the paper and side usually recommended for best printing results.

Formation -The arrangement of fibers in a sheet of paper, which can be seen by holding a sheet of paper to a light source. The formation of the sheet is determined by composition of the fibers, fiber length, machine speed and shake, amount of filler and other factors. Formation can run from “tight” or “close” to “wild” and is a major factor in determining how the sheet will perform, affecting factors like levelness, strength and dimensional stability.

Handmade Paper -Paper made by hand using a mould-a frame which is covered with a flat rigid screen (Western) or flexible screen (Oriental). In both cases, the mould is covered by a flat frame called a deckle to contain the run-off of wet pulp, dipped into a vat of wet pulp, shaken to distribute the fibers evenly and drained of its excess water. The wet mat of fibers remaining is the newly formed sheet, which is then dried against blankets & may be hot pressed, cold pressed, or air dried.

High Alpha Cellulose -A very pure form of wood pulp which is considered to have the same longevity as cotton or other plant fibers.

Lignin -A component of the cell walls of plants that occurs naturally, along with cellulose. Lignin is largely responsible for the strength and rigidity of plants, but its presence in paper is believed to contribute to chemical degradation. To a large extent, Lignin can be removed during manufacture.of Terms Continued

Pulp -Any cellulose plant fiber (cotton, linen, wood, Japanese plants) cleaned and beaten into a wet mixture used to form sheets of paper.

pH -In chemistry, pH is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solu­tion, which is a measure of acidity or alka­linity. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14 and each number indicates a ten-fold increase. Seven is pH neutral: numbers below 7 indi­cate increasing acidity, with 1 being most acid. Numbers above 7 indicate increasing alkalinity with 14 being the most alkaline. Paper with a pH below 5 is considered highly acidic. Buffered papers typically have a pH between 8.5 and 9.5.

Porosity -The porosity is an indication of the openness of the paper, as measured by resistance to the passage of air through the sheet. Two types of instruments are gener­ally used to measure porosity-Gurley and Sheffield. The Gurley instrument measures the seconds required for a given volume of air to pass through a single sheet and is generally used for porous papers. A high reading indicates a less porous (or more dense) paper. Sheffield porosity measures the flow rate of air through a single sheet and is generally used for non-porous or dense sheets. A high Sheffield reading indicates a more open paper. A typical Gurley porosity test for 50 lb. smooth offset would be 10-20 seconds. Sheffield readings of 60 lb. coated paper would be 10-20 units of air flow.

Recycled Paper -Paper made from pre and post consumer waste. Used paper is cooked in chemicals, de-inked and reduced back to pulp, which is then used to manufacture new paper.

Rice Paper -A common misnomer used to describe Oriental papers. There are no papers made from rice, although rice starch was traditionally used to size papers made of Kozo (mulberry plant), Gampi, or Mitsumata.

Rough -A heavily textured paper surface pro­duced by placing wet sheets of paper against textured blankets or air drying (or both)

Sulphite -Sulphite pulp is produced from the wood of coniferous trees. Wood chips are cooked in calcium bisulphate or sodium sulphite, and bleached, producing fairly long strong fibers. Since the end of the 1860’s, until recent years, it has been the most widely used pulp in America. In fact, the term “sulphite” has become generic and is still accurately used to describe any paper made from wood in distinction from papers made from cotton or other fibers. Sulphite pulp is available in a range of grades up to pure alpha cellulose.

Tear -The test is valuable to the papermaker in determining the uniformity of refin­ing the length of formation of fibers. Tear strength can be important to the printer or converter, especially when bags, maps, children’s books, etc., are involved. Determines average force in grams required to tear a single sheet after the tear has started. An Elmendorf tearing tester, employing a falling pendulum, is used with the test made in both machine and cross directions.

Tensile Strength -A test more important to the mill and pressure sensitive label converters than to the printer. Tensile strength is related to burst and tearing strength, and the combination of the two tests is often used as an indication of the inherent tensile strength. Some degree of stretch is usually desirable in paper and reflects a certain degree of elasticity which tends to minimize breaks and ruptures. (This stretch should not be confused with the stretch and shrink normally resulting from a change in moisture content.)

Vellum -A paper surface that is finely textural. Vellum is also used to designate heavy weight, translucent drawing or draft­ing papers.

Waterleaf -A paper with no sizing. Very absorbent.i.e. Blotting Paper.

Wax Pick -Important in checking surface strength that could affect linting and picking. Sticks of special wax of varying adhesive strengths (made by Dennison and rated 2A to 26A) are melted and applied to a sheet then pulled off when cool. The result is reported as the highest number wax that does not disturb the surface of the sheet. (This test should not be attempted on loose­ly felted papers or on coated papers contain­ing thermoplastic resins.) While the wax pick test is still widely used in the industry, its limited application has led to the use of other devices, particularly on coated papers.

Wove Paper -Papers which show no fine “laid” lines running through the sheet when held to the light.

…in addition to all that, there’s a continued glossary of general digital imaging terms.  See the Legion Paper main catalog/info sheet page here: Legion Papers

While you’re there if you see anything you like, shoot us an email for our pricing!

August 11, 2010

The Cruse Scanner and Lighting- an Explanation

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:18 am

The Synchron lighting on the Cruse Scanner is arguably the most powerful piece of the entire puzzle.  Whenever you try to light a large area with conventional lighting you’re fighting basic Physics- notably the Inverse Square Law.  In case you slept through that class, (as I did), here’s the rundown: Light intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the light source.  Want it in plain English?  Light intensity, or brightness, drops off really really fast as you move away from the light.  If you’re lighting an area that is four feet across, and have a light source set up on one side, the nearest side is going to get a ton more light than the far side.  If you have two lights, one on either side, as most copy setups are designed, it helps, but just by overlapping two uneven spreads of light, and trying to cancel out each spread’s unevenness.

With the Cruse, you’re working with long, strip lights that are even from end to end.  In addition, every point of sampling in the entire scan is the same distance from the light source- simply because the work moves under the lights.  Every single sample point in the entire piece is, say, 12″ from the light bank.  You can’t get more even than that.

So here’s the challenge.  We want to side-light a painting so we can see shadow and highlight on the brush stroke.  If we light it with a conventional copy setup, you’re going to have a big bank of lights on one side, and the piece is going to be brighter on one side and darker on the other. The only way to fix that is with Photoshop, or a program that is specially designed to even out uneven lighting.  Not with the Cruse.

Here’s a sample of what the lighting looks like, using the left bank of the Cruse Synchron lights:

Perfect- we get nice side-lighting on the brush strokes (actually top lighting, from the point of view of the painting…).  But is it even across the whole painting?  Take a look.

Not only the whole painting is within a couple of points, but the entire bed of the scanner- 48″ x 72″- holds incredibly tight tolerances.  Not only that- it does it every time.  You don’t fuss with lights and hope for the best- the system is set up and calibrated to be spot-on.

August 6, 2010

Some weekend reading- Digital Printing Glossary (Ron Martinson)

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 4:41 pm

From Ron Martinson’s blog, probably the most complete collection of digital printing terms we’ve seen.

Here’s a sample:

“Achromatic- Black, white and greys. Artwork that is executed without color. Also called monochromatic.

AP- Abbreviation for artist’s proof.

Archival- Term with no definitive scientific meaning.

Artist’s Proof- Traditionally, proofs pulled by the artist over and beyond the regular numbered edition, reserved for the artist’s use. Now often used to designate any proofs pulled over and beyond the regular edition, whether printed by the artist or by his printer, but reserved for the artist’s use.

Basis Weight- In the United States and Canada, the weight, in pounds, of a ream (500 sheets) of paper cut to the basic size. Also called ream weight and substance weight (sub weight). In countries using ISO paper sizes, the weight, in grams, of one square meter of paper. Also called grammage and ream weight.

Bleed- To extend the print image to the edges of the paper.

Brightness/Whiteness- Brightness is a measurement originally developed to monitor pulp bleaching. There are two predominant scales for conveying brightness: GE and European. Whiteness is a measurement taken by shining a bright light source onto a sample of paper. An electronic sensor takes a reading of the color of the reflected light—or whiteness.

Bronzing- The effect of seeing a flash of bronze color reflecting off pigment inks. Sometimes confused with gloss differential.

Calendering- The process of smoothing the surface of the paper by pressing it between rollers. Uncalendered papers — those not made smooth by calendering — have a less smooth texture.

Caliper- The measurement of thickness of paper expressed in thousandths of an inch or mils (millimeters).

Carbon black- A pigment made of elemental carbon and ash.”

…and so on.

Great stuff, and a resource we’ll be referring to for years to come. Thanks Ron!

ParrotTalk News- Friday August 6, 2010

Filed under: ParrotTalk News — admin @ 12:18 pm

(Sign up here to receive ParrotTalk News in your email- bi-monthly, and we never share our list. Ever.)

Stop the Presses! Huge Printer Rebates!

We were all ready to suggest you have a nice, relaxing set-down by the pool, when HP and Epson blew us right out of the water with a Battle-of-the-Rebates.

Epson offers up to a $1000 mail-in rebate on their wide-format printers, and Hewlett-Packard answers with up to a $2000 MIR. Whether your interested in HP or Epson, if you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on a wide-format printer, now may be the time.

Epson has also introduced a few new models- the 3880, an update of one of the most popular 17″ printers made, and the WT7900- a 24″ printer with aqueous-based white ink printing.

HP has released the Z5200- a 44″ PostScript printer similar to their non-PostScript Z2100 models.

It looks like both Epson and HP are trying to drum up some mid-summer sales- it’s your chance to take advantage and save some big bucks! For details, email us at


Announcing… the ParrotTalk News!

In any normal day at Parrot we see and hear a lot of interesting tidbits and meet a lot of incredibly talented and unique people. We wanted to put something together to share with you… important news, profiles of our clients, announcements about events, openings, shows and other threads that can help, instruct and inspire.

So here it is, the first of the ParrotTalk News… our “Dog Days of Summer” issue. We’re putting together an issue once every two months, and our past issues can be viewed at Have a seat next to the pool, take a long sip of a cool drink, and have a nice read… and we’ll be starting out with a profile of a fascinating artist- Jim Heck, working for Classic Playfield Reproductions…

Relax and enjoy!


Jim Heck, Classic Playfield Reproductions

Jim Heck, Software Engineer by day, is a devoted fan of Pinball by night. Well, night, weekends, and every other moment he has to spare. You perhaps could say he’s a fanatic. Since a child, Jim has played, studied, and even collected pinball machines. He currently owns over 18 machines, more than a few of which he’s restored and repaired.

Jim’s obsession with pinball machines extends even to the unique, iconic art that adorns them. Jim, along with fellow artists at Classic Playfields Reproductions, carefully reproduces original vintage pinball art- called a “playfield”- to produce an illustration that stands on it’s own as a tribute to this slice of American popular culture.

A few years ago Jim brought his playfield “Bally’s Flash Gordon”, (in his opinion possibly the greatest single-ball solid-state machine ever designed), for us to scan on our Cruse scanner. It was no easy task… the playfield is mounted a full 10 inches from its base fixture, not a normal configuration for the Cruse but well within it’s capabilities. (We had to do some Math.) It must also be lit evenly and scanned as completely geometrically true- not a problem at all for the Cruse. Jim then takes this ultra-high resolution scan into Illustrator and recreates every detail, sometimes needing to view the scan at as high as 6400% magnification. The result is something unobtainable using any other tool- a truly unique illustration. In the last month, Jim brought in his “Medusa” playfield- a wonderful work, and we can’t wait to see what he does with it. It will be a long wait, though… this stuff doesn’t go fast. Jim may spend ! hundreds and hundreds of hours on one playfield alone. That would be the definition of a “labor of love”, in our book!

To see more of the process and to hear Jim talking a little about his work take a look at the video we’ve posted on the ParrotTalk Blog, and you can see more of Jim’s work, and other Classic Playfield Reproduction artists at


David Saffir and Parrot/Angelica Fine Art Paper

Recently, David Saffir wrote about Parrot and Angelica Media on his blog:

“Those of us who make our own prints are, in many cases, constantly looking for that ideal combination of quality, price, and appearance in our inkjet papers. We’re lucky, in that our options increase daily, and competition keeps prices in check – if not driving them down at times!

“My good friends and colleagues John and Mark Lorusso, and Ted Dillard of Parrot Digigraphic ( offer an interesting line of private-label inkjet papers. They’ve printed a number of my images for me on these papers – in color and Black and White – and the results have been impressive – so much so that I want to try them in my own shop.”

Read more here: New Testing, Inkjet Media From Parrot Digigraphic

Don’t miss David’s latest workshop, a once-in-a-lifetime Photo Safari with Infinite Kayak Adventures in February 2011, while you’re at his site.


Get Ready for the Holidays!

OK, that wasn’t fair. I know, you just dropped your suntan lotion into your drink in shock… who wants to worry about the bustle of the Holiday season in the middle of August?

Well the truth is, if you’re in the business of selling Limited Edition prints or Fine Art Reproductions, there’s no substitute for planning ahead and leaving an adequate amount of time for production. Building up an inventory of the highest quality work- like Jim Heck reproducing his playfield art, takes time to do right.

Just do one thing… make a note to call us to discuss your plans when you get back from the beach. Then we can help you plan and budget your production, as well as your promotion, accordingly. Drop a line to, or call us at 978.670.7766- 321-775-4492 if you’re in sunny Florida.


Which Printer Should I Buy?

Probably the second most common question we hear, after “Which monitor is the best?”, is “Which printer should I buy?” The answer, as usual, is, “It depends.”

We just had an interesting dialog with some folks from the Art and Graphics department of a major College of Art. We had the director of the Graphics Department here, accompanied by the “IT guy”… the fellow who would have to keep the machine, and the network running. They were confused- the advice they’d been getting from other Graphics departments in other schools was to go with Epson, yet the IT folks were recommending Hewlett-Packard.

We have considerable experience working with both systems, and interestingly, they both have very distinct advantages and disadvantages. One of the notable advantages of the HP “Z series” printers, however, is the combination of on-board printer and paper calibration, as well as a Postscript RIP built into the system. This, in particular, is an advantage for a printer in any Graphics Lab environment. Calibrating the printer, the standard papers or even exotic media and paper is one-stop-shopping. There’s no need for additional pricey calibration equipment, it’s built into the system and controlled from the admin workstation. Besides that, it’s top-notch quality- in the testing we’ve done it holds up to the standard of the industry, the XRite Spectrolino, very nicely, thank you!

The other big issue is job management, and again, the HP, with an onboard Postscript RIP, allows jobs to be fed to the printer simultaneously, stored, and queued as needed. If you’re in a lab and 7 students hit the “Print” button at the same time, the printer handles it- eliminating the need for a print server or addition RIP software. It allows you to manage the job queue from an admin workstation as well- allowing one workstation to manage several printers. Also, the onboard Postscript RIP allows you to process vector files- files from Illustrator, CorelDraw, InDesign, Quark or other illustration and page layout programs quickly and with the best quality result.

Epson printers enjoy huge market share- they’ve been at the top of the field for a very long time now…They certainly have a decided advantage if you’re printing a lot of sheet-feed pages, media that needs a straight feed path- like the Enhanced Matte Posterboard or extremely thick watercolor or fine art paper. But HP printers have come into their own. With comparable print quality, “quad-black” printing resulting in remarkable B/W print quality, efficient ink use, built-in calibration and Postscript RIPs, the HP printers are poised to find their rightful place in the market as a remarkably powerful tool- one especially suited for a multi-workstation “lab” environment.

Need help deciding which printer is best for your application? Email us at and one of our team members will contact you.


Summer Specials on select Parrot and Angelica papers!

Take 10% off the regular price on any (or all) of these great media in our Product Showcase.


Parrot Ultra Lustre Photo is a photographic quality “N” surface- a smooth, semi-matte with no distracting pebble texture or high gloss reflections. It exceeds the color gamuts of any paper available, with an extremely high reproduction of fine detail. It is the choice for traditional photographic reproduction.

Angelica Universal Photomatte is a pure-white matte surface photographic paper with the absolute highest gamut of any paper of this type. Available in single or double-sided printing, it’s one of the favorite choices of graphic design using full-color full-gamut images and true photographic printing.

Angelica Bright White Matte Canvas is a no-compromise canvas that surpasses any other canvas media available. We have developed our canvas media to match and exceed the performance of the best traditional photographic media. It is, quite simply, in a class all it’s own- and will change the way you think about printing on canvas.

Angelica Bright White Smooth is our premium watercolor paper for fine printmaking. A pure-white base with virtually no “tooth”, yet a true watercolor paper feel… It is a heavyweight stock that can even be deckled well. Bright White Smooth is the choice for a premium-priced print- whether of a photograph, painting or artwork reproduction.

To order, contact us today!

July 28, 2010

Pixels, Rasters and Vectors…

Filed under: Support — admin @ 1:12 pm

…or, “what the heck is a RIP, anyway?”

It’s easy enough to simply explain that a RIP stands for “Raster Image Processor” but that really doesn’t tell you too much- either about what a RIP does, or why you need it.  To understand that, you need to get a grasp on the two basic kinds of image files- raster images and vector images.

A raster image is kind of easy- think of a map.  Raster images are made up of pixels with actual physical locations- you know how when you’re looking for a street on a map, and the street index says it’s at C-4?  You go to column C, and down to row 4, and you see the street.  Raster images are the same deal- every bit of the image is mapped out on a grid of squares.  Say you have an image that’s 2500 pixels wide by 1500 pixels high.  You have a total of 3,750,000 pixels in your image, and every pixel has a location.  It’s called a “bitmap” file sometimes, too- literally a map of the bits of information laid out in two dimensions.

The thing about a raster image is that, in defining the map of the image, you’re also defining the size.  The bigger the image, the bigger the file…  you also are limited by how much you can size the image up or down, since you need to re-sample the pixels to get more, or less of them.  After a point, you’re image is going to start looking bad.

Now, imagine that you’re trying to describe a square.  You could say something like this…  “Start here.  Go North, 30 feet.  Turn East, go 30 feet.  Turn South, go another 30 feet.  Turn West and walk another 30 feet- you’ll be back where you started.”  You’ve just described a square using absolute dimensions, and mapped an area.  In effect, you’ve made a raster image of a square.

Try this.  Instead of using “feet”, use generic “units” as a describer.  Let’s say, you start by saying, go North 30 units, East 30 units, South 30 units and West 30 units.  You’ve now described a shape, rather than a volume.  Simply by changing the units you’re changing the size of the shape.  I can describe a square that’s a few inches, or a few miles in size. 

The cool thing about a vector description is that it describes a shape really well…  like line art, an illustration, or a typeface.  Whenever you have something that needs a simple solid fill, an outline, essentially, it works great.  Naturally, it’s not so good at describing what’s inside those shapes, so if you need that kind of information you need a raster image.  A vector file has a ton of information, though, and is virtually unlimited in how much it can be scaled.  

The trick is in turning either of these into something that the printer can make sense of.

A file, like a raster file, that maps out colors for every square of the image translates pretty easily into information that a printer can handle…  a printer wants to know what ink, and how much, to put where.  The only trick is converting the RGB of a image pixel into the CMYK of a printer’s inks- a process called “dithering”.  It’s a little more difficult translating vector information into a file the printer can use- and that’s the function of a RIP. 

The RIP takes your vector files out of Illustrator, Quark, InDesign or other so-called “Postscript” applications and rasterizes it.  That is, it takes the vector information- the shapes- and figures the sizes.  It then plots out the pixels so the printer can process the “map” of the image.

A RIP can be a piece of hardware, software running on a workstation or server, or, as in the case of most larger office laser printers, can be built into the printer itself.  Interestingly, this is one of the things that sets the HP wide-format inkjet printers apart from the rest of the field- nobody else has an onboard RIP like the Z series “ps” printers.

There are a few other things that a RIP can do, workflow management being a biggie.  Built into the RIP is a queue system- the RIP stores and organizes the jobs as they come in.  This is a great side-benefit in a high-output print environment.  When you have several users sending files, the RIP allows the printer to hold and queue the jobs as they come in.  You can also pull jobs that have been printed and send them to the top of the list- making reprints without having to re-open and re-send the file.

It’s just one of the reasons we love our HP Z3200…  and recommend them for anyone who’s in a multi-user environment or has to work with illustration or layout programs…  workflow management, and seamless integration of Raster Image Processing.

-Ted Dillard

The Power of Layers and Masks…

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:23 am

(…to be used only for Good, never for Evil!)

I’m a big proponent of Layers and Masks- as I often repeat in my books and classes, it’s a simple tool that, once mastered, can be used for almost anything you need to do in Photoshop.  I use them constantly in my Smart Object RAW workflow, but here’s an interesting example of how they can be used to apply a massive edit to selected areas in a very short amount of time.

We had a job in a while back that required the “smoothing” of almost every area of color.  The artist, once he saw what we could do with the solid areas of color he used, decided to ask us to recreate the entire work as a new style- almost duplicating the effect of a serigraph, with solid planes of pure color.  We did feel, however, that some feel for the brush stroke had to be kept.  It was a delicate balance.

Not only that, but, as you can imagine, the first pieces we did took an astounding amount of time to retouch- in the neighborhood of sx hours per piece.  We had to develop a method to work more efficiently.

Enter: Layers and Masks, combined with the Dust and Scratches filter.

Here’s what the pieces looked like, right out of the Cruse scanner.

You can see the blotches and brush marks the artist was objecting to.  Our first step was to apply the Dust and Scratch filter to a duplicate layer- like this:

You get there like this- Filter>Noise>Dust and Scratches.

As you can see, this created some problems along many of the borders of the color fields.  Here’s where we used a mask on the layer to control where, and how much of the effect we were going to apply.

Selecting the Dust and Scratches layer, you click the Mask icon and get a new, clear mask.  I like to use the Brush tool, set to black, with an Opacity and Flow of 50% each…  I then simply paint on the mask over the areas that I want to become opaque.  Remember- white is transparent, black is opaque.

Here’s what we get:

Just for the sake of comparison, here’s the same thing, with the mask turned off:

The process, after going through each area of the print and touching the edges, the details, and some of the fields, took around 2 hours per image for a 40″ x 40″ square painting…  yielding around 4 hours of time saved, and a better quality result.

As in most of Photoshop, there are about six ways to accomplish anything…  much of the challenge in using the program is to find the best way to attempt a new task.  I’ve found, time and time again, I always come back to the basic Layers and Masks, and it hasn’t let me down yet!

-Ted Dillard

July 23, 2010

Fluid-Mount Scans- Why We Use It, Why You Need It

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:15 am

With the advent of desktop film scanners back in the mid-’90s a lot of photographers took on the task of scanning their own film instead of outsourcing the job to a drum scanning service. The scans coming from these scanners were quite serviceable for web work and some limited print- mostly small, short-run inkjet- purposes. As low-end flat-bed scanners improve, many studio and small lab based systems have improved to the point of almost replacing the fluid-mount drum scan.


There are a few things about fluid mounting that simply take you head-and-shoulders above what you can get without it.  Probably most importantly, as a general rule any scanner that supports fluid mounting properly is starting off with an ultra-high resolution system, and an ultra-high DMax (or density) capability.  Even without fluid mount, you’re using better hardware.  It should be better- the cost is in the tens-of-thousands of dollars for these systems, and, as always in imaging technology, “…you get what you pay for.” has never been a truer statement.

One of the interesting things that happens when you use a fluid-mount system is that the film’s density becomes more readable by any scanner.  Back when flatbed scanners were starting to become serious tools, more than a few people I know started using drum-scanning fluid (then, basically straight mineral oil) on their flatbed scanners…  they got a vast improvement in the apparent DMax.  A few of them also destroyed their scanners with oil dripping into the guts…  ultimately a pretty expensive “hack”.

One of the most significant reasons we use fluid, however, centers around the actual physical condition and properties of the film itself.

There are a few things you’re wrestling with when you use a scanner for film.  The first issue centers around the surfaces where the film touches the glass platen.  Every surface you add to the equation introduced the possibility of dust and scratches- things that will be picked up by the scanner.  You also have to worry about Newton rings- a natural phenomenon that happens whenever two glossy surfaces come in contact, resulting in a prism effect in concentric circles.  The common method to overcome this is to use an “anti-Newton” glass- a method that also softens the scan slightly.  Using a fluid-mount system eliminates virtually all of these problems.  The fluid prevents the formation of Newton rings.  It also literally fills in scratches and surface imperfections.  If dust is present, it will, of course, scan- but there’s a significant amount less dust with fluid because there’s no static attracting it to the surface of the film or the glass.

Most film brought to us is not particularly, well, recent.  Often we’re scanning film that’s been in an archive, most of it thankfully has been stored properly and is in pretty good shape.  Some of it, however, may have started out in the notorious “shoebox” filing system we’ve all been guilty of, and even film coming directly from the lab has a decent chance of having small scratches and embedded dust present.  When you’re scanning at a true optical resolution of 5000 dpi and higher, you’re going to see it.

Just for example, here is a scan we did on our iQsmart of a transparency without fluid mounting.  (The visible Guide is there in Photoshop so we could locate the spot accurately, and we’re viewing this from a 2500dpi scan at 100%.)

In particular, note the small scratch on the right-hand side of the selection.  Now look at what you get with a fluid mount:

Same area, we literally just fluid-mounted the chrome without moving it.

As you can see, and everything else aside, fluid mounting saves you an enormous pile of time when you’re retouching flaws in the image, preparing it for printing.  The older, more abused, dirty or damaged a piece of film is, the more you need to use fluid mounting.  On a chrome in good condition, though, you often eliminate the need to do any spotting entirely.

Fluid mounting started out using mineral oil- it was relatively easy to clean off the film after the scan, though the common practice was still to re-wash the film to remove any residue.  Today we’re using fluids that are much safer for the film.  They’re more volatile- they evaporate quickly, and don’t leave reside- as well as being less corrosive to delicate emulsions.  For example, our LUMINA Optical Super Scanning Fluids are what we prefer for the safest handling of the film, and fast, easy cleanup.

Hasselblad continues to produce the Flexframe scanners using what they call “Virtual Drum” scanning technology.  This uses no glass- the film is held in a frame that is tracked in a slight arc as it scans, allowing the lens to focus precisely at the film plane without introducing glass surfaces and associated dust and Newton rings.  They use the highest level of optics and sensors giving you some of the highest density and resolution- and it’s a great idea from an engineering standpoint.  But…  because you’re not using fluid, you’re stuck with all the surface imperfections on the material.  Not so great from a retouching standpoint.

You’re also seeing some offerings of mid- to low-priced scanners with added fluid mount capabilities.  Unfortunately, they’re not really built for fluid, more sort-of adapted for fluid, and we’ve seen and heard of a few getting damaged by leaking oil…  in addition, they’re starting out with less than optimum hardware, generally in the optics.  In this price point be very wary of specification claims, in particular for resolution.  In some specific cases, you have low-end optics, but with very high optical resolution.  Unfortunately, sheer resolution isn’t the last word in lens design- contrast and clarity play a big role, and that kind of performance costs money. You simply can’t compare the scans from a $700 scanner to those of scanners costing over $20,000- period.

In the final analysis, we’re back to the beginning of the story.  The desktop scanners are great for what they’re meant to do, but, as with so many things, if you’re starting with a better scan using the right methods, you’re going to end up with a better print- after a lot less work.

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