37 Replies Latest reply on Feb 16, 2008 10:01 AM by (Jan_Kok)

    Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer

    It'sNotMyFault Level 1
      Hi, we are a design firm needing to find a printer who can properly output outdoor graphics for a stanchion project that we are doing.

      These graphic panels are a bit unique in that they are at ground level and you can walk up to them (as opposed to veiwing from 20ft or more as a lot of outdoor graphics), so the quality needs to be pretty high. They are 4-color photographic panels printed on vinyl, with text overlaying a large tinted background photo.

      We spent a LOT of time tweaking colors here, using a properly calibrated display and 'fairly' well calibrated Doc12 for in-house comps/proofs. The colors need to come out pretty close to what we are expecting for the design to work.

      The last project we did like this was output by a company back in Boston. The color we received from them was TERRIBLE! It was not close to any sort of standard we could see (Pantone, SWOP, etc.) and was WAY off from our color rendering (light yellows were green, etc.). We had to completely redo all panels to match their 'in-house standard'. It took 2-3 weeks to redo, we had to eat that!

      - Does anyone have any resources for finding a large-format output printer who has color management implemented WELL? We'd prefer the Los Angeles area.

      - If not, could anyone give some proper questions to ask to see if someone really does know what they're talking about concerning controlling color on output?

      - On a seperate note, is it realistic to believe that what we see here on a calibrated Cinema Display (5000º, 2.0G, 95 lumincance) using the basic US Web Coated (SWOP) profile, and printed proofs on our laser that area VERY close, can be produced reasonably by a large-format inkjet onto vinyl with outdoor-capable inks if the printer knows what he's doing??

      Thanks a lot for any help or guidance. We need to find someone soon or they will choose who is cheapest and we may be stuck with horrible output!
        • 1. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
          Kenny,

          for large format printers the color management
          doesn't belong to a specific printer driver.
          One needs a RIP (Raster Image Processor) and
          an interface for the actual printer.

          I'm using ColorGate ProductionServer and a
          printer Mutoh Falcon 6100 CMYKcm.
          The ColorGate software contains a Profiler,
          but one needs of course a Spectrometer,
          here DTP 41.
          ColorGate has somewhere a long list of
          supported printers.
          http://www.colorgate.com/colorgate.rip/en/

          Other RIPs are offered by Best-Efi. All of
          a sudden they didn't support my printer any-
          more, so I couldn't upgrade.
          You may ask Onyx (PosterShop) as well.

          At that time, some years ago, Onyx Postershop
          came with an additional profiler.

          A crucial question is whether the RIP supports
          not only PostScript 3 (standard) but also
          recent compatibility levels for PDFs.
          Adobe is packing much information into PDFs,
          e.g. layers, variable transparency and CID fonts.
          Sometimes a RIP cannot handle these PDFs.
          Always working is PDF/X1-a which should contain
          only channels for CMYK and/or Spot (flattened).
          For the large format printer one can use as well
          RGB images instead of CMYK.
          ProductionServer can refer either to preset input
          spaces or read embedded profiles.

          Perhaps interesting: a color management roundtrip:
          Calibrate camera, using a target.
          Take photo of painting.
          Apply camera profile.
          Print photo by calibrated inkjet.
          Put print on painting.
          Take photo of print on painting.
          Apply camera profile.
          The result is here on p.13:
          http://www.fho-emden.de/~hoffmann/camcal17122006.pdf

          I'm independent. Recommendation of ColorGate
          because of good experiences.

          Best regards --Gernot Hoffmann
          • 2. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
            John Danek Level 4
            I'd try a web search first ( keywords: large format, inkjet, printing ). You sound like you've got a strong foundation in studio color management. Light Yellows are difficult for some UV printers, so it may be best to get some samples first and then decide. Better yet, send 3 of the most capable sounding print shops a reduced sized file and have them print a sample of it on the vinyl you plan to use in production. This may cost a few bucks, but will weed out the incapable print shops from the capable ones.

            I've been specializing in large format printing for five years and Gernot is correct, alot of the quality depends on the RIP and the inkjet printer and its UV inks. But, there is no reason not to achieve accurate color...very close to your calibrated monitor if the print shop is using a true Postscript 3 RIP and Printer.

            Beware, laser proofers are different than inkjet. Ideally, you want to be using the same type of proofer you plan to use in production. Most large format printers are low resolution ( 600 dpi ), whereas, your laser may be 1200 to 2400 dpi. However, at close range, inkjets @ 600dpi using variable dot screening will look smooth as glass.

            Again, I believe you can expect to achieve consistent color if the print shop is using a calibrated RIP. Here's some things to ask:

            1.) What is your output profile? Are they using Euro or some other non-conventional output profile other than SWOP Coated?

            2.) Can you match a contract proof?

            3.) When was the last time their inkjet large format printer was calibrated? What is the rendering intent for vector and for bitmap images in the RIP? Have they calculated the "Total Ink" setting for vinyl?

            4.) Can they supply you with a proof of your file before you commit to production, perhaps at a reduced size using the same media you plan to use in production?

            5.) Can they preflight your files before you commit to production? Or, do they have file prep specifications and checklist you can follow that will fit their workflow?

            Gernot, not all shops are accepting PDF files. But if they are, Kenny will need to know their Distiller or conversion settings and prepare them according to the print shop's workflow.
            • 3. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
              It'sNotMyFault Level 1
              Thanks for the great information, John. This may be very helpful for me to ask the proper questions. At the very least I would see if people even knew what I was talking about.

              - John, are you a commercial printer, or just do this on your own?

              - What part of the country are you in?

              - Do you have any input on what options to look into for getting something a bit higher quality/resolution while still printing with UV inks and possibly receiving the 3M stamp of approval/guarantee?

              When looking into this in the past, it seemed that most shops were still using pretty antiquated technology for this type of output. Most likely this was due to the fact that it was proven and there wasn't a big need for higher resolution/quality at the distances most outdoor graphics are viewed at. But these older machines (such as an Arizona) have very poor resolution and when viewed up close (as our stanchions will be) it looks really bad. Sometimes we've seen the black ink dots at very light levels look like someone sprinkled pepper all over the print. And the text was not very smooth and legible either. We'd prefer something with more the look of the newer HP machines, but again, it needs to be guaranteed to last on the vinyl media.

              Thanks again for any help or direction! Take care.
              • 4. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                Level 1
                Kenny,

                There are tons of vendors in Southern California that can help you - from the larger photo labs to specialized houses that only do large format graphics. Find one that has one of the newer printers you want and ask them what THEY want in terms of files. Almost uniformly, you'll be told something like, "just give us CMYK at 150dpi at final print size", but after some probing, you may be better off handing them off RGB files with a guide print and asking them to come as close as possible. All of these types of printers can print a much wider range of colors than a standard offset press, so using a "standard" separation if you've got bright colors may not help your images. FWIW, I almost always go the RGB w/ guide print route, and let the vendor use their own profiles, as these printers can be difficult to profile with a standard spectrophotometer.
                • 5. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                  John Danek Level 4
                  Kenny, I am a designer based in Massachusetts. For the past 5 years, I've been working in new product development - large format.

                  Here's the dilemna: you've got vendors who need to have speed. We all know inkjet is a slow process and the finer-the-resolution = slower speeds. That, coupled with printhead knozzles = a compromise. The spray patterns you talk about ( i.e., pepper ) are from a low resolution device somewhere around 200 - 400 dpi.

                  Newer machines and even some older models can be updated via a newer and better RIP. A Colorburst, Onyx, or Efi Postscript Level 3 RIP will give you very good color matching with UV ( so, you may want to know what type of RIP they have in place ). Each print house will have their own workflow in place ( either RGB or CMYK ) and you'll have to know the specifics so you will be able to achieve your expectations and goals. This means following my last post's suggestions.

                  As far as large format print resolutions go, they are starting to come up around 720dpi for some HP's. But, overall they are still around 600dpi with some exceptions using 1440 or thereabouts. There are some machines that use a halftone dot pattern ( i.e., pepper like dots ) and, in order to achieve 256+ levels of gray, use a screen frequency of 25 lines per inch. That scenario is simply out of the question for your application. So, it's important to know what the vendor plans to use for a machine, its RIP, and what colorspace their workflow fits into. Lots of homework and planning BEFORE YOU GET INTO PRODUCTION.
                  • 6. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                    It'sNotMyFault Level 1
                    Thanks again for the good info.

                    I got a message from the fabricator, and it looks like we will probably be very limited as to the actual output devices specified by the 3M "Matched Component System" warranty. To qualify for the warranty, you have to be using 3M Vinyl, 3M laminate, 3M UV inks (or certified) and a 3M certified output device. These output devices appear to be older, lower resolution devices (probably fine for most outdoor graphics).

                    One thing I want to make sure I understand correctly, though, is concerning the different inks used and their limitations versus having a profile be able to correctly take into account these limitations.

                    Specifically:
                    The fabricator said that last time we ended up going away from the Arizona printer (due to the low resolution quality problems) and used an HP 5000. But the solvent-based UV inks required by the 3M warranty had what he said was a 'very muddy magenta' and that was causing a lot of the problems with color.

                    - Is it correct for me to assume that a properly generated profile for that specific ink/paper/printer combination would take into account the 'muddy magenta' and correct for that so that colors would still be 'accurate'?

                    - If the specified solvent-based UV inks were said to have a smaller gamut or not produce as 'vibrant' of colors, wouldn't the profile try to properly map the workspace gamut (US Web SWOP in our case) into that more limited gamut using whatever rendering intent we specify? If so, would colors be at least 'pretty similar' when in gamut?

                    Thanks again for the help! I have an fair grasp on most color management concepts, but some things are still a bit confusing.
                    • 7. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                      Lou Dina Level 3
                      Kenny,

                      Check with Richard Bracken at the following link. He has posted here frequently and does signage, is fully color managed, and seems to have his act together. I've never used him, but this is what he does and it might be worth checking out. Their website is under reconstruction, but there is a phone number and an email address if you are interested.

                      http://www.calawaysystems.com/

                      Lou
                      • 8. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                        John Danek Level 4
                        UV inks are historically not as brilliant as dye based inks. It may be difficult for a spectrophotometer to deal with a "muddy" Magenta. A profile cannot make a Magenta "brighter" than it is. 3M is attempting to control variables to make it easier to profile. Their UV inks may be brighter when printed on their vinyl using a particular "certifiable" output device.

                        But, what happens when you use 3M's inksets on a non 3M media? Or, you hire a vendor who is using a non 3M certified output device? You may get better results or you may get worse results. You have to do the leg work to find the right combination.

                        Now, remember, UV is not as brilliant as dye, so a spectro will try to create a profile to get better matches. But, like I said earlier in this post, you cannot make a bright Magenta if your inkset has a muddy Magenta...this is a physical limitation of the ink itself. New ink developments are being made every day and I think it is an important component in the color management scenario.
                        • 9. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                          Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
                          Gernot,

                          Sometimes I also get confused when someone talks about "a printer," because the English word printer stands both for Drucker and for Druckerei, or, in Spanish, impresora and imprenta.
                          • 10. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                            Ramón,

                            thanks for the clarification.
                            Then it seems, Kenny wants to know a 'Color Managed
                            Large-Format Printing Company' in his area.

                            But reading the first post again, I'm still
                            thinking that the question concerns a printing
                            machine with software.
                            Otherwise it's fairly simple - just let some
                            test pages print by several companies.

                            Best regards --Gernot Hoffmann
                            • 11. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                              Thanks for the kind words Lou.
                              Indeed, we do lots of large format printing that people can mash their noses up against.

                              I'm a little late to the party on this thread (been very busy) but we are indeed completely color managed, are 3M Matched Component System, 'Scotchprint Certified,' use 3M products, and have installers who travel the globe installing graphics.

                              You'd be very surprised at the resolution of these big printers. You probably don't want to print any glossy corporate reports from them, but they definitely fill their niche.
                              They are quite fast as well.

                              We prefer RGB documents so long as the proper profiles are properly attached.

                              We have all our machines calibrated and profiled. They purr like kittens. Now, there are some physical reasons that render some colors difficult or impossible to print. That's just the way it is.

                              If I'm not too late, you can contact us by going to our site (which is still under er-construction) and getting our number or email address.

                              Perhaps we can help?
                              • 12. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                It'sNotMyFault Level 1
                                Thanks for the info Richard. I'll see if the fabricator has made a decision yet on what vendor to go with.

                                - Out of curiousity, which machine would you recommend printing this on to get the quality we are after and still hang with the 3M MCS warranty?

                                In years past, I believe it was initially output on an Arizona (not sure which model). The quality and resolution were really poor. Text was hard to read and light amounts of black made huge dots. Not good.

                                I was sent a sample recently of what I believe may have been a Vutek UltraVu 3360 (though it wasn't specified). While better than the Arizona, it was still pretty coarse, especially in any areas with black.

                                I believe the last round ended up being done on an HP 5000. I don't believe it can run solvent inks, and I'm not sure the vinyl was even the ControlTac (it had fake looking 3M stamps on the back). And though the color was awful (that may have been the fault of the vendor, not the machine), the overall quality was pretty good. Text was crisp and photos looked pretty smooth. I recently went down to check the condition of these, and after about 3 years outside in LA, they seem to be holding up OK as far as fading/peeling/quality issues go. There's mostly vandalism and physical damage (scrapes & gouges).

                                Being that these have a laminate applied (3M Matte), just how crucial is using the 3M inks and/or recommended machines? It seems to really limit us as far as quality goes.

                                Thanks for any input! We're hoping for the best.
                                • 13. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                  Level 1
                                  Arizona is sooo 20th century. We used to use our Scotchprint 2000 back then.
                                  I think the Scotchprint 2000 is pretty much where the 3M Matched Component System was born. I still have rolls of those stickers. The SP2K was a nice machine and I enjoyed the challenge of operating it....sometimes.

                                  The VuTeks are pretty much the big show in town for the type of print you're looking for.
                                  We mainly use VuTeks.
                                  The 3360 is good for billboards but we don't do billboards.
                                  We usually do higher rez stuff. We don't use the 3360s.
                                  Our text prints at or near razor sharp. The blacks look great IMHO.

                                  We don't just pile black on. You can easily play down too much black and actually diffuse the light. Cutting back on some black will yield a darker, richer black. The trick is using a densitometer and finding where that spot is and plugging that TIL value into the profilling software. It's nt always perfect but it's better than saturating the print. The darkest patch 400% may be v=2.11 while a patch on up the chart with less total ink may be v=2.32 (using CAL-T on XRite 404).

                                  I'll see about sending you a print sample if you're interested.
                                  The machines we use are 6- and 8-color machines.
                                  We tell our lights begin creeping in at around 30-40 percent coverage of the regular inks. In other words, when we get 30 percent coverage on the main CMYK, the light CMYK kicks in at 100% so the perceived resolution is greater and, as you have noted, less grain. The RIP controls when it all happens. We simply profile for 4-color process. Works like a charm.

                                  Now, keep in mind these inks are not SWOP spec. The densities of our inks are much higher than SWOP ink densities.
                                  If you are working in SWOP v2 in Photoshop and do a soft proof while preserving CMYK values, you'll be in for quite a shock. :)
                                  While we prefer correctly-profiled RGB original images, we are able to easily deal with CMYK files using the SWOP profile. As you will see below, sending us SWOP files chokes the color big time. The VuTek gamut volume is roughly twice that of SWOP (see below).

                                  We have a variety of stochastic patterns, and device resolutions to choose from based on the type of artwork.

                                  We use Matte laminates for lots of our indoor murals.
                                  3M exhaustively tests their substrates with approved inks, machines, and laminates. That's why it's a matched component system. Add to that a certified installer and you have a warranted product. You must have all those elements to have a warranty.
                                  The last thing you want is for the ink, substrate and laminate to be incompatible.

                                  Before I turn this into an infomercial, I can discuss the finer points over the phone if you like. Just call the Alabama number and ask for Richard.
                                  I'm in the process of recalibrating and profiling one of the machines due to some replaced hardware.
                                  Hopefully I'll be done with the main substrates by Monday.

                                  I could zap over one of our color profiles if you like.
                                  Contact me via email or phone.

                                  Now, to keep with the color management theme, I'll would have posted a chart comparing the gamut of one of our VuTeks with the Epson 9600 using Ultrachrome inks.
                                  It's been so long since I posted that I forgot how. :D
                                  • 14. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                    John Danek Level 4
                                    Richard Brackin - The Vutek 3360 is what resolution? I have not seen any specs higher than 600 dpi. Is that right?
                                    • 15. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                      Level 1
                                      The 3360 physically prints at or around 360dpi (precisely 363 x 363 dpi).
                                      The 600dpi thing is marketing word play... actually I think the marketing people advertise 720dpi.
                                      • 16. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                        Level 1
                                        FWIW, I went pecking around trying to find a scrap piece from one of the printers and only found this one (please pardon the flaws -- it is a trashed piece). It appears to be a piece that was lodged up under some stuff on the floor.

                                        Anyway, I scanned it using a crappy 7 year old $80 scanner, but it should get the point across regarding the resolution.
                                        You can go to the link below and check it out and zoom in pretty close to see how the dots look.

                                        This post is for information purposes only and it is no solicitaion for business.

                                        This example at full-size is approx 10"H x 8"W.
                                        I also included some gamut comparisons I made out of ColorThink Pro.
                                        The Epson, and VuTek profiles were made by us. The SWOP profile is the one in the Adobe folder.
                                        http://richardbrackin.smugmug.com/gallery/2369807
                                        • 17. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                          It'sNotMyFault Level 1
                                          Wow RIchard, you went way above & beyond the call on this. Thank you very much!

                                          I haven't spoken with the fabricator yet. I will definitely pass your info along to him if he hasn't already done the color tests that were in the contract (he was going to have 4 different people/machines output a test file I sent him so we could see who's best). The only thing that might be tricky is all the shipping. We're in LA and he's in Boston. The final product will be 90 prints at an average of 5' x 3'. That might get pretty expensive for shipping. But we'll check into it.

                                          So to bring it back into the color management theme, I'm curious about something you stated:
                                          >While we prefer correctly-profiled RGB original images, we are able to easily deal with CMYK files using the SWOP profile. As you will see below, sending us SWOP files chokes the color big time. The VuTek gamut volume is roughly twice that of SWOP (see below).

                                          I looked at the gallery you posted with gamut comparisons. It looks like your Vutek is larger in gamut everywhere but some bright magenta colors. If this is the case, I thought that since all of our color is done in SWOP, and therefore a smaller gamut, that there would be NO change in color when mapped to the larger gamut color space (using, say, absolute colorimetric). Is this not the case?

                                          It was my understanding that colors only have to shift when they are out of the gamut of the destination output device. That's why we usually feel fairly safe using SWOP, as I've heard it is a fairly small gamut. We fealt we should be safe to know exactly how the colors will come out instead of using some huge RGB color space and then being shocked to see all of the color shifting and clipping when output on a smaller CMYK gamut.

                                          - Am I a little backwards somewhere? I've tried to study color management when I get time, and have been to a couple seminars, but have never fully been able to master all of the concepts and theories.

                                          Our goal here is to be able to design something, and see on screen (to the degree possible), exactly what color will be output on the final print (usually offset press) - nothing more, nothing less. We never print single run 'one-offs' on really nice huge-gamut inkjet printers. It's just not cost-effective to do 20k-40k of these ; )

                                          Thanks again for taking the time to post and answere questions. Hopefully you can be in the mix for bidding on the job!
                                          • 18. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                            Level 1
                                            >> Thank you very much! >>

                                            You're welcome.

                                            >>It looks like your Vutek is larger in gamut everywhere but some bright magenta colors. >>

                                            It has never caused our customers any problems. Visually, our magenta is brighter than SWOP magenta. Strange, huh?

                                            >> ...since all of our color is done in SWOP, and therefore a smaller gamut, that there would be NO change in color when mapped to the larger gamut color space (using, say, absolute colorimetric). Is this not the case? >>

                                            I use rel-col if the customer has asked that we keep some colors pretty much intact and not risk muddying up everything else because of the way absolute colorimetric deals with differences in respective white points.

                                            In our niche, I would urge against absolute colorimetric color conversion for the simple reason that even though it will ideally maintain the in-gamut colors, you will very harshly clip areas that are out of gamut. Also, it will try to reproduce the source white point onto the substrate, thus giving a potential color cast, and dirty whites.

                                            >> It was my understanding that colors only have to shift when they are out of the gamut of the destination output device. That's why we usually feel fairly safe using SWOP, as I've heard it is a fairly small gamut. We fealt we should be safe to know exactly how the colors will come out instead of using some huge RGB color space and then being shocked to see all of the color shifting and clipping when output on a smaller CMYK gamut. >>

                                            Opt for rel-col, if you want to have the better part of both worlds. When I get time I can show you some vectors of how colors move about in the gamut. (thanks to ColorThink Pro, again). If you soft proof on a well-calibrated monitor, you won't be shocked and can see what is and isn't going to work.

                                            (I respectfuly ask Gernot, or Andrew or some other folks that study color full-time give more clinical answers)

                                            Here's -my- answer based on the last 4 years of being color managed.
                                            There are arguments for and against your position.
                                            Why limit your output gamut to SWOP when there is so much more reproducible color out there? Well-built profiles do a nice job converting colors down most of the time.

                                            >> Am I a little backwards somewhere? I've tried to study color management when I get time, and have been to a couple seminars, but have never fully been able to master all of the concepts and theories. >>

                                            There are several good books out there. Start with those and get a foundation.
                                            There are authors here at this forum. They are very generous with their information.

                                            To get all your questions (and some you didn't know to ask) answered, bring in a color management specialist if you really want to get deep into it. There are several on this forum and they're worth their weight in gold. Most will custom fit a color managment scheme that works for -you- into -your- workflow.

                                            >> Our goal here is to be able to design something, and see on screen (to the degree possible), exactly what color will be output on the final print (usually offset press) - nothing more, nothing less. ; ) >>

                                            That's a very good goal to shoot for. I don't know much about offset printing, but with inkjets it can be done.

                                            >> Thanks again for taking the time to post and answere questions. Hopefully you can be in the mix for bidding on the job! >>

                                            You're welcome.
                                            I post about color because I enjoy color and I only post when it's something I sort of know about. I'm not trying to get business here but an opportunity like that would be a pleasant side effect. :)

                                            I just happened to browse through here and noticed my name was brought up and thought I'd jump in on the conversation. :)
                                            • 19. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                              Level 1
                                              Kenny

                                              I talked to your contact via phone just now.
                                              I am expecting an email from him with the job specs.
                                              We'll give it our best shot for you.

                                              Thanks for the opportunity.
                                              • 20. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                I spent a few years at a large format printer - we had a Vutek 3360 and a couple of Roland Sj540's , as well as the FJ 540's.

                                                I absolutley loved the Roland printers, in my opinion the flat out beat any comparable brand. The inks are super saturated and with a couple of RIP tweaks you can get Reds/Blues far outside the gamut of SWOP. Great for matching specific Pantones.

                                                The Vutek didnt come close, both in resolution and ink quality. But the Vutek was much faster, had a wider range of substrates - but was always breaking down.

                                                The Rolands did have their problems as well, but nothing compared to Vutek.
                                                • 21. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                  Lou Dina Level 3
                                                  Kenny,

                                                  A little feedback.....

                                                  Since I expect to need similar services myself in the future, I recently made a visit to Calaway Systems to meet Richard Brackin and survey the capabilities of their facility. I found Richard to be extremely well versed and highly skilled in color management. Their VuTeks are well calibrated and profiled and they provide a wide color gamut and unbelievably rich, dark blacks. He even printed a job for me while I was there and I found the colors to be an excellent match. This is important to me because I am well versed in color management myself and have high standards. They have a very large shop with a ton of equipment and do a lot of high level work for many big name companies that we all have heard of. They have a very broad scope of capabilities and equipment. I was impressed and will use them when the need arises. For what it's worth, they are also ISO9001 certified.

                                                  When I suggested you check them out in an earlier post, I had never met or used them, and for the record, I have no vested interest or connection with them. I was just impressed by the knowledge and quality of Richard's posts. It sounded like they might be what you were looking for.

                                                  Best of luck,

                                                  Lou Dina
                                                  • 22. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                    It'sNotMyFault Level 1
                                                    Yeah thanks,
                                                    I believe Richard's company was included in the bids, and they may be one of 4 companies doing a test print to see who does the best job. It's being handled by the fabricator now. Once we see the test prints from the 4 different companies, we'll be able to tell what shop is fully color-managed and well dialed-in, and what shop(s) still need some work.

                                                    Thanks everyone for all of the help and suggestions! I'm really hoping at least one of the test prints will come back looking great and matching what we designed. Then the rest of the job 'should' be a slam-dunk!

                                                    Concerning the machines, I think I've found out lately that there is a new HP (8000s or 9000s) that is a solvent-based inkjet that has excellent color saturation and gamut, and decent resolution (720dpi). They've only been out less than a year, so there's probably not a lot of people who have them yet, but they are apparently just an updated version of a Seiko machine (which was reported to be best-in-class for resolution). HP formed a partnership with Seiko a couple years ago, and this is probably the first product from that. I'm not sure if any of the other large solvent-based inkjets (like Vutek, etc.) have that high of 'true' resolution.

                                                    We'll see what happens...
                                                    • 23. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                      Hi- we've just at the end of a process of evaluation, testing etc and the HP 9000 beats the Roland hands down...absolutely not even close- great colours but a bit more expensive- apples with apples it's about 10k dearer (A$). Profiles were great. Rip is good and comes with a mini mac with good specs. Expensive warranty if you want anything after 1 year.

                                                      But... but when it comes to buying a machine that produces it will be the HP that we end up buying. Funny thing is we were dead set on the Roland initially.
                                                      • 24. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                        It'sNotMyFault Level 1
                                                        Hi all,
                                                        Well we got our first color test back today from a place here in Los Angeles.

                                                        The overall quality was really good, close to what I've seen from an average HP machine.

                                                        The color, however, was 'pretty good'. Not great or completely on by any stretch.

                                                        But I have a question concerning 'paper white'. On this test print I was noticing that areas that should be pure white had a distinct light cyan or green tint. I didn't think the vinyl was that off-white, so I looked at it under a loop and sure enough there is definitely ink down on the white areas - mostly cyan with some yellow.

                                                        - What part of the color conversion process (from my CMYK SWOP files) would cause an area of pure white (no color information at all) to produce a light wash of color (maybe 1-2% cyan and 1% yellow)?

                                                        - Could this be adjusted/avoided easily?

                                                        - Is this to be expected when converting a file from one profile (CMYK SWOP) to another (most likely custom profile for their printer)?

                                                        Thanks a lot. I'm guessing that this is causing other colors to shift as well. I have a call into the company to ask them, but wanted some outside opinions as well.
                                                        • 25. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                          Lou Dina Level 3
                                                          Kenny,

                                                          If your CMYK SWOP file had areas where CMYK values were 0C,0M,0Y,0K, then those areas should have printed with zero ink, giving you a pure white (or more accurately, the color of the paper base). This service provider probably converted the file (separately or during the printing process) using Absolute Colorimetric rendering intent, so the conversion would cause ink to be laid down in the pure white portions of the print in an attempt to simulate a different paper white that the substrate they were using. I don't know why they would do this unless the white of their substrate is very different from notmal. This may be okay when doing a proof for press perhaps, but I prefer not to use AbsCol rendering during conversions, since it slightly reduces contrast (since you are darkening the pure whites ever so slightly) and it also looks a bit funny with the extra ink in pure white areas. You have to trim all white borders from the print to fool your eyes, since the eye will hone in on the lightest white for "calibration". White areas on a border will make your printed "whites" look dull and dirty in comparison.

                                                          I usually use relative colorimetric rendering even for digital proofing for jobs going to press and try to choose a proofing paper that is close in color temp to the final output. For press work, for example, I use a proofing paper with approximately 5000K paper white, which is close the the final paper used to output the job. I find this much more accurate and pleasing, and if there is a slight difference in paper white between the proof and the final job, it is easy to see, explain and accept this very minor difference.

                                                          Of course, if the 'paper white' of the substrate the provider is printing on is VERY different from typical white values (usually between about 4700K and 5300K), then you might notice it in the final print.

                                                          I wouldn't normally expect a provider to give me a print or poster using such a rendering intent.

                                                          Lou
                                                          • 26. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                            It'sNotMyFault Level 1
                                                            Thanks Lou for the explanation. I will ask the tech who printed the job what workflow he used.

                                                            As this was a test for a final large-format job on vinyl, it is output on the same substrate as the final will be (3M Control Tac), using the same printer, inks, etc. That's the intent of the test, to see what we actually SHOULD expect from the final prints. So it's a bit different than running a proof on a machine before going to press. There 'should' be no accounting for a different paper color, since this 'test' and the final should be exactly the same.

                                                            I believe this vinyl has a fairly true white by default. I noticed the 'greenish' cast before I even set a sheet of plain paper next to it. It just became much more obvious when I saw the difference.

                                                            Part of this test, though, was to see just how 'on top of' the whole color-management workflow each vendor is by default. We'll see how the other 3 tests come in. We're hoping one of them will be pretty accurate from the get-go. Then we will have much more confidence about the final prints. We can't do any color-correction to compensate for a printer that's not using the best procedures. Just not enough time in the day (or $$$ in the budget).

                                                            Thanks.
                                                            • 27. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                              Kenny,

                                                              I am quite new to this forum, so bear with me if I step on toes. I see you mentioned the HP 8000 and 9000s printers. I work for a RIP software house and have had a fairly good amount of time on the 9000s. HP also is selling the 10000 which is similar to the 8 and 9.

                                                              Overall I like the 9000s, good speeds and good color all things considered. The Seiko model the 9000 was based off of was quite the workhorse and many people raved about it.

                                                              Also the question you raised about paper white and cyan and yellow ink contamination. This can happen with a poorly made profile, and not in the file conversion. The RIP software used should allow the end points to be 'clipped' to prevent this from happening.

                                                              I am fairly new to the industry and have been exposed to only one view of the industry and color management (which I have noticed can tend to be close minded at times).

                                                              Bryan
                                                              • 28. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                                Level 1
                                                                Hi Bryan

                                                                We're getting an HP 9000 and need to choose between the onyx or shiraz rip. Any advice.

                                                                Also I'll be operating the printer from time to time- any tips, tricks and things to watch out for?

                                                                Health wise - any adverse effects?

                                                                Thanks
                                                                • 29. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                                  It'sNotMyFault Level 1
                                                                  Well, we received our second test print from another vendor yesterday. This was also printed on a Seiko machine. The quality of these prints, considering it is on vinyl with solvent inks, etc., is really quite good. It's not quite what you see with an HP 5000 on paper, but much better than what we've seen in the past for solvent-based printers.

                                                                  Now this second printout was MUCH closer in color. In fact, when I brought the print in and compared with my calibrated monitor, it was an almost perfect match! And this was after the matte laminate had been applied.

                                                                  Now this second company actually markets themselves and speciallizes in everything color. They started as a pre-press house, and do retouching, color correction, image compositing, package mock-ups, etc. I think they may only have the one Seiko, plus a few HP 5000's for large-format output. So they are 'color first - output second' from what I can tell.

                                                                  So it really shows how much of a difference proper knowledge and implementation of color management standards can make in outputting a product SO much closer to the original design intent! And the first company is a pretty highly regarded vendor here in LA, doing a lot of entertainment-related business, etc.

                                                                  I'll let everyone know how the final product turns out after we make our final choice!
                                                                  • 30. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                                    Level 1
                                                                    Hi Zonki,

                                                                    I have no experience with the Shiraz RIP. I have very little experience with Onyx, as I work for one of their competitors. (very political answer I know)

                                                                    As for advise on the printer itself. I have had troubles with loading media, particularly some of the more exotic medias. Glen Raven fabric was difficult to work with. The light sensor that detects whether the media is loaded straight can be tricky. When troubleshooting the issue I was told to turn out the lights and try to load the media?!?

                                                                    Overall a good printer -- I want to keep this short, I get the feeling we are hi-jacking Kenny's thread (sorry about that). Feel free to start a new thread if you want to continue this conversation. I know there are a ton of Seiko Colorpainter owners out there that would rave about this printer. I have talked with many of them.

                                                                    Bryan
                                                                    • 31. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                                      Level 1
                                                                      Hi Bryan

                                                                      thanks for the heads up- just when I thought you may tread on some toes....! good idea to start a new thread though. I think the comments were indirectly relevant to the original poster's query- they get to hear what people think about before buying these types of printers- ultimately 'we' make our money by producing the best quality prints for our customers- so a decision to buy one of these beauties is not made lightly.
                                                                      • 32. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                                        HI,
                                                                        I am new user here. I am operator HP 8000s and I have a some problem.
                                                                        It is possible change stochastic printing this printer?
                                                                        We made new profiles last week, colors is fine but we have just problem with printing stochatic pattern. we spent a long time that change that but no effects.
                                                                        Greg
                                                                        • 33. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                                          To reply to the post on the HP 8000s and the problems with the stochastic pattern. That is a function of the rip that drives the 8000. So if you want a comparison, try to use the rip that was bundled with the 8000. I believe it came with SignEZ from Onyx (if it was purchased in the US)I know that the stochastic pattern generated by Onyx is very smooth and works particularly well.
                                                                          -HP Tech
                                                                          • 34. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                                            Dear Kenny,
                                                                            Your problem is happening everywhere, especially in the market of large format outdoor signs etc. This market is much less understanding of color management and using software to prepare image files than the mainstream graphics printing people.

                                                                            Although the whole color management ideaology is great, it also is a very complicated system or process, and with the use of ICC profiles there is still no standard. It really still ends with custom profiles via print shop and still no standard exists yet for the system or process of color management, it is more complicated than ever.

                                                                            While it is possible to calibrate or color manage your monitors, scanners and digital cameras, when taking this from digital to analogue and then adding the variable of ink set into the equation, you just lose the plot. there does not exist a standard for CMYK inks, so how the hell can we have true color management.

                                                                            Sorry, but I find it frustrating, but hope is on the horizon, in Australia I know of a few large format sign companies that are part of the beta testing program for Opaltone, if you have not heard of this system then your not alone, but I hear it has been developed for the large format sign market among other markets and it has the ingredients to give perfect spot color matching, greatly enhanced graphic images and really impressive back light signs.
                                                                            it has it's own special set of colors, RGBCMY, no K I beleive, how weird, but I am told the black is created in the RIP, also told that black is not a color, interesting hey.
                                                                            But I know this does not solve your immediate concerns, but help is on the way.
                                                                            I am told that a major car race team (Jim Beam Racing) is getting around this season with Opaltone graphics plasterd all over the sides of the double cab transport semi trailor, I am also told that Opaltone was the only system that was able to match the density and hue of the auto paint red that was chosen for the truck and the race cars.
                                                                            So I guess I am giving you a mixture of good and bad news.
                                                                            • 35. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                                              Level 1
                                                                              This is a bit OT, but my spider sense is tingling:

                                                                              It appears that Opaltone is engaging in a guerilla marketing effort. This thread, which has been dead since August 28, is suddenly resurrected by Mr. Paxton who gives a soft-sell endorsement of Opaltone. Coincidentally, in another thread on this forum (here - http://www.adobeforums.com/webx?7@@.3c053da0/40), Mr. Holman offers a similar soft-sell rundown on Opaltone.

                                                                              Innocent coincidence? Perhaps.
                                                                              Things that make you go "hmmm..."
                                                                              • 37. Re: Find Color Managed Large-Format Printer
                                                                                There are only a few companies (I believe 2)who runs digital printers in an extremely width.
                                                                                One of them is located in Chester, South Carolina. They run a large format Roland printer (about 150") which is configured for transfer printing. Running a RIP called RipMaster which is a very enhanced software if color accuracy or matching is required.

                                                                                I mention this company also because they are specialist in color matching projects and can calibrate the printer on eventually your own substrate of choice and they do print proofs before approval.

                                                                                If this sounds like an option for you and if you want to talk with them I can provide you from the address and contact details.

                                                                                Further I would suggest you to post this question also into a forum located at piedmont digital graphics dot com. Industrial people in the wide format printing industry are visiting that site on a regular base.

                                                                                The forums address is: http://www.piedmont-digital-graphics.com/Forums/

                                                                                Good luck,
                                                                                Jan