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Author Topic: Who does their own large format printing?  (Read 3326 times)

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PaulieWalnuts

  • On the Wrong Side of the Business
« on: February 07, 2013, 07:49 »
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My print sales are picking up so I'm looking into buying a large format printer to do some of the printing myself. Any recommendations on what to look for or avoid in a large format printer?


« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2013, 08:44 »
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what do you consider large?

« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2013, 08:50 »
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What do you consider large format? 

Dave beat me to it.

PaulieWalnuts

  • On the Wrong Side of the Business
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2013, 09:15 »
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Anything over standard 8x12. I've been looking into printers that will print as large as 40" wide to do 40x60's and anything in-between.

Just researching right now and trying to find a sweet spot.  Like does it save money, what size do people buy most, ink costs, paper costs, etc.

 

« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2013, 09:50 »
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I've been talking to a local printer about doing some one off prints of illustrations for an exhibition, I was quoted 10 ( about $8?) plus tax of 20% on 200gsm paper for an A2 print, that would probably come down for larger volumes. It was 15 for art paper ( whatever that is, I assume heavier, more textured) I specifically asked for that size, they do bigger.  It would be interesting to compare that with capital printer cost, plus consumables, which must be quite a high cost with a big printer if you were doing it yourself.

OM

« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2013, 18:28 »
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I don't know whether this info is particularly useful but my bro-in-law runs a small family portrait studio and does all his own printing with Epson inkjets. He has 2 big printers; one of the 7600 series and a 9600 (I think. Could be wrong about the model numbers but his largest machine prints around 100+cm wide). The machines he acquired used from pro-photographers( mainly advertising) who had only used the printers for printing their 'show portfolios'. The discounts he got vs new machines were huge. Both printers use large volume ink cartridges (110 or 220ml)  of the pigment ink types.

In an attempt to reduce his ink costs he approached various local commercial print shops that used the same/similar ink cartridges and asked if he could dispose of their used cartridges for a small fee. Most agreed to allow him to pick up their used cartridges for free and their cartridges are rarely empty. In fact some contained quite large quantities of residual ink which he emptied using a hypodermic and filled his own printer cartridges. His business is not doing that well at present but he assures me that he has enough top quality Epson ink to last him a few years.
Rolls of paper are often bought cheaply too when a dealer has to shift part of the old paper stock off his shelves to make way for new.

Just to say that high quality printing can be done on a budget.

Pinocchio

« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2013, 18:50 »
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Perhaps you already know this...  I suggest you look into continuous ink supply systems.  Google "continuous ink supply system"; and if you're within range of BHPhoto in New York, pay them a visit, they are likely to have one in action.  They are reputed to reduce ink costs significantly...
The continuous ink supplies I have seen are additional large tanks that feed the cartridges in your printer, and basically con them into thinking they always have ink.  Not available for some printers because there is no sensible way to route the feed tubes from the external tanks to the cartridges.

Regards

PaulieWalnuts

  • On the Wrong Side of the Business
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2013, 20:46 »
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I know very little about the print business so thanks for the information.

I've been running some numbers and it looks like ink for an 8x10/8x12 is about $1.00 on average.  So a 40x60 would be about $10 in roll paper and $30 in ink. Plus operating costs, printer cost, etc.

The two professional print shops I use charge $90 for a 40x60. So a little over double markup seems about right. And the double markup appears to be consistent with most sizes. So minus hardware and operating costs, self printing is around half of the cost compared to the cheapest print services.

RacePhoto

« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2013, 00:25 »
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Here's another option.

I know a couple who run a photo business out of their home. She's some kind of qualified Photoshop instructor. He's a photographer / designer. They both have other jobs... But the point is, they have the skills and the printer and they charge me by the square inch for prints.

Yes, I understand you aren't going to drive 100 miles or pay postage  :) but you might consider looking locally for a smaller professional print shot or photo business who would like to make something on custom prints and make some money with their expensive equipment that they already own. Most of the time, if you figure long term costs and unless you are printing a reasonable volume, it's more cost effective to pay someone else, rather than own your own printer.

Just one more idea. Consider your costs for ink, paper, the machine and see what someone can do for you, who already has invested all that money?


I know very little about the print business so thanks for the information.

I've been running some numbers and it looks like ink for an 8x10/8x12 is about $1.00 on average.  So a 40x60 would be about $10 in roll paper and $30 in ink. Plus operating costs, printer cost, etc.

The two professional print shops I use charge $90 for a 40x60. So a little over double markup seems about right. And the double markup appears to be consistent with most sizes. So minus hardware and operating costs, self printing is around half of the cost compared to the cheapest print services.

« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2013, 04:40 »
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Large format is a film size not a print size.  I thought someone here was printing large format negatives, which would have been far more interesting.

PaulieWalnuts

  • On the Wrong Side of the Business
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2013, 06:25 »
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Large format is a film size not a print size.  I thought someone here was printing large format negatives, which would have been far more interesting.


Okay then, could you contact Canon, Epson, HP, and all other printer manufacturers and ask them to stop using large format wording?

http://usa.canon.com/cusa/office/products/hardware/large_format_printers

Oh, and just for you, I'll do a post on large format negatives just to make sure you have something interesting to read.  ::)

« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2013, 07:37 »
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Well there you go. Learn something new every day!

Pinocchio

« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2013, 11:35 »
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Don't know if your ambitions extend to printing panoramas, but if they do it might be worth spending a little time looking at relevant discussions in one of the pano forums.  I don't have personal experience as I print very, very little, but some of the more reputable posters in these forums seem to think printing panos is a special challenge.

This one http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/PanoToolsNG/ had some relevant stuff quite recently.  Look for the search box for the forum - second one down the page - and search for "print".  The search results contain links to various other groups that might also be interesting.

Regards

« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2013, 12:52 »
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When it comes to choosing a printing device or any machine for the photo/print trade you can spend a little or you can spend a lot.  I would start with identifying the largest size you wish to print and identify the kind of quality you would like for your end product, then buy the best machine within your budget.   Do you want inkjet or toner based product?  Who do you plan to sell to? What are the better known trade printers use for the local photo bugs?

At this stage of the game, I would stick with the more well known manufacturers for inkjet and toner such as HP, Epson, Canon, Xerox, Ricoh and Konica. Also do as someone suggested earlier and visit your local major supplier and bring a few files with you to print as test files. Remember, for the best results, convert your file to CMYK from RGB.  Sometime the printing will use its software to  interpolate your RGB saved file and convert it to CMYK. 

The best case scenario is if you have a graphics trade show coming up in your area, plan to attend with a few of your files as you'll have all the major manufacturers under one roof eager to print your files which will allow you to compare the results.  If you go to a graphics show, it's likely you'll even get a chance to visit with your favorite microstock companies (or not so favorite) who like to participate with their own booth.  Don't be afraid to ask for goodies such as t-shirts etc.

Good Luck!


« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2013, 14:16 »
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My understanding, from friends who are into this big time, is Canon is the way to go these days. Performance vs price is better than Epson. HP is an ink vampire.

aspp

« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2013, 16:09 »
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For an exhibition, i have previously rented time at a lab which has one of the 44 inches wide format Ultrachrome Epsons. This was about 5 years ago. I bought my own inks and my own roll of paper (probably Somerset or equivalent back then but I cannot remember).

This is what I learned: Making a great print is going to be the least of your worries. Your can basically proof and profile the setup on a small format printer with the same paper and inks. And maybe run off a few test strips.

The big problem is handling the prints. You need to carefully think through how you (or the client) will mount them such that they stay flat. However you do it, the final fabrication is going to be heavy. Some people dry mount on aluminum or MDF. It is going to need to be strong. It's a job for pros and will likely cost more than the printing. And you need to know that they are not going to f up your beautiful print. Large prints are difficult to handle. Easy to scratch.

Another issue is that rolls of wide format paper tend to be lighter weight that the sort of stuff you would typically use for an art print. So more difficult to fabricate a mounting which is going to keep the thing hanging flat (for years).

If they are going behind glass: the bigger the print the stronger the frame needs to be. Or else they will be liable to bend more easily and the glass will shatter. And imagine how carefully a big piece of glass has to be checked for dust if you want a perfect job.

That's all the things I can think of off the top of my head. Basically wide format prints are easy to make but very difficult to handle.

« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2013, 16:12 »
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There's a webinar Ilford is sponsoring Feb 14th with Joe Brady on creating fine art prints - might be interesting (it's free anyway)

http://www.macgroupus.com/e-blast/ilford-webinars/Ilford-Webinar-Invite-02142013.html

I have futzed with printers on and off for years - nothing right now and it was never my main business. I did small print run work for design clients more to offer full service. My current printer is a 13x19 Epson which is lovely and much less finicky than the many previous incarnations. Paper manufacturers have gotten much better about offering profiles as well as paper so it cuts down on the times I have to make my own.

When something goes haywire in the middle of a large print, that's pretty expensive ink and paper you have to toss; when a printer acts up, if you're in a deadline-sensitive situation, you need a backup printer so you don't keep clients waiting. Some of what appears to be just markup is some very real cost in time spent, materials lost/wasted/damaged etc.

If you have a high tolerance for problem solving, then working with printers should be right up your alley. There's a lot to be said for sending off a digital file with a profile and getting a perfect print back from a reliable supplier though :)

« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2013, 20:23 »
+2
One of the most important things to consider is how much actual printing you expect to do.  I've owned 6 Epson printers starting with the 1270 to the 7600, and am currently printing with a 13" 1400.  They all have their good (& bad) features, but on the whole I would recommend either Epson or Canon, although I only have experience with Epson.  The 7600 large format printer worked great, but I found I wasn't making enough large prints to really justify it.  Also, feeding small cut sheets of paper into a 24" or larger printer, while not especially difficult, can be a little tricky at times in that the larger printers are really designed for roll media.  If you're not sure, I'd suggest a 17" printer; it's a very versatile format that will allow you to take advantage of the larger sized ink cartridges while giving you a variety of roll-paper and cut-sheet paper options (depending on the model of course).  The smaller 13" printers are very good as well, but you don't get the ink savings and most of them won't accept roll paper. You CAN print nice panoramas using roll paper on a 13" printer, but in most cases you'll have to cut the paper down.  And most rolls of inkjet paper start at 17 inches; there simply aren't many manufacturers that offer it in the 13" size.

There was an earlier post about the problem of handling large format prints, and this is most definitely true.  I've printed 24 inch by 4 foot panos that are a bit of a nightmare to handle; they tend to kink very easily so you'll need a lot of free table size to view, handle and package large prints.  One thing to consider is canvas, which is very hot right now at outdoor art shows.  Canvas has its pluses and minuses, but it'll save you a lot in terms of framing costs and weight if you're shipping. 

If you decide to go with a continuous ink supply, check out http://www.conecolor.com/.  Definitely the best third party inks out there.  And finally, someone earlier mentioned that you should convert your files to CMYK before printing.  Don't do that; the software in any given printer's driver does the conversion for you on the fly.  Work in Adobe RGB or any other wide-gamut color space with a calibrated monitor, and your prints will look great.

Hope that helps...












PaulieWalnuts

  • On the Wrong Side of the Business
« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2013, 16:51 »
0
Hey thanks everyone. Great information. A lot of stuff I didn't think about.


 

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