HP Supports Platinum Printing and Other Alternative Processes

In an interesting and timely development, HP has released a paper preset for their Z3200 large format printer line to make the production of digital negatives for alternative chemical photographic processed, like platinum and palladium printing easier.

This is timely indeed, because of a rise in interest in what is called alternative printing processes and I highly commend HP to taking this step. Photographers need all the options they can get and anything that makes this easier is a wonderful development.

Apart from the preset, HP has produced an excellent PDF of the process. Let me quote from it about how their preset works: “The process described here was performed with the goal of creating feasible negatives for monochrome and color alternative process such as platinum/palladium, carbon, cyanotype, gum, carbro, multicolor carbon, and tri-color gum” and then “From a technical point of view, what is inside this preset is a green ink separation that has been linearized in terms of ultraviolet light opacity. The advantage of having this linearization is that when printing a linear ramp of green ink values with this paper preset, the result will be a negative with a near-linear response in any alternative process based on UV light. In certain cases, some calibration may provide additional improvements. However, the tools needed to perform this calibration are part of the standard printer software and hardware.”

This further quote from the same PDF makes the process clear to those used to alternative process printing:

“In this solution, the green ink acts as a color filter for ultraviolet light. The densest part of the negative contains a maximum quantity of ink. This maximum ink must be able to block UV light in such a way that the paper will be left blank after exposing it trough this maximum ink combination. In order to reach a maximum level of opacity, which will be different for every process, black ink is combined with the green one.

When a RGB image is sent to the printer, the Green channel in the image will be used to form the final negative and the Red channel will be used to control opacity using Black ink. Think of the Red channel as a kind of red filter that will control the maximum opacity of the negative.

To find out how much black ink is needed in your process, a form of calibration process needs to be performed first:

  • First, the correct exposure time for your process using your film must be determined. This exposure time is also called the standard printing time. This time is calculated by making a test strip using a piece of the negative film substrate. Every strip must contain a portion of film substrate and a portion of paper not covered by the film. The exposure time where the achieved black under the film is the same that you have on the paper will be your standard printing time.
  • Then a calibration strip must be printed using your standard printing time to know which quantity of black in combination with green will yield a clean white on the paper.”

Most of the alternative processes rely on UV exposure, either from the sun or from an artificial light source, to actually produce the chemical changes in the paper coating that you apply. Since HP know the exact UV characteristics of their inks they are the right people to achieve this and do so accurately.

For more information about this I can recommend the following sources:

A big well done to HP, especially given that their process supports the use of non-HP media, such as the Premier Imaging Products film and the often used Pictorico OHP one. It seems like it should work with other clear films too.

I’ll be incorporating this into the workshop I run on digital negatives.

The Epson B-510DN Inkjet Printer is a Winner

The B-510DN is a business printer, A4 or letter sized and very useful for photographers as well.

This is a four-colour printer, so it is not one that photographers would naturally consider. However a photography studio or even a hobbyist at home has need for the following:

  • A fast printer for general printing tasks;
  • Good enough photo printing;
  • Reduced ink costs.

Let’s be honest, all the printer manufacturers punish you senseless on printer running costs, and the cheaper the printer the more you know you are going to be bled for ink down the track.

This is one area where the B-510DN is different. Aimed at businesses with high volumes of use, it is certainly not a cheap printer to buy, but the ink cartridges are huge and last a truly amazing period of time. Ink costs can be as low as 4.2 cents per colour page, which is excellent and seemingly about half that of the nearest competition.

It is also a phenomenally fast printer, whether doing normal documents or photo printing. It is quiet while running and has no odour, unlike some laser printers. Colour pages print at up to 18ppm for text and draft BW printing at 37ppm. I didn’t time the full-page photo printing but it was faster than anything else I have ever seen in my studio.

The print quality is nothing less than amazing. Sure photos show the dots but it is far from objectionable, rather giving a very fine texture to an image and is really only noticeable in comparison with images printed on a high end dedicated photo printer with six or eight inks. We printed on all types of paper and loved the results on heavy fine art matt papers. Colour was spot on.

Paper handling is excellent. We experienced no paper jams and the combination of a huge capacity tray for 500 sheets and a top slot that holds 150 plain paper or less in thick photo paper is perfect for a studio situation. I saved two configurations in the printer driver of choosing paper source and type of paper and this allowed quick and error free printing on the right type of paper.

To be honest there is nothing not to like about this printer. It handled thick art papers well (up to 256gsm) and had excellent print quality on a range of plain papers.

This printer is very highly recommended and will be up for consideration for purchase as a general studio printer. It uses DURABrite Ultra pigment inks.

It would suit any photographer or designer who needs to print A4 paper and wants to keep their running costs down. It would also suit event photographers, as its speed of printing would solve a lot of problems for them.

Very highly recommended.