Damn The Overspray

In my previous post, The Print Ark, I detailed a workflow to produce master prints using the Epson SureColor P900 printer and Epson papers, for creating a lasting physical archive of my best photographic work that could act as a backup against my digital files.

I wanted to add a few thoughts about paper, and some of the limitations I see with Epson Legacy papers specifically.

I chose Epson Legacy papers for this project because They are finely crafted, beautiful looking papers, feel great in the hand, and have published numbers regarding dmax and longevity specifically with Epson inks. I narrowed it down to glossy media, since they exhibited by far the best color range, and still reproduced well. So that leaves Legacy Platine and Legacy Baryta II.

Wavy Paper

However, I was seeing some problems printing with Platine at the “Max Quality” settings in the Epson print driver, that is, at 5760dpi resolution. This paper seems to get oversaturated with ink at this resolution, causing a waviness in the print. I had not seen this before under normal viewing, it was only when I saw the print at a hard angle that it was evident. This happens regardless of printing platform (Lightroom, Photoshop, Preview), or what image ppi is being sent, or whether I use Black Enhance Overcoat, High Speed printing, or Finest Detail in the print settings. The only thing that makes it go away is switching to “High Quality” (1440dpi)

Waviness on Epson Legacy Platine print after printing at 5760dpi on the Epson P900.

Epson confirmed to me that printing at 5760dpi is not recommended for this paper, saying “There are limitations to how much ink each type of paper can saturate. If the 1440 DPI setting works better with the media, we would recommend choosing that setting, as it will work best with this particular type of media.”

I am able to print on Epson Legacy Baryta II without any apparent issues. I haven’t re-tested other paper (its getting really expensive) and Epson could only tell me the standard disclaimer for problems that can arise from printing at the highest resolution (dots/overspray, ink marks, head strikes, and increased drying times) and that “these [1440dpi] are the settings the Epson recommends. You are welcome to print at the settings of your choice. .. Most images will not show a discernible difference [between 1440 and 5760 dpi] other than excess ink on your media.”

The waviness goes away slightly over time as the paper dries, but never completely. Opening the archival boxes of other prints I have made so far on Platine, I can now see that some of these prints are still a little wavy after a month of drying.

How big of a concern is this? (Obviously, only to me! haha!) If you are flat mounting these prints, it’s not a problem, the paper is soft enough to mount just fine and the waves go away. But it bugs the hell out of me, so I will be switching to Baryta II.

Why not just print at 1440dpi?

Many others more expert than I such as Keith Cooper have suggested that this resolution is “overkill” for printing, since there is no visual difference in print quality unless you look at it under a loupe. And they are absolutely correct. You can definitely see a difference under a loupe! If I am making fine art prints for display, I would probably use the lower resolution, 1440dpi. This is also the “recommended resolution” according to Epson.

But for this project (and honestly, probably for prints that I am selling), the difference as seen under a loupe ight be more important. Here’s why.

13×19″ master print of “Hugh Herr on Outside Corner (5.8) Quincy Quarries, MA” on Epson Legacy Platine paper at 5760dpi
Comparison of extreme detail of same 13×19 print, at 1440 dpi (left) and 5760 dpi (right)

In the comparison above, this is an extreme detail of the print, photographed with a DSLR and magnified so you can see the difference on-screen. It’s equivalent to the 0.5mm x 0.5mm” field of view I have through my USB loupe on a 13×19 print. There is a difference in overall “grain” in the print but more importantly, you can clearly see the parallel vertical lines with gaps in the 1440dpi print (left). Those gaps are filled in smoothly in the 5760dpi print (right). I have seen these in other printers throughout the years as I can’t help but pixel peep everything I print. The P900 is actually better than what I’ve seen in the past but I’m still convinced there is a benefit in image quality. When you are talking about printing an image as a master backup to your digital files, I would say every bit of quality counts, down to loupe detail. I don’t see any problems with overspray or anything else, I’m just using more ink.

Now, just like the idea of “paper grain” in the previous post, the issue will diminish as you scale to larger prints. In other words, if you scanned an 8×12″ print that was made no scaling of the original image, you would see these lines readily in the scan, and they might be significant if you went forward with that as your master. But if you scale the original to a 17×22″ print, scan it, and scale it back down to original size, the overall effect of these lines is diminished. Dig? Many of my images are pretty close to needing 17×22″ as a minimum (as I talked about before) though, so I am going with 5760 dpi, on Baryta II (which has other advantages, like the ability to use Gloss Smoothing and you get to say “Baryta”)

Damn the Overspray

I don’t see this as the final word, but that’s where I am given the lack of guidance from Epson. It’s frustrating, but expected. The P900 is definitely pushing the limits of what you can do with spraying ink on paper so it makes sense that they would hedge a little and offer extremely high resolution printing but not fully recommend it. I prefer that than a less capable but safer printer. I still think the P900 paired with Legacy papers is the best printing system out there but like everything else in life, you should just test for yourself and make your own decisions.

Hopefully I have given you some information that can help.

Published on Feb 27, 2023
Filed under: Art,Behind the Scenes,Climbing,Gear Reviews,Outdoors,Personal Work,Photography
Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Responses

Leave a comment

Subscribe Scroll to Top