Sunday, October 22, 2006

Buillt-in Profiling

HP recently announced the HP DesignJet 2100/3100 inkjet printers. These printers have a built in photospectrometer; the idea is that you can stick an arbitrary paper into the printer, and the printer will automatically print the test pattern, read the printed pattern, and then produce an ICC profile for the paper in that printer.

I'm amazed that this feature hasn't gotten more attention. If it works, this is big news for independent paper manufacturers.

The reason is this: if you have an inkjet printer (like, for instance, my Epson 9600), and you want to try a new paper that you've never used before, you need two things: you need enough paper to make sample prints to evaluate, and you need a decent profile for the paper in your printer. Sadly, most paper manufacturers offer no profiles for their papers, or they offer profiles which are (I'm trying to be generous) worthless for real printing. That leaves you with the option of having a custom profile done for every paper you want to try.

Decent custom profiles are not cheap - the cheapest you can find is probably 50 bucks, and it's pretty easy to spend $100. If you're hoping to evaluate half a dozen papers for a specific project, that means you're out of pocket to the tune of 300-600 bucks, and that's assuming that the profiles you get are good enough. Often, profiles which are fine for color printing are hopelessly inadequate for B&W printing, so you really need to be careful where you get your profiling done. Sure, if I use a RIP like Colorbyte, I can use the profiles from the RIP library, but that just

But if this auto-profiling features of the HP 2100/3100 works, it would mean that all you'd need would be enough paper to profile and do sample prints. You wouldn't have a ten day turnaround, either. Pop the paper in the printer, tell it to profile the paper, then make the test prints. It sounds ideal to me.

The extended service contract on my Epson 9600 runs out next spring. So I'm watching the inkjet printer market pretty closely, now, wondering what I'll replace it with. Rather to my delight, it appears there will be more options than just those by Epson.


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