The New Piezography Manual which is available by clicking here.
The turnkey system does not require anything from the photographer other than supplying high quality black & white images. Because QuadTone RIP and QuadTone RIP Print Tool are independent products, the user must license these shareware from the author ($50 each at http://www.quadtonerip.com)
When working in QTR, the photographer sets up the page size, centers or arranges image/s on the page setup, selects the correct Piezography media profile to match the media being printed and clicks the print button. There are no adjustment curves to devise or any hoops and circles to jump through. QuadTone RIP (QTR) is used as the printer driver for Piezography inks, but the photographer does not need to learn nor use any of the QTR process that other users of QTR must learn or acquire from others. The Piezography media profiles are created by a proprietary profiling application at Vermont PhotoInkjet and the results far exceed the results from non-Piezography applications of QTR. And it really is quite easy to operate. (click ahead to see a video of Piezography printing from QTR on Mac OSX).
|Piezography Carbon||Piezography Special Edition|
|Piezography Neutral||Piezography Warm Neutral|
|Piezography Selenium||Digital Negatve|
There are at least five ink sets available to choose from that are installed as an entire set of shades. The amount of shades differs depending upon printer model. These ink sets mimic traditional photography process.
Selenium is our most popular ink set probably because it mimics short batch selenium toning of fiber based prints. It has that definite museum look of contemporary photography.
Neutral is our second most popular ink set. It is designed to be achromatic to the human eye when viewed under 5000k on a specific grade of paper (Hahnemuhle Photo Rag). It mimics the standard observer of CIE. The ink set will become warmer or cooler depending upon the color of the white of the paper it is printed on. Special Edition is nearly as popular as Neutral and this ink set shows off the blending capabilities of Piezography ink. Each shade # of one set can physically be mixed with the same shade # of another set. Special Edition blends warm carbon shadows into selenium midtones into neutral highlights. And it has a decidedly platinum/palladium look.
Warm Neutral is the Coca-Cola of Piezography. Our first ink set released in 2000 was "warm neutral". This ink set has been updated and mimics the warmth found in old Agfa process - but it is not an old time looking ink set. This is Cathy Cone's favorite tone being neither too warm nor too neutral - just right. Carbon should be our most popular ink set but it is not. All Piezography ink sets are very fade resistant and will lose very little precious tone over their lifetime.
Carbon is in a league of its own. It is the most fade resistant ink set in the world. It's carbon and carbon is warm. The only way to make carbon print more neutral is to remove the dilutions and shades until mostly just black is printing. But to have luxurious tone - one has to accept the warmth carbon brings - a lovely brown tone. With Piezography PRO (available late 2015) you will be able to modulate the tone of Carbon by blending Selenium or and Neutral into it using a new generation of Piezography Curves.
Piezography Digital Negative is better way to make digital film because it overcomes the limitations of other systems that use color inks to make film. Color inks work well enough only when the dithering does not become apparent. When the dithering of a color ink negative is apparent, it will necessarily be at the extremes of that particular color ink being driven in a way that is not natural to the printer. Venetian blind like patterns begin to evolve and this becomes apparent in the final print. Piezography Digital Film uses a special ink set of five shades and produces a continuous-tone negative that looks like and acts just like a traditional negative. It will have higher detail and smoother tone than a negative made with color inks. It's also a turnkey system. Where others are struggling to master systems made with color inks, a Piezography needs only select a Piezography film media profile and print their image file. It makes perfect film and gives you an edge over others who are using the more conventional digital negative systems.
This entails installing the Piezography ink set into your printer. Downloading the necessary software for your operating system. Discarding the manual that comes with that software and downloading and reading the manual published by Piezography for Piezography.
1a) Preparing your small format printer
The 1400, 1430, 1800, 1900, 2200, 2400, 2880 are all desktop printers with ink cartridges sitting directly on their print heads. These are very easy to prepare for Piezography. We sell a small format cleaning kit which will allow you to flush each head individually. We then recommend that you clean off the ink stems with qTips to remove the pink stain of PiezoFlush before installing the Piezography filled cartridges into your printer. We prepared a video on how to best prepare your printer.
1b) Preparing your large format printer
It is critical that the printer you plan to install the Piezography inks into is in the best possible operating condition. Piezography is going to increase the resolution at which the printer operates. While you may be able to make color prints with a few missing nozzles, Piezography produces so much fidelity that one missing nozzle is noticeable. Further, you want a printer that is well aligned. These are things that we take for granted in the studio. All of our equipment is maintained in peak operating condition by Dana Ceccarelli. Your equipment should also be well maintained and we publish videos on this site that show you how to maintain your printer. We also sell products such as PiezoFlush to make sure the system is well prepared.
There are two camps when it comes to preparing the printer. One camp wants to do things as we would do it here and installs PiezoFlush filled cartridges to flush out the color inks from their printer prior to installing Piezography inks. This eliminates all of the residual color stain especially in the yellow and light magenta channels where the lightest shades of Piezography inks are often installed. There is some expense in purchasing a set of refillable carts and PiezoFlush. The upside is that they can be used many times. If you wish to leave your printer unattended for 3 weeks or more - you are well served by flushing the pigment ink out of the printer and shutting it off stored with PiezoFlush.
The other camp wants to prepare their printer but wants to do so at minimum expense. They decide to flush out the color inks with the more expensive Piezography inks and forgo the expense of a second set of refillable carts. It will take quite a bit of power cleaning or Initial Ink Charging in order to do this. The downside is that a lot of expensive Piezography ink is spent in flushing.
The 3800/3880, 4000/7600/9600, 4800/4880, 7800/9800, 7880/9880, 7890/9890, and 7900/9900 all have tools for either performing POWER CLEAN or service menu mode Initial Ink Charges to empty all the ink in the ink lines and dampers and replacing this with either PiezoFlush and then repeating to charge with Piezography, or doing this with Piezography inks twice in order to flush out the color inks. The R3000 and 4900 require the use of the EPSON Utility Adjustment Software which runs only on Windows. There remains a possibility of using flush images to clear each channel of the R3000 and 4900 on a Mac but it will be time consuming. We have prepared a chart on how to use PiezoFlush with large format printers. You will find the best ways for using the Power Clean or Initial Ink Charge.
1c) Preparing a brand new printer
We like to thoroughly test new printers with color inks prior to filling with Piezography inks. We do this to insure we were not shipped a lemon. If it does not work well with the OEM inks - it will not with Piezography. But, over the years, the quality of EPSON printers has improved greatly and its rare now to receive a "lemon". So, it is possible to simply install the Piezography inks as if you were installing the OEM inks into the printer on its initial start up. Nothing is easier than that!
2) Installing inks into your printer
The installation of the inks must be according to our installation guides. We offer an inks installation instruction sheet on each of our Refillable Cartridge sets for supported Epson printers. Look at the Additional Information page of these items to read or download the cartridge installation instructions as well as the inks placement. The logic of installation of the shades is not left to right or right to left. Rather each shade has a very specific color position that it is installed in. The guides will indicate. We recommend that you lay out your cartridges and put the corresponding bottle of Piezography ink adjacent to each cartridge. You should mark the shade # on each cartridge.
All of our cartridges have chips which read 100% full when you first receive them. You should fill them to the 100% mark when you first fill them, and each subsequent time you refill them. When you refill the carts for the second and later times, you will need to reset the chips. Some of our carts reset automatically. Some must be manually reset. The 3800/3880 carts are the only carts which also require you to supply a set of OEM chips from your spent and used OEM cartridges (and yes they can be completely empty.)
Some of our cartridges require that you prime them before installing in the printer. This removes the air from the outlet hole so that the ink can exit freely.
3) Downloading the appropriate software for your system
Windows users require only the downloading of the QuadTone RIP (QTR). Apple is now not so straightforward. QTR must be downloaded - but can now (since OS X 10.5) only be used with the QuadTone RIP Print Tool. Print Tool is required in order to prevent Apple from converting image files prior to printing (and that messes up tonal smoothness). On the other hand, the Print Tool is a very cool interface. But - both are required and both are $50 shareware which you pay directly to the author and you will receive support for the software directly from the author. Please note that you should NOT follow the QTR manual unless you are using color inks to print your b&w. Piezography uses the QTR printer driver but does not use the standard QTR workflow and is actually incompatible with QTR workflow. This may sound strange. Why use QTR if we do not use all of the QTR features?
Piezography at one time used its own proprietary printer drivers which were Photoshop plugins. The plugin architecture of Photoshop in conjunction with the ever changing EPSON Printers made that too challenging. Piezography BW ICC then used the actual EPSON printer drivers and we invented our own classification of ICC profile with which to alter the output of the EPSON printer drivers to suit our needs. The Piezography ICC profiler was a powerful tool that allowed us to produce our effect. EPSON began to change their printer drivers too frequently for us to keep up with changing our ICC profile specs and it became too challenging. We adopted the QTR driver as a way to deliver our "profiles" and we convert our profiles to .quad files that are compatible with QTR. But, our profiles are not compatible with the rest of QTR. You must follow our Manual!
4) Read the Manual
The Piezography manual explains how to install and use QTR - but its very important that you follow our Gamma 2.20 workflow. Any deviation will produce poor tonal response, blocked shadows, dark output, and potential posterization. Our workflow is very simple. You can view a movie of how to use Piezography on a Mac right below. It's even easier on a PC! But, if you use any of the suggestions from the QTR manual - you will not get the results you and we expect. Piezography workflow using the QTR rip is quite different from how others must use QTR rip. Only follow the instructions in the New Piezography Manual which is available by clicking here.
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5) Image Preparation
Piezography is exceedingly sensitive. Because it prints tens of thousands more gray tones than EPSON ABW and much finer detail than EPSON ABW - it is very sensitive to poor masking techniques or to over-sharpening. It really requires you and will force you to become a better imager. In fact, its not unlike learning to ski in the Northeast. If you can ski ice - you can ski anything. Likewise, once you begin making Piezography prints that meet your own standards you will find that your expertise in making color prints is up there with the Pros - and often surpassing them.
To print tens of thousands of gray levels, Piezography divides up an image in increments so that white is only printed where there is no tonal value in the image file (L255, or RGB 255,255,255, or 0%). It prints black only where there is actually black (L0, or RGB 0,0,0, or 100%). This means that if it is just barely not black then it prints as just barely not black. Most people new to Piezography are used to the EPSON ABW making black out of anything near to black. Also, EPSON ABW can not print as near to white as can Piezography. So, you will need to begin to actually look at the pixel values in your image files to see if you actually have any black pixels and if you do - is there enough of them to get as black as you want. We suggest first looking at your work with the extremely long tonal range before automatically forcing detail to black or to white.
We're all conditioned by 200 years of photography in not being able to print the detail that can Piezography. It will seem flat at first. I can assure you that it is very easy to make it look like ABW or to look like a silver print. You need only apply an aggressive levels or curves. But, what it offers you is a way to finesse these areas in a way that you could not otherwise.
Do not oversharpen your images! Digital sharpening works by building contrast in detail. The EPSON printer driver (ABW) and even the regular use of QTR (with color inks) is very forgiving to over-sharpening. In fact, it is because of the dithering that people often sharpen so much. Piezography can print the contrast lines in detail that other systems can not. So back off! Perform your sharpening at 100% pixels view. If it looks a tad too sharp or too crunchy at 100% pixels view (actual pixels view), I can assure you that Piezography will print it a tad too sharp or too crunchy. With that amount of control, you can use the actual pixels view to gain control over exactly how sharp your images will print. In some way, its quite liberating when you realize there is very little guess work in Piezography. It's more about precision work.
6) Image Scanning and Capture
Who does this anymore? Plenty. Because Piezography prints with such long tone - you will want your drum scanner operator to scan flat. If you operate your own flatbed scanner - you will want to scan all the way to the outside of the histogram. I hope you know what that means... You want everything that the film has as information - because you can actually print that information with Piezography. Stay in 16bit if you can. Set your scanner for its highest optical resolution (which is lower than the highest possible resolution). Check the specs of your scanner to find this out. But, if you are scanning film with pronounced grain you may need to reduce this. Do not over-resolve film!
Capturing images with a digital camera is a bit like an instantaneous scan. You do want as much resolution as possible. Set your camera for the Largest file size and shoot in Raw. You want as much information as possible.
We do NOT believe in resampling images. Stay in the captured optical resolutuion. This is very important. And avoid fractal resampling software as if it were a plague. Piezography will print the fractal patterns. Piezography is that sensitive! The truth is that it is better to allow Piezography to print more droplets of ink in adapting to the scale of your images than to try and resize them up in software.
Piezography is the only printing system that can really utilize everything you can give it. ABW with just a few hundred gray values can not really take advantage of 16bit grayscales. Piezography can match it tone for tone! Stay in 16bit. You can not convert from 8bit to 16bit and realize any more than 256 gray values. Those few hundred are better served remaining in 8bit. If you capture an image in 16bit or even 14bit or 12bit (depends upon your device) - keep it in the 16bit mode and take advantage of a much smoother input space to do your corrections and print to Piezography from this larger bit space. Yes it takes up more room!
8) Grayscale mode
Convert! There is no gain remaining in an RGB grayscale mode. It produces a file that is three times larger than a single channel grayscale mode file. The RGB version is three similar channels. QTR sees it as one when it begins to print. So convert to grayscale early! How you convert is a subject of many books and guides and often based upon personal experience. I enjoy Lightroom and the control I have over the color sliders to mimic filtering. I prefer it to camera raw and Photoshop because I love the speed of accessing images in LR. Camera raw can serve you just as well. But so can any number of filters or techniques as long as they do not blow out your highlights nor crush your shadows. There is no filtering package available to you that you can not do yourself with skillful use of curves and layers. Remember that any expensive add-on is making choices for you based upon skills that you yourself have not yet acquired.
9) Display Calibration
You will soon learn that Piezography prints many more gray values and detail in the shadows and highlights that you may not be able to actually see on your display. Piezography is the highest possible standard in grayscale printing - so we would expect that. A laptop is not going to be sufficient even with the best calibration package. An Apple display especially is not designed for printing. Today's Apple displays are designed for video. The brightness is simply too much. Brightness on a display is the same as darkness in the shadows. You can not have a display be too bright and yet show shadow detail at the same time.
Calibrating a bright display using EyeOne, Munki, Spyder, etc... is actually calibrating your video board. These devices are used with software to create a lookup table on your computer that alters the output of your video board. That helps - but it necessarily reduces the fidelity of your output and lessens the reliability of the sensitivity of your display in Photoshop and Lightroom and decreased the ability to reliably Soft Proof. It is a bandaid in comparison to using a "Calibrator Display" which is a subset of displays manufactured with their own on-board video engines (usually in 12 or 14 bit). These are calibrated with their own devices so that your computer video board maintains true 24bit output (256 gray levels in each of RGB). These are known as the Eizo CG series and the NEC Spectraview series. The latter are possible to buy as inexpensive refurbs. As of this writing, I have bought three 30" NEC Spectraviews at under $1,400 each. I calibrate them using Spectraview software and either the Spectraview device or I connect their software to a ColorMunki device. ColorMunki software is never used - just the measuring device! I can see what I print - especially when I use Soft Proof ICCs to change the color of the image on my display to that of the print and paper. Finally - I image in a D50 environment and I use a dimming D50 booth in which to put my proofs next to my display.
Lots of tips and stuff on the Piezography website for you if you wish to read further. Certainly consider taking a workshop here in Vermont of in Santa Fe where I teach.