Giving New Meaning to Mobile Printing

We want it now…instant gratification. It’s happening everywhere: shopping, streaming video and even food delivered to your door. And it also can have a negative meaning, depending on the situation.

Here’s where Jeff Cable is a contrarian. He’s also figured out how to go above and beyond for his clients and gives them instant gratification by actually giving them a framed print onsite.

Jeff Cable is a renaissance man of photography. He’s shot pro sports, car races, large scale weddings, portraits and even family gatherings, and he knows what it means to these people to capture that moment in a photo.

He’s also a master at his craft, from shooting, retouching and even printing. Check out the video above where Jeff finishes an event shoot and then heads to a makeshift studio in his truck to create something special. He retouches one of the portraits from the event, and then prints a 12” x 18” on Epson Velvet Fine Art paper (his favorite paper) from his Epson R2000 powered by an adapter. Jeff also has a frame ready to go, so within minutes he has a professionally finished and framed photo that he presents to the client.

Instant gratification. Instant gratification for a family who is celebrating a momentous occasion. He told me: “I have made many family members cry with these!”

And this is instant gratification that’s different from Instagram, Facebook or any other digital app or social media. This memorable photo will never get accidentally deleted, because Jeff printed it, framed it and gave it to the family before the party was even over. That framed print is a printed backup, one that they can immediately hang on the wall as a permanent memory of that day.

Jeff really understands what it means to have a physical, tangible memory of that day, and he gives it to them right there. And that’s cool.

About Jeff Cable: Bay Area-based photographer Jeff Cable has taken impressive shots of wild animals, landmarks, natural landscapes, portraits and sporting events, and is an official photographer for the U.S. Olympic Team. He teaches photography to other professionals globally, and is also one of the most requested presenters at New York City photo retailers. To see more of Jeff Cable’s photos and read more about his adventures around the world, check out his blog.

Printer Dots and Baking Snickerdoodles

I love baking. So, when I was baking my first batch of snickerdoodles, I had an ah-ha moment about our print head technology. Let me explain.

You see, I usually make chocolate chip cookies. With this kind of dough, I’d roll a cookie dough ball, place it on a cookie sheet, and it would melt down into a flat shape. I quickly learned that snickerdoodles don’t do that—they hold their form in the oven. If I wanted a good snickerdoodle, I actually had to shape the cookie dough just the right way. And that got me thinking about dots, shaping dots, and how Epson printers create droplets and dots. Before I knew it, I had a post about print head technology and an excuse to publish my snickerdoodle recipe. Nice.

When I rolled my first batch of snickerdoodles into balls and flattened them slightly between my palms, the edges of the cookies cracked, and I tried to smooth out the edges (with marginal success).

The first set of snickerdoodles...  not precisely shaped.

The first set of snickerdoodles… not precisely shaped.

The cookies from the not-so-precisely shaped cookie dough.

The cookies from the not-so-precisely shaped cookie dough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So with the next batch, I shaped them carefully into discs using my thumb and forefinger. They turned out great. Just like our printers’ droplets.

The carefully and precisely shaped snickerdoodle cookie dough.

The carefully and precisely shaped snickerdoodle cookie dough.

The great looking (and tasting) snickerdoodles!

The great looking (and tasting) snickerdoodles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The precisely shaped dots from from Epson printhead technology:  PrecisionCoreTM and MicroPiezo® techonologies

The precisely shaped dots from from Epson printheads: PrecisionCoreTM and MicroPiezo® techonologies.

Our printers use micropiezo technology, which is the same principle behind most digital watches. You see, when you apply electricity to quartz, it vibrates. So, using the same principle that a watch uses to keep time, our print heads have a little plate that deforms when electricity is applied, then returns to normal when the electricity stops. These micropiezo heads control the size and shape of an ink droplet by the amount of voltage applied. The larger the voltage, the bigger the drop. By varying the voltage, we can create precise round dots, just like my second batch of snickerdoodles. It’s a very controlled process.

Another type of inkjet technology, called thermal, isn’t as controlled. It uses an element to super heat the ink, creating a little bubble that explodes onto the page. It’s just not as precise as shaping them carefully.

What does this all mean? Well, the ability to create a precisely round droplet in a controlled manner means you get much better image quality. I don’t know if it makes snickerdoodles taste any better (although they do look better), but try the recipe (in the sidebar) and see for yourself.

Right Ink for the Right Job

738px-AltamiraBisonOver my 14+ years at Epson, I’ve been to many digital imaging tradeshows, and spoken with countless attendees – ranging from fine artists to pro photographers to illustration artists to the budding photo enthusiast.

Regardless of skill level, folks seem to always hit me with the super tough, technical questions right off the bat. While I’m happy to offer my knowledge and insight, I wonder sometimes (especially for those new to the creative landscape), if there are fundamental questions that aren’t being asked out of simple information barriers or a fear of looking foolish in front of their peers.

This very thought inspired this initial post looking at ink types – the first of a small series of blog posts dedicated to uncovering what you “need to know” to print high quality and successful output.

Dye vs. Pigment

From historic letters written during the Civil War, to the United States Constitution* to the ancient cave paintings of Altamira in Spain, these revered works hold timeless lessons on the fundamental characteristics of dye and pigment inks.  Longevity is the key differentiator; however each ink type has its own unique benefits. To determine which type of ink to use, ask yourself: “What am I trying to achieve with my prints?”

What is Dye? I usually refer to dye-based inks as food coloring mixed in water because that is essentially what it is – a colorant that is fully dissolved and in liquid solutions, resulting in the ink being soaked into a given substrate.

Why use Dye? If you’re looking for high color vibrancy and saturation and exceptional image detail, choose dye. With dye-based ink comes a wide color gamut and high Dmax (density of black). However, given its water-based consistency, dye has a tendency to fade over time, and since it’s water-soluble, the ink will run when it gets wet

What Applications? Dye-based ink is ideal for printing photos or on paper, and can even be used for image transfer, such as clothing dye and sublimation printing. Think of projects consisting of at-home photos, invitations and a range of business materials (e.g. charts, graphs, posters).

What is Pigment? I like to describe pigment ink as finely ground charcoal mixed with water. In other words, pigment-based ink is not necessarily water soluble, but rather very fine particles of solid colorant  suspended in liquid that are then deposited and reside on the surface of the substrate being utilized.

Why use Pigment? Longevity, longevity, longevity. Pigment ink particles have the unique ability to form a bond with the medium being used, resulting in long-lasting, fade-resistant output.

What applications? Silk screen printing, fine art, and professional photography always use pigment-based ink. In addition, T-shirt art is typically printed with pigment-based ink. For these types of applications, durability and longevity is critically important.

Stay tuned for the next series post where I will look at paper types and options.

Photo of the Altamira Bison public domain via wikicommmons.

*Note: a common misconception is that the U.S. Constitution was penned using pokeweed ink (dye-based), but was later discovered that it was written using iron gall ink, a pigment-based solution