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Instant proof

Oct 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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The final proof for a new brochure is long overdue at an Orange County printing plant, but the client in San Francisco is still toying with a last-minute color change. The account executive at the Los Angeles ad agency is nervous, but the production manager down the hall is surprisingly calm.

There is no mad dash to summon the messenger service; only a phone call to Primary Color in Irvine, CA. Because all of these locations are set up for remote proofing with the Epson Stylus Pro 4800 Professional Edition printer, Primary Color makes the client's change and sends the revised file via the Internet. Client and agency each open the file and print a matching Epson inkjet proof. Afterward, there are no panic-stricken phone calls — merely a call from a happy client to give the green light.

“Epson inkjet proofing is tailor-made to the high standards, tight deadlines and budgets of our clients,” says Dan Hirt, president of Primary Color, which specializes in prepress, sheetfed printing and wide-format digital printing. Expanding the tradition of his grandfather, who owned a Swiss printing outlet, he and his two brothers, Mike and Ron, are principals of the 20-year-old company.

Running the gamut
With two full-service shops in Irvine and Culver City, CA, Primary Color is among the leading prepress organizations in the U.S. About half of its business is reprint work for ad agencies, while the other half is work for corporate clients.

Primary Color has been looking for ways to prosper within a dramatically evolving industry. “To make a profit, we now have to diversify, produce more work for less money and turn around high-quality jobs as fast as possible,” Hirt says. By harnessing new technologies and developing practical ways to use them, Primary Color has successfully combined technical innovations like Epson inkjet printers with print craftsmanship.

“Epson inkjet technology has allowed us to put more work through the shop at a lower cost per page, which means we can bid on more jobs,” says Hirt. “For a relatively low cost of entry, we have been able to achieve a tremendous consistency and reliability in our workflow.”

Jay Sato, head of research and development for Primary Color, adds, “Due to the [Epson UltraChrome] ink's color gamut and color consistency, we rely on the printers like a traditional proofing system to create accurate and stable color, from the moment the proof drops from the printer to days later.” The inks reportedly produce color prints with a color gamut approaching today's standard dye ink technologies.

The company has used Epson proofing for several years, including the 17-inch Stylus Pro 4000, the 44-inch Stylus Pro 9600, the Stylus Pro 10000 and the Stylus Pro 10600 at multiple locations. “In past years, we've seen inkjet technology improve dramatically, and I believe it will eventually take over the lion's share of contract proofing,” says Sato.

Most recently, Primary Color installed the Stylus Pro 4800 Professional Edition, a desktop printer with eight-color Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink and a maximum resolution of 2,880 × 1,440 dpi. The device prints on virtually any media, roll or cut-sheet, up to 17 inches wide. For remote and internal proofing, the printer features a high-speed 10/100 BaseT internal Ethernet card with built-in Web site setup and configuration.

Looking to the future
“We believe remote proofing, which cuts the time it takes to overnight or messenger a proof, is going to be an even greater force in the future,” says Sato. Proof certification software allows Primary Color to place proofing devices in remote locations and check for issues like printer consistency, operator error or low ink levels.

“Because many agency and corporate clients have migrated to Epson proofs, the work flows more smoothly,” says Hirt. “Those clients who have tried remote proofing really love the proofing device and the quality of the color, and they are anxious to expand its usage to their extended clients. Because of the low cost of the Epson printers, it allows us to print on the same proofing system as our clients and gives the whole team consistency without the high price tag of a larger proofer.”

The printer comes with a custom-designed, PostScript 3-compatible RIP from ColorBurst. The SWOP-certified and Pantone-licensed printer allows Primary Color to accurately set expectations during the early stages of design workflow. It also saves valuable time and money producing contract-quality prints during the final approval phase.

An advanced print head design allows for the precise placement of dots, resulting in very accurate and stable color. “Everything from the print engine to its paper transport mechanism is designed for reliable operation and trouble-free maintenance,” says Sato. “The Epson printer's automated features make setting up the machines a lot easier.”

Primary Colors' vision of a new era in print is defined by an “all under one roof” color-managed printing facility offering multiple graphic arts products. Hirt foresees that Primary Color could be using the Epson proofers for most of its future proofing needs. “Inkjet technology will play a big role in the future and will most likely be the predominant proofing method within a couple of years,” he says.

Proof Positive
See our November 2005 issue for inkjet proofing systems available from leading manufacturers, including Agfa, Canon, Epson, Fuji, Kodak and HP, among others. Find it online at

Picture perfect
When Jeff Schewe began his career as a top Chicago advertising photographer over 25 years ago, it was the print that mattered. Though digital imaging now allows him more control of the final photographic image, he still believes it's all about the image in final print form.

“Nowadays we all get wrapped up in technology and think it's the solution to creating the perfect photograph, but it really boils down to what the final image looks like,” Schewe says. His 2005 exhibit, “Jeff Schewe — Recent and Retrospective Photographs,” at the Art Institute of Atlanta, GA, featured 31 photographs from 1976 to 2005. Schewe personally created the prints on Epson UltraChrome K3 printers: the Epson Stylus Pro 7800 (24 × 30 inches) and the Epson Stylus Pro 9800 (36 × 46 inches).

Since Schewe started doing his own digital imaging in the 1980s, he's been in demand as a world-class expert in the field. A graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and former president of the Advertising Photographers of America, Schewe also consults for a variety of companies and teaches thousands of people about digital photography.

“After years in the business, I was finally ready to do an exhibition of my work using the new Epson UltraChrome K3 inks,” he says. “I knew digital printing had finally reached the point where it's tough to argue that analog photographic prints are superior. Digital printers have caught up with and even exceeded traditional printing methods.”

UltraChrome K3 ink's Advanced Black and White Mode creates neutral and toned black-and-white prints from a single ink set. The three-level black ink system uses black, light black, and light-light black simultaneously. Schewe also uses the user-exchangeable black ink modes, choosing between Photo Black and Matte Black to optimize black ink density on various media types used for his exhibition, including Epson Premium Luster and Somerset Velvet for Epson papers.

“UltraChrome K3 ink has really advanced photographic reproduction with its wider color gamut, increased tonality, high D-Max, and deeper saturated colors,” Schewe notes. “Other milestones with UltraChrome K3 ink that I greatly appreciate are the reduced gloss differential and the substantially minimized bronzing effect,” Schewe adds.

Schewe produced all 31 prints for his fall 2005 Atlanta exhibition in less than a week. He says, “When I first got into photography, I really enjoyed seeing the image miraculously appear in the developer tray. But today, there is nothing like the thrill of seeing a final print emerge from an Epson printer. No matter what it took to get that image, we end up caring most about what the final print looks like.”