4. The printer at
4.1. Interface with Photoshop CS4
The printer interfaces with Photoshop either via the conventional
print dialogue or the EPSON Print Plug-In for Photoshop. The latter
is the much smarter choice. It allows defining all relevant
characteristics of the print with immediate graphical
representation. The risk of double colour management, both within
Photoshop and the printer driver, is absent as long as you keep the
direct colour management option enabled; in this case the plug-in
adjusts the behaviour of the driver accordingly.
But beware: the plug-in does not modify the driver settings
permanently. You can access and configure the driver via the
operating system and define e.g. glossy paper borderless printing
as default, while in the plug-in your default might be a layout
with 5mm border and Premium Luster media.
Yet another important characteristic: if the image aspect ratio is
not fully compatible with the defined border size, the Print
Plug-In software masks such that the border definition gains
priority and acts similar to a passepartout frame, effectively
hiding a little bit of the picture in favour of streamlined
Excursion: align image colours with printable gamut
Prerequisite: work in a dimly lit room with a calibrated monitor
set to a luminance in the order of 100 cd/m² for best
One of the outstanding features of Photoshop is the ability to
provide decent softproofing. It is quite easy to define proof
conditions for various media along with rendering intents and paper
simulation, store that under meaningful names and activate the
proof preview whenever desired.
If you switch proof preview on and off, you see immediately how the
capabilities of ink and paper will affect the resulting print.
Generally, colours will appear washed out and contrast turns dull.
Since image editing is feasible under proof preview, we can employ
careful curve manipulations until the proof preview lines up with
our expectation for image contrast.
Colour adjustments are more difficult. Before we tweak colours, it
is wise to check where the limitations in colour gamut show up.
Therefore, we need to activate the gamut warning (View -> Gamut
Warning). Colours that cannot be printed are replaced by grey
patches. Since these colours simply fall out of the colour space
that the printer/ink can represent, colour mismatches must occur in
the print unless we modify the affected colours such that these
colours become replaced by something printable. If we leave this
replacement job to the rendering intent, the
“impossible” colours will be replaced by the next
feasible match, but this is not accurately displayed in the proof
preview. If we want to be on the safe side and maintain control of
the rendering, Photoshop CS4 provides a neat way to achieve that
through the Hue/Saturation palette. Activate the finger tool, the
cursor should switch to the eyedropper tool. Pick one of the grey
patches that indicate an out-of-gamut colour. This selects a range
of neighbouring colours - which is exactly what we want - so the
slider modifications affects more the appearance of a subject in
the image rather than just an individual colour. Repeat the
select-and-modify exercise for each concerned colour range until
you are satisfied with the result.
Try for yourself with my Cornpoppy test picture. You will find that
gamut warnings mainly appear in the magenta-red of the cornpoppy
blossom as well as in the saturated blue of the cornflower. Not to
a magnitude that calls for corrective action, but the gamut
mismatch is there and knowing avoids unpleasant surprise. Now you
with Photoshop Elements 6
The printer interfaces with Photoshop Elements
either via the conventional print dialogue or the EPSON Print
Plug-In for Photoshop. Exception: it does not work for PS Elements
6 under Windows7 RC Build 7100 at the time being.
The plug-in allows defining all relevant characteristics of the
print with immediate graphical representation. The risk of double
colour management, both within Photoshop Elements and the printer
driver, is gone since the plug-in adjusts the behaviour of the
driver accordingly when you keep the default direct colour
management option enabled.
The plug-in temporarily supersedes the driver settings. You can
access and configure the driver via the operating system and define
e.g. glossy paper borderless printing as default, while in the
plug-in you always use a layout with 5mm border and Premium Luster
PS Elements lacks all features of softproofing, hence prints may
finally exhibit mismatches in colour rendition due to gamut
Same as with Photoshop: if the image aspect ratio is not compatible
with the defined border size, the Print Plug-In software masks
parts of the picture such that the borders gain priority, in favour
of overall appearance.
with Nikon Capture NX2
Printing from Nikon Capture NX2 software appears, at first, a
little bit confusing since not all relevant settings are
concentrated under one menu item. In particular, I am not 100% sure
whether or not ticking the “Use this profile for
printing”-box under Edit->Presets->Colour Management is
subordinated when it comes to launching print jobs. Normally one
should expect that a preset is not more than a default
characteristic that can be overridden by settings in other menus.
In the case of Capture NX2, I feel not so confident and propose to
leave the “Use this profile...”-box unchecked.
Nice but slightly worrying is the Digital Proof feature (lower left
corner of the image frame). Here one can enable softproofing
according to the selected paper profile, the rendering intent and
whether or not Black point Compensation shall be used. According to
my tests a few months ago, Capture NX2 does not perform proper
paper white simulation. This option is nowhere offered. Therefore,
the Digital Proof feature is inconsequential. When it comes to
tweaking an image for best appearance on the print media, the
simulation of media white is of interest.
In other words, Capture NX2 does not allow tweaking an image to the
same level of satisfaction as Photoshop CS4 does. This is
particularly pitiful since CNX2 comes with the implementation of
Nik “Viveza” software, here called Colour Control
Points, which forms an excellent tool for colour range
Fortunately, Nikon managed to apply consistency between the colour
management settings such that the proof setting for an image is
adopted as default into the Colour Management tab of the print
This print dialogue of Capture NX2 shows a number of annoying
limitations. One cannot select the printer freely; CNX2 picks only
the printer that is set as default device in the operating system.
The layout options as well as definition of borders utilize the
cumbersome vintage Windows default interface. One may rotate the
image but not define which way round. The layout preview does not
reflect all settings correctly in a WYSIWYG manner...need I say
After all, CNX2 gives me the strong impression that it was not
designed for easy and flexible printing.
Eventually I asked Capture NX2 to execute a print of a portrait
image with precise 210*297 aspect ratio and 10mm borders all the
way round, knowing that this was in conflict with the image aspect
ratio. The layout preview showed symmetric white bars at each edge
of the virtual sheet but no overall borders. What I got was a print
with 10mm borders along the long edges and almost 14mm border along
the short edge, effectively 10mm plus the white bars displayed in
the preview. This proves that the print engine behind Capture NX2
performs neither modifications to the aspect ratio (which is good)
nor masking (which is not so clever), it just scales the image
smaller in order to stay within the defined borders.
Please note that Capture NX2 does not provide direct access to the
EPSON printer driver settings through the “Print”
Users of Windows XP may (and should) access the relevant settings
in the EPSON driver through Ctrl-Shift-P (page presets) and
manoeuvre right down to “Printer” –>
“Printer settings”. Check these settings each time
before you print and adjust accordingly!
Users of Windows Vista and Win7 may just check the current printer
driver settings from the operating system level. The integration of
colour management is much more streamlined in Vista and Win7,
albeit not as straight as in the MAC world.
Once all that was checked and done, my sample prints came out
with Nikon ViewNX
When you invoke the print option of ViewNX you
see that this software was not designed for sophisticated printing.
Very fair, I did not expect that. However, the print dialogue of
ViewNX allows you to access the EPSON printer driver at the second
level of sub-menus, opening the door to all utilities, layouts and
settings. We can select the printer to use on the fly, something
that Capture NX2 does not allow me to do and I can invoke a nozzle
test quite easily, again something that CNX2 does not allow me to
In fact, the supposedly inferior print capabilities of ViewNX turn
out to be more powerful that the mighty Capture NX2!
The one thing that ViewNX really misses against CNX2 is a decent
implementation of colour management such that I receive a colour
managed preview of the print. What we see is nothing more than a
view of the positioning on the sheet. I am not even sure whether
ViewNX interprets embedded profiles correctly all the time.
Anyway since this is Nikon software as well as CNX2, you better
check the actual printer driver settings ;~)
with Fujifilm Hyper-Utility Software HS-V3
Hyper-Utility3 provides two options for printing.
Number One, Preview and Print, could be characterized as
“fast lane” since it is tailored to a single image per
page, where image size and position can be individually adjusted.
Unfortunately (and rather exemplary for the many brake-pads within
this software), the layout settings cannot be saved. Printing two
images with identical layouts means defining the layout twice.
Option #2, Print/Contact Sheet, takes you through a guided tour of
selections that looks very much like pasted from the FinePix Viewer
software package. It provides a lot of predefined layouts, many of
them are combinations of miniature prints and selected EXIF data.
Not bad for filing and record keeping, I suppose.
Likewise ViewNX, the Fujifilm software enables access to the EPSON
driver, so tuning the page layout and using any of the EPSON
utilities is easily possible.
Colour management is implemented in such an awkward manner that I
don't understand what this software will finally take into account
and what not. It just gives lots of room for guesswork and
Hyper-Utility3 is top notch as far as converting Fujifilm raw data
format files is concerned, but when it comes to printing, its lack
of user-friendliness even undercuts CNX2.
High quality prints are susceptible to unwanted
objects like dust and pet hair, of which even the slightest
fragment can ruin the entire print. My cat loves to stay next to
the keyboard while I am typing and clutter keyboard, printer and
everything on the desk with hairs... therefore I gratefully
appreciate EPSON designed the R2880 such that the device can rest
completely closed, drastically reducing the chance for ingress of
undesired objects. The R2880 features no paper tray like office
printers normally do. Open the lids and feed paper when a print job
is pending. Close them when done. Put a blanket over the printer
if you live in a desert. I find it easy to keep the device
sufficiently clean and tidy; it is well designed.
Along with the selected media goes the feeder path to be used. As
for paper media, three options exist, discerned by media thickness
and abrasion probability.
The R2880 can deal with cardboard-backed paper up to about 1,2mm
thick (1/20 inch). This is fed from the front, drawn in completely
prior to printing and then printed in forward direction just like
any other paper. Cardboard media were not amongst the sample papers
so I cannot comment further.
The R2880 can deal with a variety of Fine Art media (all are matte
papers) and provides a special paper path for some of them which
supposedly minimizes the contamination risk for the regular
The regular paper path is meant for media that are not likely to
release fibrous particles into the internals of the printer.
I tried the Fine Art media feeder and mostly the regular feeder.
The regular feeder is virtually fool-proof, just mind to align the
vertical guide not too tight to the sheet and happy printing is
The Fine Art media path demands a little more concentration form
the user. See paragraph 5.2.
Noise and storing prints
With respect to the bulk of the printer, the
noise level is rather unobtrusive while printing and non-existent
while switched on and idle. Just the paper feeding activity creates
a fair amount of noise at the beginning, therefore I would not
recommend invoking a print at night-time while a light sleeper
shares the same room, but normally the R2880 will not raise
annoyance due to printing noise.
Storing prints is something to think about before purchasing a
printer. Letter sized prints are fairly easy to file and maintain
organized, but the double sized A3 prints are playing in a
different league. You will need space. Space for allowing prints to
dry, space to store portfolios, space on the wall to mount the
framed images. Consider your space requirements and options before
purchasing the printer and definitely before you run your first
batch of large prints.
Needless to say, storage in the draughty attic or the clammy cellar
may be adequate for old suitcases and stuff, but not for Fine Art
media prints. Fine Art media are mostly composed from natural
fibres that are subject to environmental conditions, mainly
humidity, temperature and illumination. Visit any museum and see
how serious the exhibited images are protected from detrimental
environmental influence. I would not go as far as to say that we
all need to take similar measures. I just want to raise your
awareness that serious printing calls for serious post-treatment as