FLAAR Digital Imaging Technology Center concentrates its experience on the evaluation and testing of high quality scanners (35mm slide scanners, flatbed scanners, drum scanners); 1200 dpi laser printers for graphics design and printing photographs; and large format printers of all kinds for limited editions of fine art and photo prints. We also do evaluations of printers for signs, posters, banners and are gradually moving into evaluations of printers for textiles.
FLAAR Photo Archive tests and evaluates cameras (such as Leica, Hasselblad, Rollei, Sinar, Cambo, Linhof, etc.), studio lighting equipment, tripods and other professional photography equipment. FLAAR Photo Archive is devoted to professional photography of sculpture in jade, stone, ceramic, bone, and seashell of pre-Columbian art of Mesoamerica as well as wildlife photography of Central America. FLAAR is nonprofit and has been busily doing public education and research for over three decades.
Once the FLAAR Photo Archive and the FLAAR Digital Imaging Technology Center have established which equipment, hardware and software is the best for each specific purchase and need, then FLAAR Marketing & Consulting offers people assistance to find the particular product which is what will produce the kind of prints that they need. We do this based on actual practice, experience, by visiting other companies that also produce fine art giclée prints, by attending the leading international computer graphic and digital imaging trade shows such as Photokina in Cologne, CeBIT computer trade show in Hannover, DRUPA printer trade show in Duesseldorf, Seybold, Comdex in Las Vegas, PMA etc. At the trade shows it is possible to study and compare the hardware and software and meet pertinent people in the companies that make the best equipment. When your needs and questions can better be answered by an experienced person who actually makes the product you are looking for, then we forward your questions to that person because they usually know more about how to use and set up the hardware or software. From our experience we also estimate many of your "unasked questions" which will occur to you later. Right now you are mainly interested in getting the right printer and RIP. But once you are happily using your new system, you will eventually wish more information about color management, you may wish to take a training course, you may want to know more about paper, inks, and other accessories. We test the various inks, media, laminators and/or study these at each trade show, so we already have worked out which are the best of the companies in each field. These are the companies we judge are the most appropriate to assist you in learning more about large format printing. Thus we will follow up later in the year with additional information on the other items you will wish to learn about as you yourself get further along in using large format printers.
Often the incoming e-mail provide tips themselves, from the experience of our readers. These tips can help countless other people so we save your suggestions and combine your tips with those of others to form "chapters" in the book that we would like to prepare. Exerpts are also used to provide information on the various FLAAR web sites. Naturally it is usually necessary to prune and extract the kernel of your observations, so we may need to edit your comments. By sending your e-mail to ask for assistance you agree to share your comments with our readers, whether on our web pages or in the book. Don't worry, your name will not be used in association with your comments in our publications. No extract that we print in our sites nor in our book includes your name. Besides, we use only about 25% of what comes to us for the book or "notable quotable from readers."
FLAAR receives equipment for evaluation from BetterLight, Calumet (Calumet Photographic/Calument Digital Solutions), ColorSpan, Sinar Bron, Leica, Schneider Kreuznach, Encad, Epson USA, Hewlett-Packard, Ilford, Rexam, American Ink Jet, Hahnemuehle, BEST, PosterJet, Onyx Graphics, GretagMacbeth and more other companies than we can list here. Printers have been provided courtesy of HP, Epson, MacDermid ColorSpan, and Encad.
When we discuss hardware, software, and accessories we tend to know the items best that are physically in our studios. Also when we recommend a particular make or model of equipment, we tend to know more about the printers, RIP´s, and associated equipment that we ourselves use daily. Don't be surprised if we obtain better results from a particular scanner or printer than other people that you ask about the same make and model. This is because when you send your images to a commercial printer, often they will print it as is at the faster speeds. But fast speed = lower quality. Of course the results may look okay, but if we had the same image, since we do everything at the highest quality modes (which implies slightly slower print speed) we usually get a better result. For example, no banding at all, better colors, and we tend to use a better paper. This is how we can obtain exhibit-quality prints from an Encad even at 300 dpi (don't worry, there are much better printers, and the better ones often don't cost as much as an Encad either, and are easier to maintain). This is just an example because readers often write "but people tell me that xyz printer is not appropriate for fine art printing..." That is because commercial printers can charge you a higher premium by using an Iris or Roland, yet more often than not they are using the higher quality dpi because most artists and photographers don't notice the difference. This even happened to us, we sent an image to a major giclée printing company and it came back looking not much better than the identical image that we did on our Hewlett-Packard. The giclée printing company subsequently admitted they did it at 720 dpi and not 1440 dpi. We checked with another artist and the same thing happened to him at another giclée printing company.
Many of the people who write ask where they can buy the equipment that we use and/or recommend. Since FLAAR itself does not sell equipment we don't always know the specific retail prices since we tend to buy at wholesale price or we get an educational discount (it helps being at a university). But knowing where to buy is as important as knowing what to buy so we recommend pertinent outlets when we have a good experience with that particular company. As our main evaluation studios are in Germany, which has the highest postage rates in the world and in Guatemala where its slow to send things internationally, it is easier when the company itself sends their catalogs to you. When it is evident from your e-mail that you are looking for a particular product (such as a scanner, a printer, a RIP) then we ask the companies to send you the catalog, as that saves FLAAR from having to pay the postage and office overhead expenses.
Hewlett-Packard large format printer division is a sponsor of the educational program of FLAAR to enable us to provide information about large format printer technology. HP provides equipment for FLAAR to use in its evaluations and training programs but HP is not present at the tests, does not participate in the tests, and is not informed of the full results of the tests until these results are published on the pages of the FLAAR websites. www.fineartgicléeprinters.org was founded as an independent source of information based on actual use of the products in an actual studio. You may note that we do not parrot corporate PR; we do not use PR shots provided by the companies (not even by Hewlett-Packard). Furthermore this site is open to sponsorship by any company whose products meet our standards.
New to fine art giclée printing?
Need some help figuring out fine art printing? Don't worry, no one can pronounce giclée properly because its a made-up phoney French word anyway. giclée just means squirted ink. The information and answers to all following questions are in the FLAAR reports. Just find the inquiry-survey form, send it in by e-mail. That gives you entry to a special menu of PDF reports. You can either download these or ask for a direct response from the FLAAR staff by e-mail (PDF downloads are instant; personal response takes 3 to 5 days; we answer 95% of all incoming e-mail, as long as you ask about large format printers; we don't handle cheap desktop printers). There is no charge for the First Level Reports
Questions about fine art prints, about printing limited editions of your paintings, or your photographs, digital fine art, how to scan?
What equipment do I use to scan or digitize my paintings or photographs?
Again it helps to know whether you will be printing the fine art prints yourself, are you considering acquiring your own large format printer, and if so what size (24" 36" larger than 36"). If you do your own prints at home or in your studio you can accomplish far better results. We know this for a fact since two tests with commercial fine art giclée printers resulted in finding out that they used the lesser modes (720 dpi) and did not use the top fine art mode (1440 dpi). In other words, you pay lots of money and in two instances we documented you get lower quality prints if you pay someone else to do them. Conclusions: if you purchase or lease your own large format printer you can get top quality for your own art, better than at some commercial places. Surely many excellent fine art printing establishments do 1440 dpi printing, but both of the two that we tested did not.
Which printer is a production workhorse?
This means, which other printers may break down or burn out if they do a print run of 400 copies (or even 100 copies). Did you know that some printers are so slow they will produce only about 5 to 10 prints an entire day?
Which printer is best for a first-time user?
This means I am new to all of this,I have read about all those fancy printers, but how can I actually use one? By the way, there is one printer we use ourselves precisely because it is idiot-proof.
What is absolutely the best printer if money is no object?
This means I am dreaming about doing fine art prints with a top of the line printer, but of course in reality I just want to know about these fancy printers. In real life I would prefer a printer that is easier to use and does not require paying a technician or operator $50,000 a year to keep the printer running.
How do I paint on top of an inkjet print? How do I make an inkjet print as basis for my subsequent painting?
We can more easily answer this question if we know whether you wish to buy a printer for yourself (which in the long run is a far better idea) or whether you intend to have someone else do your prints (more difficult, since you can't control the output as well if someone else prints them?).
Which printer should I use, Epson 9000, Epson 7000, Roland Hi Color Fi, ColorSpan XII, ColorSpan giclée printer, Iris GPrint giclée printer?
"How come no other printer claims their prints will last for centuries and are better than prints from a darkroom? How can Epson produce a cheap printer that is better than (as they claim) a LightJet, which costs perhaps $100,000.00 or more?" What are the untold downsides of the Epson 7500, Epson 9500, and the Epson 10000? FLAAR inspected these printers in detail during trade show in Germanys plus we have received information from a variety of sources since then. Just send an e-mail and you get all the information in reply (on busy weeks please allow about 2 days to get our reply).
Last updated Jan. 15, 2003, Previuws updates Nov. 15, 2002 , Aug. 18, 2001
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