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Review: Epson SureColor P5000 Large Format Photo Printer

This is the second part of our review of the Epson P5000 printer. To read what we had to say about printing and using Epson, click here

A few weeks ago, we posted about the importance of printing your photographs – and how for the modern photographer, being able to put ink to paper really is what separates the men from the boys. As the second part of that thought, we got our hands on an Epson P5000 Fine Art Photography Printer. A lot of you (dear readers!) have asked us to post more about this machine, so here it is!

What is fine art printing

A fine art printing is in simple words, a high-quality and high-resolution print on fine art paper. The term not only refers to the quality of the image but also includes other important factors like the medium used and the print’s longevity.

The quality of an image of a fine-art print is highly superior. It has incredible resolution, sharpness, and clarity than a regular print that you would frame and hang in your living room. It is rather much like a painting or picture you would see at an art gallery. A fine art print is made for permanence and longevity. Which means that the ink won’t fade and the paper won’t deteriorate for quite a long time.

What do you need to get started

Like we said before, all you need is a printer and the medium of your choice to get started. But one of the biggest challenges in digital photography is getting on print exactly what you see on the monitor. Each monitor and printer on the market uses a different printing technology. Which is why your images will look different on every screen and print. The printer and the paper you use determines how the image will look onscreen and the end product.

So first and foremost, you need a printer capable of reproducing colours that we see on the monitor. And our Epson SureColor p5000 gets pretty close to our vision. We’ve been using it for the past few months and we can safely say that it produces images with incredible details! It provides print longevity and ensures colour accuracy with its wide gamut of colours. The printer also makes calibration easier with the Colour Calibration Utility.

Once you’re sorted in the printer department, you need to have the right paper for your image.

How to select paper

It can be overwhelming to choose the right paper with the numerous options available in the market today. But there is really no other way to figure out which paper to use other than to experiment with a couple different ones. We recommend printing the same image on different types of papers to ascertain which ones you like. In fact, buy papers from a few different manufacturers also.

Some of the things to consider while choosing is first if you want to print on canvas or paper. Under paper, there are a few more options to pick – weight or thickness, texture, finish and colour of the paper. For the finish, there are options like glossy, matte, lustre and pearl finish. You wouldn’t think that the colour of the paper has anything to do with how the image will appear, but it is! You can choose from pure cool white, cream and off-white.

There are no hard and fast rules to this. Paper selection is a personal artistic decision. Only you can decide what conveys your vision best. After a while, you’ll know which paper to use for the mood you’re trying to evoke. Visualising the end product and knowing what you want to use it for will decide the kind of paper you should choose. Epson has invested and created quite a good range of papers. Epson Enhanced Matte 192 is our all time favourite. It’s versatile and can be used for posters, proofing, client giveaways, with the added advantage of being reasonably priced.

Overview of colour profiles

Every paper manufacturer creates a set of rules that a printer understands. There are specific profiles you need to use for certain papers. You can download the right profile form the manufacturer’s website and reset your printer’s settings accordingly. Using the settings right for a certain type of paper will give you the desired results for your images. But sometimes artists and photographers have been known to deliberately change the regular settings to enhance the quality of an image or achieve a certain mood for their photo.

Again, it comes down to you and your style and preference. You will have to experiment a little with a couple different types of papers and printer settings to figure out what you want.

Using the P5000

To test the limits of what we can really do with the Epson P5000, we did a small experiment. We used the printer to create an art installation for our studio.

We needed a print of over 7 feet width and 5 feet height. Here is where we donned our thinking caps and came up with an idea. We broke the image down into squares and printed each block separately. Since we wanted the colours of the image to stand out, we used Epson Lustre 260 paper. Then, we mounted them on a 6mm MDF board and stuck them on the wall with a double-sided tape. And tada, the outcome was pretty good!

Understanding how important media is

To help you understand the differences between how different papers and their textures can affect an image, we printed one coloured and one black-and-white image on four types of papers. Also to give you a sense of their texture, we took close-ups of the same prints.

The results were quite interesting.

(The images on the right are a 100% crop of images on the left)

(Canson) Arches Aquarelle Rag

[tg_thumb_gallery gallery_id=”26732″ width=”325″ height=”325″]

(Canson) PhotoArt ProCanvas

[tg_thumb_gallery gallery_id=”26739″ width=”325″ height=”325″]

(Canson) Baryta Photographique

[tg_thumb_gallery gallery_id=”26747″ width=”325″ height=”325″]

Epson Premium Canvas Satin

[tg_thumb_gallery gallery_id=”26752″ width=”325″ height=”325″]

As you can see, Epson makes some jolly good papers too – and the Satin Canvas with its semi-gloss finish really makes the canvas pop. Of course, the archival quality Bartya Photographique looks amazing for colour while the Aquarelle Rag makes black and white really pop. Which is our favourite? Well, it’s almost impossible to choose – and we’ll always let the image decide the paper!

A quick overview of print driver settings

Driver settings can be tricky. Even if you’re not using a RIP software, tweaking driver settings makes a lot of difference to the quality of your print, and overall how well the image reproduces on your selected media. Choosing the wrong settings will give you a dull looking print that looks way different from what you originally wanted.

Here are a few quick tips on things you can tweak to make sure you get things right:

  1. Media Type: This is the most important setting you need to choose. All papers have different ICC profile settings that allows the software to correctly translate colour settings for the printer. Epson papers all have the profiles built in, if you’re using third party papers – there will be an equivalent paper type given by the paper manufacturer.
  2. Ink: There are two types of black – matte black and photo black. Use the correct black ink based on the paper you’re working with. A general rule of thumb is that matte papers used matte black (duh!) and glossy papers use photo black.
  3. Colour Mode: Leave this off. Let the software (like Photoshop or Lightroom) manage colour.
  4. Choose the correct settings:
    1. Super Microweave: Leave this on. This makes sure that the print heads fills all the dots in the way it should.
    2. High Speed: This makes no difference in print quality but makes the head print in both directions (while going up and down)
    3. Finest Detail: This makes text, lines and other shapes print sharper. Best left on even if you’re printing photos.

Another setting you can play around with is the resolution. We’ve found that there isn’t much difference between 1440 dpi and 2880 dpi to the naked eye, and printing at 2880 dpi consumes much more ink. Frankly, with the quality/ink usage tradeoff, we usually print at 1440 dpi.

Lastly, if you’re using 3rd party paper, please make sure you download the corresponding ICC profiles from the manufacturer website. These are usually fairly easy to find with good paper manufacturers like Canson, Hahnemuhle etc.

Our experience with P5000

The p5000 is great for people starting out in printing to get their hands dirty.

The printer’s roll feed is simple to use with a built-in cutter. The best thing about it? You can print smaller sizes and you will still have paper left for other projects; there is minimal paper wastage. It can also print on cut sheets if need be. It’s impressive that the printer can switch from roll paper to cut sheet automatically. Another advantage is that it uses pigment-based inks. There is almost no drying time required for a print. Which means no fear of smudging after a print is out!

The printer is built for continuous usage and heavy-duty everyday printing. We’ve used it for consecutive days and have had no issues with the prints. It works seamlessly for hours! For a machine with this capability, it is of relatively compact size. The 17-inch desktop printer needs only a table size of space, though a sturdy one because of its weight. (It takes three people to move it around the studio!)

Learning how to print really helped us in our artistic journey. It is a journey from photo ideation to creation and final completion. And we believe that a photo is complete only when you print it. Don’t get daunted with complicated words and processes you may read about calibration and colour modes online. But once you jump in, you’ll find out it’s not really that complicated.

If you have any questions about printers or different papers, we’d love to answer!