Best 13" printer, for fine art prints??

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by josh_c|2, Aug 12, 2009.

  1. I figured this is the best place to ask as all the people here have the most experience with these printers.
    I am starting a small printing business, just printing up limited edition runs of prints based on paintings and drawings. I don't need a printer that will make anything larger than 13". All of the prints will be on a fine art paper, Somerset velvet, or hahnemuhle fine art paper.
    I have been told to get either an Epson 1400 or 2400. But after reading around on these forums, it seems like both printers have problems. I'm not looking forward to dealing with clogged prints heads and printers that waste ink. I also can't afford that, this is just a small *fun* business.
    What printer would be best? One that uses dye based inks? I also plan on buying one of the continuous refill systems, unless I should stay away from them?
    Thanks, any help would be great.
  2. stb


    I have a 2400. The ink consumption using Epson driver and Epson cartridges is horrendous. Firstly the driver is programmed to use as much ink as possible while still getting an acceptable result, instead of using just as much as needed. Secondly when a cartridge is signaled as almost empty by the blinking light, it is so far from being empty that you will not want to change it at that time. The problem is that when it is deemed empty by the printer, it will stop in the middle of a print. In that case, you cannot change the cartridge and have the print resumed. No, you have to throw that print away. Thirdly, after each cartridge change, the printer will run a priming/cleaning cycle that will pump ink from all the cartridges, bringing other cartridges to the point where their led is blinking. Or if you already had nearly empty cartridges, they will be emptied by that cleaning cycle, so you have to change them, triggering another cleaning cycle, pumping more ink from all cartridges, and so on. It drove me mad.
    I still use that printer, but with a continuous system. I got the Ink Republic one. I have used several systems on different printers and I find the Ink Republic ones too be the best. For the ink I use MIS (, but I only print black and white, so I use one of their B&W inksets. For colour, I'd suggest to get both the CFS system and the ink from Ink Republic. I don't use the Epson driver either, I use a specialized B&W driver. I am not sure there is any practical alternative to the Epson driver for colour.
  3. The R2400 is no longer in production, it has been replaced by the 2880. The 2880 does not pump all cartridges when one is replaced; only the new cartridge is primed. I have never had a problem noted by Stephane above about the printer stoping in the middle of a print. I let the cartidges run down until I get a message that it is empty on the screen and don't pay any attention to the blinking light (found that I can usually get at least 5 more letter size prints out once the light is blinking depending on whether it is a primary color or not). I find the Epson drivers give wonderful results for both color and B&W and have not found any need to get 3rd party inksets or drivers. If ink use is a concern get the 3800 which is a little more expensive but the ink cartidges are about 5-6 times greater in capacity.
  4. stb


    Good news they have improved the matter with the 2880. Maybe the competitive pressure from third party ink suppliers and Canon and HP printers behaving much better in that regard helped.
  5. The answer you'll get most likely varies depending upon what printer the person answering uses. Certainly the Epson printers in the 2XX0 series (mine is a 2200 and the 2400 is in the same series along with the 2880) can do a wonderful job if you know what you are up to. HP also makes some excellent photo printers that some people prefer, while others get good results from the Canon printers.
  6. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    I too use the 2200 and have come to the conclusion that most problems are overstated or due to user error. If my printer stops due to an empty cart, it resumes printing when a new cart is installed. The top manufacturers all make very good printers and if you educate yourself on how to use them you shouldn't have much problems. I will suggest you take a good look at the epson 3800.
  7. Josh, it would better serve you if you better articulate your requirements. Are you outputting reproductions of artwork, rather than photographs? If the former's the case, then you should be dealing with a production printing press and not a consumer/prosumer printer--I'm not clear about your product.
    Are you going to be printing color or black and white? Glossy, pearl, or matte paper? How archival do you need the output to be? Are you going to be framing the prints under glass or just matting them and letting customers provide their own frames? How saturated do you want the colors to be? Should they be accurate or super-rich and glossy?
    Each of these may lead to a different recommendation.
  8. forget the 1400 and the 1900..they are not made to handle heavy or artistic paper. You need at minimum at old / used / refurbed 2400 (excellent printer) or a newer model like the 2880. I will suggest a 3800 as i find it handle the heavier paper more correctly, or even a 4880. I had (and a lot of people around me that i know) seem to have some difficulty loading thick paper on the 2880..many time you have to push it manually or reload the sheet 3-4 times. Depend of your budget, from 800$ to 2000$ ; )
  9. Patrick, funny you should comment on the reloading of the paper 3-4 times. Yes, that is a problem with the 2880 but it usually happens only for the first sheet of a run for some reason and then subsequent sheets print the first time. go figure! If I had to do it all over I would buy a 3800 and will probably upgrade to it or its successor when the 2880 gives up. I'm very satisfied (as are those who have seen my work) with the Epson printer
  10. So just to clarify. I will be making reproductions of paintings and drawings. No photography, well at least none that is planned. All of the prints will be on matte paper, no gloss.
    The prints will be sold unframed, that will be left up to the buyer. I know a few galleries that make their prints on one of the super wide epson printers, and they look great. I have no room for a printer that big, and I only want to specialize in smaller prints. So the 3800 making 17" wide prints is a waste for me.
    Im not planning on making prints that last forever as well. These prints will be small, fun and most importantly under $50 a pop.
    I know a few artists that use the Epson 1400 and 2400 only and have great results, customers are always happy. But they complain that the printers are hard to keep in check.
    For a good example, I am creating a shop a lot like They sell small prints, limited to 50-100 all for like $20-25 a pop. They always sell out the editions. So I am going to do similar, with a different crop of artists.
  11. The prints will be sold unframed, that will be left up to the buyer. I know a few galleries that make their prints on one of the super wide epson printers, and they look great. I have no room for a printer that big, and I only want to specialize in smaller prints. So the 3800 making 17" wide prints is a waste for me.
    Im not planning on making prints that last forever as well. These prints will be small, fun and most importantly under $50 a pop.​
    Speaking of waste, the 3800 has 80ml ink cartridges, the 2880 has 11ml ink cartridges. Given the volume of prints you will be making you will be wasting significant amounts of money using the more expensive ink of the 2880 (or 2400 which uses 12ml cartridges). It will be easier to keep the price under $50 using the 3800 than the 2880. And the 3800 will also make 4x6, 5x7, 8x10 and 11x14 prints just fine and the physical size of the printer is not that much different from a 2880 and much smaller than the super wides you mention.
  12. Peter: I plan on using one of those continuous refill systems. So I wont be using cartridges at all.
    I am just still concerned about the printer going through ink too fast, cleaning and what not.
    I also plan on buying used. I know this might not be the best idea, but I as a college student I don't have large quantaties of cash to lay down. This whole project is something to do for fun, and something to di in my free time that will allow me to not pull my hair out due to constant studying.
  13. For the kind of printing you have in mind an inexpensive Epson 1400 will do fine. You'll have to come to terms w/ permanence though. The 1400 uses Claria inks that are as archival as pigments, but it will get expensive replacing the cartridges. If you plan on doing a LOT of prints you'll want to go to a CFS system, which leaves out the 1400. You'll have to go to a more expensive model, and I would recommend going to for your CFS and inks. You might give them a call and see what they recommend. Nice folks w/ great products. If it were me I would just get a 1400 and see how the ink consumption works w/ your plans. For the money it's a very good printer that should suit your needs. I found mine for around $240 shipped w/ a full set of inks. You can get a 1280 for less, but by the time you get your inks it's about the same.
  14. Josh, I assume your output will be totally photography--how else will you be able to reproduce two dimensional images and output via an inkjet printer? I would recommend that you find a printer that has excellent black and white reproduction capability--you need to recreate graytones without any color casting. Most smaller printers cannot do this. The HP B9180 that I use does. Dye-based prints aren't that good with matte paper either. Furthermore, matt paper had a more narrow dmax which may hinder accurate reproductions of images.
    At first glance, I also question the basic production premise of your business plan--Tiny Showcase contracts with a fine art reproduction facility, iolabs. I'm not positive that they use dye-based (or even pigment-based) low-production printers for these limited runs. Getting the colors right on a parade of other's people's art is a lot of time consuming work. I used to own an art repro publishing company and it took a lot of vendors to find a house that would accurately reproduce the colors and tones.
    But maybe you are onto something excellent. Best of luck.
  15. Josh, don't forget KISS. Keep it simple! You also need to keep your overhead down! I recommend the 1400 to start your project. It will cost you MUCH less than you think in the long run (unless you're doing HUGE volumes of printing), and unless you've already tried what you're doing with another printer and found it just isn't robust enough, you will most-likely find that I'm right. As far as the ink quality and cost is concerned, if you stay with Epson original ink cartridges and buy them right, you'll find that your ink cost is normally under $5 per print. If I'm wrong, please let me know, but I've found in the past that other 6-color printers from Epson, namely the 595 produce good quality prints that are better than what you could get from Epson's competitors. Try the 1400, and if you like it, but you're doing SO much volume that you believe it's going to break down on you, then get one of the new 3880 printers, and use the 1400 as an emergency back-up (or a "proof" printer). By the time you're ready for that robust and wide 3880 (or even a used 2800) printer, you'll know weather your business model works or not. As far as longevity goes for the Claria inks, I printed a photo, which was rich with green foliage and a purple dress (on a model with light skin). That photo sat face up in a frame (with a glass glazing) on the back deck of my car under the back window for a few months. It was in the sunlight constantly, and as you know, in the summer time the heat would get at it too. I was surprised how it had NO fading, when I expected it to be TOTALLY faded. Other images (from magazines and on promo cards) have faded in the back of my car in that same amount of time or less. That says a lot for the Claria ink.
    Save yourself some money and get the Epson 1400. You can always return it after a few days or sell it to another student after a few months for $100, if it doesn't do what you need, and other than the cost of the ink, you won't be down much on your investment (the ink is almost half the cost of the printer). As far as color reproduction goes, I wouldn't listen to Michael. You're not reproducing the Mona Lisa, right? If what the 6-color Epson printer does isn't good enough, you probably won't find any financially viable option.
    Good lcuk Josh!

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