Gamma/brightness correction for Epson printer with super microweave enabled?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by lex_jenkins, Nov 24, 2014.

  1. I've dug around the web, including an old Luminous Landscape thread ("9900 Super Micro Weave GRRRR - The Luminous Landscape"), and haven't found any clear resolution to this problem.
    I'm using an older Epson Stylus Photo R200 for some quickie prints at home. Normally I'd send out for prints but the R200 still works and is handy for making quick prints for neighbors and friends. At the moment I'm just wanting to churn out some 4x6's for the holidays.
    At the default settings from any interface (Lightroom, Picasa, straight from Epson's dialog box via Windows Explorer, etc.) there's some minor but visible banding. It's not really any worse than any other consumer grade inkjet printer of that era, including my portable HP 475, or somewhat more recent HP C4210. Most of the folks I'm giving prints to won't notice or care -- but I do. It's easily fixed by using Epson's optional super microweave setting for extra passes. Takes longer -- up to 2-3 minutes per 4x6 print -- but the prints get closer to the quality of good snapshot sized prints from the DIY kiosks at Walmart, etc., which is good enough.
    However, the super microweave setting results in much darker prints. I've tried the various Epson dialog box options for gamma, etc., but they don't seem to have any effect. The only adjustment that seems to make any difference is to lighten the photo around one to two EV/stops in Lightroom, which is pure guesswork since it doesn't remotely resemble anything that should look right. I have to restore the photos to the original edits if I want good results from other printers.
    This seems to be a quirk of Epson's super microweave option. I've heard owners of other Epson printers with the super microweave option report similar problems. Has anyone figured out a reliable method for using super microweave without having to re-edit photos?
    FWIW, I'm mostly using 4x6 Epson Premium Photo Paper (glossy). Doesn't matter whether I use original Epson inks or generic replacements - same banding. Yeah, I know, the R200 was never considered a high end printer. But it's capable of decent 4x6 up to 8x10 prints without noticeable banding as long as super microweave is enabled, regardless of whether I use Epson papers and inks of other brands. It's only the significant darkening with the super microweave option that baffles me.
     
  2. Hi, I'm sure I'm no help with any of the specifics. But what I would I would personally do, I think, is to do a handful of trials starting with some head alignment tests in the standard printing mode. (Presumably you already did this.)
    Then I'd search through all the possible settings in the microweave mode in case there's something I've overlooked. I don't know if Epson has any specific instructions for this mode, but it might be worth checking their website to see if there are possibly different ICC profiles available.
    If no magic setting comes to light, I'd run my own set of ICC profiles for it. These will pretty much take care of nearly anything, provided there are enough data values to work with. What I mean by this is that if you were to run a "density ramp" type of test, perhaps a couple dozen test patches with values of 0, 10, 20, 30,...etc., and you find, for example, that everything under about 100 is completely black, this would mean that you only have about 150 values to work with. (In this case, you'd try to find a different media setting to give you more working values.) Make sure you are using the printer's "native" response for this, meaning that no color profiles are in use.
    If you don't want to spend the money on a profile, then my suggestion would be to systematically try out various adjustments in the driver, hoping to find something close enough.
    I've tried the various Epson dialog box options for gamma, etc., but they don't seem to have any effect.​
    This sounds odd to me. I'd make sure you're entering the driver setup the same way as when you print. If you enter it through a printer menu, the settings you use may not operate when printing through an application. For troubleshooting, you probably have the option to print an image directly through the operating system (try right-click on the image, pick a printer, and see if the options there can vary the gamma, etc.). If you can't make the adjustments work, something is real wrong; try something really wacky to make sure that the driver is really in control of things. Good luck.
     
  3. "...do a handful of trials starting with some head alignment tests in the standard printing mode. (Presumably you already did this.)"​
    Yup, already done, but I don't mind even the obvious reminders since I may be overlooking something really simple here.
    "I don't know if Epson has any specific instructions for this mode, but it might be worth checking their website to see if there are possibly different ICC profiles available."​
    Nada that I can find. I've been messing around with this problem for weeks, when I had time. Read everything I could find on Epson's site, Googled around for similar problems. The Luminous Landscape thread I linked to describes the same problem, but no clear resolution there either.
    "If no magic setting comes to light, I'd run my own set of ICC profiles for it. "​
    Ugh. If it were a better printer I might. But even at the maximum possible quality, when super microweave is working properly, it still can't quite match the quality of a print from Walmart's DIY kiosk - not sure if that's a dye sub or something else.
    "If you enter it through a printer menu, the settings you use may not operate when printing through an application. For troubleshooting, you probably have the option to print an image directly through the operating system..."​
    Yeah, I'll try that again. Seems to me I got good prints from it several weeks ago when I began noticing this problem. I should have taken some notes. Now that I think of it, the problem seems most persistent when trying to print through Lightroom from adjusted raw files. If I'm recalling correctly from the last printing session the straight-from-camera JPEGs that looked good on screen also printed well. So, I'll try that again straight from the printer dialog box, and bypass Lightroom, and see what happens.
     
  4. Now that I think of it, the problem seems most persistent when trying to print through Lightroom from adjusted raw files.​
    I'm assuming (since I've never printed direct Raw files out of LR on Mac OS) on your Windows system you're not using an ICC profile Photoshop type "LR Manages Color" print pipeline? Yes/No?
    If yes, what happens when you print a JPEG version of your Raw file as a test using a non-ICC "Printer Manages Color" pipeline?
     
  5. Good questions, Tim, I'll double check. I just moved the R200 printer back to my desktop rather than laptop. It's possible I overlooked something obvious in the setup.
    But it's baffling that the problem occurs only with super microweave enabled. My first wild ass guess is the additional passes deposit more ink so of course it's darker. But the tricky bit is figuring out why Epson's driver doesn't automagically adjust for that when super microweave is enabled.
     
  6. But the tricky bit is figuring out why Epson's driver doesn't automagically adjust for that when super microweave is enabled.​
    My guess is that super microweave was not engineered into their non-ICC driven Epson Color Control setting data transform pipeline. You might choose another paper medium like Epson Glossy Photo or Ultra Premium Glossy which I've done in the past to give skin tones a warmer glow from Ultra Premium's slight bluish cast due to its OBA content. Those paper settings have slight ink absorption allowances that affect how much ink is dropped.
    I'm still trying to figure out why Epson thought super microweave needed to be included. What does the Epson instructions or User's Manual say are its benefits? Specific wording might give a clue for the cause of the darker prints. I'm amazed of the amount of tips, caveats and instructions that are included with packages of Epson papers that aren't included in the User's Manual.
    The paper jam preventing paper gripper cleaning strips included with Epson papers are to be used only with specific printers and will damage others if used. Glad I read that. I think I now know what ruined my NX440.
     
  7. Another thought came to mind about you printing directly to 4x6 sized paper in that you might want to print directly from your Raw on normal sized 8 1/2x11 using your previous settings that produced banding on the 4x6's to see if it's a paper advance feed precision issue.
    I don't know if you're printing with a 4x6 scored larger sheet fed type of setup but I would think the rubber paper grips that slowly feed the small 4x6 might be causing the banding. Maybe you just need to clean those grippers that aid in precisely advancing the paper by testing using your normal settings.
     
  8. Thanks, Tim, I'll check out those tips as well. Come to think of it, I don't recall seeing so much banding on my 8.5x11 prints even at default resolution. And I was using one of HP's better premium photo glossy papers, the kind with palpable texture on the back. Maybe that gives the printer a better grip for more precise feeding. I know I can't use my Epson Premium photo glossy in the HP all-in-one Deskjet printer - it slips around and won't feed or print properly. But the Epson paper works fine in the old HP 475 portable, which was designed for 4x6 and 5x7 prints.
     
  9. FWIW, I'm mostly using 4x6 Epson Premium Photo Paper (glossy). Doesn't matter whether I use original Epson inks or generic replacements - same banding. Yeah, I know, the R200 was never considered a high end printer.​
    Just FYI, Lex, but my tips and instructions were developed based on the use of that paper/printer setup I just quoted from you and only from what I know observing my own Epson printer.
    If cross swapping paper brands with different printers, all bets are off, but you have enough options to try in order to resolve the banding. Something has got to work for you without having to expend so much ink and paper.
     
  10. I may have resolved the problem with too-dark prints with super microweave enabled. There appeared to be too many things trying to take control of the printer defaults. I thought I had it set up correctly but when I'd open Lightroom the intended defaults were wrong again.
    I re-did several things, including reinstalling the original ICC profiles for the R200 (had to find those on Epson's European site, since they dated back to 2005). And I ensured color management was off in Epson's dialog box, to let Lightroom control everything. This did a little to clear up the problems with too-dark prints with super microweave enabled. But the shadows were too green and there were other color problems.
    So I re-enabled the "managed by printer" option in Lightroom, with Epson's "Photo Enhance" option enabled. And I disabled super microweave and high speed printing, while enabling "Photo RPM". This delivered results as close as I can expect to Lightroom's soft proofing preview.
    Some banding is still visible on close inspection, but it's acceptable for my purposes. The prints are mainly for when I need them quicker than I can get from a good lab, and cheaper than the nearest minilab.
     
  11. Just to close out this issue, here are scans of a couple of 4x6 prints on Epson glossy premium photo paper from the R200, illustrating the banding problem I was describing. The top sample is without micro weaving enabled; the bottom with micro weaving enabled.
    The banding in the top print -- at default photo grade printing mode -- is visible to the eye at normal viewing distance, but it's no worse than my other consumer grade printers, including an HP Photosmart C4210 all-in-one and older HP Photosmart 475 portable printer (both with high quality HP paper). With the HP printers I can reduce banding to a tolerable level by fiddling around with the output dpi -- around 480 seems about right from Lightroom.
    Anyway, the banding is minimized enough with micro weaving enabled (Photo RPM mode in some Epson dialog boxes). It's a bit slower and uses more ink, but it's adequate for my casual home printing needs. Mostly I need it to make prints on the spot for family, friends and neighbors after taking candid snaps at get-togethers, photos of pets, that sort of thing. For better quality 4x6 prints I'll use Walmart or other printing service with those DIY kiosks and dye sub printers. Eventually I'll replace these older inkjet printers with a small Epson or Canon dye sub for 4x6 prints.
    The optional super micro weaving still poses some occasional problems. Even when I get the overall desired "brightness" right, to match the other prints, the shadows tend to be too dark with significant color shifts. Super micro weaving does minimize banding to the extent that I need very powerful reading glasses or a magnifying glass to see. But it's much, much slower (around 3-5 minutes per 4x6 print), uses much more ink, and still can't match a Walmart dye sub print.
    00czCE-552902884.jpg
     
  12. Lex, other than the banding the print samples look identical with regard to density and color, even the shadows and black point.
    For a printer (R200) that was first released in 2004 I think it might be time for an upgrade.
    For cheap but good image quality you ought to try out the current line of Epson "Small In Ones" if you want a reliable printer for quick, limited run prints at or under letter size. Most are way under $100 and "Printer Manages Color" gives satisfactory screen to print matches using Epson papers. At that price you'ld have funds left over to get a more dedicated pro quality printer.
    Glad you updated us on this issue and got it worked out.
     

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