Contract proofing has come a long way. We have moved from analog systems to inkjet printers and the majority of today’s software RIPs have matured to a point where it’s a much simpler wizard-based process to create a new paper calibration and profile. Canon has entered the arena with a new printer called the iPF6450 and it comes with an optional on-board spectrophotometer. Let’s take a look at how this printer is unique and why I think it is such a great option for a company looking to invest in a 24” contract proofing and photo printing solution.
First, a comparison to the other main player in the field, Epson. Now Epsons are great printers, but they suffer one issue that makes me nuts: clogged nozzles. In my testing facility I have an Epson 4900 and at previous locations I have worked extensively with the 7900 for months at a time. It seems if I leave the Epsons for a period of time they require a head cleaning before I start. I’ve even seen jobs wasted when the heads decide to clog during a print run. When it comes to contract proofing a few clogged nozzles can mean the difference between a pass and a fail. But with the Canon, it has yet to clog once, in the eight months I have been using it. It has gotten to the point where I don’t even check anymore.
Easy media handling
Another unique option that I really like arises from how Canon embraces third party media, allowing the end user to create custom paper types and even custom ink limits and paper settings. This is all achievable via software supplied with the purchase called the Media Configuration Tool. With this software one can create a new paper preset and the real paper’s name will show up on the printer’s control panel. This makes it much easier when loading paper and ensures no mismatch occurs.
The Canon iPF6450 printer has 12 inks. That’s a lot of inks and it creates a huge colour gamut, certainly a lot larger than any printing press. This means you can print very accurate Pantone spot colours, which is especially great for packaging mock ups!
The image on the left shows a Standard Proofing Paper’s color gamut compared to the entire PANTONE Solid Coated set of colours. You can see only a few spot colours are just outside the gamut of the media. It would be safe to say that 95% of the Pantone colours are within 1 Delta E and the remaining 5% are within 3 Delta E.
EFI Fiery XF Version 6
As I am writing this article I am also creating a new calibration and ICC profile within EFI’s Proofing RIP, Fiery XF V6. So far it is has completed four steps and I haven’t done anything other than set up the Color Tools application as shown in the figure below and hit print. My selections: Linearization will be done automatically and Profiling will be done automatically.
A similar procedure is also possible if you want to create a Giclée RGB Contone profile; actually the process is even faster. The software sends one linearization chart and a second ICC profile chart and you’re done. I tested it with a 310 gsm Hahnemuhle Matt Texture FineArt paper. It was so easy and the results were outstanding!
Automated colour verification
Getting back to the CMYK proofing setup, my paper profile is now completed and I am doing a verification print to check the accuracy of the new profile creation. This process again, uses the on-board spectrophotometer.
The verification process is essential for a contract proofing system and so easy when you have a spectrophotometer built into the printer. In the past the verification step it was rarely done because an operator needed to measure the proof after it was printed. This took time and required someone to stop what he or she was doing and measure the print. But with the built in spectro all you need to do is tell the printer to measure the colour bar after it has printed. The results of the verification are printed directly onto the proof. There is a huge boost of confidence showing that your proofs are within tolerance – and no labels!
GMG ColorProof Version 5.5
GMG also allows for automatic calibration and in-line proof verification with the on-board spectro. The ideal scenario and the most accurate option would be to use one of the pre-configured proofing media. In my case, I opted to use the GMG ProofPaper semimatte 250 for GRACoL Coated #1 proofing to hit the GRACoL specifications. GMG has preloaded all the required profiles and paper settings. All the user needs to do is load the media in the printer, configure the workflow to your desired target (press profile or industry specification), click the AutoCali Wizard and the software beings the process of calibrating your printer to the specifications required by GMG. After two iterations the software created an adjustment calibration for my printer and I had a certified proof.
Proof Verification was very easy to set up. Select your colour bar and choose the in-line spectro device as your measurement device and GMG will automatically measure the colour bar, print a pass on the proof and create a verification report.
The iPF6450 is not just for proofing. You can easily create stunning posters, canvas wraps, giclée prints and photos with one of the many RIPs available. All that’s needed is to set up an RGB workflow. One thing to keep in mind is that the gamut of this printer, on a satin, semigloss or gloss media, is larger, in some parts than the Adobe 1998 RGB colour space. What this means is if you have the option when processing your RAW files, use the ProPhoto RGB colour space to take advantage of the colours that fall outside the Adobe colour space.
A number of RIPs are compatible with the iPF6450. A complete list is shown below.