Piezography Pro- warning, geeky printing stuff follows
Some of us have been using “dual quad” black and white ink sets since seven ink large format printers, various hues of Piezography inks, and software drivers allowing advanced ink control became available. This approach enabled blending the sets into a variety of black and white hue options. Alternately, greater numbers of ink positions with printer developement allowed for increased numbers of gray densities that, when properly utilized, increased photographic fidelity dramatically, therefore that approach took precedence for several years, at the expense of easily variable hues on demand.
With increasing numbers of ink positions in newer printers, more options are possible. Full capability is with the x900 eleven ink printers. A dual five level ink set, with matte and photo black, and gloss optimizer is now available with the Piezography Pro ink set. Variable hue, five densities, matte and gloss capability, all in one printer with software control is here. With less ink positions, good options are still available by compromising one option or another, for example variable hue, but matte or gloss only, or variable hue matte and gloss, but fewer levels of gray. As an early adopter of a dual quad setup I’ve been using the Ergosoft RIP for years. It’s an amazing tool, useful to this day, but is Windows only, the only reason I maintain a Windows partition, and blending control is not infinitely variable without getting into complex spot channel use. When I learned the new Piezography Professional Edition software included a highly variable blending tool, I was anxious to try it. More ink control and Mac (QTR and Print Tool) printing sounds great. So this is not a general PZO Pro review, but a look at some of the developments with it’s introduction. Steve Malshuk, a friend of mine, purchased the Pro system and asked me to help set it up on his 9900, I’ll relay that experience as well.
My dual quad setup is a custom blend of Piezography inks of my own devising, I don’t use the new ink, though I may transition to it. So there was some question the new linearization tools would work for me as they were optimized for the densities of the new dual quad sets. An extensive and impressive manual comes with the system, and a very cool on line linearization process utilizing Google Apps. My setup uses different ink positions than Piezography Pro. Since one starts with supplied curves and the linearizes them, I needed to edit the curves to reflect my ink positions, Fortunately extensive instructions in the manual walked me through that easily. Linearization is iterative, once again detailed instructions walk one through chart printing, measuring, logging into google and pasting in measurements, then downloading the app’s corrective numbers using QTR’s linearization tool to create a new printing curve. A few more iterations fine tune your curves and in the process provide visual representations of the results. By using the instructions to make printing curves for my 9880, my ink positions, then linearizing on line I created very linear warm and cool printing curves to use in Quadtone RIP. However my main interest was in creating custom split/blends much like my previous custom ink setups in Ergosoft. A custom blending tool for use in Excel comes with the Piezography Professional Edition software. With a little fussing I was able to create a curve much like one of my favorite Ergosoft ink setups that involves a subtle blend and 3 way split.
A major issue for us B&W printers involves color management and linearization standards. Quadtone RIP standardizes the supplied curves and linearization tools to LAB, Ergosoft standardizes to a user variable gamma dot gain curve, I set mine to match 20% dot gain, a prepress industry standard. The Piezography curves and tools standardize to gamma 2.2, perhaps a more widely useful way to go in this era of digital cameras and files prepped for on line display.
Anyway this means my painstakingly prepped 20% grayscale images that print as I want from Ergosoft may require some adjustment or color managed conversions to print identically (hopefully) from QTR with my new curves. The Professional Edition software includes a solution, a curve matching tool used in Excel. With it I created a new version of my blended curve to use in QTR from an unaltered file to hopefully match my Ergosoft output. In fact it’s very difficult to see any difference at all. Between the in depth manual instructions for each of these processes, the google app linearization, instructions for remapping ink positions, the Excel processes for complex blending and curve matching, everything has taken a dramatic step up.
Photographer and printer Steve Malshuk’s work can be see at www.skmalshukphotography.com. He purchased the Piezography Pro inset and Professional Edition Software, but preferred to have me help with setting up the system on his 9900, so I got a lot of hands on. Unfortunately one of his ink positions has some non functioning nozzles. Of several options to get around this, he decided sacrifice the lightest ink in the warm set, leaving him with a K4 warm setup, a K5 cool setup, gloss optimizer and blacks for both matte and gloss.
With both supplied plug and play curves, and “master” curves, I was able to remap ink positions to create warm, cool, gloss and matte, custom finely linearized curves for his preferred papers, Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, Cone Type 5, and Ilford Gold Fiber Silk. As QTR users know, these can be used alone for 100% cool, or warm, results, or use the blending tool in QTR to create split and blends per print. After Steve printed with them a bit to make sure they were satisfactory, I used the final warm and cool curves to make “neutral” curves using the bending tool and recommended percentages provided in the manual.
I also made some icc profiles for Steve to use for soft proofing in Lightroom. I went over some of his prints on his papers, with a variety of blends of the new curves, matte and gloss, and the results are lovely. Both the warm and the cool sets used alone are very pleasing hues, and the blending options are limitless, the combinations including neutral very attractive. The gloss performance is very impressive, gloss differential essentially non existent, the ink image merges into the surface much more effectively than gloss ink prints that don’t use a gloss optimizer, even some that do, and it all goes down in one pass.
The new HD black inks are also very impressive, with maximum density on matte Hahnemuhle Photo Rag of 1.83+ (!), and Ilford Gold Fiber Silk with the gloss optimizer reaching 2.3+ to 2.5+ depending on curve.
All in all the system is very impressive. With the performance of the inks themselves, the available tools in the software, nifty on line linearization app, and the extensive manual, as a whole it’s probably the biggest step forward in black and white ink printing in some time. Certainly within the specific areas I experienced.