Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Printing Cards with Epson Printers

Some of the images that appear on Laura's greeting cards. The artwork is by Laura, I design and print the cards.
Laura enjoys drawing with coloured pencils, she also likes working with black pens. Sometime last year she started making lovely greeting cards. They were all unique and individually hand drawn, but I was rather shocked and dismayed when I saw the low, low price that she put them for sale at, and started to look for a way of scanning and printing her designs.

We have had an HP multifunction ink jet printer in the past, but the A4 size scanner was too small for scanning Laura's art work, and the ink that the printer used generally smudged or ran if even a small drop of moisture came into contact with the finished print.

I thought that a first step would be to purchase an A3 scanner, then maybe send the card designs to a commercial printer to print. I did a search on line for A3 sized scanners, but was shocked to discover that any that I found were around $1000 which was clearly out of our budget.

I was about to abandon the card idea, but further searching on line took me to A3 multifunction ink jet printers, and, much to my surprise, these were between about $200 and $400.

I discovered that *Paradigm PCs had an Epson WF-7510 at just over $200 at the time. I had read some rather confusing reviews about the printer, and suspected that the printer part of it might not be that great, but that the scanner sounded good enough for scanning Laura's art work. So I ended up buying the WF-7510 for its scanning capabilities, and promised myself that I would get the card designs commercially printed.

The scanner worked really well, and being able to scan A3 was fantastic. I spent hours scanning a small mountain of images that Laura had produced over recent years. The real surprise was the image quality of this printer, all reviews that I read said that it really wasn't that great for printing photos, but the fact was, it was wonderful for reproducing coloured pencil or watercolour with great accuracy and clarity. Further more, I could print on matte papers, including watercolour paper. Prints of watercolours printed on watercolour paper looked astonishingly like the real thing!

This looks gorgeous when printed with the WF-7510 on watercolour paper. 

The printer’s "secret weapon" was the Durabrite ink that it used. Epson’s Durabrite range of inks uses a resin base which is smudge resistant and waterproof. I did a test with actual water and some scrubbing of the paper only seconds after the print came out of the printer. The paper started to pull apart, but the ink did not run! The other great thing about this ink is that it uses pigments, rather than the more commonly used dyes, and is extremely fade resistant. These good qualities made the ink absolutely ideal for the greeting cards that we wanted to produce.

The one major frustration that I had with the WF-7510 was that its paper feed was dreadful, and I had to hand feed everything one sheet at a time! I could have forgiven this behavior for heavy sheets of paper, but it would do this with anything! I may have been unlucky with the particular printer that I bought, but I noticed that a disturbing number of other users had similar problems with this model when I read reviews. Because I only intended this printer to scan artwork, and do proof prints, I never returned it, but it was a frustrating problem never-the-less.
Epson WF-7510... it is big! It will scan and print A3 paper.

It was difficult to find much time to devote to designing and printing cards when I had so much other pottery related work to do, but..... since injuring my shoulder I have had to substantially reduce my hours of work with clay, and I have needed to develop some other way of trying to make an income. From being a useful "extra", cards production started to look more serious, I needed to fine tune the designs I had to make them easier to print and trim to size, and I needed to print them in quantity.

Getting Serious, Epson WF-4630!
I made the decision to look around for an A4 printer. I researched other brands of printer, especially HP, but kept returning to Epson. The paper feed issue on our Epson printer had been a problem, but I loved the Durabrite pigment ink, and the print quality was ideal.

I read up a great deal about Epson's Work Force range of printers, and discovered that the A4 ones that interested me had the added advantage of having a rear paper feed in addition to the usual paper tray underneath. The rear feed means that paper that you put through it has a fairly straight path through the machine and does not need to bend the paper back around a roller, this is a great advantage if you want a printer to cope with heavy paper or card.

I settled on buying an Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4630. In New Zealand the recommended retail for this printer is $449 including GST, and I was very fortunate in finding one for around half that price at Warehouse Stationery, and .... even better was that Epson also offered a generous $150 cash back special for the printer if you bought a set of inks for it at the same time as the original purchase.

I will spare you the “unboxing” details, but I was in awe of the engineering of this printer, even if I had paid full retail, it would have been very good value.

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4630

I can put a good supply of 220gm card in the rear paper holder and it will feed them through without complaining or jamming! I have experienced no paper jams when using the lower tray for the 80 - 100 gsm paper that I often proof with.

The printer has many features that I am still discovering. It is the first multifunction inkjet I have owned that will duplex, I know that many will take this sort of thing for granted, but I still find this a delight!

I am very thankful that I can scan and print Laura's cards "in house" rather than having to get the work done by a commercial printer. We can do small runs of things for only a low capital outlay and I can do all the fine tuning of the images that a commercial printer couldn't really be expected to do. It is also wonderful to find something that I can do for parts of the day where I need to rest from studio work.

Currently we sell the cards from our Waikouaiti Old Post Office Gallery, the Karitane Store, Stuart Street Potter's Co-operative in Dunedin, and Moray Gallery in Dunedin. I will do a study of ways and means of selling on line, and may make them available that way later in the year.

 Some Notes
*As I have mentioned, Epson use a resin based pigment ink for their Work Force range of printers. This is a 4 cartridge, 3 colour plus black system that is designed for text and graphics. I read many reviews of these printers, from on line magazines, and user reviews on Amazon.com. The WF-4630 had 26% 1 star poor reviews from users, 48% 5 star and 14% 4 star the remaining being 2 and 3 star. I like to read the bad reviews and look for patterns of problems. My conclusion was that many people purchase printers that do not suit their purpose. Someone who occasionally uses a printer, then leaves it unused for days or weeks, will not like this printer, it may clog and be difficult or impossible to unclog! A water based ink is more forgiving of occasional use, and the fact that it will run and blur if wet means that it is easier to unclog blocked jets! Someone wanting to print photographs will also not like this printer. Pigment ink cannot easily match the wide tonal range required for photographs especially where only 3 colours and black are used. The top of the range pigment ink photo printers that Epson makes use 8 or 9 inks. Most photo printers use water based dye inks that have a wide tonal range, and these can work well if printed on suitable photo papers.

*My computer uses a Linux operating system, and other Linux users might like reassurance that this printer will work without a Mac or a Windows machine! Drivers are available from the main Epson website. Linux users should find drivers here http://download.ebz.epson.net/dsc/search/01/search/?OSC=LX

*A helpful hint for Linux users... the best everyday setting for text on regular paper is “plain papers standard-vivid”, if you use “plain papers standard”, black text comes out a pale grey that is difficult to read.

*For printing Laura’s cards I use the rear paper feed and select Epson-Matte High for the paper, and get good results even though I am currently using a different brand of heavy weight matte paper.

*I have bought a number of computer related things from Paradigm PCs and have found them excellent. 


Anonymous said...

Wow...Epson should point people at your review! You obviously have chosen the right machine to suit your purpose and Laura's colourful artwork. Here's hoping this will prove a nice little earner! Keep warm....Graham & Amanda

Peter said...

Hello Graham and Amanda,
"Keep warm"... brrrrrrrrr... it will be a "good frost" here tonight. Lovely clear sky outside with the moon and stars all bright and a crispy frost underfoot. Nigella Stopit is fast asleep in front of the electric heater, with ourselves not far behind her! It would be nice if this review helps someone with choosing the right printer for the job, the choice can be rather bewildering these days. We were lucky getting things right for the cards.

Anna said...

sounds like a great result

Peter said...

Nice to hear from you Anna :-)

gz said...

I use an Epson Expression Home..XP 322
It is ok with card up to 240 gsm,especially if you print on A5, mainly because it feeds from the back. It still isn't a direct straight through feed without bending the card atall,but far better than those that take the card in the front, send it around a roller at the back and send it back out of the front!
. Also Linux friendly!!

Michèle Hastings said...

I have an HP printer right now that I swear at all the time. In the past I have had Epson's that I liked. The last Epson had a paper feed problem like you mentioned. It would only take in one sheet of card stock at a time and then eventually started to eat the paper. When I replaced it, it still printed regular paper quite well. As a matter of fact I have hung on to. When our HP died, I plugged it in and it would still print black and white with a 6 year old cartridge in it!
Laura's cards are beautiful and glad you found a solution to reproduce them and sell them at price that is profitable.

Peter said...

Hi Gwynneth,
Good to hear of another Linux friendly printer! Linux users are fortunate these days in what hardware will run. I find I have the added bonus of being able to use Gutenprint with the Epson WF-7510 which opens up all sorts of extra settings that I can tweak to fine tune the image if I need to. The WF-4630 doesn't yet work through Gutenprint, but will do OK with the drivers Epson supply.

Hi Michèle,
Printers certainly have "personality!" Our first, in the days of Windows 3.1... was an HP Deskjet 710. I think that its best resolution was 300 DPI and you could see the individual dots of colour that were used to make the image quite clearly on close inspection. We thought it miraculous at the time, and would tolerate taking 15 minutes or so to print a colour image. The printer lasted forever as the print heads were on the ink cartridges so were replaced every time the ink ran out. I'm interested that you also had an Epson with a paper feed problem. I was amused that your old Epson was able to be resurrected and print with a 6 year old cartridge, it will probably keep on going now for another 10 years!