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Can DURABrite printers be used for photo printing?

Discussion in 'Epson InkJet Printers' started by Nozzle, Jun 28, 2016.

  1. Jun 28, 2016
    Nozzle

    Nozzle Getting Fingers Dirty

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    Here I will try to answer this question, but first of all - why in hell would one even consider doing this?

    Well.. DURABrite family of printers has evolved over the years tremendously. Years ago they were slow and primitive but now they have some very interesting printers among them which can attract some people. Some of the features that some of these printers have are even unique. For example Epson WorkForce WF-3620/3640/7610/7620/7110 printers have a huge number of nozzles - 800 Black, 256 for each color, which makes them very quick. Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4630/4640/5190/4530/4540/4090/4590 have fewer nozzles but have large capacity cartridges that range from ~19ml 786XL color to ~47ml 786XL Black / ~38ml 786 color Initial carts and built in CISS, which is very attractive for those wanting to print a lot and not muck around with refilling much (have to mention though, these printers don't do borderless).

    Anyway, recently I experimented with my WorkForce WF-7610 printer to try to see if it's possible to get good photo output out of it and here are my findings.

    Dye based black ink produces very low Dmax (not dense) black on plain paper, which looks more like dark gray, which in turn produces low contrast/pale looking images and text. For this reason all office printers use non encapsulated carbon black ink, which produces good to very good Dmax on office paper, depending on the quality of ink. OEM Epson DURABrite Black is absolutely amazing - it produces amazing black on plain office paper. None third party compatible black that I've tested comes even close, in fact with these one needs to use more expensive coated paper to get similar blackness of black. Color inks in these DURABrite printers are (unlike the black) resin incapsulated (more on that later), which explains why they produce pretty good but not great output on plain paper. Why didn't Epson go with non encapsulated pigment for color? I can think of two reasons -

    1.They wanted these printers to produce acceptable photo output on glossy paper by using CMY inks. Had they gone with non encapsulated CMY pigments, printing on glossy papers would have suffered from horrible gloss differential and possibly scuffing and other issues.
    2.Non resin encapsulated pigments are harder to keep suspended, they tend to bind together much quicker, creating large particles and potentially clogging nozzles. Such inks require much more maintenance.

    It is known that dye color inks produce more saturated colors on plain paper than pigment, which is why in the past office printers used a combination of pigment black (non encapsulated) and dye color inks. However, dyes aren't water resistant on matte surfaces, which is why in the last few years we've seen departure from this pigment+dye combination in favor of pigment only ink sets. (BTW, if you own a DURABrite office printer, or for this matter any office printer that uses pigment, and want to make its output much more colorful and water resistance isn't important to you, you can simply replace pigment based color inks with dye based. In fact, you might have to tune the colors down a bit after that)

    Ok, so why aren't these DURABrite printers very good at photo printing? It's because of these two facts:
    1. Non encapsulated carbon black ink which DURABrite printers use creates matte surface on glossy papers, which looks ugly and which is why..
    2. .. in photo printing mode (when you choose glossy papers in the driver) the printer uses color inks only (CMY) and omits black altogether, which solves the problem of gloss differential but creates another - black that you get by mixing CMY primary colors isn't very black, muddy, and this reduces saturation of colors and overall contrast of the picture.

    Here you can see blocks of primary colors printed on glossy paper with original Epson DURABrite inks and Matte photo paper chosen in the driver (which uses black ink for printing black):
    orig matte paper.jpg
    You can clearly see how glossy color inks are and how matte the black is. Here's a picture printed with these settings (matte photo paper):
    orig matte paper .jpg
    Horrible, isn't it?

    Now, lets examine what happens if we choose glossy paper in the driver, forcing printer to mix CMY to print black (original Epson DURABrite inks):
    orig gloss paper.jpg
    As you can see, gloss differential is gone, but the resulting black isn't very black (can't see on this photo).
    There's another problem that arises in this printing mode (when glossy paper paper is chosen in the driver):
    Gloss epson orig.jpg
    Horrible and very visible dot pattern.

    To sum up. If one was to print photos on a DURABrite printer he/she would have a choice of either
    1.choose Matte Photo Paper in the driver and get nice dark black, but horrible gloss differential + bad colors (this can be corrected through profiling, but GD not) or
    2.choose Glossy Photo paper in the driver and get crappy blacks (especially with third party inks) and coarse/visible dot pattern but pretty good colors.

    Can this be fixed? This is the whole point of this exercise. My idea was to replace DURABrite black with encapsulated black from another ink set and print choosing Matte Photo paper in the driver. Here are the blocks of primary colors after the replacement:
    My pigment .jpg
    Black is nice and glossy.
    And here's a picture printed with it:
    My pigment.jpg
    No gloss differential, looks nice.
    And here's the close up (after calibrating):
    Other pigment matte.jpg
    Compare with the original above printed in the same mode (Matte PP). Dot pattern is much smoother, invisible to the naked eye.
    And in conclusion here are all three pictures printed on the same HP Glossy paper:
    Original DURABrite Matte PP:
    Matte epson orig full.jpg Pretty bad colors - this mode isn't optimized for printing on glossy papers, obviously.
    Original DURABrite Glossy PP:
    Gloss epson orig full.jpg Colors are pretty good, blacks are dull.
    DURABrite black is replaced with photo black from another ink set, printed with Matte PP chosen in the driver:
    Other pigment matte full.jpg

    Conclusion - DURABrite printers can very well be used for photo printing, one just need to replace the original black with photo black, print with Matte PP setting chosen in the driver and profile the output.
     
  2. Jun 28, 2016
    Ink stained Fingers

    Ink stained Fingers Printer Master

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    If you go and use other refill inks in your printer you have a wide range of inks to choose from - dye inks and all kinds of pigment inks comparable to the Ultrachrome pigment inks of larger format photo printers. You don't just need to swap the black but can do that as well with the other inks. And as soon as you go and use other inks, with other papers you need to get an ICC profile for that specific combination to get a correct color output. And yes - the matte paper setting allows you to print with all CMYK colors. And if you would be concerned about a weaker print resolution of an office-type printer just look to my other post comparing print output of an 1.5pl to a 3.5pl printer. You would need to test that with your printer(s), they all behave somewhat differently
     
  3. Jun 28, 2016
    Nozzle

    Nozzle Getting Fingers Dirty

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    @Ink stained Fingers all of this is obvious, most of the points you mentioned are beside the point of this thread. Here I just wanted to outline the simplest scenario for those who want to improve photo output on glossy papers from DURABrite printers. In fact I replaced all colors in my test, but had I replaced only black the result would have been the same.
     
  4. Mar 18, 2017
    pharmacist

    pharmacist Printer Master Platinum Printer Member

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    A good compromise (besides fading) is to replace the CMY colors with dye inks. The reason is that compositie Black (CMY) is much darker than omposite Black from pigment inks, sometimes it is even blacker to native pigment PB. This is how many cheaper Canon dye ink printers work: Pigment black for text and CMY dye for colors.

    I tried this experiment a few years ago and it does work well. You can even replace the CMYK with a dedicated ABW ink set using several shades of black and grey, so you can very neutral B&W prints (albeit a bit warmer of tone).
     
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  5. Mar 18, 2017
    The Hat

    The Hat Printer VIP Moderator

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    Canon have solved the problem of darker black areas on their glossy papers with the newer Pro printers, they use a combination of matte and photo black inks to overcome any of the short falls they had when using only one black ink..
     
  6. Mar 29, 2017
    Ink stained Fingers

    Ink stained Fingers Printer Master

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    I got a WF-2010W, a small Epson Duarbrite printer - 4 colors - Durabrite pigment inks - I'll rund some tests with different inks - pigment and dye - and driver settings with composite black and genuine black ink. I think the headline question splits into 2 questions - can Durabrite inks be used for photo printing ? and can printers using Durabrite inks be used to print good photos - with Durabrite or other pigment or dye inks ?
    I'm switching for these tests over to the WF-2010W since ink changing etc for some tests is getting more complicated with my other printers - the R800 is now running on a CISS making that more time and ink consuming, the L300 and L800 are running on dye inks.
    And the WF-2010W let me print with the black ink channel only in the grayscale option, the other printers don't - they convert the image to grayscale but still mix other colors into the grays - this makes the dithering looking finer and smoother but the sole use of the black ink is not possible.
     
  7. Mar 29, 2017
    Ink stained Fingers

    Ink stained Fingers Printer Master

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    I'm using the WF-2010W setup cartridges to print profile target sheets and to get the black levels with different settings. The driver has a paper selection of Ultra Glossy with a standard quality setting, this mode mixes the black from the colors. I'm using mostly the Aldi/Netbit PE photo paper and a LS180 cheap cast coated photo paper. The Durabrite inks show a pretty strong bronzing and gloss changes - the look is not very pleasant on the Netbit paper, and pretty bad on the LS180 paper. I overprinted the prints with a gloss optimizer on a R800, this improves the look somewhat but still does not give a very pleasant look. I printed as well with the matte standard setting which uses the black ink, the ink saturation is less, the printouts are lighter overall all with the ICM off option setting. These prints got as well a GO overprint.
    The black level on the Netbit
    with the ultraglossy setting gives a Lab = 13.00 2.05 -.26
    the GO let the black level drop slightly to Lab 11.98 -5.79 0,12
    the black level on the Netbit
    with the matte setting and GO gives a Lab 13.78 -.5 -1.17
    this with the genuine Epson black ink which is sensitive to the touch without the GO overprint on
    glossy surfaces. The color tone of the black ink is pretty neutral, the L lightness level is just slightly higher than the composite black which shows a blueish cast .
    The black levels look somewhat different on a matte Epson paper, printed with the same driver settings.
    matte Epson paper with ultraglossy standard driver setting - composite black - Lab 27.10 0.26 -7.09
    that is not a very good black level for photo prints, pretty light and with a cyan color cast
    matte Epson paper with matte standard driver setting - genuine black ink - Lab 19.97 .65 1.34
    that is a visible improvement of the black - a darker black, and almost neutral.

    This overall confirms the findings above - the Durabrite inks are not very well suited for good photo prints on glossy papers, using another photo black is a compromise but would not improve
    the look of the Durabrite inks on glossy surfaces.
    And another effect turned up with the GO, it removes the bronzing but adds strange looking small stains - my GO does not harmonize with the Durabrite inks at all - it does not work together.
    I have some refill cartridges on order to do some more tests with the inks I'm using in the R800 at this time, and other dye inks.
     
  8. Mar 29, 2017
    The Hat

    The Hat Printer VIP Moderator

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    @Ink stained Fingers, I found the go overprint on dye inks useless at providing protection from fading or any other improvements, in fact it’s almost impossible to see it on the surface of a photo on glossy paper...
     
  9. Mar 29, 2017
    Ink stained Fingers

    Ink stained Fingers Printer Master

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    yes, a GO overprint on dye inks may change the look of the paperwhite on some papers but is not visible really on the printed areas, the test above was with the Durabrite pigment inks in the setup cartridges which were running out quickly so I won't be able to run any more tests with this genuine ink type. I don't like their look - gloss diff, bronzing and incompatibility with the GO I'm using, but there are more inks to test.....
     
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  10. Mar 30, 2017
    Ink stained Fingers

    Ink stained Fingers Printer Master

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    I got a refill cartridge set for the WF2010W, prefilled with Inktec ink - dye.. for a pigment ink printer. O.K. - I'm testing this ink, for the differences of the real black ink vs. the composite black.
    This is a cut through the Lab colorspace , for orientation of the colors along the a and b axes,
    a,b =0,0 is the gray point in the center. The colors can get lighter or darker depending on the L lightness level. Lab.jpg

    The black level in the matte paper setting mode , with actual use of the black ink is
    Lab 7.45 2.98 -.15 on the Netbit glossy paper, this is quite a good result and pretty neutral for the Inktec dye ink.

    The composite black in the glossy paper setting mode results in the mixed black with the CMY inks on the Netbit paper
    Lab 20.15 -9.65 -22.68 which is pretty bad, with a strong color cast and drift into the 3rd quadrant. The result is quite similar for a LS180 cast coated glossy paper, as well with a strong color cast of the composite black , not really usable for contrasty photo prints. And this color cast of the black point cannot be profiled away without further loss of contrast.
    I tested as well an Epson inkjet paper with similar results:
    Lab 15.14 3.2 -2.52 for the matte paper setting which is acceptable with a pretty neutral black
    Lab 25.08 -9.75 -10.61 with the glossy paper setting, the composite black shows a strong cast and a poor blackness - not usable for decent photo prints.
    The WF2010W is a basic printer model, it allows ink swapping with refill cartridges quite easily, as well between pigment and dye inks as needed. The printer is slow, it only runs with 3x59 nozzles for the CMY inks. The overall gamuts, the total color spaces are good, comparable to other printers and photo printers, the gamut must always be judged for the ink/paper/driver setting in combination. The WF2010W driver shows an unpleasant behaviour when inks go empty - there is no pre-warning for low ink levels as on the R800, the WF2010W stops in the middle of the printout, you handle the refill/cartridge movement, the partially printed page gets ejected and the printer continues on a next scheet to finish the printout - if you don't stop that you waste of 2 sheets of photo papers, only by stopping the printout and reinserting the first page which is screwed up anyway, you get away with one sheet lost.
    The R800 and some other printers come up with a low ink warning first, let you finish a running printout, you do the refill/reset and continue printing without loss of any sheet.
    The WF2010W offers borderless printing in contrast to the L300 tank system model and alike models which are based on this hardware.
    The WF2010W prints with 3pl droplets vs. 1.5pl which are standard for other Epson photo printers like the 1500W, L800, R800, P400 an others. Increased graininess is not visible normally, slight differences are visible at close and specific inspection, and with a magnifier. Overall resolution appears to be about the same compared to those other printers. The WF2010W is a pretty good photo printer when used with dye inks and matte paper setting, but this not the way Epson is offering this printer. The printer is not really usable for higher print volume output.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018

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