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By Steve Baczewski
If you do high-volume commercial or fine art inkjet printing and want to use possibly the finest ICC profiles and page layout features available, ColorByte’s (www.colorbytesoftware.com) ImagePrint version 9 (starting at US$695) fits the bill.
ImagePrint is a raster image processor (RIP) designed to work with Epson inkjet printers. ImagePrint overrides Epson’s driver, taking control of the print heads with its own proprietary screening technology and delivering variable-size ink droplets to the paper with visibly superior results.
Version 9 introduces a noteworthy new user interface. The centerpiece of the new interface is a window called the Dashboard. The Dashboard remedies having to navigate to separate menus in previous versions by consolidating all the controls and settings for making a print in a single window. The result is a commonsense, space-saving workflow that makes printing fast and easy. Excellent video tutorials make learning the software straightforward.
From the Dashboard, you can navigate to your images, select a printer, specify paper and profile, pick the media feed for the printer, select or customize a paper size, set margins, and work with advanced control features such as setting crop marks, adding notations, and setting a shadow point. Frequently used images or folders can be saved to a favorites list for quick access. Files appear in an image strip.
One annoyance is the image strip uses small thumbnails. I hope in future versions they’ll be sizeable for easier viewing and selection. The preview window is a creative playground for designing and arranging images. You can tile, resize, step-and-repeat images, and add borders and artistic edges, all in a nondestructive environment.
New to version 9 is shuffle, a feature that automatically arranges images to optimize page space. It even arranges your images for a straight-cut path. A new wide gamut black-and-white toning feature allows you to use the full color range of the inkset to apply tints of any hue to highlights and shadows. A slider controls the balance of the tints and, when you’re satisfied, you can name and save the results for repeated use. Most significantly, you can have multiple images on a page with different tints.
My favorite new feature is the paper valet. It lets you select paper profiles from a list by manufacturer based on your choice of matte or photo black ink, and color or grayscale profile. ImagePrint then goes out to ColorByte’s website and downloads the profile. ImagePrint’s library of paper profiles represents more than 29 paper manufacturers including Hahnem¼hle, Ilford, Epson, Moab, and Museo. There are literally thousands of profiles and the effort that goes into building each profile is impressive.
For example, to minimize color shifts, each profile is broken down for display lighting conditions -- daylight, fluorescent, tungsten, and mixed—and frequently used profiles can be saved to a favorites list. If a profile isn’t available, Colorbyte will build one for you.
Any of ImagePrint’s profiles can be easily brought into Photoshop for soft proofing. The profile quality is very impressive. My first take was how accurate the colors are -- sky blue is sky blue and not some purple variant. I mention the blue hue because its known to be difficult. ImagePrint nails it and it feels good to have that level of color predictability.
The profiles create smooth gradients, lots of shadow and highlight detail, and there’s a subtlety in black-and-white profiles that distinguishes fine differences in tonality. ImagePrint is a tour de force that puts printing on a very high level.
Rating: 9 out of 10
(This review is brought to you courtesy of "Layers Magazine": http://layersmagazine.com/ .)