A Tale Of Two Cheap Papers

You know that I've seen. Too many romantic dreams. Up in lights, fallin' off. The silver screen.Mötley Crüe

So you know I print a lot, right? Well I do. I am a nut for prints. Tangible little things you can hold in your hands. I like tactile, tangible products that pop out of my photography endeavors. Love 'um. I print a lot of stuff for a lot of people on many substrates and printers for commercial art installations, etc, etc. I am intimately familiar with color management, many printers and printing medium, etc. What you may not know is that many of my own personal work prints and other stuff that I leave lying around for contemplation are actually printed on a lowly old hunk-o-crap™ Canon printer that I got for free.

Way way back in the mid-2000's I acquiesced to an Apple Store specialist to get the free printer. I never get the free printer. I need another printer like I need a hole in the head. So I skip it. Except this particular time. I was in a giant rush because I needed a MacBook Pro and a 23" Cinema right f'ing now. I was without a computer in a strange place and something came up. I was in the market for a new laptop anyway. My goal was to get in and get out as quickly as possible. If I had a lot of time I would have just drove home (a few hours) and grabbed my current MacBook Pro.

I was like come on, come on, here's my money just gimmie the damn boxes and let me get outta here - nope don't need any other shit… Meanwhile she was trying to be very helpful but really didn't quite get my urgency. After running through all the stuff that the specialist was compelled to run through we got into the free printer deal. I was like no, no, no, just take my money and let me get outta here. This did not seem to be working so I asked her point blank "What will be faster, if just take the damn printer or do without it - I really don't want it I just want to get out of here now. She responded that it would be quicker to just get the free printer. I didn't bother arguing the point that seemed impossible I just said okay but make this fast.

Fast forward - I chose the Canon iP4200. Mostly because it wasn't a multifunction, it was small, and it happened to have decent and separate inks for all the colors. Turns out it made really really good smallish prints really fast. Hmmmm. Cool. I still have it and use it for small prints and comps. I tend to use this in "cheap mode". Translation - generic, cheap, semi-gloss photo paper. No profiles, no nothing. I have had great luck and the little 4200 seems to do a pretty fantastic job with decent and reasonably accurate color when fed sRGB and just letting it do it's own color thing. Honestly this is probably the best way of using your printer unless you are using really high-end stuff. Easy. I am always on the side of easy and simple as long as it works.

So I picked up a new pack of really cheap semi-gloss 4x6 paper last time I was at the Walmart (hate that place but it is cheap for things like shampoo). I got around to using it a short while ago and the prints looked absolutely horrible. Even the black and white ones. I thought the little iP4200 was a goner after all these years. Everything - even greyscale was some strange cool/pink awful mess. No way I am putting a new $100 head in the free printer.

Just for the heck of it I ran across a few sheet of un-used different off-brand cheap semi-gloss last night and did a quick test before deep-sixing the old free printer. You can see a comparison in the top photo. Hmmmm. The paper seems to have a neutral base not anything too color and certainly no pink but when the Canon semi-pro ink touches the coating things go all pink. Not in the solid blacks but in everything else.

Guess there is some life left in it. Time for some new ink too. I still have a couple of cartridges but they don't last long. I figured I would take a chance on this deal of the century and just see what happens. Friggin' 3 complete sets of ink that's chipped for seven dollars and change??? WTF. If this stuff actually works and the Canon sRGB simple cheap method produces decent results I will let you know.

Just wanted to let you know - even a print snob like me can live with cheap materials and lowly semi-consumer printers for most stuff - especially work prints, concepts, proofs, and tests as long as it actually looks good.


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