Prints Are Magic

There I was, minding my own business and whammmmm. My eBuddy Jorge Ledesma asks me a simple question regarding this or that printer. After a few minutes, a couple hundred tweets boiling down to “it depends”, the above happened. Seems the mere mention of the word “print” causes things like this when I’ve not printed anything of my own in a month or so. I love prints, they have a special magic to them. Even small prints, especially small prints that you can hold and examine closely. They’re intimate in a way big gallery sized prints aren’t — I like those too of course.

You may ask me “Now what the hell are you going to do with all those”… I don’t know yet. Maybe I’ll make something with them down at the Baltimore location. Maybe I’ll give them away. Maybe I’ll give a couple to Mary if she wants them. Maybe I’ll write notes on the back of them with a few refinements of concept for a project that’s sorta kinda like these promo shots. It doesn’t really matter. I like prints. The visual and tactile experience is just so much different from flipping through them on a computer, phone, or iPad. Even shitty prints like this. They are really shitty prints to but still better than just about any screen in terms of detail, gradation, number of tones, etc. They’re quieter too. Prints are generally quieter. Based on my non-clinical studies most people spend about 10x longer actually looking at the photograph as well. It’s a slower experience.

In person these little 4x6 inch prints look great. We all get so hung up on theoretical image quality stuff that we fail to make what we can at any give point. Too worried about some theoretical better. We procrastinate, we wait for optimal things instead of just doing something right now with what we’ve got at hand. As if somehow waiting to make something theoretically better absolves us from making things right now.

Let’s examine just how crappy these particular prints are from a theoretical point of view. I printed them 4x6 borderless on drug store branded post card stock I bought for $2/100. The printer? A free Canon iP4200 printer I got with a MacBook Pro in 2006. It’s loaded with junk brand third party ink I purchased on Amazon for $9. Now wait for it… That $9 got me 15 cartridges (three full refills). I let the printer manage the color and told it “matte photo”, “standard quality”. I swear they look great. No fuss, no pigmented ink, no $5/sheet paper. The biggest issue is the borderless thing is too aggressive on the expansion and chops of image elements that are important in a few of the 20 prints I ripped out.

Would they look even better on some super expensive awesomely textured matte from one of the premiere paper companies with precisely calibrated color profiles on one of my good printers. Sure they would but then I would never print 20 4x6’s either. Sometimes cheap and fast is great.


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