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Author Topic: A Short, Revisionist History of Digital Ink (Giclée and Inkjet) Printing  (Read 13920 times)
teddillard
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« on: January 27, 2011, 10:39:37 AM »
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I just was doing some research on the development of inkjet printing and made some interesting connections...  well, interesting to me at least.  Cheesy

I think I'd seen the dp&i site, but it's a pretty great resource that I rediscovered: http://www.dpandi.com/history/  I found it through their Giclée story on the origin of the name.  Have a look. 

But, the point is, even though I did live through the time, I'd not really put things together in any but the common history of the development of the process.  It seemed to me that everything started with IRIS, and Epson tagged on along.  Once I compared the actual timelines I started rethinking, and re-remembering what actually happened- specifically, that the micropiezo process was developed in the late '80s, predating Nash and the IRIS stuff, and that the thing that truly sparked the revolution was the Epson Photo printer...  a cheap, true photo quality printer. 

Anyway, if you're interested, more of my ramblings (as well as a timeline) here:  http://www.parrotcolor.com/store/blog/?p=565
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Ted Dillard
Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2011, 11:10:48 AM »
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That's a fascinating bit of history, Ted. Thanks for putting it together.

Eric
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-Eric Myrvaagnes

http://myrvaagnes.com  Visit my website. New images each season.
Randy Carone
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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2011, 11:59:26 AM »
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Thanks Ted, that bit of history filled in some of the blanks.  Cool
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Randy Carone
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2011, 12:17:08 PM »
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Anyway, if you're interested, more of my ramblings (as well as a timeline)

Your timeline is ok...but I think you are wrong on the relative impact of IRIS vs. Epson inkjet. IRIS started the inkjet print as "art" potential. Originally, a proofing system IRIS, could output digital images with a photographic look–particularly on fine art paper. That was ground breaking...Nash Editions was one of the first to do this and was certainly the most prominent due to Graham's involvement. So, nothing about the traditional view of the history of fine art digital printing is changed.

Where Epson came in (and yes, I had several early Epson printers that replaced a $10K dye-sub printer but whose prints faded very quickly) was they democratized the access to digital photo printers for the masses. Epson caught the wave that was created in the demand for being able to print digital images...but make no mistake who caused hat initial wave...IRIS (and at least on the west coast, Nash Editions).
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teddillard
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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2011, 12:27:22 PM »
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Of course, that's the traditional account.  Maybe it depended on where you were sitting at the time.  (edit: LOL!  Just had a long conversation with my boss, John Lorusso, who worked with IRIS and Scitex, as well as Nash et al.  Seems he agrees with you about how wrong I am, Schewe.  'Course, that only proves my point...   Shocked)

From my perspective, having heard Nash talk at the MFA in Boston (jeese, when was that?  ...a VERY long time ago) and hearing him say that archival color was "the curator's responsibility, not the printer's", then having some very expensive, and not too fabulous prints made by an IRIS printer in these parts (who shall remain unnamed, but with a stellar reputation) my own conclusion at the time was that the technology wasn't there yet, that it was far too fugitive, and simply not up to the hype.  Instead of reinforcing the "Fine-Art" claim, it actually refuted it.  For me, anyway.

At that point, or nearly then, Epson started using a variable dot size with a random pattern, much like photographic grain- as opposed to the regular grid array on the IRIS.  It was then I stopped considering IRIS as even an option.  I will say, though, people still cling to their IRIS printers, and it seems to be about that density of ink the things lay down.  

Either that or they're still paying it off...   Roll Eyes

If memory serves, most buyers and collectors still were not willing to take digital prints seriously- that was, oh, in the mid-'90s?  I'd actually argue that not until the early '00s did the inkjet print's stigma really seem to fall away...  so where does that put Nash Editions?  I think you can argue that was more due to the archival, high-gamut inks that Ultrachrome represented than anything IRIS or Nash did.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2011, 02:03:33 PM by teddillard » Logged

Ted Dillard
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« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2011, 02:11:42 PM »
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Of course, that's the traditional account.  Maybe it depended on where you were sitting at the time.

Prior to the IRIS, how did people print digital scans of photos other than halftone? Kodak took a digital printer out of the Abrams tank (used to print maps for tank commanders) and adapted it to printing dye-sub prints of photos. Those predate Epson "photo" type printers...Kodak also had some very early digital to photo output that was tied to Photo CD which also predated Epson. Fuji also had some early digital to photo printers...

What you attribute to Epson as precipitating digital printing isn't really accurate...what Epson did was to make decent digital printing at a price point that any enthusiast could afford.

Understand, I'm not trying to take anything away from Epson...it's interesting to note the Seiko-Epson got into the "printing" business in the first place for the 1964 Summer Olympics to create a printing timer for events. Epson was also bit in dot matrix printers for cash register receipts.

If you want to say Epson lead digital photo printing into the mainstream and democratized it for the masses, I agree.

But my recollection of who first started printing inkjet on fine art papers was IRIS and on the west coast the chief practitioner was Nash Editions.

To be clear, Nash Editions didn't just produce photo prints but also reproductions of paintings, etchings, drawings and other fine art. While "fine art photo dealers" took a long time accepting digital photo prints (if they actually have yet), fine artists and and art dealers jumped on digital reproductions of fine art pretty quickly because of the quality of the output and the reduced cost compared to most any reproduction method.

To relegate digital fine art printing to only photography is missing the larger picture, so to speak...
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teddillard
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« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2011, 02:25:52 PM »
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What you attribute to Epson as precipitating digital printing isn't really accurate...what Epson did was to make decent digital printing at a price point that any enthusiast could afford.
Well, to be precise, I'm saying precipitating digital inkjet printing.  And I'd add to "enthusiast" pro and commercial photographer, since I was using it for promotion pieces and portfolios as far back as '94.  Considering that it's fundamentally a different technology, and that the MicroPiezo process is what really made (and continues to make) the revolution real, and that it predated the IRIS technology...  well, I think it's an arguable point.

To relegate digital fine art printing to only photography is missing the larger picture, so to speak...

badda BING!  (...and a good point.)



« Last Edit: January 27, 2011, 02:30:02 PM by teddillard » Logged

Ted Dillard
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2011, 03:24:20 PM »
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...the MicroPiezo process is what really made (and continues to make) the revolution real, and that it predated the IRIS technology...  well, I think it's an arguable point.

Micro Piezo, as a printing process, did not predate IRIS printers.

IRIS was released in 1987.

According to Epson, the first inkjet printer they released was in 1984 called the IP-130K (in Japan, the SQ-2000 outside of Japan). However, that was a black ink document printer and didn't use Micro Piezo technology.

The first printer Epson released using Micro Piezo technology was the Epson Stylus 800 March 1993.

As far as I can tell, that means IRIS predates the Epson Micro Piezo printers, don't you agree? If you are going to put forth a history, it's useful to get the dates right...
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Farmer
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« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2011, 03:30:41 PM »
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http://global.epson.com/company/milestones.htm
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teddillard
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« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2011, 03:42:49 PM »
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Yes, I do agree... thanks, I stand corrected on that point.  I was basing that on the fact that MicroPiezo was patented in 1989, and Nash was printing with the IRIS in 1990-92. I thought I remembered some of the early Epson printers were working around the '89-92 frame...  Some sloppy reasoning on my part.  

Now, then there's Cone...  on the dp&i page he claims "By 1992, Cone had added inkjet printing to his repertoire ..."  Just what, enquiring minds want to know, was Cone printing with in 1992?   (Answer: IRIS.  http://www.cone-editions.com/ourhistory.html)  Interestingly, that's a name I've always associated with Epson inkjet printing rather than the early IRIS development described on that page.)

A little less emphatically than I stated it before, I stand by the statement, though:
At best I think it’s fair to say that the two similar processes were responding to a need, but doing it in two different paths.  Perhaps Nash Editions sparked some demand in the photo market and captured some imaginations, but it’s a far stretch to say that Fine-Art IRIS printing started the whole thing.  The fact that “Giclée” is a word used interchangeably for both processes doesn’t help either.  By the early ’00s we had ultra-high gamut printers that worked reliably.  By 2010, photographic inkjet printing was surpassing silver-based processes, reliable, and a fraction of the cost of even it’s recent predecessors.

The fact remains, the real revolution here was not the IRIS process, it was the proliferation of small, cheap desktop photo-quality printing on a vast array of stock, and that came from Epson primarily, and HP and Canon following closely along.


Thanks for that link, Farmer...  though my 800 was so NOT black.  Cheesy
« Last Edit: January 27, 2011, 03:45:56 PM by teddillard » Logged

Ted Dillard
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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2011, 03:49:27 PM »
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Well, at least you titled your blog post correctly: Revisionist History

:~)
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teddillard
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2011, 03:53:16 PM »
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Well, at least you titled your blog post correctly: Revisionist History

:~)

No really!  it was "putty" I swear!   Roll Eyes

( from the wikipedia: "In historiography, historical revisionism is the reinterpretation of orthodox views on evidence, motivations, and decision-making processes surrounding a historical event. Though the word "revisionism' is sometimes used in a negative way, constant revision of history is part of the normal scholarly process of writing history.")

Interestingly, too... in my conversations with John about this, he mentioned that around the '96 timeframe, when he was with IRIS, Epson approached them for advice on how to overcome objections to the digital printing process in the photographic and fine-art markets.  He also mentioned that one of the major obstacles was the current situation with medium to small galleries carrying too much stock in edition prints- commonly serigraphs- and they saw this printing method as adding even more unwanted inventory...  the plot thickens. 
« Last Edit: January 27, 2011, 04:01:32 PM by teddillard » Logged

Ted Dillard
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« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2011, 04:00:26 PM »
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By 2010, photographic inkjet printing was surpassing silver-based processes, reliable, and a fraction of the cost of even it’s recent predecessors.

Not for nothing, but I would argue Epson's 9600 in 2002 (and baby cousin the 2200) was the first inkjet printer that surpassed silver-based processes...with the 9900, ilver-based processes have been obliterated...
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teddillard
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« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2011, 04:07:02 PM »
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I was trying to be conservative...  (Didn't want to stir up that particular hornet's nest, but glad you did.)

I'm not sure I'd say the 9600 just because I'm not that positive about the gamut, (and really, was that as early as '02?  Time flies...) but for sure, based on a conversation I had with Bill Atkinson about the 9800, that printer had pretty much blown everything else out of the water. He was the first credible source I heard say it had a gamut that surpassed any photographic process. I know my baby R2400 changed the entire game for me, what with the B/W printing capability...  and I still use it today. 
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Ted Dillard
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« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2011, 04:46:19 PM »
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I'm not sure I'd say the 9600 just because I'm not that positive about the gamut, (and really, was that as early as '02?  Time flies...) but for sure, based on a conversation I had with Bill Atkinson about the 9800, that printer had pretty much blown everything else out of the water.

Bill used the Epson 9600 and was very involved in the improvement of the linearization of the 9800 when setting the driver to no color adjustment. Back when Bill was using his 9600, he created new profiling targets and spent one whole summer figuring out a way substantially improve the output for the 9600. Between his then new targets (now available for use in most profiling software) and the improved color he was getting, he was selling 9600 inkjet prints as well as Fuji Crystal Archive prints...

Whether he thinks it was the 9800 that surpassed analog instead of the 9600, I don't know-I'll ask him. But to my way of thinking and comparing what I could get from analog prints vs prints form the 9600, I would take the 9600 prints. The "only" issue I really had back then was GD, which was really only an issue when looking at a print unframed.

And yes...it was 2002 as shown in the 9600 review on LuLa by Alain Briot  in June 2002.

Of course, the 9800 came out in May 2005. See this review by Michael of the 4800 (seems he had a mixed review).

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teddillard
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« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2011, 06:31:57 PM »
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If memory serves, I visited Bill right after he got his 9800- just checked, it looks like it was in January '06.  He was talking a lot about the targets you mention, as well as his "bouquets" of profiles. 

Now, here's a question.  When was it that the first inkjet watercolor papers like LumiJet and Somerset were released, and the MIS, Lumijet and Cone inks for the Epson printers?  I only became aware of all that when I got my 1200, I figure around '98.  I think.  Is it possible that stuff was available as early as '96? 

It really is amazing looking back at how fast this stuff moved...  no wonder we were all mumbling to ourselves.  Cheesy
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Ted Dillard
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« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2011, 07:09:20 PM »
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It really is amazing looking back at how fast this stuff moved...  no wonder we were all mumbling to ourselves.  Cheesy

Well, to some of us, this stuff took friggin' forever!!!

I remember going to a MacWorld (can't remember the date) and showing small 5" x 7" portfolio pieces printed out on a Kodak dye-sub printer (that cost me like $14,000) and having people absolutelyfuckingamazed that I had digital prints that I could show from digital files...1994, 1995? Can't remember...it was when Live Picture held the workshop in some church theater that had no heat...that was also my first exposure to Kai Krause and his crew...yes, I bought Live Picture for $3,499.00) I still have the LR 1.3 dongle...

The history is the history...and some of us were directly involved. So, be careful how you characterize what the history was. Some old timers will dis-remember what you claim as "history"...
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tim wolcott
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« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2011, 10:34:38 PM »
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Not sure what exactly what your asking for but the first Pigment print inkjet made was in 1994.  It was made with Legion Paper, and yes it was very exciting.  Having created pigment prints in Evercolor and being to just send a file and it print.  The watercolor paper at the time, had to hand coat the paper. 

But in the early days thats what it took the ink came from Dupont. This was the image used to make the image.
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Sven W
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« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2011, 03:09:52 AM »
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... Kodak dye-sub printer (that cost me like $14,000) and having people absolutelyfuckingamazed that I had digital prints that I could show from digital files...1994, 1995? Can't remember...it was when Live Picture held the workshop in some church theater that had no heat...that was also my first exposure to Kai Krause and his crew...yes, I bought Live Picture for $3,499.00) I still have the LR 1.3 dongle...


Working as a teacher at the University of Gothenburg at the time(1993), we could only afford the Kodak A4 model  Grin
We actually was sponsored by Hasselblad for the printer. The students had to pay $5 for each A4 sub-print!
I still got some of these prints in my archive, and I must say they are, not AFA, but pretty good.

/Sven
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teddillard
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« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2011, 08:20:53 AM »
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Obsessed as I'm becoming about this, I just discovered this sweet timeline on TimeToast.com: http://www.timetoast.com/timelines/2675

...and yeah, Schewe, timelines are one thing, but History isn't all that black and white.  (I raise your bad pun with one of my own.  Grin)  Any history is about the perspective from which it's being told.  That's what makes it all so interesting...

Great stuff, and thanks!  Off to dig a little deeper.  (@Tim, yes, that helps...  the first paper I used was Somerset, then Lumijet, within about a month, and I can't find any info on the release dates of either of those products. update: Legion paper started up in '94, but no mention of inkjet media.  Somerset Velvet is mentioned as "over a decade ago" on the MOAB site, which would put it at 2000, but I was using it before then. This, from chaudigital about Lumijet:

Since 1947 Luminos Photo Corp. has been selling an impressive array of Black&White sensitized photographic papers renowned for the highest quality and consistency. For 55 years, Luminos has been proud of its support and commitment to traditional and digital photographic Image makers.

... the history
The Lumijet range of inkjet media was introduced in 1998 with the Original Lumijet Series ... soon to follow was the Preservation Series of fine art media and ink that set the standard for inkjet image permanence. The Portfolio Series of photographic presentation media was introduced in September 2000.)


Update: I just found this- "A 15 year History of Digital Print Technology ... 1991 - 2006" via Wilhelm (of course!).  I skimmed it, gotta sit down and have a good read, but it fills in a few more blanks, for sure!  www.wilhelm-research.com/ist/WIR_IST_2006_09_HW.pdf

I'm also curious.  The IRIS looks like it was shut down in '99, to be re-tooled as the Vertis (strictly for proofing, once again) in '04 or so, and then retired entirely at around 2006?  Is that right?
« Last Edit: January 28, 2011, 10:27:44 AM by teddillard » Logged

Ted Dillard
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