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Making Media Work For You

End Users Share Their Thoughts on Media Trends

by Thomas Franklin

In this final part of our Queue Series on Media & Substrates, we see how choosing the right media for a job is as much an art as a science, at least according to printers and fine artists.

"You develop a sense of what media will accentuate the work," states Andy Wood, co-founder/CEO of fine art reproduction company, Squirt Printing, LLC.

For artist Susan Manders, choosing a specific media is less a technical decision than a personal, aesthetic one. "Each artist has a personal look, I like glossier papers – not a high gloss but a sateen, because it brings out the color, and it’s archival." The last point, longevity, is of particular concern to fine artists, Manders adds.

Shawn Allison, president, Think Big Solutions, Inc., says that consistency in both the supply chain and the quality of the media are paramount. A Sihl Digital Imaging customer, Allison says he ventured off his printer OEM’s supply chain because of, "inconsistent coatings." Think Big’s primary products include trade show graphics and POP where color consistency is critical, he adds.

Media prices have fallen, Allison notes, but still the company has to be strategic in its buying decisions. "We try not to stock every media out there. We know what we need." The benefit of his current supplier is not only an extensive product lineup, Allison comments, but a well-defined portfolio that distinguishes between economy-class media and high-end products.

"Color profiling is also very important for us and if you’re constantly changing media suppliers, you’ll disrupt that," Allison adds.

The digital era has brought significant change to the printing industry, but perhaps no segment has witnessed as seismic a shift as fine art printing, thanks, in large measure, to a wealth of media options and new printing technologies that can faithfully recreate an artist’s vision.

Manders embodies this shift. Aside from being a renowned oil painter with works displayed in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, she also prints her own reproductions in-house using an HP Designjet 130 printer and Designjet 5500 large format printer. Manders says the decision to bring printing in-house followed a decades-long search for technology that would, "broaden my accessibility and affordability."

She admits that she was dragged kicking and screaming to examine digital printing but has since fallen in love with the results. In an effort to expand her business, Manders is looking to new media, such as silks and cling vinyl, to sell her designs on fabric and for creating fashion prototypes.

On the other side of the fine art divide is Andy Wood of Squirt Printing. Wood began Squirt as a way to provide a volume-oriented solution to artists while maintaining the highest quality standards. "We want to take the black cloak off this field. We believe the art stops once the brush leaves the canvas, we treat this like manufacturing," Wood says.

Thanks to a system from HP, which combines high resolution light capture and color-matching software and the company’s printers and media, Wood has been able to cater to fine art customers. Squirt’s technology allows the ability to handle orders from one to thousands of prints on paper or canvas media. The art community is sensitive, he admits, but once you demonstrate your capabilities you’ll win their loyalty.

Look for a comprehensive article on Media & Substrates in the April issue of Digital Output.

To access patrs one through three of this series, click on the links below:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Feb2006, Digital Output

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