Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Printing Series: R. Mac Holbert – Imagician, Street Photographer & Master Printer

When I started my printing series, I had never heard of R. Mac Holbert, but Epson Professional Imaging Division’s Marketing Manager - Dan 'Dano' Steinhardt grabbed my attention when he declared Mac one of the top fine art master printers in the world. From there it was “game on”, and I knew I had to get to know Mac. When I had the pleasure of talking to Mac, I was stunned to find out that he started the worlds first digital print making studio in 1989 and that his first printer, an Iris 3047, is in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History!


Mac currently owns an Epson 3800 and an Canon iPF6300. Until his recent retirement from Nash Editions, he was working with a Epson 11880, 9900, 4880, and two 3880’s.

Favorite Papers

Epson Exhibition Fiber is his favorite glossy paper, but he’s also a huge fan of Epson Hot Press Bright (review coming soon) because of its increased DMax and color gamut. He generates paper profiles using the X-Rite i1iO Automated Scan Table as well as the X-Rite i1iSis XL Color Calibration System (B&H).

What volume of printing do you do over the course of a year and what’s the purpose (teaching, fine art resale? Exhibition?, etc…)?

While at Nash Editions, he had some weeks where he'd do as many as 2000 prints and others as little as 50 prints.

Now he’s setting up a new non-profit printing center in Oregon with Henry Wilhelm & Stanley Smith where he’ll be printing to teach others the skills he has mastered over the years.

So you think you know Photoshop? - Think again! Mac is the master!

Mac is also the king of creating amazing non-destructive Photoshop layer stacks. If you check out page 70 of his Fine Art Digital Workflow Presentation, you’ll see the layers panel of the image on page 69 (and before image is on page 68). This is an amazing workflow that few possess the skill to pull off, and the beauty of it is that he can make a change on any layer and all the upstream changes will be applied.

What Mac does with layers is pure Photoshop Utopia, so when Mac offered to re-image 5 of my files for print for me I jumped at the opportunity! It was awesome seeing how much could be done with adjustment layers, and I’m still using those files to retrain myself in a new digital workflow.

Mac was kind enough to also share his Fine Art Digital Workflow Techniques where you can learn how a real master printer creates a fine art print from beginning to end!

Printer Usage Recommendations

If you are going to be going longer than a week without using your printer, then turn it off. However, you’ll be using it more frequently than that, then he highly recommends just leaving them on all of the time. In his experience, things fail most often when you try turn them on, so just leave them on and you’ll be in good shape!

If you are having problems with inks drying out or clogging, Mac has a great tip. He recommends going to a tobacco shop and buying a humidifier (a round aluminum canister with a sponge) and lightly moisten it (no dripping water because you don’t want it to spill) and leave it open near the print heads when they are not in use. This keeps them moist to avoid cleaning cycles and clogging problems.

Tips before printing and how to get the most out of the Epson driver?

  • The decision of Relative Colormetric versus Perceptual is a personal choice to choice as there’s no rule of thumb. You have to look at it in your soft proof setup through the appropriate ICC profile and decide, but about 75-80% of the time he prefers Relative Colormetric. However, it’s best to make that decision when soft proofing using the correct paper profile.
  • As mentioned in my Advanced B&W article, Mac prefers using Horizontal +3 and Vertical +3 when printing on Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster, or Horizontal +1 and Vertical +3 when using Epson Exhibition Fiber paper when you are looking for a neutral color toning.
  • Make your Black & White conversion first and then send that through the printers Black & White mode (i.e., ABW).
  • A money saving tip for those printing with Epson papers is to do all of your settings and one or two test prints using Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster and once you are satisfied that you have a great result then print on Epson Exhibition Fiber paper without making any changes. You’ll get a great result and you’ll save money by only using the best paper for the final prints.
  • Like me, Mac is a big fan of Canon’s Export Module for printing from Photoshop. I’ll discuss this feature in my upcoming review of the Canon iPF6300, but if you’ve ever been frustrated by other printer drivers then you' are likely to love this one as much as we do!
  • Mac has also seen some problems with Apple’s Snow Leopard, so beware and consult support and forums as necessary if you hit problems of your own.

Any gotchas?

  • Make sure sharpening is the last thing you do in your workflow (Sharpen for paper and output size)
    • Capture sharpening from a raw file processor or in-camera is okay

Do you use or prefer any RIP software? If so, what do you use it for?

I’ve used Colorbyte ImagePrint (review coming soon) and Colorburst Epson Edition in the past.

Mac’s thoughts on Photoshop add-ins

As I mentioned yesterday in my ABW article Silver Efex is a great way to prepare your images for black and white and even Mac highly recommends it! He’s also a big fan of my noise reduction roundup winner, Imagenomic Noiseware.

Mac is also a member of PixelGenius, whose products are well known among veteran pro photographers (article coming later this year).


It was a real pleasure to talk to Mac. He’s both a printing historian and legend. The things I learned from him about Photoshop will also help me to improve my imaging skills, so it’s no wonder he calls himself an Imagician! Check out his upcoming workshop schedule here and order his new DVD with John Paul Caponigro on this site.

You can see some of Mac’s images on his web site here.


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1 comment:

Stephen said...

although usually a lurker, I have enjoyed the printer series and wanted to send along a "thanks for sharing"--appreciate all the insights you share