Tuesday, November 9, 2010

LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper Review and How To Walkthrough

 
You may want to also see my article entitled Metallic Paper Comparison: Red River Polar Pearl vs LexJet Sunset Photo (Coupon Code Included)
 
 

When I was interviewing Photoshop Hall of Fame photographer, and Canon Explorer of Light, Eddie Tapp, he was super excited to tell me about his favorite paper – the Sunset Photo Metallic paper by LexJet. In fact, he was so sure that I would love it that he sent me a print of the shot below on this paper:


Copyright Eddie Tapp – All Rights Reserved

Holy cow, did that print look great! It had more pop than anything I had seen so far in my printing series, so I started printing some of my work to see what else might look good. The problem is that I couldn’t find anything that didn’t look great, so I started burning through this paper like it was on fire!

This Paper Sells Prints

Beezerker - Copyright Ron Martinsen
The $500 Print – Thanks LexJet!
Beezerker
Copyright Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

I printed the shot above using the profile provided by LexJet which Eddie said was a great one, and the print from my Canon iPF6300 was stunning. Even though I had printed the image straight out of camera with no edits, when I put the test print on my door at work I literally had people stopping all day asking me about the print. Within a week I had someone pay $500 for the unframmed 16x24”, and others followed. In short, when people saw this print they couldn’t help but react to it. I had experienced the same WOW factor with Eddie’s shot above, and quickly discovered how wow translates into sales.

Porsche 911 C4s Cabriolet
Porsche 997 C4s Cabriolet
Copyright Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

I’ve had plenty of people say nice things about my prints before, but nothing says good job like a sale because that’s your customers way of saying this is so good I want to display it in my home. For those who are hording their shots on hard drives, think about this and think how many sales I would have gotten had I just left this image on my web site without printing it?

Specifications

Here are the key facts that I have gathered about this paper:

Basis Weight 255 g/m²

Thickness

10 mil
ISO Brightness 78
Base Material Resin-coated (RC) photo paper
Surface Finish High-gloss, metallic

This paper is highly durable as shown in my rain test and has a instant-dry, scratch resistant surface according to LexJet’s technical specification. I can confirm that its surface is very durable as I’ve treated my test prints fairly harshly and have yet to have one scratch after they’ve had a few hours to dry. I did get a few smears when calibrating using a ColorMunki only minutes after the test pattern was printed, so I learned quickly that it needs a bit of time (about 20 minutes) for the best results.

Paper Profiles

You can get paper profiles for this paper for many major printers at http://www.lexjet.com/Profiles.aspx (as of 11/9/2010), and even AM1 files for Canon’s Media Configuration Tool (which means this paper is treated like the built-in papers). Noticeably absent was a profile for the Epson 3880 and the 3800 & 4880 profiles performed very poorly.  This is why I created my own profile as discussed in my i1XTreme review. The ColorMunki profile was acceptable, but the i1XTreme profile was much closer to the superior profile I had for the Canon iPF6300 which LexJet created.

ColorByte ImagePrint 8.0.0.5 paper profile review

ColorByte ImagePrint offered the ep3880Pk_LexJetSunsetPhotoMetallic1440_RCWF profile for my Epson Stylus® Pro 3880 printer and the results using this profile were fantastic. It was slightly brighter and a tad cooler than LexJet’s profile for my Canon iPF6300, but it closer to what I saw on my calibrated NEC PA241W-BK display.

Here’s the screen shots of the settings I changed to print using this paper in ImagePrint 8.0:


Main Window Settings are Print Job Dependent


Use the LexJet Paper Profile for the Output


I prefer the Perceptual RGB Rendering Intent in ImagePrint

image
From the Options button in the Print Dialog below
don’t forget to change the media type to Luster or Glossy


I found 1440 8-Pass HS to be very good so I recommend
the settings shown here

ImagePrint does a wonderful job with this paper so I highly recommend it if you have it!

Master printers interviewed on this blog who recommend this paper

As of November 9th, 2010, the following master printers featured on this blog had this to say about this paper:

  • Eddie Tapp – “You will love this paper” (and he was right <g>)

Tips

If you have a an Epson printer and LexJet doesn’t have a paper profile for your printer (i.e., the 3880 in my case) then I highly recommend that you use ColorByte ImagePrint as it created the best results I could get from the Epson platform. If you are using a Canon printer then LexJet has some amazing profiles for you so don’t waste your time creating your own profiles – use theirs! I do recommend that Canon users use the Media Configuration Tool and import the AM1 file in addition to using the LexJet ICC profile for best results.

When using this paper on Epson printers just select the Luster or Glossy paper options from the printer driver and use your paper profile for the best results. If you aren’t going to get ImagePrint, then at least get a ColorMunki to create a proper paper profile. However, keep in mind that you should give the paper at least 20 minutes to dry before scanning the targets and realize you won’t get the best results unless you go up to the i1XTreme or better and scan as many patches as you have the patience to scan (> 800 recommended).

I was unable to create a good paper profile using the ColorMunki on my Apple MacBook Pro, but I created a good one with no problems on my Windows 7 machine using identical settings. The Windows 7 profile worked fine on the Mac, so if you are dual platform I suggest you use Windows for generating your paper profile.

Be very careful handling this paper as it has a tendency to dent fairly easily.

Walkthrough on Canon

I found that for most of my prints with this printer on the Canon iPF6300 that I preferred the Relative Colormetric rendering intent most often.

The key to success with this paper is very simple – go get the ICM profile provided by LexJet as well as the AM1 file. Run Canon’s Media Configuration Tool to import this paper into your printer control panel. LexJet provides a files called MCT New.docx and MCT Importing.docx which discuss in detail  how to do this very well so I won’t repeat it here. After this step you must still install your paper profiles. Once you have done that using this paper via 32-bit Photoshop ONLY (at this time) is just a matter of doing a File | Export | <printer model> Print Plug-In… menu item to launch the imagePROGRAF Print Plug-In for Photoshop as shown below:


imagePROGRAF Print Plug-In for Photoshop in Windows
using the Sunset Metallic media configuration (AM1 file) and paper profile (icc file)

In this dialog the key to success is to make sure you have chosen both the Sunset Metallic media type (which will be at the bottom of the list) and the correct Output Profile (i.e., the LexJet ICM file you downloaded from their site). From there you can change the settings as you desire or use the values I used in the examples above and below:

imagePROGRAF Print Plug-In for Photoshop in Apple OS X
using the Sunset Metallic media configuration (AM1 file) and paper profile (icc file)

The Mac platform was no different than the PC platform, so what works for one works for the other. Just for fun I’ve shown both “matching methods” (a.k.a., Rendering Intents) but I found Relative Colormetric to be my preference when using this paper on Canon printers.

In the example below, I did a borderless 36x24 print using this paper simply by choosing the landscape orientation and checking the borderless printing checkbox. My image printed from a Canon 5D Mark II file was fantastic.


Page Setup values are print job specific and should match your needs

Lightroom or other apps that don’t use the Plug-in

Unfortunately Canon’s excellent print plug-in only works in Photoshop or DPP, so if you print from elsewhere you are going to have to do things a little differently. I’ll show an example from Lightroom 3 on the Mac, but the same concepts apply for other color managed applications as well.

In Lightroom the most important thing is to use the correct paper profile which can be selected in the Choose Profiles dialog:


Lightroom’s Choose Profiles Dialog

After you do this then you can set your print resolution to 300, and most importantly your Color Management settings to the profile chosen above as well as the Relative rendering intent (best default choice, but consider trying both). Here’s an example on the Mac but it applies to the PC as well:


Lightroom 3.0 64-bit on Mac OS X

The same concepts should apply to Aperture and other color managed apps as well. From here you just need to set the printer driver settings which I set as follows for the Mac:


Printer Driver Advanced Settings

The key here is to set the Media Type as I had done in Photoshop and make sure the Color Mode is set to No Color Correction. I found the above settings to be the most useful for getting the best results (Note: 16-bit isn’t an option on the PC, but it doesn’t appear to offer any measurable advantage).


Page Setup options will differ for your scenarios but here’s an example

The same settings exist on the PC as well as the Mac from any program.

Walkthrough on Epson

Since no Epson profile for the 3880 exists I can not do a walkthrough, but if you look at my Epson Exhibition Fiber review you can see how you could apply your own custom profile using the same settings discussed in that walkthrough (excluding the platen gap change – that isn’t required). I did find that on the Epson platform I preferred the Perceptual rendering intent more often during my testing.

See my review of the i1XTreme for more information on my process for creating a paper profile for this paper.

Comparisons to other LexJet papers

I have not used any other LexJet papers at this time, so I can not comment.

Prices & Sizes

See the special offer later in this document for pricing. As of the time of this writing, the following sizes were available:

  • 8.5” x 11” – 50 Sheets
  • 13” x 19” – 50 Sheets
  • 17” x 22” – 50 Sheets
  • 10” x 100’ – Roll
  • 17” x 100’ – Roll
  • 24” x 100’ – Roll
  • 36” x 100’ – Roll
  • 44” x 100’ – Roll

Conclusion

When you look at the print result alone – especially framed – this has to be my favorite paper as the results are just magnificent. No paper I’ve used pops more than this and it just grabs every ounce of light and bounces it back to you like it is some sort of holy apparition! With that said there are a few things that I don’t like about it:

  1. Packaging – The rolls are fine, but in the box form the nasty plastic wrapper they put it in is taped rather than being more like a big plastic envelope like you find with other papers, so you end up having to struggle to get the paper out (which means dented paper) and the tape can stick to the paper (which means that area is unusable for printing). I hated the box, so my recommendation is to transfer this paper to an empty box and plastic envelope from your other fine papers and toss this packaging. Again, the rolls are great, so no worries.
  2. Thickness - I’d much prefer to see a thicker version of this paper that was less prone to dents (i.e., a 14 mil), even if it cost significantly more. It’s frustrating to have a great print dented as it falls out of the printer because you didn’t get their in time or to have it dent if you walk to fast and it flexes funny. Handle this paper with great care!
  3. No 3880 Profile – Okay maybe this is biased, but there’s a ton of 3880 users out there (especially after this series recommends the 3880) so it is lame that LexJet hasn’t created a profile for this – despite my couple attempts to talk LexJet into creating one.
  4. Quality Control – I had a couple sections of my roll that had specks where the ink didn’t adhere to the paper, and this occurred when I was printing several prints in a row so that portion of the role had never seen the light of day. This would indicate either an issue with the paper surface or that there was some contaminants in the roll, but either way I ended up with a couple 16x24’s that had to go in the trash due to this problem. According to my Canon Accounting Manager software, a 16x24 print costs roughly $6 in ink and paper so that would be $12 down the tubes for the average Joe that buys this paper.

Even with these faults, there’s no other paper I’d try before this one when I want want my viewer to say WOW when looking at a print. This is very good paper that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit! I highly recommend you pick some up!

Special Offer

Sadly LexJet has cancelled the special offer, but you can visit my Discount Coupon Code page for information on how to get Red River Polar Pearl Metallic for much cheaper with IDENTICAL print performance. In fact, you can even use the LexJet profiles and everything you see in this article and just insert the Red River Polar Pearl Metallic sheets in the printer. It just works – and costs less!

If you are going to be printing with Epson, I’d highly recommend you pickup ColorByte ImagePrint which can be purchased for  discount using the info here.

Disclosure

LexJet provided me with a free pack of 17x22” sheet paper as well as a 24” roll for testing in this series, and I may get a commission if you use the special offer or select links in this article to make a purchase.

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