Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Printing Series: John Paul Caponigro - Environmental Artist and Epson Stylus Pro Master Printer

Copyright © John Paul Caponigro – All rights reserved
Copyright © John Paul Caponigro – All rights reserved

John Paul Caponigro is a member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame, a Canon Explorer of Light, an Epson Stylus Pro, and an X-Rite Coloratti. In this interview you’ll get to learn how he has a more practical approach to printing, despite being a very well known master printer and educator. I hope you enjoy his insight and the wealth of information provided in this article and its supporting links.


John Paul loves making amazing prints, so to do that he has the most amazing printers that Epson has to offer – the 9900 (44” paper width) and the astonishing 11880 (64” paper width).

Favorite Papers

John Paul loves the Epson Hot Press papers. However, longevity is of the utmost importance, so his favorite paper choice is still the Epson Ultrasmooth Fine Art paper (which as a rating of >205 years under glass with no other protection before it begins to fade).

What volume of printing do you do?

I print much more than the average photographer because I do a lot for my digital workshops and training classes. I print on demand for my fine art work, and unlike some artists I also offer an upgrade policy for the prints I sell. The way it works is if you buy a print and you damage it or simply want a new copy using the latest technologies, then you simply return your original print along with the reprint fee and it’ll be replaced with a fresh new print. This is something that gives collectors piece of mind knowing that their investment is safe, even if disaster strikes.

What things to look in a print before it’s ready for Fine Art Sale?

  • I want to express my vision in material form.
  • I’m looking for low noise, great resolution, amazing detail, and great shadows and highlights.
  • I look for pleasing color.
  • I follow my “preflight checklist” (available here under printing item #13). If anything deviates from that, then I want to know why.
  • Finally, I want to know how it fits within the series of work I’m doing.
  • I find an appropriate scale.
  • Above All, I want to be excited by it!

Copyright © John Paul Caponigro – All rights reserved
Copyright © John Paul Caponigro – All rights reserved

Printer Usage Recommendations

Here’s a list of of some of the recommendations John Paul has for getting the most out of your ink based printers:

  • Don’t always follow a given formula – experiment and do what is right for a given image
  • Look, think and feel with sensitivity
  • Use good color management practices
  • Don’t cook your inks in the heat and don’t freeze them. Think about the conditions your ink will be in and make sure you store them properly (this is especially important for places without climate control – i.e., no air condition on a hot summer day)
  • Perform proper maintenance as required for your printer
  • Make sure you align heads and clean the nozzles as needed
    • If you see little colored lines, then that means you nozzle is clogged
    • Go through the alignment process when you first get the printer, check again if you move it – once done bi directional is good. (See his 16 printing tips
  • If you see little white lines then that means your paper is advancing too fast – change media feed speed to slow down printer
  • If you go from bi direction to uni-directional and you see little dark lines then that means your paper advancing too slowly
  • Don’t assume that 2880 is always the best choice. The Epson printer driver Quality 5 (2880x1440) can be a problem with highly absorbent papers like Epson Velvet Fine Art because the ink may bleed
  • 16-bit has its uses it but John Paul hasn’t noticed it helped much for most images, except when doing super smooth synthetic gradients
  • Check out more of his tips on Printing and Proofing 

Color Management / Paper Profiling Recommendations?

John Paul claims that he’s never seen a perfect profile yet, but he finds that Epson builds good ones so he uses those most often.  He does have and occasionally use his X-Rite i1iSis XL Color Calibration System (B&H) and/or X-Rite i1iO Automated Scan Table as well working with Profile Maker (currently only available i1iSis bundles).

Like most many master printers, John Paul acknowledges the importance of good color management. However, he’s seen some photographers become so obsessed with color profile management that it has really sidelined their careers. He claims that he is not going going to chase the extra 10% as it would interfere too much with his photography. With this in mind, he is comfortable accepting the fact that he may need to do multiple prints before finding the right result that expresses his vision. These days it takes him an average of 4 attempts before he’s reached his final print formula, but that it isn’t unusual for it to take up to 12. In fact he claims that he even printed a record high of 50 just to get best print possible. He said that getting the right print in just one attempt does happen, but it’s a rare event (much like a hole-in-one in golf).

I found this conversation to be refreshing as I think this is probably more common than many actually care to admit!

Copyright © John Paul Caponigro – All rights reserved
Copyright © John Paul Caponigro – All rights reserved

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

Like myself and most others that I have interviewed, relative colormetric tends to be his rendering intent of choice. However, he does adhere to the recommended practice of soft proofing and checking both because it can vary based on the image. He mentioned that perceptual is generally his preference for saturated fields of color.

He also warned that Adobe still has much work to do on soft proofing as it still isn’t as good as it could or should be. It’s a feature that hasn’t been updated sufficiently in quite some time and the technology is available now for it to be so much better.

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

In the past John Paul enjoyed using ColorByte ImagePrint (review coming soon), but now he feels that today’s drivers have improved so much that it isn’t necessary for his workflow.

Anything else that people should know about you as printer master?

  • There are LOTS of options – make sure you form your own
  • Take everything (good and bad) everybody says as food for thought
  • It’s your image, your print, and your experience


Get over 200 lessons and a subscription to John Paul Caponigro’s Insights ENews - They’re free!

Copyright © John Paul Caponigro – All rights reserved
Copyright © John Paul Caponigro – All rights reserved


Unlike some print masters who keep all of their tricks to getting great prints to themselves, John Paul is a true educator who has worked tirelessly to help others enjoy the thrill of self printing. His web site is a great resource for learning about many important topics and seeing images which cover various printing topics (such as banding) which aren’t as well described anywhere else (that I’ve seen). I appreciate him taking time out of his busy schedule and I encourage you to enjoy his articles on the web.


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