Since we began Image Science in 2002 we've always practised a continuous process of assessment and improvement.
In mid-2018 we again decided it was time to make some significant improvements to some of our services - and as usual we've done this through a combination of significant machine and process upgrades.
Over recent years the popularity of our art reproduction services has absolutely exploded - to the point where at times we've been experiencing several weeks worth of backlog to catch up on.
For a long time, we've also sought to find a solution for both faster and better scanning of artworks in particular. Finally in 2018 we've found, tested, bought, and installed, a really significantly improved solution to this problem.
Our new scanner is made in Germany and has been custom designed for art reproduction work, with an innovative new dual lighting system that can provide both wonderfully flat lighting, where appropriate, but also dimensional relief lighting - which allows us to pick up the physical character of works, like brush strokes or 3D embellishments, if and when this is desired - in a way that has simply not been possible to date without more expensive custom photography work.
We can also now scan a much larger area in a single pass (18 by 25 inches, i.e. over A2), and the scanner is much, much quicker than older models as well. This of course makes it much easier to scan and larger works, to A1 and beyond, as well, which we do through digital stitching.
Thanks to the much better hardware, the scans are sharper and more detailed than ever before, more evenly lit, and even in 'raw' form - i.e. straight off the scanner - colour is so much closer to the original's colours that the post production balancing work required is now far less significant.
This is due of course to the machine's better quality, but also to ever tighter application of colour management in our scanning process. Simply put the ICC profiles we're making are better than ever, and they're better able to do what they are good at - which is small nudges rather than the bigger corrections which were more often needed for our older machines - because this scanner's response is so fundamentally good, and consistent, to start with.
There are other improvements - the scanner is properly sealed - so no dust can reach the sensor or get into the optical path - this again means much more evenly lit results across even large works. The new lights are closer than ever before to true sunlight in their output, and so allow the scanner's cameras to read colour closer to the way the human eye does.
This means, put simply, much better scans all around - scans we're confident are much much truer to the original art works than those that come from consumer level scanners like Epson and Microtek (...as are in common use at most services).
Of course, it's not just the machine, but our technique is always improving as well - even over just a few years ago. As with all crafts, the more experience you have the better, and now with over 15 years under our belts, we've come to learn there is always room for improvement. And the two go hand in hand - better results from the machine itself mean that proper technique is better rewarded.
It's a real delight to be able to produce such superb scans of work for artists. Better scans means better prints, of course...and on that note, read on below!
(And better prints means better sales, which is good for everyone!).
We've also upgraded ALL of our printers at Image Science, replacing our older 9900 and 7900 series machines (that most other services are still using).
We've now installed three of the very latest and very best Epson large format inkjet printers (one Epson 9070, two Epson 7070s). We've avoided the new, faster, but lower quality line of models - that are becoming popular at most print studios - we're just not interested in more speed if it comes at the cost of quality.
This was a process with some epic logistics - with at one point 6 large format machines in play as we moved from the old system to the new - our office has never felt smaller!.
We did assess the fast new 10070 and 20070 machines from Epson in detail, but found the print quality a distinct step backwards unfortunately - with about 25% less gamut than the also new 9070 and 7070 models. (We're told most places are now choosing these machines, though, which is a bit of a shame, and I can't help but think that's a sign that for most places speed simply trumps quality).
Our new machines, however, feature more gamut and blacker blacks than ever before. The archival testing results for print permanence of these latest inks are industry leading and better than ever before.
Put simply these are the finest quality machines around for archival prints in 2018.
Again, though, it's not just the machines - it's also processes. Of course we're running the new machines in their slowest, but best, modes. All printing is done uni-directionally in the 2880 DPI mode (most services use 1440, many even just 720!). The differences are subtle, but significant in fine art printing - smoother highlights and shadows in particular, and the absolute best and sharpest fine detail rendering.
We've also developed all new and quite special custom ICC profiles (for both black and white and colour) - through a combination of our own techniques and those of Dr. Les Walkling. These amazing new profiles are not just standard printer profiles as you'd use through Photoshop at home - but are instead built on top of an initial intense and precise printer/ink/media linearisation process - making for the absolute best possible profiles we've ever seen. The deepest of shadow details and the most delicate of highlights are now rendered better than ever before, and results with both photographic and illustrative works are more true to the colour numbers in our customers files than even we thought possible! In particular, there is a new purity to the colour rendering across the gamut. And of course we offer both colour and black and white profiles - each dedicated to the finest output for that domain - because the best results for each are had by using a specific, separate process for each domain.
These processes are only possible because we don't just print from Photoshop like most services do. Even with a truly excellent digital file, it's simply not possible to produce results of equivalent sharpness, or consistent colour accuracy, when printing from Photoshop versus our RIP (Serendipity MegaRIP - a fantastic Australian made product). MegaRIP simply offers a greater level of consistency and control - and distinctly better scaling and colour algorithms.
Consistency over time - crucial for high end limited edition print sales that can span years from beginning to end - is also unmatched as the RIP allows us to baseline and precisely characterise printer, paper and ink behaviour - and then build exquisite profiles on top of this baseline. We can then later return to this precise baseline even if there is a change in behaviour in one of the variables (printer/paper/ink) - e.g. a subtle change in a paper's rendering - which, over the years, definitely does happen. This means, simply, we can better maintain your edition integrity - even across years.
But whether you're just making one perfect print, or making an edition run of 250 prints across years, our new printers and profiles have simply taken us to a whole new level of print quality.
We're making prints that, even after all these years, make us go WOW in a new way - it's very exciting!
Better capture of artworks, and better printing, go hand in hand.
Scanning, editing and printing are what we do here, all day every day - for many of the most demanding and successful artists in the country. But also for legions of emerging artists, young and old, who are confused by the process and don't know how to get started.
Great equipment, great technique, and great and friendly people to help guide you through the process are what we're all about. We're big enough to be able to respond quickly and consistently, but small enough that you can get to know us, and work closely with us.
We never charge for advice, consultations or visits - and you don't need an appointment (although we recommend one if it's your first chat about art reproduction as there's often a lot to cover!). If you have a question, never hesitate to ask - simple or complex, beginner or experienced - we're always happy to provide the best advice we can. About any aspect at all of digital imaging, scanning, art reproduction and fine art printing, and the follow on things - packaging, increasing sales, exhibitions, etc. etc.
From how do I calibrate my monitor, to how do I sell more prints, we've got decades of our own, and literally thousands of customers' experiences, to draw on - and we're always open and friendly about sharing that knowledge. It's what we love to do!
So - very exciting times at Image Science!
We look forward to working with you soon.
- Alison Bennett -
I got 2nd prize at the Julie Milliwick Photography Prize!
I wanted to thank you for doing such a fabulous job on the print. It was wonderful to see the exhibition print on the wall.
I am particularly delighted that we were able to hold so much detail in the shadows and I like the matt powdery finish. I had lots of questions about the paper.