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Head Strikes and Blotch Issues on Inkjet Prints

16th September 2015 Printing

Head strikes are a relatively common problem with inkjet printers and fine art media - the visible result can be smudging or smearing of ink on the page, marks around the edges of your prints, or ink droplet marks anywhere on your print.

There are several things you can do to reduce or eliminate these issues:

  • Keep your printer exceptionally clean - inside and out. Clean everything you can get your hands on, very gently, using a slightly damp cloth/cotton bud. You can also use isopropyl alcohol (available from chemists), but note that this may eventually dry out rubber parts like print rollers. Oritech has a Rubber Roller Restorer that you an use on the rollers, for approximately $15, that will last you a life time. If you are nervous about cleaning your printer yourself you can have a printer repair shop do this for you. Ask them to replace the 'nappy' or ink pad at the same time. We recommend Electron Flow for this.
  • If you have a replaceable maintenance cartridge in your printer, change this regularly - at least as often as the printer tells you to.
  • Only use paper that is within the thickness guidelines for your printer model. See the specifications page for your printer on the manufacturer's site, and/or the manual that came with your printer.
  • When loading the paper, first lay it flat on a table to check and see if it is curled? Often fine art papers have a slight curl to them. Flex the paper gently but firmly back against itself until you can get it to sit quite flatly on a table. We have a more detailed article on dealing with paper curl [here].
  • The most effective thing you can do is to use the platen gap controls in your printer driver, if they are available to you, to set the platen gap to a wider setting - go all the way to the widest setting if necessary. The platen gap is the distance between the printer head and the page and is the single thing that can virtually eliminate most head strikes.
How to set the platen gap

One way to set the platen gap is through your printer driver. You can save the setting as a preset for the media you are using so you don't have to remember to do this each time. Check your printer's manual on how to do this - sometimes it is just labelled as 'Use Thick Media' but often you have to go into 'Paper Configuration' and set the Platen Gap control to 'Wider' or 'Widest'. Below you can see an example from an Epson 3800 - this control is present in almost all Epson drivers in one form or another.

You can also generally set the platen gap usually using the printer's control panel.

From Epson

Always ensure that the media you are using is within specification for your printer. For information on paper handling, settings and specifications refer to the user's guide for your product.

  1. Start with the printer powered on and in a ready state.
  2. Press the Right (Menu) button to enter the Menu mode.
  3. Press the Up or Down arrow buttons to select PRINTER SETUP, then the Right button to enter the menu.
  4. Press the Up or Down arrow buttons to select PLATEN GAP, then the Right button to enter the menu.
  5. Now select one of the options below, according to the thickness of the paper. Use Up or Down to highlight the option, then OK (or Enter) to select and store it.
    • NARROW (thin media)
    • STANDARD (default)
    • WIDE
    • WIDE
    • WIDEST (thick media)
  6. Once you have stored the setting you require, exit the menu.