I'm a recent MLA grad trying to tackle the seemingly daunting task of printing my portfolio and would love some advice from the LA world. Bottom line question is what kind of printer should I get?
Originally I looked into cost of having my portfolio printed by Kinkos and several of local printing companies. I also have researched buying my own printer. So far I found that cost wise it seemed to make more sense to buy my own printer and print myself. Most of the printing companies I contacted said they wouldn't even print for me since I only want to make 3-5 copies. Plus it would end up costing 200-300 dollars, not including binding or proofs. Kinkos would be a bit cheaper, but I've had some bad experiences with them and would like to avoid dealing with them.
Now I am trying to figure out what printer will give me good quality prints at a good cost. I don't want to spend more than $500. I already bought and returned a Cannon Pixma 4920. The cannon was recommended for graphic designers. However, I found while black text looked true to color, photos and graphics with black in them looked purple. It really looked bad. So that was a bust.
So now I'm trying to figure out if a laser printer is the way to go. Does anyone have any recommendations? I'm kind of at my whits end with reading online reviews. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
You might be talking to the wrong kind of print shop. It sounds like you've spoken with color separation printers, such as those that do business cards and flyers/newsletters/magazines. You might look at reproduction houses - the same local shop we did our plan set copies with also did some impressive color output. They're like Kinko's, but on a whole other level.
I've never been impressed with laserjet output. It's always 'blurry', except the text, and it doesn't handle color gradients well.
Any color inkjet of sufficient resolution will do. The most significant cost difference in the printer is going to be capabilities (ie, duplexing, handling 11x17, how many inks it uses and whether the cartridges are per color or not). With printing your own, the biggest cost factor isn't the printer itself, but the ink and to a lesser degree the paper. Both of which are important - there is some truth to the marketing claims that you should only use the printer's brand of inks and paper, but more so that you use high quality inks and paper. I used an couple of Epson Stylus models several years ago, then an HP Deskjet, and most recently another HP (Photosmart C5280 to be specific, but I doubt that's even available anymore).
The problem you ran into with the Canon sounds more like a color management issue (though it's possible you had a bad ink cartridge as well). And color managment can bring no end of headaches when it comes to matching your printer output with what you see on the screen. Do you have a quality monitor? Has it been properly calibrated? That's the most important first step. Were you using coated inkjet paper or just plain copy paper? What software were you printing from? Were the color profiles set up correctly? Had you calibrated the printer?
thanks for the ideas Chris. I'm going to check into the calibration before I return the darn thing.
I agree with Chris, you are calling the wrong kind of printer. What size paper are you looking to print on, and what type of image do you want to see (photo quality?) As far as ink jets, Canon or Epson are far and away the best for imaging, but cost a ton, and cost even more to operate. Some of the more expensive HPs can also be good (they make a reasonable oversize that will do 11 x 17s), but again, the inks and paper will kill you. And if you wanted to buy a laser printer, you just cannot get a good graphics laser printer for under $500, as they are typically rotary print engines (the colors take turn printing), thus the disparity between B&W printing and color (15ppm black/5ppm color) The good ones are usually several thousand dollars, upwards to about 8g's for the top-of-the-line Xerox. These have linear print engines and print the same speed no matter what. Then you have the color-copiers, some of which are excellent,some are crap. This is what you will likely print on in the end.
You can all some independent copy or reprographics places (blueprints) and ask if they have a good digital color printer or copier suitable for printing portfolios, and ask what the machine is and what it can handle. Again, Canon makes some good ones, Xerox is the bomb, and Minolta makes some okay ones (you have to be careful with them, but you ain't buying it). When you go there, ask to see the paper to make sure it is thick and bright white (not typical copy paper). I usually bring my own paper, but I am a stickler that way. Give them ONE file and ask them to print it to check to see if it meets your standards. This should cost you about $1 to $1.50 per page side, up to about $3-$5 per 11x17. It should cost you nowhere near $500 to print a portfolio, unless you are printing a book. They should not charge you to use the computer (like kinkos does), and they should know exactly what you need, as they very often deal with it all the time. My 11" x 17" 24 page portfolio cost about $70 with printing and the binder, which I ordered from RipOffice Depot. I also have an indentical 8.5x11 portfolio I can take with me and leave, if necessary. I used to send out a ton of 8.5x11 marketing slicks, but most places want it all digital now, which saves me a TON of cash (it used to be 10 bucks for each set to print and mail). My portfolio when I got out of college was almost $400 between oversize scanning, burning the disk ($15), and printing, and the binder. One last tip. Be sure to save an indentical portfolio as a compressed PDF to e-mail with your resume.
I would stay away from Kinkos, as their equipment is so beat, the color registration is often very off.
Thank you Jason. I was originally thinking about a xerox, but then I looked at the price for ink. My husband wanted me to get it but it felt like such a clunky thing to have in my home office and it was so expensive. Yeah I don't think I want to do that. I'm going to look the printer I bought to see if it's some setting, but I'm leaning towards lulu because it seems really easy to do and it's cheap. I'm also sick of thinking about it. I've been agonizing about this for 2 months!
I'm also going to also research reprographic places to have in my back pocket in case I don't like the quality.
I basically have made two versions of my portfolio so far. One for print and one for email. The email contains a link to my dropbox, which allows people to open a pdf. It was the easiest for a big file. But I'll also make a compressed pdf like you suggest. Lucky my paper size for the print version is small 8.5 by 8.5 which makes it cheaper. I hope I'm not making a mistake about that i.e images are too small. I just want it to be cute, compact and I like a square.
Be careful about using a dropbox link. Many potential employers will not take the extra step to click on anything or go anywhere else to download a file. As they are sonetimes now dealing with hundreds of applications, they won't take the extra time and will just pass you over. If they ask for digital work samples, send them a file as an attachment.
Good luck with everything, it can be a PITA to do all this stuff, which I why I always keep my resume and portfolio up to date instead of having to spend a few weeks to update everything when I need it.
good points. Thanks again.
I'm going to have to at least partially disagree with Jason on this one. You cannot sufficiently compress a full portfolio for an email attachment and not have it look like crap. Why would you spend all the time, money, and effort to create a high-quality print version (unless it's just your carry and not distribute version) and then turn around and email out an over-compressed, blurry, artifact-filled monstrosity? I've done a lot of work with graphic document compression and I've seen a lot of portfolios and websites that run the gamut. And my first two thoughts any time I see a pixelated or fuzzy image (or an overly processed one, but that's another story) is a) someone didn't know what they were doing and b) why would you ever use something that low in quality to represent yourself?
There's a fine balance between quality and file size, and it's always been a challenge. The strategy I used was to create a series of individual project cut sheets, one page each, and select a handful of them as appropriate for any given application. Create a single pdf as close to 2MB as possible and not over 3MB, and attach that as 'work samples' with a link to a full portfolio download. It's certainly possible that some people aren't willing to take the time to follow a link elsewhere. But it's equally possible to run into people who only accept hardcopy, or only accept digital, or only under a certain size, or expect a full website, or any number of other particular details. You can't please everyone all of the time, so you have to try to appeal to the greatest number of people unless you have specifics you can follow. And the server logs and statistics tell me a high percentage of people I send packages to were willing to click that link and download my full portfolio.
Mostly, these items don't look too bad, and you have to remember the audience and what they will use to view. Mostly, on screen resolution is good enough to get your foot in the door. Then you whip out your full res (and in my case, huge) portfolio. Many prospective employers set a size cap to their e-mails (sometimes a little as 2megs) for adding a portfolio to an online application. I have that. I also have versions that are approaching 8meg with more pages and better resolution. You do not want to bombard an employer with 5000 images, either. Pick your best and you recent and include those.
Potential employers sometimes have e-mail caps for attachements set by IT, don't want to fill their inbox with one person's work, want to browse and download quickly, and have upload caps for thier online HR websites. And if you do it correctly, you will have a perfectly presentable online portfolio suitable for e-mail that won't take a terrabyte drive to store.
To answer your questions/ comment.
I was talking to places that do things like business cards/flyers etc originally. I never found a place in my town that was more of a reproduction house style. I didn't really know that existed, although that was what I was hoping to find. I'll look a little more on that level of things
I agree that laser printers sometimes do look a bit fuzzy. Kinkos uses a cannon laser printer, and I have found that for the most part images and photos look ok, not great, but ok. At the very least black looks a little more blue than purple which bothers me much less.
I just bought the printer and put in new ink, so I would hope it wasn't an ink issue. I have a nice monitor as far as I can tell. It is Asus, 24" 1920X1080 2ms LED Backlight LCD. I calibrated it with help from an IT person friend so hopefully that is not the issue. I will check that again.
When I printed I used hp double sided photo paper in matte. I couldn't find the right stuff made by cannon. Didn't think that would matter, but perhaps it does. It was brand new ink. I hope that wasn't the issue. I ordered more ink, so when that comes I'll try that and see how things look.
I was printing from adobe acrobat pro. Could you explain color profiles? And finally I will look into the calibration of the printer. When I installed the printer software a few days ago, I basically followed the directions given. I don't think I did anything wrong doing that, but I will check.
Thank you very much for your detailed and timely response!
Those printers that do post cards and bidness cards are offset press places. You might be able to find a "digital printer" in your area, they usually have good stuff and know how to use it. Make sure you say printer and not press...two different things (digital presses are awesome, BTW) All of your profiles should be set to the same sRGB (usuallt the default profile), not anything with Adobe in the name, or any other profiles, which are meant to simulate different offset press inks/systems. Also, if you are working in CMYK, convert it to RGB and then let the printer figure out how to print. Sometimes, you can tell the printer to print black as black, and not a color-layered black, but this depends on the machine. Hopefully, the color calibration did not screw up your settings too much. I usually caibrate to the printer since LEDs colors tend to be rather blue.
The thing with color calibration, profiling, and management is that it's so complex that you can spend a lot of time and money for very subtle improvement. As far as displays, without getting to far into details of panel types and such, the only relatively cheap and reliable way to make sure yours is calibrated as well as it possibly can be is to pick up a colorimeter similar to this. Without one, you can probably get close but all displays can have subtle color casts either from settings or inherent of the technology. Calibrating a printer for color (ie, creating a custom profile for your specific device - and ink and paper combination - rather than the manufacturer one for that model) follows the same basic principles but requires different hardware and usually isn't worth it.
Color profiles are basically maps for how a device displays a given color. The same value for 'pure red' may look different on any two given devices or may not be in a device's ability to produce at all. The profile handles converting the color value to something the device can handle while still looking consistent with all the other colors and as close to the original as possible. Googling 'understanding color profiles' or 'sRGB vs AdobeRGB' or even some of the 'how to calibrate your monitor' pages will find a number of explanations that are illustrated and easy to understand. The bottome line/most important thing is, as Jason mentioned, to make sure all of your images and documents are set or converted to the same profile - typically sRGB.
As for ink and calibrating the printer - sometimes even if new you get a bad cartridge or print head (some inkjets have the head built into the cartridge, some the head is part of the printer itself). It never hurts to run a head cleaning cycle or two and perform a color/head alignment on the printer. It sounds like you were using a quality paper which is more important than matching the brand, though that can make a difference. I would suggest looking at a heavy, bright white presentation paper rather than photo paper - those are terms HP uses in naming.
Calibrate the monitor and printer so that what you see is what you print.
I liked printing on Espon inkjet's but at the end of the day a good print shop laser print at $70/30 page portfolio (front and back) and a simple coil binding on heavy stock paper was fine (and cheaper than replacing ink, cleaning print heads and paying for archival matte paper). If' you taking the effort to print your own, I'd try to get access to a decent plotter and do your own binding (stitched can look/feel awesome).
I've known people to have used Lulu.com to be satisfied with the cost and quality of their prints.