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Canon iPF6400 – 6450 printer review

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Canon iPF6400/6450 review

Using the imagePROGRAF iPF6450 (ipF6400) 24 inch large format printer



Canon UK recently lent us an iPF6450 large format printer. This is their newest 24″ wide printer and supersedes the iPF6300 that we reviewed in 2010.

Keith has spent some time testing and studying it, for what is one of our longest reviews to date.

Canon iPF6450

If you wanted a review of the iPF8400 or iPF9400, they are essentially identical in operation to the iPF6450, but wider, and with bigger ink carts and front loading paper, as in our iPF8300 review notes.

Canon iPF6400 and Canon iPF6450

This review covers the 6450 24″ width printer.

The iPF6450 is a 6400 printer with an 250 GB internal hard disk. For a larger 44″ print width version you would have to look at the iPF8400, or 60″ iPF9400.

Our review printer was shipped with the optional SU-21 spectrophotometer unit (grey box along the front of the printer to the right). Although profiling is covered in this article, I’ve included more details of using the SU-21 in a short review on its own.

Buying a Canon iPFx400 large format printer in the US?

If you use one of these links, we get a small contribution. It won’t be any cheaper I’m afraid, but it helps me run the site

640064508400 and 9400 at B&H
640064508400 and 9400 at Amazon

Note that there are often rebates available, reducing the price even further.

The review was carried out driving the printer from OS X Apple Macs, however, the functionality and software is very similar if you happen to be using a Windows PC.

What do you get with the Canon iPF6400/6450

Our printer arrived as it would normally be shipped, with different parts such as the stand, in boxes. The assembly process took an hour or so, and then I installed the print heads and inks.

Rather than fill out even further what is a long review, I’ve written a separate article covering the assembly and initial setup, which covers the process in much more detail than here.

Here are all the ink tanks and print heads before installation.

ipf6450 with print heads and ink cartridges

The printer is on a stand, which includes a print catcher that folds out at the front (it appears in numerous photos during the review, doing its job.

Print heads are easy to fit in place – these should normally be expected to last for several litres of any particular ink passing through them.

fitting ink cartridges to the iPF6400 and 6450

Lucia Inks

The set of coloured inks (LUCIA EX pigment ink) is the same as with the previous iPFx300 range of printers. They are aimed at giving a wide gamut of colours on a variety of papers. The inks themselves give a slightly wider gamut than the x100 range of printers, whilst improvements in printer firmware give slightly better performance over the x300 range. If you’ve an iPF 6100, then the 6400/6450 represent a good jump in performance, whilst if you’ve a 6300/6350, the main difference will be the much bigger ink tank capacity.

location for ink cartridge

The initial ink cartridges supplied are 90ml or ‘starter’ versions. The 6450/6400 has ink ‘sub-tanks’ which need to be filled during initial setup. This takes quite a bit of ink from the 90ml starter carts and means that they get used up faster than you might think. One of the advantages of the sub-tanks is that you can change cartridges during printing (it pauses) and that they really do run almost dry if you ignore the initial ‘low ink’ warnings.

It’s the sub tanks though, that mean if you want to move the printer after setup, then it should not be tilted to any significant amount (10-20 degrees or so) when moving. When the test printer was collected, it went off in the back of a car, after being taken off the stand. Do consider this if buying a used printer and needing to get in into an office.

Replacement cartridges are available in 130ml (PF106) or 300ml (PF206) versions

The inks are:

  • PFI-106MBK Matte black
  • PFI-106BK Photo black
  • PFI-106PC Pale cyan
  • PFI-106C Cyan
  • PFI-106PM Pale magenta
  • PFI-106M Magenta
  • PFI-106Y Yellow
  • PFI-106R Red
  • PFI-106G Green
  • PFI-106B Blue
  • PFI-106GY Grey
  • PFI-106PGY Pale grey

There are two black inks for ‘Photo’ and ‘Matte’ media – these are permanently loaded, and there is no need to swap or change black ink settings, this is set by the media choice when printing.The ink cart hopper at the left of the printer is the most obvious visible difference between this and the earlier iPFx300 models.

all ink carts loades in iPF6450 printer

Once you’ve set up the printer, it’s best to run a calibration cycle.

In this case I’ve used some of the A2 sheets of Canon proofing paper supplied (only 5 sheets, so don’t get carried away…)

calibration print for iPF6450

I’d suggest keeping the pack of paper and doing this procedure again after your first ink cart change. If you’ve an SU21 spectrophotometer unit, then use that for calibration. See the short review of using the SU-21 for more info.

I’m looking at using the printer for fine art photo printing, so some aspects of its use with the spectrophotometer are only covered at a relatively high level in this review.

It’s also worth noting that the sensor built into the print head assembly, that reads the patterns printed above, is more accurate than earlier versions and makes for more consistent calibration and setup.

Printer Connectivity

There is a choice of USB2 or Ethernet to link your printer up to a computer.

Use of the various Canon printer software is described in more detail later, but initial testing was via a USB connected laptop, and my main desktop computer, over our Gigabit Ethernet network.

Both connections were picked up when setting up the printer.

network setup choice

The printer has its own web server built in, which can give basic status and settings information, such as this display from after I’d been testing a while and the printer was suggesting it wanted more ink (I’ll cover more about ink use later on).

web display for printer

I’d just note at this time that PGY is the most heavily used ink and almost certainly the first you’ll need to replace.

Paper Loading and Media handling

Sheet loading is very simple, and caused not one misfeed during all my testing.

You can set it via the load button on the front panel.

paper format selection

The display shows known paper types (there is a wide range) or you can choose a custom paper type. I’ll look at his very important feature when discussing profiling and other colour management aspects.

Lift up the sheet feed guide at the back and put the paper in. (move mouse over image to see)

The paper is drawn into the printer ready for printing (note that I’ve also pulled the print catcher forward).

This is the A2 sized sheet I used for initial printer calibration (move your mouse over the image to see the print)

Loading Roll paper

Whilst the printer handles single sheets very well, it’s probably more likely to be used with paper on rolls.

Rolls are loaded onto a spindle at the back of the printer (mouse over image to see).

The roll (2 inch or 3 inch cores) is loaded to the right.

Here’s a 24 inch roll of Canon’s 240gsm Satin Photo paper loaded.

24 inch roll paper loaded

There are spacers provided for borderless printing on some media, but I only used the normal end plates (black one to the right) for this 17″ roll of paper.

17 inch roll paper loaded into printer

There are instructions on the screen for loading the paper.

roll loading instructions

This particular paper is a custom setting (it’s a watercolour type paper), but also needs trimming square.

A manual cut after running out a few inches of paper will make for more reliable loading/unloading of the paper.

manually trimmed paper

You can get the printer to print a recognition pattern on the end of the paper, so that the amount of roll use is recorded, but this was a pre-used roll so I’d no real idea what length to set.

When setting paper types, it’s possible to specify a manual trimming (say for heavy canvas).

manual paper trim display

The display will prompt you for this, after rolling out a length of paper.

paper for manual trimming

Using the Canon iPF6450

I’m usually printing individual images directly from Photoshop with a custom ICC profile for the paper, and most of the printing shown here is via that route. The only specialist RIP software I tried was True Black and White, which as its name suggests, is a specialist (Mac) B&W print application. It works well – I’ll cover it a bit more when looking at B&W printing in part 2. There is also a review of the True Black and White software I wrote a while ago.

The Canon printer driver can of course be driven from any other application, such as Adobe Lightroom.

Where I need multiple images per page (or a length of roll paper) I’ll tend to use a layout tool such as ImageNest (Mac) although Canon includes its ‘Free layout’ software, via the printer driver (Windows or Mac). Free Layout allows you to match up prints from a number of different applications.

You can see the free layout tick box at the bottom of the dialog box.

paper setup options

This particular (Mac) dialog box shows a number of options that it’s well worth taking time to understand (Win PC options are similar)

At the top, I’ve a custom paper size (43cm x 35cm) and I’m using 17″ width paper (431mm).

The image I’m printing (one of my B&W test images) is only 42cm by 30cm. Rather than create another custom paper size, I set the no space option, which will trim to the size of the image to print. It’s similar to ‘save roll paper’ options in other printer drivers.

Note though, that if you were placing an image in the centre of a particular paper size, then the ‘No space’ option will trim to the image – not good if you were using the custom size to create a border round an image.

The driver also allows you to set the paper type, in this case a custom watercolour paper I’ve defined (see part two for more about this).

Using the Photoshop Print Plugin

The majority of my printing with our own iPF8300 is carried out through the Canon plugin.

I’ll outline printing with the plugin here, but leave some detailed aspects until looking at colour management an Black and White printing in part 2.

The plugin is installed for different versions of Photoshop (We’re Adobe ‘cloud’ free here).

I hadn’t got CS6 on the machine at the time, but I believe the software does support newer Photoshop versions.

On first startup, there are some explanations about using the plugin.

One option that you should look at is installing the Adobe CMM print module – this however only works with 32 bit software, where I can print with BPC (black point compensation).

The upshot of this is that if I want to use the Adobe CMM, I need to fire up a version of Photoshop in 32 bit mode. The differences this makes to prints can be quite subtle or obvious, depending on the type of paper I’m using and my choice of rendering intent.

Fortunately the plugin works just fine most of the time – the intricacies of handling BPC and profiles is important, but I’ll leave this aspect for a while (please bear with me if this is important to you – I have to try and write these reviews for a relatively broad audience).

I’ll go through the basic print options, in this case for printing a profiling target.

Note how I’ve got colour management turned off – this is how I’d print profiling targets or an image where I’d already converted it to the correct printer profile in Photoshop. It’s also where I’d select a paper profile for ‘normal’ printing.

main plugin settings page

In general I’ll print at ‘highest’ quality. The differences between modes are quite small, although sixteen bit may smooth some gradients of strong colours if you are using large colour spaces.

The Highest (Max. passes) mode (in 16 bit) will print slower, however I’d really suggest you experiment to see if you can see any useful differences in your own images

16 bit print options

You need to select the correct media – a mismatch between what’s in the printer and what’s set will normally flag an error. This is fine if you’re at the printer, but when printing to another location, can just lead to nothing seeming to happen. There are errors posted, but you have to look.

select paper type in plugin

In the page setup tab, I happen to have a 17×22 paper size set.

page setup for plugin

The ‘No Space’ option is available here too, but note that it is in a pop-up window – be careful if you set it. It’s easy to leave it, and the next day ruin your first print because you’d not turned it off (yes, this happened).

plugin roll paper options

The colour setting screen is somewhere you should never need visit for normal colour printing (IMHO).

However, note the adjustment pattern settings button – I’ll return to this when looking at aspects of black and white printing in part 2.

color ssettings page for plugin

The image properties button tells you a bit about the image in case you’d forgotten…

image property display

There are a number of preview options for your image that show its position on your output page, and how that fits on a roll of paper.

If you print large images, then custom page sizes are really easy to configure and use, such as this 24″ x 85″ setting for a large panoramic black and white print.

large custom page size

Settings are stored for the plugin.

Note the greyed out 44″ sizes – these are for my 44″ width iPF8300.

list of custom paper sizes

During testing, I came across a most unwelcome limitation…

limit to custom sizes

There is a maximum of 50 custom sizes.

  • Just one of those arbitrary limits, probably put in place by a programmer? – If – it’s a Canon issue, can we have it fixed please?
  • I’ll put this in the same category as the annoying (just over) 60,000 pixel limit for print size that I discovered the hard way last year when creating and printing a 14 metre long panoramic print.

One other setting window that should not be overlooked are the configuration controls.

Normally I’d not set anything here, but if you are enlarging an image to fit a page size, then changing the enlargement to Bicubic will produce better interpolation.

When making the large 14m print, at what seemed an unfeasibly low 108 dpi, Bicubic and a 100 sharpening setting produced a stunning print, even close-up. I’d down-sampled from the original 300dpi 14 metre image to 108, so the resampling (internally to 600 for printing) produced very smooth lines. I’d note that this was with an iPF8300, but here seems to be no change in this aspect of the software.

The driver can also scale image to fit your paper. Whilst I’d normally avoid this, resizing and sharpening for the final print size, I’ve found that the driver does a really good job of this, whether for setting a page layout, filling the paper width or borderless printing.

fitting an image to a paper size

Fitting to width maximises print size (roll over image to see).

You can also (with the iPF6450) save a print file to the printer’s disk.

All print jobs are normally stored anyway (something to note if you sell the printer).

It’s a simple procedure to reprint from the printer itself, as these steps show.

stored jobsmailboxes on printer

list of jobs on printerselect a file to re-print

print the filenumber of copies

print job underwaycapacity of disk

Here’s the print (of the Royal Crescent, Bath)

It had been printed at the ‘fit to paper’ size, which gives a uniform 3mm margin.

print of royal crescent, bath

The files are also accessible via the web interface.

saved files, via web interface

Some prints

During the testing, I used a wide variety of papers both roll and cut sheet, however I always start off with these two test images, which show up more obvious faults in printer performance (B/W and colour).

printer test image for black and white printingdatacolor test image fro printer profilie evaluation

These test images (and many others) are available for free download on this site.

Testing included some fine art papers, both smooth and textured.

test prints on top of ipf6450

The majority of testing though was with Canon’s 240 gsm Satin Photo paper (colour images above).

An excellent finish bright white photo paper that doesn’t show very much gloss differential with the Lucia II inks.

By choice I’d prefer a slightly weightier option, mainly because the thinner paper is more inclined to show crease or ‘crink’ marks with very large prints if handled. It would be fine however, if I was immediately mounting or laminating prints.

Canon 240g satin paper 24 inch roll

The printer supports borderless printing on roll paper.

This expands the image slightly over the edge of the paper, but needs to trim the printed area at the beginning and end of a print.

borderless print preparation

Here’s the leading edge being chopped off and falling away.

borderless print leading edge

now the print itself

printing borderless

Here’s the print with the chopped leading edge next to it

final borderless print

Here’s the trailing edge – left on the end of the roll, and needing a manual trim.

I’ve written up short reviews of several of the papers I tried out on the printer

Two test prints below, printed on Hahnemuhle Photo rag bright white paper give a feel for the depth of colour available with careful profiling and soft proofing.

two prints on matte cotton rag paper

Ink changing

The ink levels are displayed on the front panel and via the web interface.

ink levels dispalyed via the web interface

As with other large format Canon printers, the numbers actually only represent six distinct levels of ink, or put another way the percentage display makes 20% jumps.

Even as an experienced Canon printer user, the sudden jumps, where for example, 3 inks can go from 80% to 60% after just one small print, can be alarming. I’d hoped this would be addressed in the x400 series, but no, perhaps next time?

Given the first warnings start at the ‘40%’ level, you can safely ignore them, or treat them as an ongoing reminder to have spare ink in stock.

Eventually the printer will insist on changing the ink – if it happens during a print job, then you can swap a new cart in, but the printer won’t sit ‘mid-print’ indefinitely, so keeping an eye on the printer might be an idea when at ’empty’.

The empty cartridge is simply removed and a new one put in. The printer takes a short while setting up again and you are ready to go. The ability to ‘hot’ swap ink carts, comes from the hidden internal ‘sub-tanks’ (that are filled during initial setup).

Out of curiosity I dismantled an empty (90ml) ink cart, there was a tiny amount of ink left. Weighing other carts gave 129g for a full one and 36g for an empty one. It seems safe to say that you get the whole cart used.

If left in standby mode (worthwhile for most users) the printer will ‘wake up’ once a day and agitate the ink tanks. It helps prevent any settling of the pigment inks. This is accompanied by an obvious whirring noise – loud enough to make you jump, if you were not expecting it. Upon powerup or waking, the printer checks for head cleaning. This uses a small amount of ink, so expect all ink levels to dip over time.

Print heads

There are two print heads, with six colour inks per head. The print heads are rated as a ‘consumables’ with each rated for several litres of ink running through them.

The replacement process is the same as the installation – see the setting up an iPF6400/6450 article for lots more detail.

Maintenance cartridge

There is a maintenance (waste ink) tank under the print area.

It’s already in place when the printer is shipped (move mouse over image to see it pulled out)

The cartridge captures ink splashover when printing borderless, and any in used during cleaning operations.

Based on my experience of using an iPF8300 for several years, it should be a fair while until it needs changing.

Note – July 2013: I recently had to change the maintenence cart on the 8300, and have written some notes about the process and what it told me about overall ink usage.

Utility software

When first installing the printer, there are several other software applications you can include. I’m covering them to various levels of detail based on the sort of fine art printing usage I carry out at Northlight images.

software installation options

You can download the printer manuals from Canon, for much more detail (they are relatively readable for printer manuals ;-)

The MCT (media configuration tool)

One of the features that I use a lot on our iPF8300, is the ability to add custom media types to the printer.

The functionality has been tweaked and improved somewhat, with an eye to managing media types (and their calibration) across multiple printers and workstations. This has been a bit awkward in the past, with the risk of different computers having different sets of paper types available in their print driver interfaces.

media config tool startup

You can load new sets of Canon approved papers, which vary in different regions of the world, if you are using Canon media. I do balk a bit at the ‘genuine’ name, with its subtle implications, but that’s marketing for you ;-)

Custom papers will appear on the front panel of the printer, and as a choice when printing.

Adding a paper requires data from the printer.

softwware communicating with printer

You can choose one of the many standard papers to base your media settings upon.

There are custom paper types that can be specified too, but I never use them, since they don’t work well with the black and white print mode.

Calibration targets for the paper are handled slightly differently if you are using the SU-21 spectrophotometer, but I’ll cover that elsewhere.

If you’re unsure of paper types then there is a guide that will suggest options based on paper weight or thickness.

assitance for choosing base paper type

In this example I’m adding a watercolour type of paper, and after selecting a base paper type, I need to give it a meaningful name (to me)

custom paper name

The paper needs to be loaded in the printer.

loading custom paper type

The printer now knows about the custom paper.

custom paper type displayed

A paper feed adjustment is needed.

In this instance I’ve a 17″ roll of the paper loaded.

17 inch roll of paper loaded

A special test print is produced.

If you are using sheet paper then two A4 sheets will suffice (indeed, if using larger sheets, I cut them in half).

paper feed adjustment print

You need to wait until told to proceed.

after paper feed adjustment

There are several parameters that need setting for the new paper type.

paper handling options

I’d accidentally set manual cut for this paper when first experimenting, which is why the test target shown with manual cutting in part one was produced.

The cutter is quite robust and should handle most papers.

It’s possible to change paper ink limits at this point.

Unfortunately, if you change the ink limits from ‘Standard’ it kills the ability to print using the B&W print mode, so I generally leave them set.

setting for ink limits

If you are looking to experiment further, then by all means try the test prints, but any improvements are likely to be minimal, if your original choice of Canon media is a good match. I’d go so far as to suggest that if changing the ink limit makes a noticeable difference, it might be more worthwhile, restarting the process with a different base paper choice?

Once finished, you get to review the settings.

overview of custom media settings

Don’t try this whilst anyone else is printing…

updating printer settings

Afterwards you can create a custom calibration target, if you have an attached SU-21 spectrophotometer. This can be used to help ensure consistency between multiple printers.

creating custom

Exporting settings

Custom settings are great if I use the same computer all the while, but are not shared with others.

To do this, I need to export the settings from the printer to special file.

On the computer I’m using, there are three custom papers (one Pinnacle and two Innova)

custom paper settings to export

Here’s the view from another computer where I’ve created two new settings for two Hahnemuhle papers.

alternative custom paper types

Just be careful to think about what you are doing – if the papers are already on the printer, you only need to update your driver for your computer. Note that these paper types also appear in the Photoshop plugin if you use it.

updating your printer driver

The layout plugin

An addition to the plugins available for use within Photoshop is a tool to handle the expansion of image area if you are printing on canvas and want to minimise the amount of your image lost during the wrapping process.

plugin for laying out images for stretched canvas prints

I rarely print on canvas, so my experience of this is limited, but the plugin allows you to set various parameters before printing.

expanding image are for canvas prints

Other edging options are available, such as a soft (blurred) reflection.

soft reflection effect

Or a black border…

black edge effect

The software works with all my older print plugins too

selecting printer plugin to use

When the expanded image is transferred to the print plugin, the normal print options are still available, such as this view showing how the image fits onto the loaded 24″ roll.

image layout on roll media

As with all the additional software, its worth looking through the user guide for all the different options you might want.

user guide for printer.

Other software

Software is supplied for direct printing from Canon’s DPP photo processing application, however I rarely ever use it, and never for printing.

There is also a software tool for measuring lighting sources (with an i1 Pro spectrophotometer) and using the resulting measurement file to adjust the printer output. On the Mac, the measurement file is an XML file that includes the colour temperature and brightness of the illumination.

It seems however that this option is not for when using ICC profiles for colour matching – since I only print via profiles, there is nowhere to make use of this info – apart from the fact that I’d normally build special profiles for odd illumination conditions if warranted.

There is a firmware update tool to update the printer firmware. If you update firmware, then it is worthwhile recalibrating the printer, since in the past I’ve seen it suggested that firmware changes can alter a printer’s performance.

On Windows PCs there is also some poster printing software and detailed usage and cost accounting software.

The web interface

The printer runs web server software that you can connect to from a web browser.

I’ve mentioned this in connection with printing stored jobs and ink levels.

It also allows you to check for printer errors, although the fact that there is no explanation of what these numbers mean or their severity, makes them essentially useless for most users.

Indeed, does printer error 038A0016-2F87 mean the printer restarted after a power outage, or that it is shortly going to burst into flames?

The web interface does have a bit of ‘designed by engineers’ rather than a ‘designed for users’ feel about it.

Just one other thing, don’t select the ‘Print job list’ option unless you actually want all this info.

Fortunately this was whilst a fairly ‘general purpose’ paper was in the printer, rather than a nice cotton rag art paper…

printed job information

Unfortunately all this info is not available in a convenient easy to use form. It includes detailed paper and ink usage info for every job I printed on the printer during testing (and give an idea of what I mean by thorough testing ;-)

Printer driver utilities

On the Mac, basic job information is also available from the printer driver, including access to the contents of the hard disk.

priter queue with job information

I believe similar info is available on Windows PCs (not tested since we only have Macs here).

On costs of use…

Everyone asks about print costs and ink usage…

For myself it’s print quality that counts, so if a 20% reduction in ink usage costs made a significant impact on my business’s bottom line, it just tells me that I’m not charging nearly enough for my prints.

I do appreciate that this attitude is perhaps not widespread and Canon provide software that allows for much more detailed analysis of your costs.

That is, unless you use a Mac – seemingly someone in Canon thought that if you use a Mac, you’re not interested in such mundane matters as media costs, so the Accounting software is Windows only.

This from Canon…

The Accounting Manager serves as a powerful feature, used for accurate management of printing costs and other information that is increasingly important in today’s economic environment. With Accounting Manager feature you can track how much ink and paper is being consumed when printing large format output. Costs can be assigned to the ink and paper to determine expenses based on your own “Cost of goods”. Each individual ink tank can have its own cost associated to it, as well as a variety of different paper types. The user can also input a variable cost that will be added to the total of the print cost. The data is exportable to a .csv format for Microsoft Excel so the data can be used for billing purposes. This feature will allow you to determine the cost of each print based on your actual cost.

Note to Canon – Mac users do dull stuff with spreadsheets too! :-)

The section above is a direct copy from the iPF6300 review, since as far as I could find, it’s still not been fixed…

I would note though, that from a rough and ready look at the ink usage figures, the iPF6450 does use slightly less ink overall, not enough perhaps to make you rush out and replace an iPF6300, but worth noting if you look at ink usage for an iPF6100 (and especially with the larger ink tank options for the 6450/6400)

Profiling and colour management

As a photographer printing my own work (and sometimes for others) I want to get the best in colour performance from any chosen media.

As I mentioned earlier, the print plugin has colour and tone adjustment controls.

It also has an adjustment pattern mode, where a range of images is printed with different colour adjustments, for you to pick the best.

adjustment pattern print for colour printing.

I’ll come back to this when dealing with B&W printing, but it’s something that has no place whatsoever, to my mind, in a colour managed print setup. If you are looking at fine art printing and think that this is useful, then I’m simply going to say that you are wrong ;-)

One of the first things I’ll do with a new media type (after configuring a custom setting if needed) is to create a a custom ICC printer profile.

With the Photoshop print plugin, I can reliably print with ‘no colour correction’. If you are going via the printer driver I’d suggest getting a copy of the free ‘Adobe Color Printer Utility‘ which ensures printing of targets with no colour management applied.

I use an X-rite iSis scanning spectrophotometer for creating our profiles, along with i1Profiler software.

printing a profiling target

It’s easy to include almost 3000 patches in a target print, which can make for very good profiles.

Here’s a target printed on 17″ roll paper (a watercolour type paper).

profiling target on matte paper

And another on Canon Satin Photo paper (240gsm)

profiling target, canon satin photo paper

The difference in printer gamut between a matte watercolour paper and satin photo paper shows in the above photos, even though taken under slightly different lighting.

  • I’ve covered an overview of using the SU-21 spectrophotometer unit in a short review of its own. The device is unlikely to be used in a fine art printing setup, such as I’m looking at here. Whilst I did make ICC profiles for the printer with it, using the Canon imagePROGRAF CCMC software, they were with a relatively small (918) patch target. If you just need profiling, I’d suggest that for a similar cost, the X-rite i1Pro 2 would be a more useful option.

Once I’ve made the profiles and saved them. I can make use of them for printing (you will need to restart Photoshop for it to see new profiles).

Soft proofing is helpful for getting an idea of how your image will print (it needs practice and experience to interpret well).

Move your mouse over the image below to see just how much things change.

In the example below, I’ve selected the Perceptual rendering intent, for use with this image of Aspen trees in Colorado in the Fall.

I’ve used the soft proofing option here, to try and get a feel for how the image will print on a particular smooth cotton rag matte art paper (Hahnemuhle Photo Rag bright white 310 gsm in this instance).

soft proofing a print

The choice of rendering intent is quite important here.

As I mentioned in part one, the optional Adobe CMM only works in 32 bit mode, so I can’t use it here to include BPC (black point correction) without firing up an old 32 bit version of Photoshop (which may not even work when I next update my computer). The option appears (below) when in 32 bit mode.

printing in 32 bit mode to use BPC

or it doesn’t appear if in 64 bit…

64 bit mode, no Adobe CMM

With papers such as the Satin Photo paper, I can comfortably choose relative colorimetric or perceptual rendering intents, knowing that even without the BPC option, I’ll get good results with most images. I build my perceptual profiles with a -bit- more ‘punch’ (contrast and saturation) so as to offer me different ways of printing any particular image.

  • To answer the question I’m often asked: “which rendering intent should I use”, the answer is … it depends ;-)

Different images react in different ways though, such as this, one of my standard colour test images on a matte paper (move mouse over image to see).

What’s the upshot of all this if you want to use the plugin (on a 64 bit system) with a custom profile?

If you’re printing on a glossy/satin/lustre paper then feel free to pick the best looking option (but watch out for shadows being crunched up, if you have a lot of detail there).

If you are printing on a matte paper, then expect to see serious crunching of shadows if you pick relative colorimetric.

What about the supplied Canon profiles – these are generally of good quality.

These seem happy with any choice – it seems that they are built to work fine in this usage (hardly surprising).

If you are within Photoshop it’s easy to see whether you really need BPC for any particular image by soft proofing there and trying RelCol and Perceptual intents, with and without BPC.

If you need BPC for an image then it’s always possible to convert the image to the printer profile (convert not assign the profile) and print it from the plugin with ‘no color correction’.

If that still sounds a bit complex, and not worth bothering about, move your mouse over the image below to see how much of a black and white image is out of gamut (i.e. scrunched shadows) when BPC is turned off with one particular matte paper profile I tried.

The difference is visible in these two prints (black and white images printed as colour images) on a matte fine art paper.

two test prints to show the effects of using BPC

At this distance the one on the right may look better, but it comes at a price.

Details of the shot above – first with BPC (left)

with BPC

Secondly, without BPC (right). The detail in the shadows has been lost.

without BPC

If I wanted a darker look and no detail in the shadows, I’d have edited it like this -before- printing.

There is a slight difference in lighting levels between the two prints but the differences should be clear. Remember that at this stage I’m looking for accuracy and predictability of printing.

I find myself wondering why Canon can’t include a BPC option in the printer plugin? Relying on Adobe to update their CMM software module to 64 bit is hardly ideal (what’s in it for them?)

From my recent reviews of both the Canon PRO-1 and PRO-10 printers, where I’ve seen similar BPC related issues (leading to ‘dark prints’ complaints in some other reviews) I’m minded to suggest (only partly in jest) that someone at Canon who writes drivers, takes some time out to look up the usefulness (for some printmaking) of including BPC.

I found myself using the plugin a lot, just because it includes (almost) everything I need in a very easy to use package.

One more reason to use it is the ease of making black and white prints.

Black and white

You can print black and white images quite well using the same settings and profiles as for colour images (with a good profile).

Mono prints in colour mode

However I was interested to see how well the special B/W print mode worked, particularly since in earlier printer models the depth of blacks was a tad deeper with the mono mode.

monochrome print mode

Selecting the Auto (Monochrome Photo) mode changes a number of settings

You can fine tune a very slight tint into the output.

Previous experience with the Canon Lucia inks had led me to a generalised technique for removing colour casts in B&W printing and a typical adjustment value for ordinary home/office lighting.

tint adjustment for B&W printing

The x400 drivers though, include that adjustment pattern setting that I was so dismissive of for colour printing…

Now I can print variation of the X and Y adjustment for an arbitrary test image.

choosing a range of adjustment parameters

I can even choose just a part of my image to test.

cropping test image

This makes for easier tiling.

cropped bw test image samples

Here’s a matt art paper photographed under halogen lights (~2900K) and white balanced on the grey card at the bottom of the picture.

Move your mouse over the image to see a version with the vibrance and saturation pushed up by quite a large amount.

The same print viewed outdoors under overcast conditions (~5000K) once again with white balance set on the grey card)

Move your mouse over the image to see the colour bumped up as before.

Rather than printing whole miniature test charts, I created some grey squares…

A different matte art paper, this time with some optical brightener (OBA) in it (~2900K).

Mouse over image to see the enhanced colours.

The same paper outdoors shows how different papers interact with inks in quite subtle ways. Mouse over image to see the enhanced colours.

The results of this tells me that the neutrality of the black and white print mode has been slightly improved in the 6450, compared with the 6300 I reviewed a while ago (and the iPF8300 I use for my own printing).

However, and it’s an important point to note, the variations with lighting and with paper type have been enhanced really far here to show the effect. In normal viewing, it’s just not at all likely many people would notice these colour casts, and even then only by direct comparison after you’ve told them what to look for.

For custom papers I’ll often make a QTR correction profile to linearise black and white printing output. I’ve much more about this in an article about creating black and white printer correction profiles.

The data below shows the slight tendency to crunch shadows with the default tonal rendering that the driver offers for monochrome.

graph of monochrome print linearity

There are actually 5 tone settings, and just like the colour variations, you can make an adjustment print from them, but it only wants to show four settings (no ‘Strong-hard tone’) – I’ve no idea why.

range of tone settings

The default setting is ‘Hard tone’ or ‘3’

test print of B&W tone settings

I actually measured the four test prints above, using the technique I’ve described for making QTR correction profiles.

Each data file was run through the QTR profile making script, producing a ‘correction profile’ and a data file. For anyone wanting to look at the data in detail I’ve a zipped file of all four sets of data and profiles [zipped data file].

The paper is an OBA free matt art paper from Hahnemuhle – Albrecht Durer 210gsm.

Opening the profiles generated and looking at the ‘correction’ curves within, shows how the different tones relate to input values.

black and white printing tone curves

All show a bit of crunching of deep shadow detail. This is the steep rise of the correction curve at the left, attempting to open up deep shadow detail.

Tone 3 (the default) is the most linear with this particular paper (I had previously made a custom media setting for the paper).

Tone 0 shows the most obvious distinct lightening of shadows/midtones (remember that it’s a correction curve above, so the downward curve you see here, is compensating for the lightening in the printer’s own tone curve).

There are several other adjustments in the B&W print mode, but as with any color adjustments in the driver, I’d prefer to adjust things during image preparation.

One thing to note though, when choosing to use a better linear output mode (tone 3), is that unless your monitor setup and print evaluation environment are all in order, it is very likely to produce dark looking prints. An overly bright monitor is the most common cause of dark prints (see why are my prints dark for more info). Even though I take care with this, when one of my prints is going to be displayed in dimmer lighting, I’ll often lighten it with a curve, to compensate further (similar to using one of the lighter tones above).

The refinements in the print driver are an interesting development in Canon’s printers and show that they are giving more attention to the photo/fine art market.

Alternate printing software

QTR is an excellent shareware application, widely used to get accurate results from Epson printers for black and white, with normal ink sets and specialist black and white ones – it only works on the one make of printer though.

I was pleased to find that there is a commercial printing solution aimed at monochrome print makers using Canon printers and Mac OS X. It’s called ‘True Black and White’ and is designed to be used on Canon large format printers. I wrote up a review of True Black and White a while ago, and can say that the latest version fully supports the x400 printers. It’s essentially the same as I reviewed with the iPF6300, but has added some improvements in the paper handling area. I tried it with Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Bright White 310gsm paper, linearising one of the supplied profiles with an i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer. It prints at the printer’s highest resolution and produces excellent results – well worth a look if you are into monochrome printing.

I don’t use a RIP at all, where I need layout tools I’m likely to use ImageNest (which includes BPC if required).

If you’re looking at proofing, multiple printer support and what I’ll (very) loosely call ‘CMYK printing’ then you may well want to consider a RIP to drive the printer. This is where you’ll need to speak to a dealer.

  • My only note would be that RIPs are much higher margin products than printers, so do make sure you genuinely need whatever you end up buying ;-)

Conclusions

The Canon iPFx400 printers are an evolutionary advance from the iPF6300, with the same ink set and print heads.

The most obvious change is the large hopper to the left of the printer, allowing for higher capacity 300ml ink tanks, a welcome improvement.

The printer has a number of less obvious changes coming from changes in its internal processing that seem to use slightly less ink, slightly improve the available colour gamut and improve the rendition of extremely fine detail.

I’m very conscious of the diminishing returns in printer advances when doing reviews. For this printer to be a vast advance over its predecessor, then there would have to have been something really poor about the iPF6300, and there isn’t.

Inks

During testing I was using the ‘starter’ 90ml capacity cartridges (the extra cartridges I was supplied with were also 90ml) so my perception of ink use had to be adjusted against that with the 700ml cartridges I use on our iPF8300.

The lack of detailed ink usage data (unless you have a windows PC) continues with the iPF6400/6450 and is still an annoying feature, as are the large 20% jumps in reported ink levels.

One reason the printer achieves its large gamut is by having some very ‘strong’ coloured inks which are diluted in use by a generous admixture of the grey inks, especially PGY. If you are buying an x400 printer, then if you only get one spare ink at first, make it PGY and make it a 300ml (if two carts then make it a GY as well).

The 24″x26″ circular ‘Royal crescent’ print below took just over 9 minute to print and used fractionally over 5ml of ink (note the solid black area though).

Costs

The lack of functional cost analysis software on the Mac platform makes this difficult to quantify, but some rough calculations with data from that huge sheet of numbers I accidentally printed off, suggest that the new printer uses some 5 to 15 percent less ink than our iPF8300. If you also factor in the larger ink carts of the iPF6400/6450 then larger print volume users might see a big enough drop in costs, to make the jump to the iPFx4xx range worthwhile.

As I mentioned, I’m not a volume printmaker, so the benefits are personally not worth the hassle (including all that reprofiling) of updating our iPF8300.

large test print of royal crescent

Media Configuration

The 3rd party media options have been tidied up to make it easier to share media data between printers and to improve calibration options (with or without the SU-21 unit). I’ve included some more details of using the SU-21 for this in a short article, including profiling.

The ability to define your own custom media types is extremely useful in my own area of printing, since I’m always looking at new fine art media and how to get the best results from them.

It would be nice if there was the capacity more direct control for linearisation of paper settings, but the new measurement sensors on the print heads improve the accuracy of the whole printer calibration process.

The printer no longer require restarting when adding new media types.

As well as the basic Canon Satin 240gsm Satin Photo paper, I also tried samples of several other 3rd party papers covering a range of textures and finishes. The papers cover a wide range of potential uses – as ever, what works best depends very much on your image and chosen market.

These included:

The links go to short reviews based on using these papers in the iPF6400.

Sheet feeding was consistently reliable and accurate, although I didn’t have any thick/stiff media available to test this feature.

High Precision Print Modes

The very highest print settings will only really show a difference under close inspection and with certain images. Given the slowing down in printing, I’d suggest evaluating this yourself if you really feel it worthwhile.

I don’t use the very slowest modes myself on our iPF8300, other than in black and white printing with the TrueB&W software.

Calibration

Works easily, and the supplied pack of paper should be enough for setup (my 8300 came with a small roll of paper).

This is an essential step in ensuring consistent operation of your printer, and should be repeated every so often.

Canon have a PDF document describing calibration linking (between printers) that may be of interest, if you are looking at a larger print setup.

Print plugin

The Photoshop print plugin is a great environment to handle the printing of individual images. It is well thought out and works efficiently.

The canvas wrap plugin is effective and easy to use, showing that Canon is starting to move a bit more towards the fine art and photographic printing market.

The BPC printing issue I discussed earlier is one glaring omission, although it’s quite easy to workaround by converting your image to a printer profile before using the plugin.

The new variations option is great for testing black and white, and general experimentation, but not of much use in a colour managed workflow.

The plugin still includes an option to apply a Photoshop (.acv) curve file to the image, although I know of no profiling/linearisation tools that create such curves (if you do, then please let me know).

Black and white print mode now offers more adjustment options. However it still lacks quite the degree of control I’d like to see when using different papers papers – even Canon ones.

It would be nice if you could include some form of linearisation data for monochrome printing. The sensor is there in the printer. Canon has shown an interest in providing and enhancing the black and white print mode, how about doing the whole job and leaping ahead of anyone else?

That said, with not much special effort, I was able to produce some great looking versions of my black and white prints.

Buying a Canon iPFx400 large format printer in the US?

If you use one of these links, we get a small contribution. It won’t be any cheaper I’m afraid, but it helps me run the site

640064508400 and 9400 at B&H
640064508400 and 9400 at Amazon

Note that there are often rebates available, reducing the price even further.

General printer use

Not one clogged head or paper misfeed or smudge of ink during the entire time I had the printer. It just worked.

Setup was straightforward and the software easy to install.

Profiling was effective for a variety of paper types, and I now have a large pile of excellent prints sitting around looking for people’s walls to go on.

Summary

Some distinct advances over the very capable iPF6300/6350, most noticeably in the increased ink tank capacity and refined handling of printer calibration in multiple printer setups.

Slight improvements in print quality and ink usage over the iPFx300 range, whilst if you need very large prints, there is now the 60″ iPF9400 available.

The optional SU-21 Spectrophotometer will be a real benefit for organisations needing to keep multiple iPFx4xx printers in sync with each other, although it’s not really meant for the fine art/photographic market I’ve aimed this review at.

6450/6400 Specifications (from Canon)

Printer Type 12 Colour – 24″/609.6mm
Print Technology Canon Inkjet on Demand 6 colours integrated type (6 chips per print head x 2 print heads)
Number of Nozzles Total: 30,720 – BK, MBK, C, M, Y, PC, PM, GY, PGY, R, G, B: 2,560 nozzles for each colour x 6 colours x 2 print heads
Print Resolution 2,400 x 1,200 dpi
Nozzle Pitch 1,200 x 2 includes Non-firing nozzle detection and compensation system
Line Accuracy ±0.1 % or less
Ink Droplet Size 4 Picoliter per colour
Ink Capacity Bundled Starter Ink: 90 ml
Sales Ink: 130ml and 300 ml
Ink Type LUCIA EX 12 Colour Pigment Ink:
BK, MBK, C, M, Y, PC, PM, GY, PGY, R, G, B
OS Compatibility Windows XP/Server 2003/Server 2008/Vista/7 (32/64bit),
Macintosh OSX 10.5.8-10.7.x
Printer Languages GARO (Graphic Arts language with Raster Operations)
Standard Interfaces USB 2.0 High-Speed
Ethernet 10/100/1000 Base-T/TX
MEMORY
Buffer RAM 384 MB
Hard Drive none in 6400 – 250GB in 6450
PAPER HANDLING
Media Width Roll paper and Manual Feed from top: 203.2 mm (8″) – 610 mm (24″),
Manual Feed from Front: 250 – 610 mm / POP board use only: A2, A1
Media Thickness Roll paper: 0.07 – 0.8mm, Cut sheet: Manual feed from top: 0.07 – 0.8mm,
Manual feed from front: 0.5 – 1.5 mm
Minimum Printable Length Roll Paper: 203.2mm, Manual Feed from Top: 279.4mm, Manual Feed Front: 350mm
Maximum Printable Length Roll paper: 18m (Varies according to the OS and application),
Manual Feed from Top: 1.6m, Manual Feed from Front: 914mm
Maximum Media Roll Diameter 150.0 mm
Paper Feed Method Roll Paper: One Roll (top-loading [front operation possible], front output),
Cut Sheet: 1 sheet Front loading and front output, top loading and front output
Media Feed Capacity Manual Feed: 1 Sheet, Roll Feed: 1 Roll
Borderless Printing Width (Roll Only) 10″ (254 mm), B4 (257 mm), 14″ (356 mm), 16″ (407 mm), A2 (420 mm), A2+/17″ (432 mm), B2 (515 mm), A1 (594 mm), 24″ (610 mm)
DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT
Physical Dimensions (W x D x H) Main unit with Auto Roll Feed Unit (standard) – 1,227 (W) x 702 (D) x 344 (H) mm; Weight: approx. 54kg (excluding consumables and printer Stand).
Main unit with a basket open and a printer stand – 1,227 (W) x 870 (D) x 1,001 (H) mm; Weight: approx. 70kg (excluding consumables)
Basket closed: 1,227 (W) x 751 (D) x 1,001 (H) mm
POWER AND OPERATING REQUIREMENTS
Power Supply AC 100 – 240 V (50 – 60 Hz)
Power Consumption Operation: 100W or less
Power off (stand-by): 0.5 W or less (In compliance with ErP Directive Lot.6)
Operating Environment 15 – 30°C, 10 – 80 % (Condensation free)
Noise Level (Approx.) Operation: approx. 47dB
Stand-by: 35dB
Operation: 6.4 Bels or less Based on ISO 7779
Regulations Europe: CE mark (EN60950, EN55022 classB, EN61000-3-2, EN-61000-3-3, EN55024), Germany: TUV, Russia: Gost-R, Other Countries: CB Certification
Environment Certificates International Energy Star Program (WW), IT ECO Declaration (Europe), WEEE (Europe/India), RoHS directive, ErP directive, REACH, EPEAT
WHAT’S INCLUDED
What’s in the Box? Hex wrench screwdriver, 2 x print heads, 1 x set of starter ink tanks – 90ml each, EU/UK Power Cord, 3 inch core adapters, Spacer for borderless printing, Set up guide, Basic guide, User manual CD-ROM, User software CD-ROM (Mac & Win), Carrying caution leaflet, Safety/Standard Environment leaflet, Media sample – sheets, PosterArtist Lite leaflet, PosterArtist Lite software CD-ROM, Driver setting guide
Software Included Canon Printer Driver for Windows and Macintosh, Status Monitor/Print monitor, – Free Layout & iR enlargement Copy, Media Configuration Tool, PosterArtist Lite (PC only), Print Plug-in for Microsoft® Word/Excel/PowerPoint (PC only), Print Plug-in for Photoshop®, Canon Calibration Management Console, Print Plug-in for Canon Digital Photo Professional
OPTIONS
Optional Items Printer Stand ST-28, Roll Holder Set: Rh5-25 (2-inch core roll holder with 3-inch paper tube attachment and borderless print spacer)
CONSUMABLES
User Replaceable Items Ink Tank: 130ml – PFI-106: BK, MBK, C, M, Y, PC, PM, GY, PGY, R, G, B,
300ml – PFI-206: BK, MBK, C, M, Y, PC, PM, GY, PGY, R, G, B
Print Head: PF-05
Maintenance Cartridge: MC-16
More print related information

For information about other printers, paper reviews and profiling (colour management) see the Printing section of the main Articles and Reviews page, or use the search box at the top of any page. There are also specific index pages for any articles connected with the following topics:

More of Keith's articles/reviews (Google's picks to match this page)


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More Info

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  • Moving a Canon PRO-2000 printer 21st February 2017 Following on from our PRO-2000 review, it needed shipping back to Canon. There are several options for moving such a printer (or a larger PRO-4000), the one we needed uses up a lot of ink. Take care when installing your large format printer if you ever intend to move it.
  • Paper review Platinum Gloss Art Fibre 300 13th January 2017 Paper review, looking at Platinum Gloss Art Fibre 300gsm paper by Fotospeed. Tested on the Canon PRO-2000 pigment ink printer for colour and black and white printing
  • Impressora pro photo media review 7th January 2017 Review of six different papers from the Impressora range of photo media, from Canvas to cotton rag paper to glossy metallic finish. All tested on the Canon PRO-2000 printer
  • Pinnacle Premium Photo Lustre 300 paper review 4th December 2016 Review of Pinnacle Premium Photo Lustre paper, by Paper Spectrum. A bright lustre photo paper that is our go-to choice for commercial and decorative prints. 300gsm weight and available in a full range of sheet and roll sizes
  • ImageNest on the Canon PRO-2000 1st December 2016 A quick test of ImageNest print layout software on the Canon PRO-2000 printer. Quick print layout and placement along with resizing, colour management and sharpening
  • Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000 printer review 14th August 2016 Detailed review of the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000 24" pigment ink printer. 11 inks and a gloss optimiser coat. Dual roll feed option. Roll and sheet media tested, including a print over 7m long.
  • Mirage print software review (V3.5) 14th August 2016 A review of the Mirage print software by Dinax. Tested with the Canon PRO-2000 printer, the software now supports Canon and Epson large format printers. One feature is its freedom from print length limitations, ideal for huge pano prints at photo print resolutions.
  • Canon PRO-2000, 4000 printer setup and installation 2nd August 2016 Assembly and initial setup for the Canon iPF PRO-2000 and PRO-4000 large format printer. Features print head and ink installation and initial configuration, including printer software and network connection.
  • Canon PRO-1000 printer review 8th May 2016 Detailed review of the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 17" pigment ink printer. 11 inks and a colour optimiser coat. Tested for colour and B&W printing on a range of media types. Paper sixes up to A2, with borderless print options.
  • Canon iPF8300 review and notes 18th February 2016 Ongoing Canon iPF8300 review and notes about using the imagePROGRAF iPF8300 44 inch large format printer, by Keith Cooper. Notes date back to setting up the printer in November 2010
  • Canon Pixma PRO-100 printer review 15th August 2014 Detailed review of the Canon Pixma PRO-100 printer. A 13" width (A3+ paper size) dye ink based printer for colour and black and white.
  • Canon iPF6450/iPF6400 printer reviews 22nd July 2013 Overview of Keith Cooper's reviews of the Canon iPF 6450 printer, along with tests of specific paper types. Also includes printer setup and the optional spectrophotometer unit
  • Canon iPF6400 – 6450 printer review 22nd July 2013 Detailed review of the imagePROGRAF iPF6450 (ipF6400) 24 inch large format printer. Colour management and print setup for colour and black and white
  • Canon iPF6450 SU-21 spectrophotometer use 15th July 2013 Canon iPF6450 SU-21 spectrophotometer use, including basic testing of printing and measuring patches with the SU-21 using the supplied Canon software.
  • Canon iPF6450-6400 setup and assembly 20th May 2013 Assembly and setup guide for the Canon imagePROGRAF 6400 and 6450 printer. Unpacking, and installation of PF05 printheads and ink
  • Canon Pixma PRO-10 printer review 15th April 2013 Detailed Canon Pixma PRO-10 printer review, looking at colour and black and white pigment ink based printing a range of paper types up to A3 plus size (13" width)
  • Printer review – Canon Pixma Pro-1 22nd November 2012 Detailed review of the Canon Pixma Pro-1, a 12 ink A3+ (13inch) printer for colour and black and white printing. Tested on a range of paper types and sizes.
  • Canon iPF5100 printer review 27th December 2011 Detailed review testing the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5100 17 inch width large format printer. Sheet and roll paper, looking at colour and black and white pigment ink based printing a range of paper types.
  • Canon iPF6300 review 15th July 2010 Canon iPF6300 review, testing the imagePROGRAF iPF6300 24 inch large format printer, for colour and black and white fine art printing.
  • Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mk II review 1st March 2010 Detailed Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mk II review, using the Canon 9500 II A3+ printer for colour and black and white photo printing.
  • Canon iPF6100 review 30th July 2009 Full review of the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 24 inch large format printer. Colour management and profiling for all printing on different media types. Colour and black and white printing.