ImageNest RIP review V3.5 update
ImageNest RIP review V3.5 update
Review update – Version 3.5
Keith has been testing some of the new features appearing in the forthcoming version 3.5 update of the ImageNest RIP. Many of these have the potential to make a noticeable improvement to print quality.
We’ve looked at ImageNest (from BlueCubit) in the past and it’s an excellent piece of software that makes good use of the capabilities of larger printers, particularly when using roll media.
ImageNest handles layout, colour management and resizing for any connected printer.
This short review update covers some of the new features appearing since our original review.
The overall functionality is described in much greater detail in the original ImageNest review.
There is a downloadable demo available.
The software (V3.5) is only currently available for Apple Macs. We’ve tested it on a current (Intel) Mac Pro under OSX 10.6. It works under 10.7 too. I’ve tested ImageNest with a good range of printers during the course of our reviews.
In all of them, you are using the manufacturer’s own printer driver for the actual printing, so your colour profiles and paper settings are just what you’d use if you were printing from within Photoshop or any other colour managed printing application.
The software drives any connected printer (it also makes PDFs), and since it uses the Mac print subsystem, you have postscript support.
It supports almost any printer that you have available (all the ones below are on our network, not directly attached to my computer).
Key features of the V3 and V3.5 over what I’ve previously reviewed (V2)
Feature in V3.5 include:
- Option for performing high quality interpolation prior to printing
- Black Point Compensation
- 3 Editable Levels of Print sharpening
- Speed Improvements
- Improved memory allocation
- Improved colour management
If you last checked our V2 review, then V3 also introduced the following
- Rotation in Layout: Users can now rotate with any nesting method. Previously, all rotation was done automatically. ImageNest can still rotate images automatically for best fit but now has an option for manual rotation as well.
- Grid: ImageNest 3.0 has a customisable grid that images can “Snap to”. This allows for quick and accurate image spacing for optimal paper usage.
- Snap to Image Edges: 3.0 now has the ability to align images with the edges of other images with easy to use guidelines.
- Copy and paste: Copy and Paste images in the layout with Control C and Control V hotkeys.
- Ability to drag images between pages: Users can now drag images from one page to another with ease both quickly and easily.
- Image Overlap: Images can be set to overlap for collages or an image can be trimmed simply by moving it beneath another image.
- Image Editor: Our built in image editor now contains additional information about resolution and pixel dimensions.
- Manually add/delete pages: In addition to our automatic page creation users can now add or delete pages manually.
Most of these improvements ‘just’ make the software easier to use and more flexible.
The parts of V3.5 that caught my attention were the resizing and sharpening of images.
I’ll show some quick examples – tested on a Canon iPF5100 I’ve currently on loan from Canon UK.
There is 17″ paper loaded, so I’ll pick one of my custom paper sizes (17″ square)
When importing images to print, I can specify how what size I want them (there are custom options too)
Here I’ve added nine 18″ square images and resized them to fit all eight on a square of paper (note the various layout options – see the original reviews for more about this).
Selecting print will take you to the normal print dialogue for your chosen printer.
Here’s the print.
Resizing and sharpening for print
When images are sent to the printer driver, it usually resamples images to a higher resolution. It doesn’t do this if the image is already at the ‘native’ resolution of the driver.
So if ImageNest does the ‘uprezzing’ first, it’s possible to use a better algorithm than the relatively basic ones in printer driver software.
You do need to set the printer manufacturer, since each needs different uprezzing to work best.
There is more detail about this process at the BlueCubit site.
You can also add in print sharpening to get the best from some images.
Now, when I’m producing my big exhibition size prints, I do all of this manually, since one of my prints may have very different levels of sharpening in different areas (or none – think flat blue skies) This is what’s often referred to as creative sharpening, although I include normal print sharpening in my creative workflow.
However, if you are producing images at multiple sizes, then it can get a bit complex, having versions of prints for all the different options.
Here’s where using the built in resampling and sharpening of ImageNest can produce better looking prints, without a laborious workflow.
As someone who tests new printers a lot, I’m very aware of how difficult it is to clearly see differences in print quality, particularly when starting from a good quality level.
If you’re experimenting with the ImageNest demo, then try printing the PNG file to the right at a number of sizes, doing the uprezzing in ImageNest and Photoshop (or LightRoom’s) print workflow.
Don’t expect print differences to jump off the page at you – it’s a small improvement if your prints were already pretty good.
It falls into the same category as printing at 16 bit – differences may not always be that obvious, but a series of small improvements in workflow can add together…
The built-in handling of colour management is more efficient in the new version, and I’d only use ‘printer manages colors’ if I was using the B&W print mode of my printer (where I’d select it in the printer dialogue).
If you want to try different rendering intents, you change this in the preferences.
Although from a preferences window, the softproof preview updates immediately, as does changing the Black Point Compensation (BPC – Rel. Col. only).
Note the addition of BPC – not many non Adobe printing applications have this function – it also gives a very good indication of the effect of using it, when you have softproofing enabled.
Most images won’t show such obvious changes, but sometimes strong colours and the choice of a large colour space (ProPhoto in this instance) do make a difference with some profiles.
Version 3.5 builds on a very useful piece of Mac OSX software for anyone looking for print layout software.
The advanced sharpening, resizing and colour management could make a noticeable improvement to your prints if you’re producing contact and proof sheets.
Available from Blue Cubit.
Pricing (Supports multiple printers with no additional cost and any printer smaller is supported).
- ImageNest Desktop $79 – For any printer 13 inches wide or smaller.
- ImageNest Small $199 – For any printer 17 inches wide or smaller.
- ImageNest Medium $399 – For any printer 24 inches wide or smaller.
- ImageNest Large $599 – For any printer 44 inches wide or smaller.
- ImageNest X-Large $799 – For any printer 64 inches wide or smaller.
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