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prints from a Canon iPF5100, using ImagenestImageNest RIP review
V3.5 update

Review update - Version 3.5

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.

It handles layout, colour management and resizing for any connected printer.

Keith has been testing some of the new features appearing in the forthcoming version 3.5 update, many of which have the potential to make a noticeable improvement to print quality.

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.

First published Feb '12

The ImageNest RIP

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 (see list of printer reviews at the end of this article)

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:

If you last checked our V2 review, then V3 also introduced the following

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).

multiprint layout

Selecting print will take you to the normal print dialogue for your chosen printer.

Here's the print.

prints from a Canon iPF5100, using Imagenest

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.

uprezzing settings for printers

You can also add in print sharpening to get the best from some images.

options for built in print sharpening

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.

high resolution test imageHowever, 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...

detailed test print

Colour Management

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).

colour management settings

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 indiaction of the effect of using it, when you have softproofing enabled.

Move your mouse over the image below to see the difference.

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.

soft proofing and choice of rendering intent

Conclusions

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.

Comments/Questions? - Ask Keith via this article's Google+ thread

Available from Blue Cubit.

Article History - first published February 2012

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More Info on our site that may be of interest

All the printers below have been tested with a version of ImageNest

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