Andrew Macpherson

Why printing is inadequate

by on Sep.12, 2010, under Equipment, Workflow

Why do I spend more time fighting the print driver than in any other stage of the process?  I have a roll feed printer, I have a simple view on life; here’s what should happen:

  1. Turn on printer and load paper roll.
  2. Printer either reads a barcode on the paper and is ready to go
    — or —
    Printer asks what sort of paper I’m putting in, and how long is it, and fetches the appropriate profile, even if the paper is from a different manufacturer.  Printer is now ready.
  3. I go to my computer and select the picture to print, computer talks to printer to discover available media.
  4. I say print, and either the computer puts the job in a RIP (Raster Image Processor) queue so that I can add other jobs to fill the paper, or is gives me a little backchat to ask permission to rotate the job so it fits better, then prints the job and cuts it from the roll.

What actually happens has some marginal resemblance to cloud cuckoo land above.  See if you can spot the resemblance

  1. Turn on printer and load paper roll
  2. Printer seems to be going to load the roll, but spits it out, and says “load it again”
  3. Printer loads roll and reads the barcode, then cuts off the barcode and is ready to print,
    – or –
    Printer loads paper and gives me a list of paper types to select from which do not bear the slightest resemblance to what it says on the box, even when both printer and paper bear the same brand name.
  4. Go to computer to print my panorama (23″ x 4″)
  5. Print driver ignores size of image and demands I choose a standard paper size, or create a new one.
  6. Capitulate and set up 24″ x 4.4″.  Print driver informs me that my media is US letter paper — something not available here
  7. Tell print driver to talk to printer.  It now knows I have a Photo Glossy 24″ roll loaded.
  8. Printer driver still insists that I have this bizarre US letter paper, and insists on truncating the width of my panorama to 8″, and spitting out 11″ of my roll before cutting.
  9. Phone supplier.  Their technical support knows all about Microsoft — c’mon guys — get real this is a photographic printer — who in their right mind uses Windows?  They suggest using the Photoshop print driver plugin — err that’s for the old 32bit CS4, not current 64bit CS5 (which has been out for rather a long time by now) so the plugin can’t be just copied into the CS5 directory as it is the wrong sort of binary.  Similarly the RIP only works half the time when invoked.

Anyway bigger pictures print, some experimentation later I discover the threshold is 20cm (8″) of roll length, anything less than that and the blessed driver truncates one’s print job to a US letter paper sized window, so forget printing a row of 4 6″x4″ prints across the bottom of the roll.

While I’m on the subject of my current pet hate, here’s another misfeature;  if  I select a standard size to print on my roll paper, the driver again gets in the way, and insists that I have to leave a 3mm margin in the middle of the roll for the cut sheet handling for the selected (possibly custom) paper “size” rather than simply treating it as the desired output image size, and doing a ‘borderless’ print into the much larger physical paper.

Of course the print driver simply refuses to print to the edge of the paper roll, even when I’ve fitted the “borderless printing’ spacer alongside the roll, and am trying to print a poster of some sort.

I shouldn’t have to work this hard, finessing the driver to get my prints.  The really frustrating thing is not being sure who to blame.  I do tend to blame Canon for not releasing an up-to-date driver, for the printer that I only bought in May last year.

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