Roy Harrington's QuadTone RIP Printer Driver


Having experienced seeing metamerism in anything coming out of an Epson 2200 printer, I was initially skeptical that anything as simple as a different driver for the printer could change that. Obviously Roy Harrington knows more about ink jet printers than most of us - perhaps even more than the manufacturers themselves.

The QuadTone RIP is a driver based on the "GIMP-Print" drivers for Macintosh OS-X (and UNIX). It is shareware that can be downloaded from Roy's web site (see link above). If you don't already have GIMP-Print you will need that too: the instructions and links are provided by Roy. Installation is a bit different from typical manufacturers' routines, but again, Roy documents the procedure well. I will not attempt to provide the details - I might get something wrong. Also Roy is constantly updating things and so some of the details change with the version being installed and set up. I didn't get it quite right the first time, but it was my error and not the instructions. The shareware fee is $50.00 (US), but the download is free and prospective users are encouraged to try before buying. All software should be so.

The QuadTone RIP supports a number of Epson printers and ink sets, including some of Epson's inks and some 3rd party inks. The printers covered include the 1280, 2200 (2100 in Europe), 4000, 5000, 7500, 7600, 9500 and 9600 plus many more. My interest is in the 2200 with standard Epson inks.

Roy provides several profiles for each printer/ink set combination. This is one of the neat features of his system. One can load any two (!) profiles and choose a mix of the two profiles! Thus one can, for example, load the sepia and selenium profiles and then select a 50-50 mix of the two profiles to yield a near-neutral image tone. Choose a different mix, and one can have almost any desired image tone between Sepia and Selenium.

Results are superb. I'm reluctant to say categorically that there is NO metamerism in the final result, but it is certainly so minor that only very careful observation will show it. The result I obtained with the Epson 2200 was adjusted to match a real, traditional b&w untoned silver print under tungsten light. When I then compared the prints under daylight they were no longer an exact match, but they were the same colour! The only slight difference was how much they differed from true neutral.

Using the QuadTone RIP was my first-ever success with OS-X in having a print come out of the printer the right size and in the right place! I have to admit that I've also since experienced that happy result with the 7960 using the updated (Sept 04) HP Photosmart drivers (provided I remember to check the box for "borderless" printing even though I want a border). (See "Borderless" does not mean borderless! in Hp 7960 review.)

When I tested the HP 7960, I was satisfied that the results it produced were as near to neutral as could ever be expected. I now know different! In comparison with prints from the 2200 using the QuadTone RIP, the HP prints now look slightly green to me, as well as a little dull. The 2200/Quad Tone RIP result looks right. It actually matches a 'real' photographic print!

I do have one minor negative comment: the result using the QuadTone RIP looks very slightly grainier than a similar print using the Epson (manufacturer's own) driver. On the other hand, there appeared to be slightly more detail with the QuadTone RIP. Under a 10x magnifier, one can definitely see a difference. Using the Epson driver my usual reaction is to say to myself "Where are the dots?" Then I look more closely and see them. There's no missing the dots with the QuadTone RIP. They are not visible to my unaided eye, but they are certainly obvious using the magnifier.

And the problem that all ink jet printers have with low-contrast detail is still present, even with the QuadTone RIP.

At last I have a viable digital B&W printing capability! It's not perfect yet, but at least I do not feel I need to apologize for using a digital printer for B&W!

One caution: colour images printed with the QuadTone RIP will be converted to black and white.


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