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By Tom Hauenstein
Efficiency, or lack thereof, often separates the successful studio from the struggling or failing studio. This applies especially to in-house printing, and one way every studio can increase efficiency is by reducing or eliminating the time it takes to trim out graphics.
If you push the responsibility of cutting to the printer instead of a person, labor costs will go down dramatically, thereby increasing profit margins. In order to let the printer cut images to bleed you will need to properly execute borderless prints.
Before printing borderless, examine the common output sizes and buy rolls that fit those sizes. For example, if the majority of your business is selling 8x10 units, then buy 10-inch rolls. If the majority of your sales are 24x20s and 24x30s buy 24-inch rolls.
Once you have the proper rolls in-house, you simply need to set up your workflow to execute the prints properly. Keep in mind that most printers cannot print borderless on sheets (the Epson 3800 and R2400 are the only two really designed for this). Also, keep in mind that most printers can’t print borderless on all roll sizes. Check your owner’s manual to see which roll sizes your printer can print to successfully in borderless mode.
All printers will struggle to print a borderless print if the width of the file is the exact size of the roll. For example, if you are trying to print a 10x8 on a 10-inch roll you may run into issues. If the roll is not loaded perfectly straight then you might get an unwanted white sliver down one side of the print, and it will clip the image slightly on the other side.
Also, if the printhead has to stop and start right at the edge of the roll, the image quality along the sides might be compromised, leaving the edges looking soft and fuzzy. The printer is designed to print an eighth of an inch past the edge of the roll on both sides, but don’t worry: there are pads specially designed to catch this extra ink so that the printer is not flooded with ink that misses the paper.
There are two ways to make your image an eighth of an inch larger on each side (1/4 inch total). First, you can use the Auto Expand features available in the driver. By selecting Auto Expand, the driver will increase the size of the print on all sides by an eighth of an inch. This will help ensure image quality along the edges, and you’ll avoid the headache of unwanted white space.
However, it also makes the length longer. Therefore, your 10x8 might print-and-cut to a 10x8.25, causing you to have to trim this image, which is why Auto Expand is not the best option.
The second and superior option is simply cropping the image to fit the roll with an extra quarter of an inch for bleed on the printer. For example, if you were printing 10x8s on a 10-inch roll, you should actually crop them to 10.25 x 8 to allow for the overspray. The same holds true for 24x30s on a 24-inch roll. The correct crop here would be 24.25 x 30. Just add an extra quarter inch of image space to the width of the roll you’re printing. This will avoid unwanted white space and image degradation near the edges, and will print-and-cut to the exact size you desire.
In Photoshop, open the image you want to print. In the examples, it’s an 8 x 10.25 on a 10-inch roll printed with an Epson 4880. Then hit File -> Print with Preview in CS2 (Figure 1) or File -> Print with CS3.
After selecting the proper profile and rendering intent (see Managing Color, Part 3, which addresses printing through the Epson driver) click on Page Setup. Hit the Printer button on the bottom right of this screen (Figure 2).
Select the desired printer in the dropdown first, then hit Properties (Figure 3).
This will bring up the driver options for the printer (Figure 4).
There is a lot that must be done here properly. Besides making sure Media Type, Color, Print Quality and Mode are all set correctly for the profile (also addressed in the Managing Color article referenced above), you need to make sure the Paper Settings are also correct.
First, Source should be set to Roll Paper. Then, click on the Roll Paper Options box and change the Auto Cut to Single Cut (Figure 5), and close this box. Single Cut will cut both sides, but will reduce the amount of paper waste between prints if there are multiple jobs in the queue to be printed.
In the driver options go to User Defined and create a paper size that is the exact size of the image you wish to print, check Borderless, and then hit the Expansion button. Make sure to select Retain Size at the top since we already cropped in the extra quarter inch necessary to make proper borderless prints (Figure 6).
Finally, go to Page Layout and switch the orientation to Landscape. This image is an 8 x 10.25, but we need it to print 10.25 x 8 in order to print borderless. You could also rotate the image to Landscape first in Photoshop and then just print it in Portrait mode, if that’s easier for you (Figure 7).
You should save these settings by hitting the Save/Del button next to Select Setting as something that is easy for you to remember. Try to name it something that indicates the paper on which you are printing, the size of the print, and the rotation used.
I named this setup Esatin 8x10.25 landscape borderless. This will keep you from having to remember all of these settings, so when you want to print an 8x10.25 borderless, you go to the Main tab of the driver and choose that name in the dropdown and all of your settings will change to this.
Once you’ve saved the name, hit OK three times to get back to the Print with Preview (CS2) or Print Dialog Box (CS3). The Preview should show your image perfectly and look like Figure 1. Hit Print, and you should get a perfectly trimmed 8x10 right off the roll, baby.
In Photoshop, open the image you want to print. In this example, I printed to an 8 x 10.25 on a 10-inch roll with an Epson 7800. The first thing you want to do is access the Page Setup in the Print with Preview (CS2) or Print (CS3) Dialog boxes (Figure 1).
Create a custom paper size by switching the top dropdown to Custom Paper Size. Create a custom 10 x 8 paper with no margins on any side and save it (Figure 2).
Then, switch the dropdown of Page Setup back to Page Attributes and select the newly created paper size (Figure 3). You will also need to change the orientation to landscape because we want to rotate the 8 x 10.25 to a 10.25 x 8 to ensure a borderless print. Then hit OK. You should see that the image fits perfectly in the Preview on the left.
Then, hit Print and select the Printer in the dropdown list (Figure 4 ). Set the Printer Color Management as covered in the Managing Color article referenced in the introduction.
Change the dropdown below Presets to Print Settings. Next to Page Setup, select Roll Paper – Borderless (Retain Size). There’s no need to expand because the file already has the necessary quarter inch built in (Figure 5).
Next, go to the Roll Paper Option and choose Single Cut next to Auto Cut. Single Cut will cut both sides, but will reduce the amount of paper waste between prints if there are multiple jobs in the queue to be printed (Figure 6).
Then go to the Presets dropdown menu and select Save As… This will allow you to save this whole setup in the driver so that you will not have to go through these steps every time. I would suggest you name it something that indicates the paper you are printing to, the size of the print, and the rotation used. I named this setup Esatin 8x10.25 landscape borderless. Then hit Print. You should get a perfectly trimmed 8x10 dropped into your basket (Figure 7).