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The devil’s in the details… and the dust. While you might have color management down to a science, your work environment can make that detailed effort on the front end all for naught.
The first key is creating and maintaining a clean environment. Dust, dirt, and other pollutants can cause banding in your prints. You can eliminate one of the primary contamination culprits by separating the finishing area from printing.
If you’re cutting, stretching, and trimming substrates in the same space as your printers, you’re creating extra particles that can lodge in the print heads. Fine art materials are especially susceptible to dust build-up when they’re cut.
So it’s a good idea to clean the materials with a drafting brush or soft cotton cloth before you print. Don’t use a blast of air, because it can create a cloud of particles that will eventually settle back on your prints.
Temperature and humidity need to be as consistent as possible. If you work with the windows open, and it’s hot and dry one day, then cold and wet the next, it could very well affect print quality.
Ideally, the printers will be in their own climate-controlled area where temperature and humidity fluctuations are minimal. Unusually low humidity, for instance, increases the chance for static. Static can create inconsistent print dry times, which may cause the appearance of banding.
Static is a potential electronics killer. If your printer’s on carpet, either place a rubber mat under the base, or move it to a carpet-free area. If you use a rubber mat, make sure it’s large enough to accommodate the operator. After all, that’s who actually acts as the static conduit.
Also, try to keep the media in its original packaging and in the same basic environment (temp and humidity) as the printer until you’re ready to go into production. Put leftover media back into its packaging and stack media rolls upright to avoid tension spots, preferably in a dark area, such as under a table. With sheet materials, particularly rag paper, use acid-free slip sheets between prints, and never slide a print out of the middle of a stack of images.
A clean working space is simply good for business anyway, particularly if you have drop-in business and clients who like to visit your shop. A clean, well-organized shop helps build confidence that an organization is just as meticulous with a client’s image as it is with its operational environment.