It all starts with a sharp image …

If you ever produced a ChromaLuxe panel, than you know that it will show every detail and color of your beautiful image … also when your image is not 100% sharp. It all starts with a sharp image, and sometimes that’s not the case (because you didn’t shoot the image yourself for example). That’s one of the reasons why they did invent the application Photoshop back in 1988. In the latest versions of Photoshop, you have the filer called “Unsharp Mask”. The Unsharp Mask filter in Photoshop works by increasing the contrast of your image and I will explain below how to use it in a proper way:

 

How to sharpen photos with the Unsharp Mask filter

STEP 1 : Crop and resize
Open your image in Photoshop. Use the Crop tool to crop the image as desired. Choose Image > Image Size, enable the Constrain Proportions and Resample Image check boxes and set your desired resolution and size. We set Resolution to 300 Pixels/Inch and Width to 16 Centimeters. Click OK.

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STEP 2 : Launch the filter
To sharpen the image, choose Filter >
Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. Click a portion of the image that contains detail such as the centre of the flower. This then appears in the filter dialog box sized at 100%.

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STEP 3 : Set the Amount
Set the Amount to 150%. The Amount controls how much sharpening is applied to the image. You can readjust this later, but for now, you want to see the results of adjusting the other sliders clearly.

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STEP 4 : Radius tweaks
The Radius sets the width of the haloes around the image edges. The larger the Radius, the wider the haloes are. For a sharp image, set the Radius to something between 0.5-1.5. We used a setting of 1.0 here.

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STEP 5 : Adjust the threshold
The Threshold setting controls how much difference in brightness there must be between adjacent pixels for them to be considered an edge. A small Threshold value sharpens everything and a large one sharpens nothing. We set the Threshold to 10.

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STEP 6 : Fine-tune the result
Readjust the Amount to fine-tune the result. When sharpening for your output on a ChromaLuxe panel, adjust the Amount based on what you see on your (calibrated) screen. Do not over-sharpen, because on the ChromaLuxe panel, you will see the over-sharpen effect very easily. Click OK to apply and save your sharpen image.

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Now your image is ready to print on the ChromaLuxe panel. Add your image in the RIP software to print it on a professional large format sublimation printer and enjoy the sharpness and details, after pressing it on a heat press, on the size you want.

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stevieSteven Roesbeke has a huge experience in the graphical industry with a lot of expertise in color management and output solutions. Since 2013 he is the Technical Support Field Engineer at Universal Woods EMEA. Read his technical blog posts to discover helpful tips & tricks and learn more about the do’s and dont’s of (large format) sublimation. You can always contact him at stevenr@chromaluxe.com

Do it yourself! Return on Investment (ROI) for Large Format ChromaLuxe

One interesting task that I recently undertook was preparing a comprehensive MS Excel sheet which would allow our clients to calculate the expected ROI time and Profit & Loss for their investment in a large format ChromaLuxe system. You start with the basics like hardware investment cost and compare it with material costs and selling prices. But that is just the start, there are many other factors to take into account.

The good news is that, in the end, you can only come to the conclusion that even a modest volume of work can generate some interesting profits.

Hardware and Software Investment

First you have to look at the hardware investment cost of a printer and heat press. The heat press is the largest cost element and will control the maximum size that you can print. It also needs to be top quality with very even heating and pressure. Some of the presses designed for textile simply do not meet this standard. Prices for a good larger format prFeatured imageess vary from €6.000 to €45.000 depending on the size. €30.000 will provide a good press, delivered and installed, for printing 1.1m x 1.75m plates.

A 44inch (112cm) printer from Epson will cost around €5.000 including a RIP software, depending on local offers. The only other hardware cost may be some colour management hardware and software, if you don’t already have it, at about €2.000. A percentage should also be included for maintenance costs.

When we look at the investment costs, whilst they may seem quite high at first, they are much lower than costs associated with purchase of UV printers, CNC routers and wet chemical silver halide print processes. Given the high gross profit margins available, this is an excellent investment.

Consumable Costs

The next stage involves looking at the cost of the ChromaLuxe plates – easily calculated from our price list, less any applicable discount. In a ROI, I look for the total square metres per week and I have created a mix of standard product sizes in order to calculate this.

Paper and Ink – for printing hard metal substrates, this is a cost but not a high percentage of the total cost. We are looking at between €3.00 and €5.00 per square metre depending on the printer, ink used and most importantly the image. As with all inkjet printing, an image with a lot of white background will use much less ink than a full colour image. WFeatured imagee use a medium-high level image for our estimates.

Sales Prices

Next is your sales price. This has to reflect market prices, best assessed by checking competitors’ web sites! But also take into account your service level – do you offer a high end professional service with test prints, colour management, proofing etc? The prices that should be used here are without VAT tax.

Other factors to consider

Substrate, paper and ink wastage. If you print on a 112cm wide roll but the image is only 30x40cm, there is obviously a lot of waste. Print head cleaning cycles also use ink.

Then there is the electricity cost for the heat press which can be substantial if it is on all day but only limited production is done. Set this up efficiently.

Labour costs are another aspect. One of the great advantages of sublimating prints is the production process which, once a good workflow is set up, is very easy, very fast and very reliable. Calculating labour costs means making some accurate assumptions on print estimates.

But when you look at the ROI, all these extra items have less effect on the total costs than the investmeFeatured imagent cost and main consumable costs.

We offer our clients the opportunity to use our Excel ROI sheet that comes with full instructions. However, we recommend to complete it together so that each item can be confirmed and discussed if necessary. This is a major investment and it is important to be accurate.

One of the great things about owning a sublimation system and heat press, is the opportunities it opens up to create other products – we often say that your imagination is your limit! Gift items, kitchen interiors, tables, whiteboard products, textiles are all items that can be produced with the same equipment.

The Final Result

Our Excel sheet allows you to look at the expected ROI time. You can also choose the write down period.

A second step allows you to enter your own estimated weekly print run with a combination of sizes and to looFeatured imagek at the full P&L calculations. Contribution to building and other overheads can be added.

Sublimation carries a healthy gross profit which at the end of the day can give a fast ROI from just a few prints per week.

Contact us to find out more!


Featured imageCharles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.

Abracadabra – the magic of sublimation!

Anyone who worked in a darkroom remembers how they looked at their 35mm negative, printed it with their enlarger and then placed it in the chemicals. The image slowly appeared in the red light, but until it was washed and dried and viewed in daylight, you didn’t know exactly how it would look.

It’s a little bit similar with sublimation. You have to print it onto a special paper using a Ricoh (small format) or Epson (large format) printer using sublimation inks. Then you attach the print to the ChromaLuxe metal panel and place it in the heat press. A couple of minutes later, you take it out and you have a perfect color image on the metal plate.

But when you make your first print and you look at the colors on the paper, it looks truly terrible. It is as if the colors are all washed out, the blacks are grey, there is no density to the colors and no apparent tonality. How can this turn into a stunning ChromaLuxe print?

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Well, that is the magic of sublimation!

Without wishing to get too technical, when you place the paper and coated aluminium plate into the heat press at approx. 200oC, the inks change directly from a solid state to a gaseous state, without passing the expected liquid phase that occurs with most chemicals. The dyes in their gaseous form are infused into the seven layer coating on the ChromaLuxe panels where the full color gamut is created. Remove from the press, take off the paper and there is the ChromaLuxe print in all its colorful glory. The color gamut range is very similar to the top silver halide prints and much better than UV direct printing. The layers in the coating also help generate an almost 3D look.

At last year’s Photokina expo, we were making small samples on the stand. Everybody was so amazed by the difference between the paper print and the final result, I got into the habit of going ‘abracadabra’ as I peeled off the paper. A colleague then dropped the plate onto the floor and jumped on it to demonstrate how tough the coating is against scratches etc.

One last thing. When I started sublimation printing I wondered how we could possibly color manage this weird print with our calibration units. Of course, you don’t. You print the test chart onto the paper, sublimate it onto the aluminium and then read the aluminium print – obvious really!


Featured imageCharles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.

From the ridiculous to the sublime.

Let’s turn around the famous idiom “From the sublime to the ridiculous” which, by the way, is first attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte when his attempted invasion of Russia fell apart!

I’ve been very closely involved with photo printing for more years than I care to mention – from black Featured imageand white printing at home in my bathroom (where I even tried coating my own paper – truly ridiculous) to the very latest digital print technologies.

In those years I worked first at Durst and later at Fujifilm, always involved in printing. In recent years I was in charge of Fujifilm Europe’s Large Format Printing division so I have worked with many print materials, both silver halide and inkjet.

Two years ago I discovered metal sublimation printing for the first time at Loxley Colour Labs in Scotland. During a visit I saw their Alumini prints on ChromaLuxe and was truly amazed. These were the most stunning photo prints that I had ever seen. With a luminescence and almost 3 dimensional look, my reaction was simply ‘Wow!’ – a term I heard used quite often at our Photokina stand last September when people saw large format ChromaLuxe prints for the first time.

For me, dye sublimation had previously meant little 10x15cm printers using extremely un-eco friendly red/green/blue dye ribbons producing medium quality photo prints in seconds and built for use in instant print kiosks. What I saw at Loxley was totally different.

These prints were made using 8 colour inks on an Epson printer and then sublimating them onto a specially coated 1,2 mm aluminium panel using a 200oC heat press. The colour gamut was equal to top quality silver halide prints and the colours ‘popped’. Added to which it was incredibly durable – scratch and chemical resistant – and lightweight for transport and easy hanging. Unlike the ribbon dye sub system, print life is 100 years plus. The final print was literally ‘sublime’.

In the 1980’s Victor Kiam advertised the Remington electric shaver. His famous catchphrase, “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company”, made him a household name. Sadly I couldn’t afford to buy the ChromaLuxe company, but it has been a real pleasure to be able to join the team and promote their product.

So from coating papers in my home darkroom to promoting ChromaLuxe prints for gallery and exhibition printing, this became a story of “the ridiculous to the sublime”!


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Charles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.