Magazine Article


HP Designjet Z3100 Wide-Format Printer
Quality Output That’s Fast, Color Managed & Bronzing-Free

Douglas Kirkland

Douglas Kirkland

Douglas Kirkland

Douglas Kirkland

Douglas Kirkland

Douglas Kirkland

Over the past several months, I’ve been preparing an exhibition called “Face A Face: Favorite Encounters from a Fifty Year Love Affair with Photography,” which will open January 13 and run through March 18, 2007, at the Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. It features celebrity and non-celebrity portraits from the ‘60s to today. I needed a printer that would reliably reproduce my work.

I have used various printers and print systems over the years, but none has been as easy and trouble-free to work with, providing exceptional quality, as the HP Designjet Z3100 wide-format printer. Imagine printing a beautiful 16x20 of the highest quality in a mere 10 minutes! With a resolution of up to 2400x1200 optimized dpi from 1200x1200 ppi rendering, print speeds of up to 150 ft2/h, and a maximum length of 300 feet, the Z3100 is a smart and critical addition to my studio. I had an opportunity to test the Z2100, which also gave impressive results.

Color Management

Unique to the HP Designjet Z Photo Printer Series are the new HP Vivera pigment inks, which provide water resistance, longevity, and a wide dynamic range of color. The Z2100 and the Z3100, both available in 24” and 44” models, incorporate eight and 12 different inks, respectively. I use the Z3100, which allows me to take complete advantage of the sophisticated color management system.

In the past, I have had to rely on outside labs and processes to print my work, often without total satisfaction. Now, using my Z3100 I am empowered.

Eliminating bronzing with a gloss enhancer (one of the 12 inks in the Designjet Z3100), the printer moderately balances ink and the advanced inking structure applies matte blacks, photo blacks, lights grays, and medium grays flawlessly, achieving an arresting quality in my black-and-white images.

Since I had been told that the prints are water resistant, I decided to test one myself. I took a print that had come out of the printer a few minutes earlier and put it directly under running water. I was very pleased when I saw that the inks were completely intact.

For me, one of the most important features is the 200 years-plus longevity (300 years in dark storage)1 the prints will have on a wide variety of HP and third-party media. These images will maintain their detailed features and offer future generations an artistic view of our world today.

Color Management

Built into the Designjet Z series printers is an embedded spectrophotometer by X-Rite (GretagMacbeth). A small color measurement instrument that’s mounted on the printer carriage, the tool essentially automates the creation of media profiles. Yesterday, I had to change the paper I was using. Generally I work with HP media, but I had to print on Legion Sommerset for a client. I was able to create new ICC profiles using the specs of the new paper by answering various questions posed on the screen. The technology tested the inks, let them dry, and within 30 minutes the spectrophotometer read my measurements, calibrated, and created a profile to accurately outfit my paper specs.

HP offers a portfolio of nine photo papers, 10 digital fine art papers, three proofing papers, seven bond and coated papers—over 30 HP media sources, including sheets and rolls. You can put just about anything into this printer: watercolor, glossy, in-between satin/semi gloss. you can get a piece of wrapping paper from the butcher, the Designjet Z printer will calibrate and create a profile with its spectrophotometer, and print on that paper with optimal results.

Startup, Maintenance & Service

These printers are essentially maintenance-free. In the past, I would frequently have to go through a lengthy and costly cleaning process, which is not necessary with the Z3100. The six printheads in the printer, delivering two inks each, can be removed by the user and changed very easily. No technicians are required. The Designjet software is so advanced it even includes an accounting program, informing you how much ink and paper you have used for each image.

Connecting the printer is effortless. I network through my Ethernet with an IP address, which allows me to print from my laptop. Because I am not highly technical, I really appreciate the relatively simple user interface of the Designjet. It is completely automated and efficient.

The Rolls Royce of Printers

Like the most refined Rolls, the Designjet Z3100 brings the printmaking process back into the hands of the photographer, allowing extraordinary nuances to be incorporated into the images. I love watching it produce flawless images, smoothly, quietly, repeatedly.

A compelling combination at any price. And with a street price of $4,095 for the Designjet Z3100 24-inch model and $6,295 for the 44-inch model ($3,395 for the Designjet Z2100 24-inch and $5,595 for the 44-inch) you have to see for yourself what a difference an HP printer, as well as papers and inks, can make to your workflow and prints.

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