Mayan jade printed on a Colorspan wide format inkjet color printer. Ilford IJT wide format printer.

Large format prints from the ColorSpan wide format printer are good enough to show all the nuances of green found in jade jewelry. Informative picture reveals that the 8 ink system of ColorSpan has many advantages over other printers which merely use 4 inks.

If you want dramatic posters with eye-catching colors and contrast, then an Encad NovaJet 600 series would be a good choice. Ilford Imaging offers this as their Ilford NovaJet 600i wide format printer. But if you want colors which are closer to exhibit quality photographic prints, with quality close to continuous tone, then you want a ColorSpan wide format printer.

Art historians and archaeologists need to reproduce the actual colors. It is unacceptable to have exaggerated hues. For color-true printing at large format size, the ColorSpan printer would be an ideal choice for a museum, research institute, or photographer (if you have a budget and technical experience for such a high-end printer). If your budget is tight and if you would prefer an easier printer to install, use, and maintain, then consider the Hewlett-Packard series of DesignJet color inkjet printers.

The detail on this enlargement from this ColorSpan wide format printer is so good you can see the tool marks of the 8th century Maya craftsman. People who have seen this print acknowledge it is the best enlargement of jade jewelry that they have seen.

Ilford markets this printer as the IJT. Agfa markets this printer as its Montana.

The advantage of buying from Ilford is that you get Archival inks and Ilford media.

Since Ilford has been in the business of producing professional photography paper and chemicals for decades, it is logical that they have the experience to produce exhibit-quality ink jet printers, ink, and photo paper.

wide format color inkjet print

Here is a Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 2800CP wide format printer (in the FLAAR evaluation center in Essen, Germany).

The image is enlarged from a 35mm slide, that's right, this huge 36 inch enlargement from a tiny 35mm slide.

This enlargement is so crisp and detailed because we used a Scitex EverSmart Supreme scanner, the best of the best flatbed scanners.

The HP printer costs half of what a ColorSpan costs (and the HP printer can be expected to last years and years). 

Most people who have seen the output from a ColorSpan 8-ink system find that the quality is the best by far of any printer on the market. The several prints that I got from a ColorSpan at Ilford were indeed outstanding, the best I have yet seen produced from any other printer. So the question boils down to whether you wish a potentially finicky printer or whether you prefer to be content with six colors and more reliability (such as the Roland HiFi).

Maya jadeite jewelry

Epson offered to send a printer, until I told them I would subject the prints to a fade test. When they found out I would test print color longevity, Epson withdrew its offer to send an evaluation unit. This is because a print from an Epson printer will begin to fade if put outside in the sun. Even inside, if exposed to light filtering through a window, Epson prints will fade within several weeks. Hewlett-Packard, Roland, and ColorSpan offer archival inks, hence are a better choice for museums.

Summary: Roland, Encad, and Hewlett-Packard printers seem more productive because they keep running. The printer pictured here is the Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 2800CP (the HP 3800 CP is identical except wider). These models are powered by an EFI Fiery RIP. If you prefer to use a different RIP you can opt for any of the HP models, 2000, 2500, 3000, 3500, and just attach your own RIP. Or, if you wish to avoid the cost of an external RIP, the models 2500 and 3500 have an on-board (built-in) RIP. It is not speedy, but the built-in RIP costs $4,000 less than an hardware or software RIP.

If you are an artist, photographer, museum curator or otherwise looking for a wide format printer at a reasonable cost, then check out three web sites filled with specific reviews and product comparisons.

To the left, large posters (36 x 36 inches, about a meter long), printed by the Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 2800CP currently at the FLAAR office in Essen, Germany for evaluation. The printer is well constructed; the output impresses everyone who sees the images. These prints are exhibit quality, indeed these are samples for a potential future photo exhibit on Mayan jadeite jewelry.

More information on wide format printers is available on

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