Any time a pro-model inkjet printer comes out with features radically different from the status quo, questions inevitably arise from photographers anxious to fully understand the true capabilities and benefits of the new features. That’s certainly been the case with the Gloss Enhancer on HP’s Designjet Z3100. Here are just a few of the questions I’ve been asked at some of the trade shows and seminars I’ve attended.
What is the HP gloss enhancer?
It is a clear ink, which when mixed in correct proportions with the other inks on the page, provides a more uniform gloss on the surface of a print, effectively eliminating gloss differential on prints created on glossy or satin papers, and perceived “bronzing” in black and white prints.
Which media can the gloss enhancer be used with?
The gloss enhancer is intended for use on glossy and satin inkjet media. It has no perceptible impact on fine art, watercolor, and similar matte papers.
Is the gloss enhancer like a clear coat or varnish?
No, it is not a clear coat or varnish. The gloss enhancer’s main purpose is to improve the smoothness and gloss appearance of the final print. In my opinion, the gloss enhancer renders prints made on glossy or satin media as smooth and uniform as their darkroom cousins. Personally, I find that the dimensionality and “pop” of the prints is improved, and I find it very pleasing.
Unlike a clearcoat, the gloss enhancer is applied like an ink, and is closely controlled by software. In fact, the gloss enhancer is controlled by its own screening algorithm and it is applied selectively where it is needed. The gloss enhancer is only applied to areas of an image that have an RGB color value of 254,254,254 or lower. Pure white (which has RGB values of 255 in each channel) will not receive the gloss enhancer. (As a practical matter, I set white and black points slightly under max values when using inkjet printers.)
How do I control the use of the gloss enhancer when printing?
The printer driver provides controls that allow you to either: (1) turn the gloss enhancer off; (2) use it only on the inked area (“econo mode”); or (3) use it on the entire page. I recommend turning the gloss enhancer off for making proofs, and using the econo mode for final prints. Applying it to the whole page is usually unnecessary, and wastes a small amount of the enhancer.
What effect does the gloss enhancer have on color?
That’s a good question! If you look closely at a print that has been made using the “whole page” setting for the gloss enhancer, you may perceive a slight change in the white point of the uninked paper. In other words, you will see the gloss enhancer on the unlinked portions of the page, and it seems to reduce the white point to a very small degree. I’m not certain, but I believe that this is the result of increased “glossiness” or reflectance.
In my conversations with HP color scientists and engineers, they indicated that the gloss enhancer has no effect on color rendering in a print. In my own experience, I have made prints from the same color image using gloss enhancer turned on, and turned off – and I can’t discern any significant difference in color between them. Gloss appearance and smoothness – yes; color change – no.
Does use of the gloss enhancer change the dry time for a print?
Not in any significant degree, at least on HP media. Some users tell me they have noticed increased dry times when using third-party media. I use many types of papers, but I haven’t had this problem. I suspect some of these issues may be related to using printer-managed color with third-party media, instead of creating a custom profile for the job at hand.
Does use of the gloss enhancer improve print durability?
I don’t have hard information on this topic. First, on HP media the prints are highly water and damage resistant --even without the gloss enhancer. Prints made with HP Vivera inks are highly water resistant, even under running water. Using the gloss enhancer, my personal impression is that prints seem to be more water and scratch-resistant, but I’m not sure how one would go about quantifiably measuring these properties.
Does it make sense for photographers to use the gloss enhancer?
In a word, yes. I see little or no downside, and the benefits in terms of print appearance are significant. I use it consistently. I recommend it to all of my printmaking customers, and so far, none have told me that they prefer not to use it.
In my opinion, the HP Professional Satin photo paper combined with the Z3100 Vivera inkset (including gloss enhancer) provide the best-quality pigment-based photographic prints I have ever seen.
If you have tried the gloss enhancer, I’d be interested in hearing more about your own experiences and observations. And if you have any other questions about it, please feel free to ask.