Home printers can be tricky things. Especially when trying to make high quality art prints with them. I’ve been making prints on home printers for a couple of decades now. All the way back to when you could see the dots of an inkjet printer with the naked eye. Problems still crop up out of nowhere just like they did way back in the 1990s.

I’ve had a Canon printer for about the last five years. A Pro 9000 Mark II. Before that I used Epson printers for about 15 years. I finally abandoned Epson (the Stylus Photo R1800 being my last one) because I had too many problems over the years with clogged print heads. My R1800 worked perfectly 98% of the time but that 2% that it wasn’t working perfectly could eat up a lot of time and money. It eventually became frustrating enough for me to try a new brand when the time came to get a new printer.

The Canon wasn’t without its frustrations. Mostly because it turned out that there was a flaw in the model I bought and it would just stop working never to run again. A month after I bought the printer it died. Turns out this was a known flaw so Canon sent me a new one very quickly. The new one lasted a week. Canon sent me a third one and that one has been running fine these last five years. I’d have to say it runs perfectly as close to 100% of the time as possible because I don’t remember losing a lot of time or money to it. Except for yesterday.

Most printer manufacturers tell you to only use genuine whatever-their-brand-is products. Usually this means ink and paper. I’ve found that to be true with the ink. As much as it pains me to have to buy super-expensive printer ink the knock-off stuff doesn’t work as well when trying to make high quality prints. I’ve learned that the hard way. Paper is another story. There are a lot of third party companies that make good inkjet paper. Most of them will work with any inkjet printer you’ve got. I even still use a lot of Epson paper with my Canon printer. Epson’s matte finish papers are among my favorites for price and quality. I use them all the time.

I also like to print on semi-gloss or luster photo paper. I’ve used various brands of luster paper from Epson to Canon to whatever I could find. Over the last few years I’ve been printing out some of my street photos on five by seven inch luster paper and I keep one of the photos on my drawing table on a little easel and then change it out even few days. As a result I’ve tried a few different brands of five by seven inch paper but have lately settled on one by a company called Inkpress Media. They make some nice paper and it’s reasonably priced. I’ve been cranking out some small photos on it for months now.

At Christmas time I often make photos as presents for my family. I take old family photos, jazz them up a bit, and put them in frames. Usually these photos are on eight and a half by eleven inch paper. I was almost out of paper that size so I ordered some. I decided to go with the Inkpress Media paper that had served me well at five by seven and bought some eight and a half by eleven sheets of it. I made my photos, printed them out, and put them in frames. But as I was doing this I began to notice an odd problem. The bottom corners of the photos looked a little dirty. A tiny amount of ink was on them. Maybe a quarter inch long and a thirty second of an inch wide bit of black ink. Not a lot. I had seen it from my printer before but it really didn’t matter on these prints. I was busy too so I pretty much ignored it.

Cut to a few weeks later, I’m trying to make some fine art prints, and here come the little smudges. An art print has to be perfect so that won’t fly. That meant trouble-shooting. As I printed a photo I could hear the printer doing a weird thing at the end of the printing process. It’s like it was grabbing the paper and shaking it. I think that’s what was making those marks. Otherwise the print was fine. I opened the printer utility software and used that clean the heads, rollers, and whatever else they had. It made no difference. I looked online and couldn’t find many answers. I changed all my printer presets and toggled between different settings. None of it made the slightest bit of difference. There was that weird printer skip noise at the end and there were those smudges. 99% of the print was fine but that last 1% was not.

I must have changed things ten times and printed out ten prints all to no avail. I was getting frustrated before I decided to change one last variable. The paper. I had already printed low res on plain paper and that seemed fine but I figured that was because there was far less ink used. I got out some Canon photo paper, used the same preset as I had before, and it printed out perfectly. No weird hesitation sounds and no ink smudges. I was baffled. Still am. The Inkpress Media paper worked fine at the five by seven inch size so how come it failed in such a weird way at the larger size? I have no idea.

Also I was printing the photos with white around them. About a quarter inch of white all around. So it’s not like the smudged ink was near the ink of the actual photo. The printer should have just left it white and kicked out the photo. But it didn’t. The printer hesitated near the end and dropped some in smudges on at the last moment. It’s like it was sabotaging the photos because they were on another brand of paper. Strange.