Cheap Scans, Cheap Printers… Oh My!

swap meet art

These are good examples of analog-induced banding.

Cheap scans and cheap printers are problematic. I remember examining a file and proof from an advertiser which utilized both. It led to nothing but disappointment and heartbreak as we were always chasing the last mistake.

To wit:

  • It became evident in the conversation that the negs the customer used were not drum scanned, but scanned at a local lab using their med-format neg scanner [perhaps set at a lower scan resolution by the operator, etc].
    I remember that the files were mechanically within range (ie 300dpi), but it is unknown if/and how much they’d been rez’d up.
  • The customer was proofing these images at home with a really low-end Epson Photo Stylus, and thought it all looked great.
  • The custormer began to wonder if they did something wrong in the quality of their scans and proofs.

I explained that there are levels of magnitude in resolution between the original proofs, the returned wet proofs, and what they see on screen. Right there there are three modalities. Which one is right, and which one is producible is the big question.

Cheap printers interpolate the living daylights out of whatever they’re fed. They are designed to hide banding and other low-resolution file deficiencies— like digital snapshots and other casual documents. These organic defects will lie in wait and re-emerge when proofed from a high-caliber proofing device.


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