color on our HP Z6100ps

Our plotter has always delivered the best results of any printer I have available. The color is faithful, relying on color profiles on the printer, paper profiles held both in the printer and on my machine, and the fact that its eight color palette can faithful replicate RGB images. In fact, most sources recommend using RGBand only converting to CMYK when a job is sent out for separations and subsequent plate rather than digital printing. In that case, a printer should be able to give a specific profile to convert to, or do the conversion in their shop. So.Calibrate the plotter. Calibrate your machine. Use paper profiles, and print in the RGB color space.

For a while my paper profiles have been missing on my computer. I've heard different rumors but when I recently ran the HP Utility, I got them back. That means when I print from Photoshop, for instance, I can have Photoshop instead of the plotter manage my color. I can choose the specific paper that I'll be printing on in my Profiles drop down: Oce Photo Satin SIPPLS7 10-18-2012

Calibrating the plotter is simple, and I do it every month or so. It's a 9 minute process that is initiated from the plotter's front menu. It runs completely on its own once started. Creating a paper profile requires the HP Utility. I think my first version came from the software disk that we got with the plotter. Since, I've been downloading new versions from HP as needed. The most recent, and the one I'm currently using, is here on the HP site. The utility gets installed on the HD, Library>Printers>hp>Utilities not in the Applications>Utilities folder. For my own convenience, I placed a shortcut there.

When you launch the utility, there are several choices. The Color Center lets you initiate a simple Calibration, followed by a longer process that creates the profiles for the paper. When paper is loaded, there is a point in the process where you choose what type of paper it is- that selection comes from the paper profiles created by the Utility. HP includes many pre-made profiles, but none for Oce. Those have been generated periodically by our staff using the Utility.

More general directions are available online, but that material is also available in the short manual that accompanies the plotter. The other maintenance that I perform is usually prompted by the plotter window. Much of it the plotter takes care of; the manual is a help here. I do clean the rollers and bed with alcohol, and occasionally check the ink maintenance overflow tray.

• "HP Utility Download page This software package installs the HP Utility to be used with your HP Designjet Z and T Series Printers. The HP Utility will allow you to manage and troubleshoot your printer, calibrate your paper or profile it. This application is equivalent to the HP Printer Utility."
The Utility also has a feature to perform display calibration, but I've never, as of this writing, tried the HP method. I will, then update this post.

• HP Designjet Z6100 Printer Series - Color management guide HP Support Document

intuos 5

Screen capture showing the tablet panel.

The wacom intuos 5 is the latest tablet and pressure sensitive pen from wacom. It comes in three sizes, and I picked up a medium- it most closely matches the 8 x 6 format of my work tablet, but takes up a bit more desk space because of its added buttons and touch support. Besides taking up more space, the tablet also requires a direct USB connection to the computer- wacom recommends that users don't go through a hub of some sort. I received the same instructions from Adobe years ago when I was trouble shooting cursor issues in my primary apps on one of my first OS X machines. This tablet also requires OSX 10.5.8 or higher. It seems to work well with 10.8, though after installing from the enclosed disk and letting it download drivers, I still had to go to to download the most recent drivers to get the pen to work. Touch, oddly enough, worked without the drivers.

One of the things the tablet delivers with that direct USB connection power is extreme sensitivity. There are 2048 pressure levels, a resolution of 5080 lines per inch, and it delivers a maximum data rate of 200 pps. It screams.

There are two innovations, so far, on this new intuos that have me totally impressed. They're needed improvements that demonstrate how development is watching users instead of noting appearances of old tools. I have to ask what took so long?

Button interface with embsed buttons. First is the screen display of what were 'little' buttons. My old tablet has a row of tiny areas across the top that you have to hit with the pen as you're working. That's very close to impossible without a major break in the work flow. The intuos 5 has the row of depressions you see here on the right: they're meant to be felt by your non-pen hand as you work. They even have little "homekey" embossings. That's useful; but as my hand fumbles from the keyboard to the little depressions, a very helpful reminder appears on screen telling me what the depressions are and what I have them coded to do.

The next innovation is something I've needed but I never imagined it working like this. One of the little depressions is the monitor toggle. My office work station has two 2560 pixel wide monitors crammed onto my eight inch tablet. That makes even the tiniest finger movement have a huge effect. I've looked for easy ways to switch preferences so only one monitor is covered, or even on, but that's a total work stopper. With the monitor toggle, I can say which monitor, or how many monitors, I need covered. If I want a certain series of brush strokes to be broad and fluid, I can tap the toggle and have my tablet only cover the screen with the image I'm working on. If I need to access panels that I keep arranged on my secondary monitor I can tap the toggle once or twice to include or specify the second screen. This is a great leap in understanding how I work, anyway. Thanks Wacom.

One down side is touch support. I may change my mind here as I build familiarity with it, but from what I can see it just duplicates the touch commands that are possible on the laptop finger pad. I don't know what I'd hoped for. Maybe swiping to move between applications will make sense, but right now, I don't open in tabs or in a "tray"- my documents are open and when I want to go to Illustrator, I touch the illustrator document. That's pretty old school I guess.

Photoshop CS6, Lion

New Photoshop desk top.

I'm still using the beta, not the final release, but I've been using it steadily for the past 8 weeks or so, and hands down it's the best Photoshop yet. Lots of little things have been fixed- If I have two vector shape layers I can merge them as vectors without rasterizing. Old Photoshop automatically created pixels on layer merge. Video is easier, 3D is easier, both are more powerful.

From a technical perspective, though, perhaps the most notable new feature is what's called the Mercury Graphics Engine. One of the claims is that it speeds work, allowing faster application of filters, brush strokes, etc. In a head-to-head comparison with Photoshop CS5 on my machine, the differences were slight. What CS6 did allow was work on the image while it was being saved in the background. For instance, I created a 7200 X 5400 document with a second layer. Both layers were textured, the upper with a blending mode. An image was created on the upper layer and warped with puppet-warp. Both CS5 and CS6 took a little time to process the procedure. When finished, I saved the CS6 version, then started painting on it right away. The CS5 version didn't render any of the brush strokes that were applied while saving and only managed to update the document with the last half dozen strokes after it was saved.

I was crazy enough to open a similar complex image in both versions at the same time, the CS6 version opened it in about half the time. Saving was about the same. So I think that even if I say the performance enhancement is minor, I believe I'd have little patience with CS5 when I have to go back.

The new recovery feature might be useful- I altered the colors in the large image in both versions of Photoshop, waited 10 minutes then cut power. When I booted back up, Photoshop CS6 presented a progress bar that declared,"Recovering data..." and opened the image with the colors the way I'd changed them. When I closed it, I didn't save changes and the image reverted to the state before I changed the colors- which is exactly what I'd hope. Photoshop CS5 just opened the document as it was last saved without the most recent color changes.

I often run LYNDA.COM in the background while working. At first, I thought that even though Photoshop CS6 had enhanced its graphic engine, it seemed that it often froze videos and seemed to lag badly when videos were running. I just confirmed though that the same change has happened with CS5.

That same power drop is noticeable occasionally in Mac Mail, Google Reader, or when saving a blog post. And that seems to point to my recent Lion upgrade. I was thinking my sporadic missing cursor- visible on one monitor but not the other- was my tablet interacting badly with Lion, but over the weekend it happened while using my mouse.

Edit, Back in CS5: The beta ran out and over the past few days I've noticed the same slow performance, same spinning lozenge, same temporary freezes, same lost cursors, that I had with the CS6 beta. That points to changes caused by the Lion upgrade, not Photoshop CS6.

Coordinate resolution

Bus stop on west Aaron Drive.

The big sketch here is an old one in Adobe Ideas from my first days with the iPad. I did it with my finger.

I had the modbook out this morning, using it on wireless to avoid the anticipated power outage. The max screen resolution on it is 1280X800. iPad3 retina display laughs in its face. Viewed images, even on my iPad 1 seem much sharper than on the modbook. For drawing or writing, though, the modbook is far superior.

When I draw a one pixel wide antialiased pen stroke on the modbook or my wacom tablet, which is the tablet technology inside the modbook, it get's feathered or tapers at the beginning and end and it forms beautiful, variable width curves across my digital paper. It matches the movements of my hand and fingers almost perfectly. It can do that because each of the pixels that make up the screen resolution is further divided so the software knows exactly where a pen tip crosses a pixel. If black digital ink is drawn across the center of a pixel, the pixel will be black. As the location varies though, say I draw across the corner of a pixel, that pixel color becomes a mix between the ink color and paper color underneath it.  Closeness to a pixel edge on a curved stroke may actually color a neighboring pixel that wasn't even touched. To effectively show responsive curves with realistic texture, to allow transparency, and give the impression of real ink on real paper, sensing the actual path of the pen tip across each individual pixel is critical.

The wacom tablet and the modbook measure that ability because it's a critical performance factor. It's called the coordinate resolution. My ancient Intuos 1 Wacom tablet measures 2540 lpi and reports 200 points per second. The new Intuos 5 has coordinate resolution of 5080 lpi. I've looked for information on the iPad and can't find these specific stats, only display resolution. My experience using the super-fat pens is telling me that the coordinate resolution on an iPad isn't very high. It is, after all, a device for experiencing large swaths of media, not for creating detail. Detail in a pen stroke on an iPad is a vague approximation, and using the iPad to write or draw means you need to adapt to working with vague approximation.

There's so much about the iPad that's wonderful. I wish this one issue could be improved.

  • modbook screen resolution is 113.7 ppi
  • iPad 1 screen resolution is 132 ppi
  • Apple desktop display screen resolution is 108.9 ppi
  • iPad 3 screen resolution is 264 ppi
  • With my current tablet to monitor ratio, my wacom tablet is working at 630 ppi, with those pixels getting blown up over five times to fill my 23.5 inch wide monitor

If you do a little math, you can see that the iPad 3 screen has twice the pixels per inch as the iPad 1 screen. That should mean that an ipad 1 app on the ipad 3 should fill only one quarter of the screen. The text in the iPad 3 Safari browser should be half the physical size of the same page in iPad 1. Is it? Is any iOS software actually making use of those pixels, or are they just feeding the same signal to groups of four adjacent pixels? Typically at 2 feet distance, I can't see pixels on my 108 ppi monitor. I can, however, easily see a difference on my iPad between where I draw a line, and where it appears on screen.

A possible solution to the problem in education: if higher, more accurate but portable interaction of pen on screen is needed, might be the 12WX Cintiq from Wacom. It's lighter than a modbook, though at 4.5 pounds weight could still be an issue. It's a monitor, tablet combination that's portable and could be run off a laptop that hangs on a shoulder strap. A tad cumbersome, but possible. A wireless connection to a projector would make it useful. (As would wireless connection from Cintiq to a computer.)

• Supporting High-Resolution Screens From Apple Developer's Drawing and Printing Guide for iOS. Possibly useful.

• View and Window Architecture From Apple Developer's View Programming Guide for iOS. Possibly useful.

• Doing Pixel-Exact Drawing within Coordinate Systems and Transforms, Apple Developer's Cocoa Drawing Guide for iOS. Possibly useful.

intuos on Lion

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I've held off loading Lion about as long as I think I'm able. A few of the problems that I've been wary of involve my work horse Adobe applications, my print capabilities, and my Wacom tablet interaction. All three have historic difficulties with Mac "upgrades". Since I'm against the wall with Lion, our tech staff was kind enough to bring me a Lionized laptop to try.

My real concern is my tablet. There have been problems discussed on forums, and the problems are all with fairly recent models of the Intuos line, and exist before the 10.7 drivers were available and after. There are no 10.7 drivers for my tablet—I have an Intuos. Not a 4, not a 3 nor a 2. An Intuos "1". The problems reported involve what's being called "freezes" where the cursor sticks to where you click it for up to 10 seconds. Others report slowness, or a condition where the cursor always seems to be in a clicked state. Lori grabbed the drivers for my tablet and installed them on the laptop. We attached my intuos and had no difficulty at all. Speed and functionality were perfect.

I usually run my tablet in a bare bones mode: I turn off the eraser and the side button because they just get in the way, and I never have been able, or rather, willing, to try to use the tiny hot spots across the top of my tablet. I'm looking at the screen dammit, not the tablet. And turning the pen over to use an eraser is so much more complicated than hitting the "E" key or clicking the Eraser symbol that I can't believe that gimmick is still around. This morning I just re-checked the forums and there's one person who added that they have an Intuos 1 with Lion and are having no difficulty at all.

Also, we ran a test file and the plotter worked as expected from Lion; so it looks like the process is sadly unavoidable.

Intuos5 Touch

I just saw that Wacom has released a new tablet- the Intuos5 Touch. I haven't used one, but it looks like it might be worth trying. Back in October, they released an initial foray into multi-touch tablets with several in the hobbyist's Bamboo line. I looked at the specs, watched the videos, and compared it to my (9 year old?) Intuos dinosaur. At that time, I thought I might have to wait another year before I'd see a professional calibre multi-touch tablet, but wacom has come through in less than half that time.

Specs for the new tablet and pen this time are better than my current set:

  • Active Area- 8.8" x 5.5" (224 x 140 mm)
  • Connection- USB or RF wireless (with Wireless Accessory Kit sold separately)
  • Display Toggle - Yes
  • Express Keys- 8
  • Max Data Rate- 200 pps
  • Pen Accuracy- +/- 0.01" (0.25 mm)
  • Physical Size- 15" x 9.9" x 0.5" (380 x 251 x 12 mm)
  • Pressure Levels- 2048
  • Resolution- 5080 lpi (lines per inch)
  • Tilt Sensitivity +/- 60 degrees
  • Weight- 2.18 lbs. (990 g)

That doubles the resolution of my current set, doubles the pressure sensitivity, the accuracy and data rate are the same. It comes with a toggle to go back and forth between the modalities, but it isn't clear if that's necessary or it's a preference. If it's the only way to switch between touch and pen, it would guard against accidental input, but also be a bit of a handicap.

There are a few Lion only gestures:
• Spread your thumb and three fingers apart to show the desktop view.
• Pinch your thumb and three fingers together to fade your open windows and display all of your apps.
• Swipe up for Mission Control. Swipe up again to exit Mission Control.
• Swipe down to preview the open windows of the app you are working with. Swipe down again to exit App Exposé.

There are a few I never saw before, like rotating an image with a twist- but they may be common and just new to me. Regardless, this all looks good and leaves me lots to think about.


The GIMP interface.

I mentioned GIMP in my last post. Let me talk a bit about it.

GIMP started as a student project at UCBerkeley in the mid 1990s, and was actually downloadable from the Berkeley Experimental Computing website. It's free, it runs on most platforms, it has plug-ins, interface varieties including one that mimics Photoshop, a large community of supporters, and it's free. Did I say that twice? GIMP is a part of the open source GNU project. If you want to send them money, they'll take it, but you needn't feel compelled.

Is GIMP perfect? No; but like most solid software, it's getting better all the time. Plus, it has a world of talented, interested, dedicated developers working on it out of love. The down side I see is the need for X-11 on a Mac and therefor a lack of compatibility for Lion. The image above is captured while still running SnowLeopard.

• GIMP primary website and download point, though there are several builds and different versions, this is official.

• Handy Tweaks To Make GIMP Replace Photoshop a SmashingMagazine article with tips, links to plugins and add-ons.

• GIMPshop There are several versions of GIMP that mimic Photoshop. This is likely the best; their own marketing claims its "primary purpose is to make users of Photoshop feel comfortable using GIMP.".

• Inkscape is an open source package that rivals Illustrator. If you want the vector support, this is an answer.

See the last post on Pixelmator

the problem with pixelmator

Pixelmator is an inexpensive graphics application that rivals the much more costly Adobe Photoshop in many respects. Pixelmator 2.01 is $29.99, but I have to struggle to find a current price for Photoshop on the Adobe site. Possibly they know who I am since I can only find prices for an upgrade. Amazon will sell it to me for $656.84 for a Mac version. $657.98 for Windows? Beats me; but you get the idea. If you don't want to settle for GIMP, which is free, maybe paying 30 bucks will make the software seem better? GIMP has been criticized for not being able to open in a single window. I'm a Mac guy, don't quite understand why someone would want to do that, but from what I see, Pixelmator doesn't open in one window either. So if cost is the determinant, shouldn't free win? GIMP has a fantastic record.

The Pixelmator interface. Some Photoshop panels. I've used Photoshop since version 3.0 and love it. Initially I preferred Fractal Design's Painter, but the popularity of Photoshop and the need to provide support made me drop Painter from my arsenal around version 6. It took me a while to switch to what I felt was a boring interface, but now I prefer it. It's functional and offers no distraction. Pixelmator's all black palettes and colorful icons may win some followers, but to my eye they just make the standard Mac color and font palettes, which they use without skinning, seem out of place. A cheap patchwork effect seems the opposite of what the developers would have been shooting for with their glassine black palettes.

In the end, people will get accustomed to whatever interface they have if the tool works well. Pixelmator does that. It doesn't have all of the choices that Photoshop does, all of the refinement, but it is a powerful little tool. I can't really accept it as competition with Photoshop: if you use Photoshop and find that Pixelmator does what you need then it's likely that Photoshop was too much for your needs. I see Pixelmator as a paid upgrade for people who want a nice interface on GIMP.

And there is the problem I see with Pixelmator. It's charging money for something that can be had for free. It's a company, just like Adobe. It isn't a band of GNU outlaws trying to give everyone access for nothing more than the good; it's a business. I can see GIMP borrowing concepts from Adobe and I can look the other way. I can't see Pixelmator stealing what Adobe has developed, what Adobe engineers have hashed out over long sessions in tedious meetings, even what the GIMP team coded, and turning any profit. That's intellectual property theft whether it's worked out in a court of law or not.

So does Pixelmator work? Sure. If you have kids it might be a good entry point for them. If you know Photoshop, if you need Photoshop… you won't be satisfied. And keep the stolen goods out of Penn State labs.

See the next post on GIMP

multi-touch support on wacom tablet

wacom has released several models of tablets combining pen and multitouch input, all part of their bamboo line

I've been waiting for this: multi-touch on a wacom tablet makes good sense. I've used a tablet for years and find looking at a near vertical monitor surface while working on a horizontal tablet surface close to ideal for eye-hand coordination and the ability to be completely immersed in the work.

The modbook had excellent pen input, but didn't have touch input. It had horizontal work and viewing surfaces, which was tiring over long work sessions, and had an unnatural distance caused by glass thickness between the pen tip and the cursor. This offset was accounted for in software so it was relatively consistent across the surface as viewing angles change, but for me, it kept it from being a totally engaging medium. The Cintiq that I tried, a 21 inch screen version, had the same problems.

The iPad has fair touch input, but I don't like using my finger as a tool in this way. It isn't articulate, visibility is hindered by my own hand, and it's far too easy to change the work space with an inadvertent touch of another finger, thumb, or wrist. Some people have success with it, and granted, there's a novelty to it that's more entertaining than satisfying as a tool. An articulate pen on an iPad would be an improvement, but there aren't enough points on the screen to provide pen point accuracy. I've tried a number of them and so far the best was a sharpened bamboo stick soaked in saltwater. Still not ideal.

What I've thought would be ideal, would be a large tablet that had wacom's excellent pen input with added finger multi-touch controls. The Bamboo Create looks interesting but I don't see it as quite worth it yet. Maybe when wacom expands the technology into the intuous line?

The tablet I use now is a dinosaur- it's an intuos GD 0608u. That's an intuos GD #1. They're up to #4 in their models and the sensitivity in pressure, angle, and location are what has developed. The GD#1, though, is still more advanced than the bamboo line. The accuracy—plotting exactly where the point is— is ± .25mm on my old tablet. It's twice that, ± .5mm, on the Bamboo Create. The coordinate resolution—lines per inch—is 2540 lpi on both. The data rate—the speed in points per second of updates—is 200pps on my intuos and 133 on the Bamboo Create. Pressure levels—1024—is the same on both. An intuos GD#4 leaves my dinosaur grazing in a field, but the Bamboo Create has a pen that still operates at a level less than my ten year old model.

So what does that mean? It would be interesting to see the device. It would no doubt be cool to use one. But I wouldn't be able to justify the expense for something that could quite possibly be a handicap. The videos show someone using the pen, hand resting on the tablet, then just lifting the pen and using two fingers to zoom. No change in modality. Very cool. That answers a lot of my questions. Maybe I'll get one in another year. But how often am I called on to really push my pen, and who would care/notice if I didn't?

Specs for my setup:

Pen Gp-300E Pen tip travel: 0.1 mm (0.004 in) or less
Pen Pressure levels: 1024
Pen Size: 151 x 12.2 mm (5.9 x 0.48 in)
Pen Weight: 13 g (0.46 oz)
Tip refill: Polyacetal

Tablet GD-0608-U
Tablet active area: 203.2 x 162.4 mm (8.13 x 6.45 in)
Tablet weight: 900 g (1.98 lb)
Power consumption: 2.0 watts for USB

wacom inkling

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John Nack just posted about a new pen system from wacom called "Inkling." I love wacom and wouldn't be caught without my tablet. I'm thrilled that they're continuing to experiment with pen technology, but this one seems a bit, well… retro? It reminds me of the class of devices that were developed for pedagogical use. You know, professors that want to input handwritten math equations, or distance courses that need math homework solutions. I guess I'm just not so sure it looks like it's ready for heavy design or illustration demands.

The youtube video embedded on Nack's site is promising. The information at the wacom site is, too. I don't have one, I've only seen the videos, but some of it troubles me enough that I don't think it's worth my time. For instance, what is a "digital likeness of a freehand sketch"? It sounds like something less than a vector tracing of a scanned sketch. I guess much depends on workflow. If you typically sketch in ballpoint pen making sure your hand is oriented to a tracking device this might be just the thing.

Essentially, you sketch on any paper with a special pressure sensitive ballpoint pen that must be held and oriented in a specific way so the edge mounted "receiver" can get a proper signal. Much like the iPad app "Brushes," the output is recorded and can be played back as a movie. The finished recording can be transferred in layers to Photoshop or Illustrator when you get back to your computer. Cute stuff. Interesting features. The reality? Not so sure I'd ever use it.

It won't be available for a couple months, and it looks like initial sales are targeted for Amazon.

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