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warp expowest
Pictures from Sept. 1999

The views expressed in articles on this site are those of their authors.

SCOUG was there!

Copyright 1998-2024, Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group. OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
Paper, Paper, Paper
Don Baker’s engineering background truly makes him a color printer’s friend
Getting The Ultimate Quality Image From Your Color InkJet Printer

by Peter Skye
ONG BEACH — I’ve been searching for the color printer answer for two years.  Every person with whom I’ve ever discussed the color printer answer has been searching as long as I have.  Every printer manufacturer’s technician I’ve ever confronted concerning the color printer answer has been trained in every aspect of color printing except the one I’m trying to expose.

           How do you get a super-quality color printout from an inexpensive color inkjet printer?

           The numbers say you can.  With resolutions of 600, 720 and over 1,000 dots per inch, these puppies should crank out quality every time.

           The manufacturers say you can.  With sample pages that show you how their products can rival a Kodak moment, they mesmerize you into snapping up a color printer for office, home, school or church.

           So why can’t I print a decent looking color picture?

Don Is Going To Tell Me

           Don Baker lays his color printouts on the table before me.   They look better than good.   They look superb.

           “How,” I ask him as I gaze at the sharp, snappy, professional-quality images before me, “do you do this?”

           “Okay, Peter,” Don kindly responds, “I’ll tell you.”

Don’s Quest

           Don Baker’s first job was as a Manufacturing Engineer at a computer company called Basic 4.  “The name was pretty simple,” Don says.  “It came from the computer language called Basic, plus the four basic parts of a computer that were considered mandatory at the time — cpu, disk, monitor and printer.”  His fascination has always been with printers.

           “I’ve worked on line printers, chain printers, golf ball printers, cylinder printers and band printers.  I’ve worked on laserjets, bubblejets and inkjets.  I’ve worked on thermal plotters, I’ve worked on pen plotters.”  Don’s eyes glaze over.  “I love printers,” he softly murmurs.

Tuning Up

           To Don, no printer deserves to print until he’s cleaned it, lubricated it, tightened it and tested it.  And tested it some more.  “There’s basically two manufacturers of color inkjet printers today,” says Don, “Hewlett-Packard and Epson.  The HP printers are at 1200 dpi while Epson’s are at 1440 dpi, so Epson does give you a bit more resolution.  But the Epsons are much harder to take apart to clean.  For high volume work where you’ll be doing a lot of cleaning, consider using an HP.”

           Indeed, 1440 dpi is 20% better than 1200 and can give you a slightly sharper image.  However, I hate to clean printers.  Decisions, decisions.

           “I use Scotch Brite on the rollers to clean them,” Don continues, “and a tiny dab of isopropyl alcohol, although you’re not supposed to use it because it dissolves the rubber.  I’m very careful.”

           “So how do I fix the horizontal banding I get on my color printer?” I ask.  “You know, those slight streaks that run from side to side.”

           “Just run the print head cleaning routine,” Don responds.  “You’re getting ink buildup on the print head, and the little drops are smearing as the head moves back and forth.  Clean the head, and the drops will go straight onto the paper, not cling to the head.”

The Answer

           I meet Don’s wife Kay, whom he met in English class at Long Beach City College back in 1971.  Don got his Engineering Degree in Electronics from Cal State University in Long Beach, and eventually his MBA from Pepperdine.

           Kay shows me an 8×10 photo of their son Christopher, 9.  “Nice picture,” I say, examining the glossy enlargement.  “That’s not a picture,” says Don, “that’s from my Epson.  I scanned the photo with a cheap scanner.”

           I’m staring at the 8×10 enlargement.  It looks exactly like the ones I just paid a professional photographer $25 each for.  Same paper.  Same quality.  I’m mystified.

           I look up at Don in bewilderment, and he reads my mind.  “It’s the paper,” he says.

It Can’t Be

           I don’t believe him.

           “How can it be the paper,” I say.  “This picture looks great.  That can’t just be the paper.  Besides, I’ve tried lots of different papers.  I’ve never, ever gotten something as good as this.”

           Don, The Engineer kicks into high gear.  “Look,” he says while stretching his hands out in front of him to explain, “it is the paper, and here’s why.”

           “First of all, most people try several different kinds of paper, but they’re trying photocopy papers and laser printer papers and cheap inkjet papers.  When the ink from an inkjet gets onto these papers, the ink follows the fiber in the paper and ‘bleeds’.  Some of the ink spreads out to the sides, making the picture less sharp.  Some of the ink spreads to the back of the paper, so if you turn the sheet over you can see it starting to come through a little bit.”

Think About It

           “And here’s the real killer.  With all this ink bleed, your ink isn’t on top of the paper where you can see it any more.  It’s soaked into the paper somewhere.  On the surface of the paper, you see a lighter, grayed-out image as if you were printing with diluted ink.  Think about it; some of the ink is inside the paper where you can’t see it now; some of it is even on the back.  Some has spread to the sides.  One dot of ink is now spread out and doing the work of four or five dots.  Of course your pictures don’t look good.”

           I’m starting to believe him.  Don continues.

           “You have to use coated paper stock, so the ink can’t bleed into the paper fibers.  And you can’t use a single coated paper, because that single coat is just formulated to keep the ink from getting into the paper fiber.  It doesn’t have the best ink adherence, it doesn’t have the best reflectivity.  You need a second coating on top of the ink barrier coating, and that second coating has to be optimized for viewing the ink.  You don’t want a coating that can’t properly reflect back the light to set off the colors, and you don’t want a coating that the ink can’t adhere to.  Even in the not-so-technical field of painting, like what you do to your house or car, there’s a primer coat and a finish coat.  This is the same thing.”

           I’m listening, and I’m gazing at the 8×10 “enlargement”.  I have found the color printer answer, and it is Don Baker.  My quest is over.

Don The Man

           Don Baker is considered an expert on inkjet color printing.  He’s been a guest lecturer on this subject on both coasts.  He’s been consulted by paper manufacturers.  He’s chased after by dissatisfied inkjet users far and wide.  He’s sought out for interviews by disreputable reporters.

           “Don,” I say, “I need some human interest.  Where are you from?”

           “My family moved out here from Rockford, Illinois when I was 14.  Kay’s family moved out from Superior, Wisconsin when she was two.  We live in Long Beach now.”

           “You know,” he continues, “the same logic applies to printing black and white images on an inkjet printer.  If you don’t use a properly coated paper, your black ink will bleed, you’ll have that ‘diluted ink’ look, and you won’t have the proper reflectivity to show your image off correctly.  Coated paper isn’t just for color work, it’s for quality black and white too.”

           “Of course, an RGB (red, green, blue) phosphor monitor image does have some colors that can’t be directly translated to a printer’s CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) colors.  That’s why some high-end large-format printers use more than four color cartridges, which makes more printable colors available.  But you’re looking right now at images that came out of an Epson, and you’ve already said that you like what you see.  If you want to modify an image with an artist program like Embellish or Photo>Graphics, fine, but it still won’t look very good if you use cheap paper.”

           Human interest, to Don, is more about color printing.  What else, after all, could be of interest to anyone?

A Solid Technical Background

           Besides working at Basic 4, Don was the Director of Program Management at Excellon Automation (they make drilling machines and pick and place machines for the printed circuit board industry), was the Director of Production and Operations at Emergency Power Engineering (EPE) in Costa Mesa (they make uninterruptible power supplies), was General Manager of Online Power in City of Industry, and General Manager of Toner Systems International (TSI).

The Research Pays Off

           Mr. Baker has spent a lot of time researching the available papers, and has found that there isn’t much to choose from.  “The manufacturers are making laser and photocopy papers, because that’s where the high volume profits are.  It’s hard to find coated papers that are suitable for professional-looking inkjet use, even if they’re labeled for inkjets.  I talk to the technical people at the paper companies to find out what coatings they’re using, then I get samples of the ones that sound promising and test them.  And people want to print on foil, and Lexan, and cloth, and other odd materials, so I get samples and test those too.  It’s kept me very, very busy.”

           But if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.  And Don Baker, it seems, is the only one who is.  “In my test lab I use both Hewlett-Packard and Epson printers.  And I’ve recently formed a company to supply my clients with the kinds of papers they should be using but can’t find, or find but at absurd prices,” Don says.  “The company’s called ‘Klassic Specialties – Inkjet Papers and Films’.  We stock the papers and special materials that inkjet printers require for quality output.”

Can You Print On My Cat?

           Don opens another folder and starts pulling out some of those “special materials”.  “At first, everybody just wanted to know what kind of paper to use.  Now they want me to sell it to them, too.”

           “Look, this is Lexan, but with a special finish so the ink will adhere.”  I run the sheet of plastic through my fingers; it bends and feels like paper.  “It will last forever.  You can walk on it, you can beat it.  Great for signs.”

           “And look at this mirrored silver reflective film.  A model rocket builder takes this stuff, prints logos and images on it, then wraps it around the rockets before they go out the door.  Look at the reflection; it’s truly a mirror finish, not a matte finish like many other films.  You can also use it for presentation cover sheets – it looks great for that.”

           “And this Photo Glossy paper is what that 8×10 picture of my son was printed on.  It looks and feels exactly like photographic paper, and is double coated so the ink won’t bleed.  Not only does it have the proper coatings on the front, but it has an extra reflective coating on the back so any light that isn’t reflected off the top and gets into the paper is reflected from the bottom.  Otherwise, whatever the picture is against, such as the backing in a picture frame or the table top, absorbs the light that goes through the paper.  It’s details like this that give a picture its proper ‘pizazz’.”

           “Here, look at this popular one.  It’s called Canvas, and you use it for greeting cards, business cards and framed paintings.  One business is using it for ‘design-your-own’ holiday cards, where you can select from a library of thousands of images and any saying you can think of, and out pops a greeting card as good as any Hallmark.  And art classes use it a lot – a pupil scans an original work, then prints it on this paper for perfect reproductions.  The paper is coated differently on both sides, so you print the color image on the image side and the black text on the text side.”

The Customer Is Always Right

           “I’ve got these papers in letter and legal sizes and in A0 through A3 sizes.  I’ve got specialty films for special purposes.  I’ve got custom transparency films with a special surface so the ink will adhere and not flake off.  It’s not only great for overhead projector use, but you can use it for window decorations or storefront window displays.  I’ve even got adhesive clear film.”

           “Here’s some brand new items.  This one is adhesive backed vinyl, for bumper stickers and signs.  This one is adhesive backed polyester silk, which feels and looks just like real silk.  It’s great for framing and upscale department store signs.”

           “Now this is Backlight Film.  Use it on the front of light boxes for unique displays.  And this is our new Opaque Glossy, which has the look of our Photo Glossy but is thin like paper so it’s easily bound into presentations and reports.”

           “If you need a special paper or film, call me.  Anyone is welcome to do so.  Once in a while somebody calls with a need that I haven’t researched yet, and I get right to work on it.”  Don sighs.  “I love finding papers,” he says.

The Customer’s T-Shirt Is Always Right

           “And I’ve got T-Shirt Transfer Paper that you print on and then apply to a t-shirt or other fabric with an iron.  It’s unique, though, and not like the other transfer papers you’ll find, because you wait until it cools down before you peel it off.  There’s a special plastic that melts and encases the ink and binds it to the fabric, so you can wash it without losing any color.  The other transfer papers on the market don’t protect the ink as well, and you have to peel off the transfer papers when they’re hot so you end up burning your fingers.  Here’s a special tip, though,” he continues, “don’t print on cloth at more than 400 dpi.  The fabric weave won’t accept it and you’ll actually lose some detail.”

           “Hey!”, he remembers something with a sudden twinkle.  “One client uses my T-Shirt Transfer Paper to make custom shower curtains!”

Finishing The Page

           “What about the minor problem of inkjet pictures spotting if they’re hit with a couple of drops of water?” I ask.  “Spray them with a can of any image sealer from any art supply store,” Don counters.  “Artists have the same spotting and smudging problems, and that’s what they do.  It’s specially formulated so as not to detract from the image.”

           “And while you’re at the art store, pick up a can of spray adhesive.  Use it to glue together pictures printed on different kinds of paper.  That way, you can have a snappy full-color photograph on one side, and a business card or foil paper on the other.  And you can also use it to attach your pictures to heavy poster board for store and school displays.”

           “Since you’re out shopping, also pick up one of the paper cutters with the roller blade instead of the pull-down lever.  I find it gives a cleaner cut, and the blades come in a variety of styles so you can give your pictures fancy edges.  Use it to cut your photographs, greeting cards, business cards and whatever to the size you want, or trim the edges when you glue them back-to-back.”

           (I did check later for this item, and ended up buying one.  Mine is made by Fiskars, is called a Rotary Paper Trimmer, came with straight and decorative blades plus a “perforating blade” for tear-off portions and a “paper scoring blade” for perfect folds, and had a better price at Costco than at Office Depot.)

Price, Price, Price

           Nevertheless, the higher cost of special papers can be scary when you’re first starting.

           “Use any plain old paper to do your scratch layouts,” advises Don.  “Use the quality paper when you’re ready for your finished product.  And stop thinking about a nickel.  When you go to a restaurant, does it upset you when they charge $1.50 for a Coke?  Of course not.  It’s the overall meal that you consider when you get the bill.  Do the same thing when you create an image.  I mean, you don’t clip pictures out of the newspaper and scan them for your art work.  It’s cheap that way, of course, but it doesn’t look very good.  You put a few hours into something and spend several hundred dollars for the printer and scanner, and now you’re worried about a nickel.  Nobody should treat a printer like that.  Cheap price is cheap paper – no coatings, lots of bleed, that diluted ink look, and low reflectance.”

           I did do some price comparisons of the Klassic Specialties products, although it’s hard to do so when there isn’t much of any competition.  For example, I couldn’t find anybody with an equivalent to Don’s “Canvas”, the paper you use for business and greeting cards.  But Fry’s Electronics always has a sale, and some Hammermill Jet Print Ultra Gloss paper for “color inkjet printing” looked similar to Don’s Photo Glossy “photograph paper”.  However, the Hammermill product, even on sale at 85¢ per sheet, costs twice what the Klassic Photo Glossy costs.  And he’s right about the nickel.  Every time I open a can of soda it’s several nickels, and I don’t think anything about it even though a glass of water is free.  If I want the look, I’ll have to use the right product.  I sure wouldn’t pay the photographer $25 a pop if he used cheap paper.

           “Do you hire somebody without reading their resume?”, Don continues.  “Of course not.  And you shouldn’t buy paper unless you know what you’re getting.  If it doesn’t say on the label, call the manufacturer.  The phone call is much cheaper than a bad box of paper.  Ask what the coatings are.  Ask if it bleeds on an inkjet printer.  Ask about reflectance.”

Getting Your Hands On Don’s Klassic Specialties

           Don puts on his business hat for a moment and explains how he’s looking for dealers for his unique products.  He’s been doing some computer shows where he sells to the SOHO (small office, home office) marketplace to see what their needs are.  He’s been demonstrating how using the right paper with an inexpensive image can produce striking results.  “At the shows I use Print Artist, which you can buy from several of the show vendors for about $10.  And then I print the four-color images that come in that package.  The results are stunning – so bright and vivid.  But you have to use good paper.”  He’s already set up his business to private label his papers for others, so anyone can have a unique line of quality papers by reselling Don’s products.

           And he’s got a $10 “Sampler Special”.  “You pick and choose exactly what you want to try, down to the sheet.  Photo Glossy, Lexan, Canvas, any mix of the products is fine.  That way, you’ll try them and see what quality really is.”

And A Last Minute Tip From The Picture Man

           I’m all set.  Don has handed me some samples to play with, I’ve got a hundred ideas on how to use what he’s taught me, and I can’t wait to get home and start printing.

           “Any final advice?”, I ask Don.

           He grins at me with that impish look of all experts teaching a neophyte.

           “Well,” says Don, “I’ve told you absolutely everything you need to know to print a perfect image.  Keep your printer clean and use the absolute best paper you can find.  Just remember that you have to start with a good picture.”

           Author’s note:  Canon and Lexmark also make color inkjet printers.


Don Baker, Klassic Specialties – Inkjet Papers and Films, 562/865-2988 (voice & fax), or email to

Canon Computer Systems,


Epson America,


Hewlett-Packard Company,


Lexmark International,


Section List

Don Is Going To Tell Me
Don’s Quest
Tuning Up
The Answer
It Can’t Be
Think About It
Don The Man
A Solid Technical Background
The Research Pays Off
Can You Print On My Cat?
The Customer Is Always Right
The Customer’s T-Shirt Is Always Right
Finishing The Page
Price, Price, Price
Getting Your Hands On Don’s Klassic Specialties
And A Last Minute Tip From The Picture Man
Author’s note

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 1998 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG is a trademark of the Southern California OS/2 User Group.
OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation.
All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.