wide format printers


True Grumbler
Mar 2, 2002
I am thinking about adding printing services to the framing business. I was looking at a wide format printer. I plan on doing photos (larger), prints for area artists, possibly some signs and banners. It seems there are a number of possibilities with this.
Any suggestions?
Thanks for any help!!!
Yeah, have plenty of room for your equipment and supplies! My friend does wide format printing and he also makes vinyl signs for his customers. His materials storage area is almost 800 sq. ft. He stocks vinyl in all the assorted colors, rolls of 42"x500', large rolls of masking for transferring the vinyl to the sign material, a huge stack of 4'x8' white coroplast for the sign bodies, and that is just the major big stuff. You have to have a large layout area if you do big signs and we haven't talked about his paper storage for the large format printing yet!!

It's a lucrative business where he is located but you need a really large amount of extra room in your building to accomodate the equipment and supplies. It's not like buying one mat at a time as you need them, you are buying reams and reams of specialty paper and rolls of vinyl that all need proper storage space. Most framers don't have enough space for their framing let alone an extra business on the side!!

Good luck with your search.


I have an Epson 9600 44 inch wide format printer which I use for printing my own work on paper and canvas, fine art prints for other artists, large photographs for a few local photographers, and occasionally some indoor signage.

You have two main classifications of printers. Water based and solvent based.

The Epson and new Canon WF printers are water based and are excellent for the uses I described above.

Solvent based printers are another matter all together. These are excellent for outdoor/long term signage, but typically, they are not used for photo or fine art repro work.

The two types of printers also represent two VERY different businesses and they should not be confused with one another.

You can do "some" outdoor signage and back-lit work if you are willing to get into lamination and mounting, but as I said, this is typically the domain of the solvent printer.

Art repro work is again very different from photo printing. You also have to look into how you will handle image capture of the original. Most people like myself do offer this as a one-stop service, but there may be someone locally for you that can do that part of the job. Reproducing original artwork does require a considerable learning curve, not to mention additional financial investment.

You can do okay keeping to portrait work, larger photographs and limited signage and tradeshow posters, but therse are typically not high volume production machines so don't expect to be cranking out hundred of items at a time. Don't even think about doing less than 8 x 10 as you cannot compete with Walmart, Costco, etc. with these machines.

If you have the skillset, you may also consider offering photo retouching and restoring as well. It can be quite rewarding.

If you have any other specific questions, feel free to email me.

I am still doing research on the printer. Leaning strongly towards the epson 9800.
But,now the question is on software to go with this.

Suggestions on color management software? The Epson rep. suggested not to use Photoshop, for accurate colors.
Any input is appreciated!!
Thanks to Ron for bringing this back to where I could find it and to Tom for (gently) pointing the way.

Don't know what I'd do without youse guys.

JP, what kind of Epson rep are you talking about? That advice about Photoshop is simply nuts. Photoshop has a very sophisticated suite of color management tools and is without question the best image management tool available. Photoshop can’t do profiling but with the 9800 you won’t need to. Of course there is a very steep learning curve involved in color management and Photoshop itself. If you’re not willing to spend a lot of time in intense study you might want to skip Photoshop. Take a look at Qimage; it’s very good and can be easy to use and is darn near free. If you’re considering sign work, you’ll need Photoshop for ripping raster images or a rip with Postscript capabilities (around $3,500.00).

We have a very extensive digital imaging lab and have been doing imaging and printing for five years. I’m going to be in Atlanta for the Décor show in September and would be willing to discuss the issues with you there. BTW, getting into wide format printing isn’t easy and the cost of the printer is a small part of the cost of entry. Printers are very inexpensive; imaging capturing isn’t.

I think $20,000 is the minimum investment you’ll need to make to get started.

We have several clients who just do printing and rely on us for capturing and color correction. It’s a cumbersome arrangement but it works. A digital camera is inadequate for capturing images larger than 8 x 10. A 30 x 40 image has 108 mega pixels, for example. A good professional digital camera might be capable of 12 mega pixels.
Thanks Warren for more info.
The more I research on this, the more confusing it gets!!
If I do photos, posters, canvas, POS, and printing on matboard, would I still need to invest in the other software - 2500.00 -3500.00?
My orginal intention was to print for some of the area artist's but I think getting the proper equipment for that is more than I want to do at this point, plus the space issue.
Agin thank you for the information!!

I wish I could go to Atlanta, but am unable to this time.
Judy, the software you buy depends on how good a service you offer. I think if you put the effort into Qimage, you might be able to turn out acceptable work. I don't have any experience with Qimage but it's well thought of in the wide format community. It has image editing capabilities, not as sophisticated as Photoshop's, perhaps, but much less expensive. Its enlarging algorithms are arguably superior to Photoshop's.

Printing artwork is very difficult; it's not a matter of plug and play.
Warren, do you have any suggestions for image capture that fit in to a modest budget (under 1k)? I currently stitch larger images with satisfactory results, but it’s a real pain. I would love a flatbed that would handle a 16x20.

Do you have any monitor suggestions?
Dave, tabloid size flatbeds (12 x 17) are the biggest I'm aware of. Do you have good stitching software? PanaView Image Assembler is very good and around $100. Sure makes stitching easy. Our Cruse has a document table that's 36 x 48, but we can easily scan images up to 40 x 60. We've done 44 x 73.