Give your print workflow a boost!
Give your print workflow a boost!
Most photographers prefer to print their photos themselves not only because this is faster, but certainly in order to have more control about the result. You have decided to buy a certain type of inkjet printer in function of the size of pictures you usually print. If you have purchased an Epson A2 printer or larger (recently, the manufacturer added the two most recent Epson A3+ models too), this review about the print software "Mirage" might interest you.
What does the "Mirage" software do exactly?
The skilled photographer, designer or artist can do in Photoshop, Illustrator or Indesign exactly the same as Mirage does, but it is good to know that this software can handle some of these actions in an amazing short time and moreover, in a very convenient way, which are certainly 2 important points to remember. Your print workflow will have a boost due to simple little things where you, as a photographer, will spend a long time or where the print driver might fail a few times.
Let me give you an example:
You have an Epson 4900 printer and you print on roll. A customer is asking for some photos to print in different sizes and quantities. Without the Mirage software, you would open the pictures in Photoshop, put them in the correct format and then you would start to place them on a fictitious sheet that will be printed. With Mirage you only need to open the photos, fill in the correct size and quantity and the software puts everything nicely on the page. If you would like to arrange the page differently, it is still possible. Do you want a border around every picture (so called "border marks") or a "calibration bar", it’s just a mouse click away.
Mirage is a program that you can approach as a standalone program, as well as plug-in within Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign. Depending on your version of OS (both Windows and Mac) and your version of Adobe, this package is fully compatible. If everything is up to date, you should not worry at all. If it isn’t the case, just go to the manufacturer’s website to see if your versions are compatible.
So if you are using an A2 (or larger) Epson printer, you can use Mirage. The program contains drivers for the Epson Stylus Pro 3800 to 11880. Moreover, the manufacturer recently added the most recent A3+ models from Epson (R2880 & R3000).
2. DOWNLOAD & INSTALLATION
The installation of Mirage is in the same line as all other programs: download the program on the manufacturer's website and follow the installation wizard.
But there are some attention points:
- If you have purchased the software with a serial number, this can only be used on ONE pc.
- During the installation, your computer must be connected to the Internet.
- No USB sticks or "dongles" may be connected to your pc during installation.
You can download, install and use the software – with all functions – for 14 days for free!
3. FIRST USE
Now everything is properly installed, you can start using the program. As a Mac user, I will just explain the method I use on my computer, but for Windows-users there are probably not so much differences.
Personally, I find it easier to use the program as a plug-in (rather than as a standalone version), but this is more a habit than a real reason. Once all of my pictures are open in Photoshop and they are ready to print, I go to "Automate / Mirage Print All" (if you want to print only the selected picture, you can just choose “Mirage Print”).
If you use Illustrator or Indesign, go to "File / Print All Mirage".
The basic window of Mirage opens automatically and here everything will happen. This window is divided into a large window, the main window, and a smaller window that is called "documents" where you see all the pictures you are going to print with their quantity and size.
In the main window at the top, there are 3 options:
- Your Printer
- Your type of photo paper
- The quality that you will print
Select your printer is easy and even if you buy later a new printer, it is easy to add. Simply click "Settings" at the top and add your printer.
To select your paper, it is as easy as selecting your printer. By default, all Epson papers are installed. If you print occasionally on non-Epson photo papers, you can manually add them with the ICC profile of the manufacturer. You can also add a profile that you've created with your own calibrator.
The default quality setting is fine. So I suggest leaving it as it is.
4. SETTINGS & USE
At the left sight, you will see all the settings, which will allow you to create the prints you want. At the top everything starts with the basics: "Paper" - select your size. Do you work with a printer that doesn’t have a roll holder, such like the Epson 3880, then you don’t get the option to print on "a roll" and only "cut sheet". With "standard size" selected format of paper size can be chosen. By default, all DIN ISO A, B & US formats are installed and even some common image formats. But if you have a paper size that isn’t listed, you can manually enter the size here. Here lies the greatest power of Mirage: the software has no maximum length of paper (print drivers only accept up to 30000 pixels). So if you want to print the full length of your roll, it is perfectly possible.
If you have a printer that has a paper roll, you will get some extra options there that will allow to instruct the printer where to cut the paper.
- Do not cut: The cutter inside the printer will not work and you will have to cut the paper yourself.
- Cut After Series: If a picture is printed multiple times, the cutter will cut after each series.
- Cut Twice After Each Series: The cutter will cut the upper- and lower end after each series. Every image will be cut borderless at top and bottom side.
- Cut Roll (Photoshop Only): Cut the printout after the whole picture has been printed.
- Roll - Cut after Job (Indesign Only): Cut the printout after the whole job has finished printing.
The next step in the process: "Image size". Now, you will have to use the little window "documents". If you select first all images and give then the desired size, all images will receive this format. If you select only one photo, only this image will receive that size.
"Border" and "Rotation": with the option “border”, you can add a border around the photos in the desired thickness and color. "Rotation" will rotate your picture in 5 steps: no rotation, 90°, 180°, 270° and rotate automatically. With the last option, the software selects the best page arrangement in relation to your paper size.
The newest addition to the software is "Crop". This allows you to crop the pictures you want to print. Personally, I do not use this option, because this step is already incorporated into my workflow before I start printing.
"Position" is the part where you are going to determine where your photo must be on the page. You can choose from several options like: center horizontally on the page, center on the printable page (unless you choose borderless printing, each page has a minimum edge required) and of course you can also manually place your image.
It's not a good idea to print borderless because it consumes more ink and ink droplets will inevitably fall next to your page. This will cause damage to your printer with cleaning cost as result.
The "Placement" seems simple, but it is really brilliant. Although at first sight, there is much to choose, you can select here your perfect grid and all your selected photos will be placed automatically on one or more pages. If you want to have only one photo per page, you can also determine it here.
The "Print Marks" will allow you to cut your picture nicely once it is printed. You do not have to design them yourself; you only check the desired checkboxes.
You have 7 possible checkboxes:
The "Crop marks" are thin lines, which can be added to the picture for correct cutting the image. If a corner or the entire top of the picture is perfect white, it will not be printed and you can therefore not exactly see where the picture ends. To my opinion a very handy feature which makes you save a lot of time.
- Corner Crop Marks (1): Add lines at the outside of the photo in the 4 corners.
- Inward Corner Crop Marks (2): Add lines at the inside of the photo in the 4 corners.
- Center Crop Marks (3): Locates the middle of each sideline as an indication.
- Outline Crop Marks (4): Places around the entire picture a dotted line.
- Crop Registration Marks (5): Places in the four corners on the outside a circle with a cross.
- Calibration Bars (6): Place a range of colors at the top and bottom and a gray gradient line at the bottom. If you print in RGB, will these RGB colors. If you can also print in CMYK (Epson 7600, 9600WT7900), the color bars will be printed in CMYK.
Users of an Epson 4800, 7800 or 9800 with a Power Mac will print on CMYK. Do you already have an Intel Mac, you print in RGB.
- Label (7): Provides your picture in the lower left corner (on the outside of the picture) the name of the photo, date and time of printing.
In the last part "Color", you have two choices: "Print Color Mode" & "Rendering Intent". I would recommend leaving the default setting. The "Color Mode" option can be changed from "normal" to "gray" if you want to print black and white images. In case you want to print a mix of color and black and white photos, leave the option to "normal".
All possibilities of the program have so far been discussed, but does everything work, as it should? Does everything works smoothly? Do you really need this tool? I would like to answer these three questions.
During the past months, I have used this program quite intensively and the program never crashed or refused to perform a task. Everything works as it has been suggested and it works amazingly fast even with very large files. The print spooler is a lot faster, so the printer is a lot quicker.
The answer to the question if you really need this program is very personal. As I mentioned in the beginning of the review, this software tool can’t do anything what a trained photographer, designer or artist can do with the familiar Adobe programs (Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign). However, if you do need to print a lot, this tool will definitively save you a lot of time. No matter how practiced you are, adding bars/marks manually to a photo is not as fast as selecting a checkbox.
Do you want to work even faster; you can make "Droplets". These droplets are icons containing print settings and they can be placed on your desktop (or the place you want). Drag your files (or entire folders) to the icon and Mirage will print the images with the saved settings of the icon.
For instance if you print regularly a grid on 6x6 photos on an A4 paper, you just create a "droplet" with these settings and you place it on your desktop. Drag the folder with the images for the grit to the droplet en Mirage will do the rest. No need to open Photoshop or reselect all Mirage settings.
At the end this review, just a quick view on the cost price of this package. The standard package costs around 399€ (around ). If you have however a new Epson R2880 or R3000, you can choose for the "Small studio" package that will cost you only 99€ (around ). Do you have an A2 printer, you can choose for the 17 "version which will cost you 249€ (around ). These two packages are cheaper, but also have all functions just like the "master" package, but only support for the respective types. If you later decide to upgrade your printer to a larger size, you will however need to buy another package…
To complicate even more the pricing policy, each package is having 3 versions:
- The standard version which you can download and register through a TAN code
- A version with the setup files on a CD which will be send to you in a box
- The same CD version as above, but with a "dongle”, which is pretty useful. This permits you to use Mirage on every pc you want. So, if you regularly work on multiple workstations, then this is the perfect choice for you.
(All mentioned prices are without VAT)
Mirage is a wonderful product that entered all my personal expectations. At first glance, not everybody will recognize the usefulness. However the speed and easiness to finish your print tasks are two very important arguments. . Which version to buy is a personal choice. You can choose for the small studio version (99€-) if you own a Epson A3 + printer, but I personally would suggest to invest immediately in the full version because one day you will be faced to an upgrading of your printer.
Finally, I would like to thank the manufacturer Dinax for providing the software.