SUMMARY: Color printing

From: Brenda Helminen (
Date: Mon Aug 17 1992 - 18:42:49 CDT

Here is a summary of the information I received on color printing. I got
some excellent responses. Contributers were:

          Brett Lymn -
          Forrest Cook -
          Girish Patel -
          Shouben Zhou -
          Christian Lawrence -
          Glenn Herteg -
          George Planansky -
          Jose Mendez -
          Carl P Baker -
          Gene Rackow -
          Mike Raffety -
          Bill Unruh -
          Jeffrey Marans -
          Steve Lodin -
          Birger A Wathne -
          Kevin Sheehan -
          Matt Goheen -
          Kathy Holle - who sent me a summary she
                        compiled on color printers.

> A faculty member at our University asked me for some information yesterday on
> obtaining printed color output from a Sun system that he needs to include in
> a proposal that must be mailed this afternoon. The system will be used
> in a mechanical engineering computing lab.
> I don't have any information at my fingertips, and was wondering if anyone
> could give me a hand?

> Specifically:

> 1) Am I looking for color printers or color plotters? How are they different?

A printer is a raster device using ink or dye to color pixels.
Color printers work like normal monochrome printers, but they have the
ability of laying down multiple colors instead of just black. There are
various technologies used in this process including wax, inkjets, and
dye sublimation. Each has their advantages and disadvantages.
Ink jets tend to lack color saturation, but do not require special paper.
Wax printers have great color saturation, but may need special media and
the process leaves a shiny picture which cannot be written on and can melt.

Color plotters use various colored pens to draw lines on a page, except
for electrostatic plotters (which are very expensive).

Plotters are good for line drawings, but find large areas of solid color
hard to cope with, and are hopeless at reproducing things like photographs.
The paper size is limited using a printer (the largest size anyone quoted
me was 12 x 18 inches), if you want something larger, you need a plotter.

> 2) What kind of a price range am I looking at? (Can I get reasonable color
> output for under $10,000?) Can anyone recommend particular printers
> or plotters based on your experience?
The printer recommended most often was the Tektronics Phaser III PXi wax
printer at around $10,000. This is a postscript printer, and does
not require any special paper. In fact, I was told by several folks that
you can print on paper towel or napkins if you so desire. The printer
puts out pages in 2, 4, or 8 minutes depending on the quality. I was
quoted price per sheet of 8x11 inch paper between $0.19 and $0.35 which is
very reasonable. This printer uses a four color print technology - yellow,
cyan, magenta, and black, so it can produce real blacks, unlike all the
3 color printers. This printer has both a serial and parallel port,
and can also be connected to the ethernet with an adapter, or to an
Apple network. Most folks used the parallel port or the network interface
since the images being printed are large, and communication time can
exceed printing time using the serial interface.

Several other folks recommended the Tektronics Phaser II which is about
half the cost of the Phaser III. I was also told that this printer
was the top recommendation for color printers in a July 1992 SunWorld
article reviewing color printers using NewsPrint. This is also a postscript

Textronix: 1 800 835-6100.

On the less expensive end, most folks recommended printers from
Hewlett-Packard, including the HP PaintJet XL300 which is a four color
printer. This printer uses HP's PCL language, Postscript is supposed
to be available very soon. The price is around $5K.

On the pricey end of the scale, Mitsubishi offers a color printer for about
$12K that produces a full 16.7 million colors. These printers use a dye
sublimation process. The output is near photographic quality, but the
price per page is approximately $6 for an 8x10. This printer is not
a postscript printer, but drivers have been written to work under NewsPrint.

All of the above mentioned printers produce 300 DPI output.

> 3) Most importantly, what kind of software do I need? Does X11R5 or
> Openwindows have any basic tools for printing color images? Is
> there any good public domain software available for displaying and
> printing color images? I know there is such a thing as color postscript,
> is this getting to be a standard? What about commercial visualization
> packages? do they include color printer/plotter support?

Software doesn't appear to be a problem. The X tools for grabbing and
printing images handle color (xgrab, xdpr, xwd were all mentioned),
so does Sun's Openwindows.
Sun's NewsPrint handles color, and most commercial application
packages (Frame, pvwave, Asterix, Island Graphics were mentioned specifically)
output color postscript. A freeware package for displaying color postscript
that was recommended was "ghostscript".

Thanks again to all who responded. This was exactly the information I needed.

Brenda Helminen
Sr. Systems Programmer
Michigan Technological University

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