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What I Learned About Printing On Matboard

I just finished another challenging framing project [Editor: see Our Latest Framing Project]. One new skill I had to develop was printing on matboard.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
Other new skills include cutting curved mat openings freehand. Since I found so little information about that online (and I was told YouTube had a video for everything), I might have to discuss that at some point.

This project also gave me another opportunity to practice building the frame using multiple moulding widthsHow To.

I plan to describe this framing project soon.

My client wanted to frame his print of a comic strip using a dark purple mat. Neither Crescent nor Bainbridge has a huge selection of purples, but from their catalog, it looked like Crescent’s “Dark Purple” (89886) should work nicely. I ordered a sheet, but when I picked it up, neither I nor my client thought it was dark enough.

The Challenge

I asked for ideas on the framers’ forums, but no other purple matboards were suggested. In fact, the only suggestion I received was to use acrylic to paint my own matboard.

Before I had traveled too far down that road, I remembered that ages ago I printed on Arches Natural White Cold Press Watercolor Paper (850 gsm)Specs for another client. That wouldn’t be suitable for this project, but it did turn out to be slightly thicker than matboard. And its texture disproved any notion that only the smoothest matboard would possibly work for printing. Maybe I could use our Epson Stylus Pro 9900 wide-format inkjet printer with pigment inks to create the right color. I prepared a few test samples.

My first efforts were terrible. First I tried Crescent Ragmat 1607 “Brite White”. The matboard went through the printer OK, but the color sucked. So I made a color profile (see details and downloads in the next Note). It turns out this medium has a much smaller color gamut than any other medium I’ve worked with. All of the colors seem dull and washed out. The purple I was trying for was just off the edge of that palette, so even the color profile didn’t help me.

Then I tried Crescent Select 9500 “White Glove”, but the gamut and the results were pretty much the same. I even tried Crescent Select 9850 “Silver” which, as you might expect, had a shinier surface. That surface didn’t absorb enough ink to keep it from smearing, even after changing the Drying Time per Print Head Pass to its maximum of 50 tenths of a second. (Perhaps there is a media type other than “Metallic Photo Glossy” that would use less ink.)

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
Using X-rite i1Photo Pro 2, I made the profile CrescentRagmat1607.icm for our Epson Stylus Pro 9900 printer. To download, click here.

To download CrescentSelect9500L.icm, click here.

For Windows 10, these files should wind up in your C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\color folder.

This is when I came up with another way to make the purple darker. It used a technique inspired by comics of the 1930s (even though the comic strip we were framing didn’t use that technique). I’ll give more details in my upcoming article.

Other Options

  • First, just because my matboard samples couldn’t give me the purple I was looking for, the idea still has value. In fact, my solution to the purple problem did involve printing on the “Dark Purple” mat I had purchased for the project.
  • Although I did not pursue the acrylic paint option, neither did I rule it out.
  • Just after I finished the comic strip project, I read about Epson’s Enhanced Matte Posterboard. So I ordered some. A sheet measures 30″ by 40″ instead of the 32″ by 40″ of most matboards. On a price-per-square-inch basis, it costs about 20% more. Of course, this doesn’t include the additional cost of printer ink, but that would only be a factor if there was already a matboard with the color you needed. The posterboard is a tad thicker than matboard, but still fits into the printer just fine. The posterboard seems a bit denser and takes a little more effort to cut. Its color gamut looks pretty good, though and Epson already has a color profile for the printers from major manufacturers.
  • I just watched a video from the Professional Picture Framers Association about wrapping fabric around matboard (or moulding). It looks feasible, but I haven’t tried it or even researched the cost or color availability.

In Conclusion

Knowing that you can print on matboard opens up possibilities – not just new colors, but stripes, spirals, and who knows what else. It adds another tool to your arsenal.

This was not intended to be the definitive source for printing on matboards. Had there been a definitive and comprehensive article on the subject, neither one of us would be here. But lacking that, I hoped to give you enough information to get the job done. Good luck.


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