Swapping inks and dealing with the residual in the lines



I haven’t printed on gloss for a few months, but I have maintained my 3880 properly, and shaken the printer every few days. Yesterday, I decided to test the theory of using the linearisation droplet for varying amounts of GO. First thing I did was to print a 21x4 and measure it to ensure that all was as it should be. Comparing the linearisation from last time to now was a real surprise. I’ll attach screen grabs. The second shows a very nice linearisation that I did after getting my custom IGFS curve. The first is what I got yesterday showing quite a different result.

My assumption is that there has been sedimentation in the ink lines, and needless to say, the 3880 does not purge the full line when it swaps from MK to PK. I can’t think of what else it could be. If this is true, then:

  1. the argument for a universal black starts to look compelling. as discussed elsewhere on this forum
  2. how much does one need to print to get back to linear, i.e. how much ink is in the line and how many ml per A4 / Letter page will this printer use at 2880?

I hope that I’m wrong. It also occurs to me that some of my earlier issues with linearity in gloss curves may well be due to half flushed lines. Jon did say that my printer was weird.

How best to get fresh ink through the dampers of an Epson 3880

Adding to the story, I printed a couple of purge patterns about the size of a 21x4 target. The ink on the first, doesn’t want to dry. It smears when you wipe it. I printed another one of these which is looking better but will still smear. After that, I have printed another 21x4 and will give that a few hours before reading.

My assumption is that matte shade 1 isn’t too flash on IGFS.


I’ve now measured the latest 21x4 and it’s getting better. i’ll attach a grab. I can still wipe my finger over the purge pattern, and get ink or something off it. It just sticks to my finger as I wipe over the paper. This paper has been blow dried before I applied go to the targets so I don’t think that it ever going to dry properly.


This stuff doesn’t look like it is ever going to dry. I just wiped my finger over it again after leaving it for a few hours and I get black stuff on my finger still.


Having left the 3880 overnight, I’ve put some more purge patterns through it this morning. I can still wipe my finger over it and get black stuff on my finger. There does appear to be some micro banding in the purge pattern but I’m assuming that it is down to whatever is causing the smearing. I have also put GO over one of the purge patterns and the stuff comes off on my finger through the GO

I can’t see much point in continuing to print purge patterns without some advice from the experts, and I don’t want to switch back to matte in the meantime. I’m hoping that the cavalry isn’t far away.


Hi Jeff, To address your concerns of PK inks smearing off your paper, this is NOT normal! And just to make sure, I am going to ask that you smear test your PK vs MK cartridge on a piece of gloss paper to verify it is in fact PK ink (or Gloss being WN1 in your printers set-up) then compare to the bottled inks. When you change the printer from MK to PK it should move then MK ink out of the line and introduce the PK, this all happens in this one action, there should be no need to run purge images through calibration mode to rid the line of MK ink. WN1 should not be smearing off the paper before GO is applied, but NU1 would certainly, because it is designed for matte papers only. The only logical explanation here would be if there was somehow NU1 in your PK cartridge, is this a possibility at all? Also, when how old is your WN1 ink?


Hi Kelly, thanks. Let me give a bit more background:

  1. This is the same set of carts that I installed into the 3880 earlier this year
  2. The carts were filled with ink that I bought last December
  3. The carts are in a 3880 that was bought new in February
  4. The 3880 has never had Epson carts installed
  5. My gloss ink is SEL not WN
  6. This is the same printer, ink and carts that were used for custom profiling and the EEF problem
  7. For the last couple of months I have only printed with matte inks
  8. Prior to that I swapped matte and gloss but never ran the same test to check linearisation
  9. I only bothered to run the linearisation test because I want to test how effective Roy Harrington’s new droplet is for applying varying amounts of GO and then linearising. I wanted to get back to a known starting point which is the way my printer behaved after installing the custom curve.
  10. The first two charts show the problem. It would appear that shade 1 is not as black as it should be. In the original it is 4.08, but, after the swap, it is 7.67. This morning on another print, I am down to 5.69. So it is getting back to where it was, but slowly
  11. I may not have noticed this in a print, but it’s obvious when I measure.
  12. I just printed a purge pattern in calibration mode. After drying, I can smear the paper and end up with black stuff on my finger. After applying GO, I can still smear the page and get black stuff on my finger

I’m happy to do a smear test. Do you still want me to do it? I agree that I should be able to swap between inks but what I am seeing indicates that something is going on that I don’t understand. One of the reasons that I bought into this system is repeatability, and consistency. I understand that there will be drift and variation but this looks more than what I would expect.

So the bottom line for me is that this was working before with PK SEL1 without any issues and all I did was not switch the lines for 2 months. Is this to be expected in such circumstances, or does it indicate something else, like ink issues?



1st question would be did you shake the SEL1 cartridge into suspension before doing your ink change?

After applying GO, none of the inks should be smearing off if allowed to dry thoroughly. The print you made yesterday with the Go, can you still smear the SEL1 off?

SEL1 and WN1 are intended for Gloss printing in combo with GO, both are very fragile before GO is applied, if dried and GO’d, neither should be smeared through the GO. SEL1 will appear to be slightly flat before the GO is applied, almost looking like a MK ink rather then a PK, but once the GO is applied it will appear Glossier. When printing with a Curve, the amount of pure black or SEL1 is very minimal, more of shades 2 & 3 are printed in the dark areas then of 1, so what you see on an Ink Separation will not translate to what you see in a printed image, as I am sure you are familiar with at this point.

Can you please measure your SEL1 Ink Separation at 60%, 80% & 100% on Epson ExFiber with GO and without GO and I will compare my Lab L values to see if there is a concern in density.



I didn’t shake the cartridges before changing ink. I shake the whole printer every couple of days so assumed that it would be OK. Subsequently, all my inks have been individually shaken.

I can still smear the print from yesterday. It was a purge pattern using calibration mode for shade 1, not a normal print. Printing a 21x4 target doesn’t smear.

I printed another 21x4 on IGFS after very little printing yesterday and it is still around 5.9

Here are the measurements on EEF. After the previous issues, I would have thought that IGFS was a safer bet. If you remember, we agreed to abandon EEF/TPP after a lot of to’ing and fro’ing.

Pre GO: 60% 16.45
80% 14.47
100% 14.3

After GO: 60% 15.73
80% 13.6
100% 13.1


OK, now we this is making sense, your lab L values are more reflective of NU1, they are WAY OFF (MUCH LIGHTER) then they should be. Is there a possibility you have NU1 in your PK cartridge? Being that your ink is still smearing off the paper even with GO and your L values are showing more NU1 then SEL1 figures, I would go ahead and dump out that PK cart and replace with SEL1 from the bottle (after shaking it of course). If you want to take that extra precaution you can smear test out of the SEL1 bottle to verify it is actually SEL1, at this point it’s an easy test before going through all this again.

I asked for L values on EPEXFIBER because I just finished with testing SEL inks on that paper and had the most recent values in front of me. We have figured out a way around the issues with the Gloss Differential on this paper and feel the method of printing GO at 2880dpi, uni-directional while both creating the curve and then for the confirmation print eliminates the problem.

Let me know how it looks after replacing the ink in that PK cart and running 3 cleaning cycles (that should be sufficient). I would think you would see a huge improvement, if not then maybe your SEL1 ink is past it’s expiration date and might be in need of replacing all together.


I’m going to take the liberty of replying on Jeff’s behalf because I’ve been working with him on this, and I know he will be out of action tomorrow (midnight here now).

This is much more simple that it has become.
This is a new 3880 printer at the beginning of this year.
These are new neutral K7 inks this year.
Printing on matte and gloss (IGFS) were both working fine three months ago - no sign of any of these problems.
Then for three months Jeff printed matte only.
Now he switches back to the PK cart and IGFS after a gap of three months and he finds that shade 1 is too light and it smears.
By printing purge patterns shade 1 is becoming darker, but it still smears.

We’re certain that it’s the right ink, since it’s the same cart full of PK ink that was working three months ago.
As this is a relatively recent purchase the ink should be well inside its expiration date.
It was working. Nothing has changed, other than the ink switch to PK after 3 months of inactivity on the PK channel.

The question is why? Is this typical of an ink line left for too long? Or is there another possible explanation, other than MK in the PK cart and expired inks, neither of which seem to be applicable?


Just butting in here for a moment…and maybe reading between the lines…

By [I][B]smearing[/B],[/I] does that mean that dragging your finger across a non-GO’d glossy or baryta print results in residual pigment coming off the paper and sticking to your finger tips and leaving the path your finger dragged behind on the print?

That would be normal, because the amount of ink that the K7 curves produce is too much for the media to absorb (about 40% more than ABW). So that is residual pigment that would otherwise be sealed in by the GO when you overprint the correct amount of GO.

If you mean [B][I]smearing[/I][/B], as in after the GO is printed - then that would not be normal.

Reading your post seems to indicate the former - but its not entirely obvious to me.

If the system worked but then is now printing lighter after a long break - that too is normal pigment settling. Remove the cart and physically shake it (rather than the printer which you would have to do too violently for anyone to think you were sane - in order to shake the carts correctly). Then run 3 POWER CLEANS to bring fresh ink to the print head. Have you tried that yet? That is the recommended best practice for settled pigment.

Then do not rub your finger over a non-GO’d print. GO print it. Then if you feel the need, rub your finger (but it will leave finger grease behind). Just do it to test if it still smears. It’s not a best practice to rub the surface of the prints.

Hope this interruption helps!


It’s not clear how much longer Jeff will be out of action, so we’ve agreed that I will keep this going until he’s back.

To answer your question, smearing of a print occurred [B]with[/B] GO, as well as without.

To help isolate the source of this, yesterday Jeff printed the ink separation page on gloss, dried with with a hair dryer, and then gently wiped a q-tip over it and found that only shade 1 smeared. So while it may be possible to smear a print by being careless and wiping a finger over it, this is something different and only affects shade 1.

You’ll be reassured to know that carelessly wiping a gloss print pre-GO is [B]not[/B] standard practice in this part of the world. To explain how this came about … When Jeff started printing again on IGFS, he tried to dry it in preparation for GO. It didn’t dry any of the usual means - waiting and hair dryers. The print appeared wet to the naked eye. At some point you have to touch it to see what’s happening and then it smears. If you manage to put down a GO coat, it still smears.

To help diagnose what was happening he rechecked the linearity. The results are in the initial post and showed that the 100% density point was a lot lighter. As Jeff has printed the purge page the density has darkened, but the smearing, as just described, did not cease. At least not so far.

We'd like to understand what is causing this smearing, but let's suppose for the moment that the root cause was the PK line sitting unused for three months.  What is the recommended procedure to prevent this on a printer where both MK and PK carts are used, but one of them less frequently?  You often recommend to print weekly, but are you really suggesting that the switch on a 3880 needs to be done weekly?  That's 6ml of ink for the round trip each week.  Only takes 12-13 weeks to burn through a cart's worth of ink.  How often should the switch be done to prevent ink settling in a K line that isn't in active use at the moment?

[QUOTE=jon;8570]Remove the cart and physically shake it (rather than the printer which you would have to do too violently for anyone to think you were sane - in order to shake the carts correctly).[/QUOTE]

This is sometimes recommended on this forum, see [here](http://www.inkjetmall.com/tech/showthread.php?1447-9900-Head-Problems&p=7429&viewfull=1#post7429).


You need to determine if in fact the ink that is in the PK cartridge is in FULL pigment suspension, you do this by taking the cartridge out of the printer and shaking it, as Jon explained, simple as that, no need to do ink K ink changes and print using the ink.

I suggested that you take the Ink from the PK cartridge (after physically removing it from the printer and shaking it) and SWAB test it on a piece of gloss paper, such as the IFGS and do the same with the SEL1 bottle of ink. I am suggesting this to eliminate the printer all together to determine if this is ink or printer. PLEASE let this air dry for at least 1 hour then apply a coat of GO and let dry again, then see if it smears off the paper with your finger.

After you have done this very simple test, we will have a better idea in which direction to go, for now I can only speculate what the possible causes could be.


This test will have to wait until Jeff is back on deck.

But I know that he is keen to get an answer to the question about how often to swap MK & PK in order to keep the printer healthy. This is an issue regardless of what the cause of the current problem is. Swapping more frequently than necessary is going to waste ink unnecessarily, and insufficiently often is likely to cause problems. What does IJM recommend?


Sometimes we can’t cure or fix everything. Jeff is having issues that are really unusual and they are outside of our experience (in terms of ink smearing through GO or staying wet when they should be dry). So, we don’t have an answer for this. Or an inkling of an idea. We have nothing to draw on from our experience within our own studio or with our customers.

I’m not saying that Jeff is a picture framer or anything like that - but I wanted to mention that we had a customer with very unusual problems. We just could not figure it out. So, we visited them as they were within a 90 minute drive from our offices. When we got there we noticed that the printers were all covered with fine sawdust. The customer turned out to be massive art picture printmaker and framer and they were printing in the framing woodshop. Everything was coated with fine sawdust - including the print heads of the printers. So, we could not solve this issue from our offices because the fine sawdust was not something we were aware of nor was the customer. The acid content of our inks was even being altered because the sink area in which they poured ink had funnels covered in fine sawdust that had never been rinsed (or rinsed before using). The fix was to remove the printers from the woodworking shop and to place them in an environment that was suitable for printmaking rather than woodworking. We would have assumed that would be common knowledge - but its not in all situations. We tend to ask a lot of questions on the forum of our customers - and often it is to eliminate the obvious (to us). Many things that are obvious to us are not so to our customers. Everyone has different levels of experience and understanding and we appreciate that.

Jeff is a little far for us to drive to. We’re just not understanding what is unique about his situation. Were we there - we may spot something obvious.

On the printer shaking - we do shake large format printers because the carts have a very large volume and about 10 inches of length for the ink to travel and slosh back and forth with the gentle shaking of the printer. On an 38XX you would have to shake it too violently to get the same effect. So, its a better practice to remove and shake gently. Were you to do the same gentle shake with a printer in hand as you would with the cart - it would be quite a violent shake. Rolling a pea back and forth at 20 revolutions per minute - or rolling an elephant back and forth at 20 revolutions per minute - are not the same. The former would be a gentle experience - the latter quite violent. It’s just a matter of scale in regards to the contents of the cart. So you would really have to shake the beejeezus out of an Epson 1400 to stir up the contents in the carts. You would appear as a mad man seething with rage. Were you in the USA you would probably be gunned down by neighbors. Certainly you would be subdued and held down until the EMT arrived to sedate you, move you to a psych hospital, and begin your evaluation. That little bit of time savings in removing the carts could cost you three months from work, alienate you from your pets and family, and subject you to poor hospital food, as well as a possible lobotomy. We’re a little cautious here in the USA, so we suggest removing the carts and shaking them.

So, lets say it is ink that has separated into various components in the ink line and cartridge because it has sat unused for three months. We would remove the cart, shake it, put it back in, run the black ink change, and then perform three POWER CLEANS. If you wish to conserve ink - we would run enough meter of material in single channel QTR Calibration mode printing until we saw the ink change. You should be able to see the differing appearance as you print full sheets of black. That would work too. BUT running ink through the printer with QTR Calibration mode is not the same as using the suction of the POWER CLEANS. It simply is a different matter of physics and does not permit the same ink exchange in the damper - and possibly the ink lines. THe physics of motion in allowing a liquid to seep in and causing a liquid to be sucked out are not as different as a pea and an elephant being rolled at 20 revolutions per minute - but you get my point and hopefully my humor. Sometimes you have to be light about things when the only other solution seems to be to pull one’s hair out (or violently shake a printer while screaming expletives at it!)

Printer shake or not shake?

All valid points, speaking just for myself. I haven’t visited his studio either yet, although he has been to mine several times.

I don’t understand the extent to which your last para answers the question of how often to swap MK & PK in order to keep the printer healthy, that is, the little-used K line healthy. Are you saying that a user may as well not worry about it and just do as you say when problems emerge? Three power cleans will consume a fair bit from all channels. Surely there’s a switch frequency that’s going to keep the line clear and waste less ink that the power cleans every three months.

If I were to get a 3880 for K7, and it’s still possible, I’d put WN1 in one K cart as a universal black and flush in other. But Jeff has too much NU1 & SEL1 for this to be economic.


An alternative could be to set the printer up as a Piezography2 printer and put the PK in the Yellow slot. Then you can just push it out with QTR and not worry about the ink exchanger or how it works or doesn’t work if you are not making glossy prints for three months.

Background…with long answer to your question. Epson requests in writing that you throw out their ink carts after six months. This is because of pigment settling. The time Jeff’s ink was allowed to sit was half its life of three months. Epson life is pigment settling life. In other words - Epson could tell its customers to remove the carts and shake them - but it’s more in their support and economic models to just say discard them. That way they do not have to deal with the support issue and also they get to sell more ink.

Hypothetically, what if Jeff did not make a glossy print for 3 years? Or 1 year? Or six months? Or three months? Or three weeks? What level of standards does Jeff wish to maintain in comparison to the economics of saving ink rather than maintaining consistency? It’s a headache to be sure - and a heartache to flush expensive ink into the waste box. But at what cost them to printing standards? So this is why I am suggesting he may wish to convert the printer from K7 to Piezography 2.

In the meantime, in other arts such as fine cooking - ingredients being fresh is critical not only for health reasons - but also preparation. No one drinks fine wine after the cork has been released and enjoys it in the same way days later. Darkroom chemicals are always mixed fresh. Old gas makes for grumpy snow blower operators, and so on and so forth. This is fine ink in a very high technology. You should want to keep everything in its prime condition if you wish to make very high standard prints. Partly we think that this is just good common sense.

We believe[/B] that ink needs to be agitated every two to three weeks in order to keep it in its best condition and more importantly - to allow prints made now to match prints made then or in the future. That is our best practice for our own studio. Your eyes may not be sensitive enough to see changes in color pigment settling (only because there are 100s of 1000s if not 1,000,000s of colors being printed). Very few humans are that color sensitive until it hits them hard. However, your eyes may be sensitive enough to see color pigment settling right away. It often depends upon the image. But, Piezography responds very quickly to density changes. You see it quickly for obvious reasons. e.g. when shade 17% begins looking like shades 18%, 19% and 20% you see the print flatten right away. It’s not a matter of some values of blue looking a little magenta while some greens seem just ever so cool and reds being both warmer or cooler, etc. Most of that is lost on color image viewers for a variety of reasons including good old gestalt. But Piezography reveals everything quickly.

In our studios we are printing about the same amount of matte and glossy. We do not have this headache. BUT - if we let a printer sit for 3 unexpected weeks whether Epson OEM, or ConeColor Pro, or Piezography inks - we do not hesitate to run an INITIAL INK CHARGE or three Power Cleans (on X880 printers). Why? Because of our high standards. That is the best practice.

How best to get fresh ink through the dampers of an Epson 3880

Many thanks to you all. Hospital food and oxycodone are centre stage for me at the moment, but I escape today. Then I will be able to return to my studio which is conveniently located in an asbestos factory.


As you can see, Jeff will be back in action shortly, and he can have his thread back. A couple of final remarks.

Contrary to what Epson say, all the printing and colour management nerds over at Lula claim that sedimentation is not a real world problem with OEM inks, except over the very long term. They are concerned about damage to the exit valve on the carts from being continuously inserted and removed. However piezo inks certainly need agitation. Have you had any problems with the exit valve on your carts from them being inserted and removed multiple times?

The 3880 is not listed as a suitable printer for P2, or more correctly P2 is not necessary for the 3880. But it is an option, and as you say, for some usage it’s the better option. Perhaps the P2 option for the 3880 should be promoted in situations where one K is used much more often than the other?? Ditto for the WN1 option.

It’s still an option for me, should I pick up one of the few remaining 880s in this part of the world. Personally, I wonder if it’s worth the trouble of running non-standard curves in order to have ready access to both blacks, when WN1 does such a good job as a universal black. Conversion now for Jeff is costly, whereas switching to WN1 is less costly.

Which brings me to something I said elsewhere - many of us here are not running a professional printing house, and what we need is real world advice, based on your experiences, rather than being told to emulate Cone Studios. I said back then that “[I]many of us have to make decisions about value-for-money and find the best way to operate within the constraints we face[/I]”. That still applies.