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Inks and Ink Usage FAQs

Ink Starvation

This term given is to the event when ink stops flowing to a print head. Usually a symptom of “external refillable bottle systems” it can sometimes apply to “inset refillable ink tanks” as well. If at anytime ink stops flowing to the print head resulting in streaky printing or no ink flow at all unplug the air hole and ink fill hole plugs leaving the system open to air. This generally repairs any air bound situation allowing the ink to flow again. It is ok to run the printer with the ink fill hole unplugged. Plugs are generally used to prevent spillage during transportation and handling.

Blotchy results – Some users of Ulano PIJF film have reported blotches of ink across films after converting to a refillable ink system. The specific reason is that Ulano PIJF film (Pigment Inkjet Film) is not for DYE ink, it’s for Pigment ink, it can not quickly absorb the water based dye ink. Therefore even a small amount of excess ink will build up on the print head then drip as it moves across the film. Many users have made settings changes in AccuRIP over time. The key is to return AccuRIP back to default settings then print a Droplet Weight Density test print page to determine best settings. Blotches and drips can be avoided by using a proper dye compatible film such as Freehand’s DarkStar brand. With properly matches supplies clean results are guaranteed.  (Add link to our more detailed list of tech advice).


Desktop printers – desktop printers are “drop in style” printers meaning they have little to no reserve of ink in the print head making them easy to switch between color and black dye ink systems. Generally the inks are fully exchanged after a single head cleaning.

Refillable All Black Ink systems use “auto reset” chips. These chips reset to 100% full reading after they display an out of ink message. Removing the tanks, filling with new ink then installing back into the printer is all that is needed to reset the ink counter to 100%.

Auto reset chips can be removed and replaced as many times as needed or desired without the chip counter being reset. Chips retain the ink levels until it reads out of ink. The next removal and install at that time will reset the ink counter to 100%.

No chip resetter is required with Auto Reset chips.

Wide Format printers – these style printers have long hoses that reach from the stationary ink tanks to the print head. The long hoses hold a good amount of ink and must remain free of air at all times.

Installing a Dmax Black Dye ink system, for the first time it is best to power clean the portion of the print head the inks are installed into. Handled on the front control panel of the printer it takes generally 15 cleaning to fully exchange the ink in the hose for the new Dmax dye ink.

When dye ink reaches the print head your prints will be noticeably darker and more durable. Print test pages every 5 cleaning until you see a difference.

T3200 series users that load a refillable tank into the Matte slot can clean the matte slot alone from the front control panel of the printer.

Sometimes Epson forces firmware updates on printers that can cause a chip to stop operating. Freehand has replacement chips.

Refillable Ink Systems

Older two-part ink systems and one-time use tanks have been replaced by more efficient and eco-friendly refillable ink systems that dramatically drop the cost per print.

Freehand provides refillable Ink Master Kits for the following printers:
Epson 1430/1400/1500W
Epson P400
Epson 4900
Epson T3270 (matte slot only system)
Canon Pixma Pro-100

Unexpected Print Results

When the results on the film are unexpected, or unacceptable you can do some quick tests to determine why this is happening. The top user issues are:

• halftones appear/do not appear on film
• halftones wrong size/shape
• too much ink on the film (puddling/dripping)
• not enough ink on the film
• nothing prints on the film

Understanding why…
AccuRIP and Separation Studio 4 are engineered to print files to film and have built in controls. While a users first thought is the software is not working properly, the answer is either in the selections made by the user, or the film/ink selections. While it may be easy to blame software or an ink system, the answers are generally not the result of either in regards to engineering quality/ability.

Halftones happen (or don’t) based on the data in the file. At any time the art file uses process (cmyk) colors, or a spot color that has been tinted (1-99%) or has a gradient/blend then a halftone will be produced. The type, size and angle of the halftone is determined by the user settings in the RIP or Print Commander. Check the setup and edit as needed. One of the most common misconceptions of users is that a RIP can incorrectly process or change file data when it can not. RIPs pass the file data over to the printer. The RIP can’t think.

When too much ink appears on film the first step to take is to reset back to the default settings and then print a Droplet Weight Density Test Print (DWDTP) from the software. You will then have all the available droplet weights at the resolution the RIP is set at. Select the best one and then lock it into the settings of the software. Another common issue of too much ink is created by film brand/type selection. When you print with DYE INK such as Freehand’s Dmax Ink you will get the best results from Dye Film. Some manufacturers will market their film as dual purpose (pigment and dye) when the fact it it will produce the best results on one and adequate or poor results on the other. Ulano’s PIJF, for example, is Pigment Inkjet Film. Use this brand with pigment ink. You will be improve your print results and production by selecting Dye Film and Dye Ink.

When not enough ink is laid down you can be suffering from ink starvation, low/no ink or a clog. Ink starvation is discussed in a previous tab. Check your ink levels noting that Epson reported levels can be incorrect. A visual inspection is best. A pattern nozzle check may be useful to determine if a clog exists (minor or severe). Use a cleaner such as Amaze-Ink for clear/address a clog.

When nothing prints on the film yet the film comes out of the printer send in a tech ticket to determine the cause. A corrupt file or a PostScript Error in the file often prevents a file from printing altogether. Clear a stuck file. Then print a simple graphic like a square to check the driver connection. When that file prints you may have a file with a bad font, too many anchor points or another PostScript issue. Convert the fonts, rasterize the file or do a google search about PostScript file errors. Sometimes copying the elements to a new page will resolve the issue.

Additional Tabs on this page to review:
• Ink Starvation
• Files NOT Printing
• Same/Wrong File is Printing
• Streaking/Banding Appears on Film

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