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About ConeColor Pro Inks


Non-Clogging: The Only 3rd Party Encapsulated Pigment Ink

Encapsulated Pigment ParticleConeColor was first formulated in 2005 using the same pigment particle encapsulation technology employed in Piezography K7 inks. In 2011, we reformulated ConeColor to increase the dMax and glossiness and re-released it as PRO. Pigment encapsulation is exceedingly rare, and it is a cost-intensive process. Both Epson and HP do it. What is even more rare, is that a 3rd party ink company has been able to develop this technology independently. Vermont PhotoInkjet is the only third-party ink company in the world that has independently developed pigment encapsulation.

Vermont PhotoInkjet pigment particles are actually encased inside of a micro-thin layer of acrylic co-polymer to form an encapsulation (like the hard candy shell of an M&M candy). This encapsulation insulates the static charge of the pigment particle and is the #1 reason why ConeColor inks are clog-free. Encapsulation also produces smoother printing due to superior ink droplet shearing.

Although ConeColor Pro and Epson Ultrachrome inks are encapsulated with much better dispersion stability than ordinary pigment inks, it is a requirement to shake them to get smooth dispersion quality and to re-form the proper viscosity of the ink. This is why we always ask, and why Epson always asks its users to secure the printing quality by shaking the ink. This will avoid clogging and color shifting, while maintaining a trouble-free ink.

Superior Color Matching

Jon Cone took a unique approach to developing a color match to the notoriously impossible to match Epson inks. Rather than try and match color by color, Cone achieved a match to Epson when printed through Epson's own color management workflow. The color space between ConeColor and Epson is the closest match of any 3rd party inks. The results speak for themselves!

You can change out Epson inks for ConeColor PRO inks one position at a time. You can continue using Epson ICC profiles. For many printer models, we have produced extensive ICC profile libraries for 3rd party media such as Canson, Hahnemuhle, Innova, JonCone Studio, and Moab papers.

Installation

ConeColor ink is so compatible with Epson Ultrachrome ink, that you will not need to flush out the Epson inks before installing ConeColor. You can actually change one ink position at a time so that you do not need to waste any of your current ink supplies. However, if you are currently using another 3rd party ink formula in your printer - it is very wise to either power clean or flush out the other 3rd party brand of inks. Some of these brands are known to be incompatible with ConeColor or and Piezography (our two encapsulated formulas)- such as Lyson branded inks. Lyson inks should be removed from the printer by performing two Power Cleans (on pre-X900 printers), or an ink INIT FILL on X900 printers (also the R3000).

Epson recommends that their ink should be discarded no later than six months after first use. ConeColor inks are designed to be used in printers for up to a year provided that they are used regularly and shaken gently every few weeks. The bottles should be stored tightly capped and the shelf life is at least two years. Always shake the ink for 10-15 seconds prior to pouring into of syringe filling cartridges. Allow the ink to settle for a few moments prior to pouring or filling.

Ink cartridges tend to all look alike because many of the parts used in ink cartridge manufacturing come from just a few sources. They are however, assembled by many different companies combining many different parts from other sources - and the actual printabilty of the cartridge can vary as widely as the companies responsible for assembling them. We only sells cartridges made by the actual factories which have developed the moulds for all of the components of the cartridge. All of the parts internal and external come from one source, and are finish assembled by the same source. This produces the best cartridge. The chips on all of our cartridges are made for us by the best semiconductor company in Asia. These chips, made to our specs, are assembled onto the cartridges we provide. We can support our cartridges. Please understand that we can not support cartridges not sourced from Vermont PhotoInkjet.

Cost Savings

The average large-format customer purchases 4 sets of OEM ink per year at a low street price of $2,848. The equivalent amount of ConeColor ink, including the reusable cart system costs only $1,094 or a savings of 62%. The second year's cost of ConeColor ink is only $796 or a savings of 73%. In two years time, the average customer will have saved $3,806 and will not have thrown away 64 empty plastic ink carts and the enormous amount of packaging and shipping materials that accompany such purchases. ConeColor bottles are recyclable and require only a rinse. The ConeColor packaging is minimal. 

You Can Choose to Be Green

It is estimated that Americans throw away more than 450 million ink carts a year. Many still contain valuable ink. The OEM designs them so that they cannot be refilled. The consumer is left with the choice of throwing the cart away or having it incinerated by an OEM "recycling" program. We conceived ConeColor inks as an environmentally-friendly product. We supply a simple to use, transparent polyethylene cartridge that can be filled over and over again. For some model printers, the cartridge does not need to have its ink use recording chip reset. For some model printers, we supply a chip resetter. The customer needs only one set of refillable carts for the lifetime of their printer. Ink refills are available in minimal packaging ranging from 60ml to 5000ml, reducing wasteful packaging materials even further. The bottles are recyclable.

While the cartridges are designed to last the lifetime of a printer, the small semi-conductor chips can only be reset so many times. Also, being prone to static failure and shorting...you can expect to replace the the ink use recording chip on your cartridges from time to time. We supply these at a very low cost. Some of our customers prefer to use a new chip each time, rather than to use a chip resetter. They make this choice to insure they have a "new" cartridge each time they refill it.

We are a Company that Practices What it Preaches, and Preaches What it Practices

Vermont PhotoInkjet (inkjetmall.com) operates in the same building as Cone Editions Press. The R&D facility of Vermont PhotoInkjet is located in this same building. The synergistic relationship between developing printing methodology and developing inkjet materials directly benefits you, the customer. Our technical support is second to none.

ConeColor is designed by Jon Cone who has a long distinguished history in inkjet as both an innovator and one of its most highly regarded practitioners. Since 1984, he has continuously operated the world's first digital fine art printmaking studio, Cone Editions Press. Cone was IRIS Graphics Development and Marketing Partner for Fine Arts from 1994-1997 providing equipment, ConeTech software and fine arts inks, and training for 45 of the USA‘s first fine art Giclée studios including David Adamson Editions, Hunter Fine Art, MuseX Editions, Robert Rauschenberg, SaffTech, UDC, The Cook Editions and many, many more. Cone established InkjetMall (now Vermont PhotoInkjet)  in 1999. Since 2000, his Piezography carbon black & white inkjet systems have been second to none and spurred b&w efforts by Canon, HP and Epson.

Cone has continuously been setting the standards in photographic and fine art printmaking producing Gordon Parks' "Half Past Autumn" color prints for the Corcoran (one of the earliest digital museum exhibitions) and Richard Avedon's last living portfolio "In Memory of the Late Mr. & Mrs. Comfort". From 2005 to 2008, Cone developed the inks and printing methodology for Gregory Colbert's monumental "Ashes and Snow" Nomadic Museum exhibitions in Santa Monica, Tokyo and Mexico City which drew more than 10 million viewers - a record for an art exhibition.

ConeColor Pro Longevity and Indoor Lighting

This paper is intended to address ConeColor PRO ink longevity when displayed in various indoor lighting conditions.

Background

ConeColor PRO inks have been developed by Vermont PhotoInkjet to imitate the color gamut of the Epson Ultrachrome K3, K3 Vivid and HDR inks when used with the Epson printer driver and Epson recommended color workflow. Normally, third party ink developers attempt to match each individual ink component and hope for good results at the end. Because Epson uses proprietary pigments coupled with high-performance dyes in each of their inks, it is not actually possible to perfectly color match in this traditional manner. Further, the proprietary nature of their pigment/dye hybrids means that there are not correspondingly available pigments on the market with which a formulator can work with. Competing color inks to ConeColor simply do not have good color matches to Epson and require the use of ICC profiles.

Vermont PhotoInkjet took another path to development that centered on the actual color gamut produced by the Epson printer driver. Because Epson produces such an intense and difficult to match ink, its own printer driver has to reduce the actual maximum ink density in order to properly reproduce a traditional RGB image. Vermont PhotoInkjet chose to match the actual gamut of the Epson ink systems as produced by the Epson drivers. As a result of producing such a close color match, a user of ConeColor PRO inks can use the Epson supplied ICC profiles. 

Many Indoor Locations Are Unsafe for Dye Inks but are Safe for Pigment Inks

Kodak indicates that 120 Lux is the limit of safe display conditions for dye color photographs and that 90% of all color photographs are displayed in 120 Lux or less. Wilhelm indicates that 450 Lux is the limit of safe display conditions for color pigment photographs. An interior room in a house lit indirectly by incandescent light is considered to be 120 Lux. Museums are limited to 50 Lux (for comparison). Bright offices are about 450 Lux but often much brighter. A print displayed at 450 Lux has only 25% of the longevity it would have if it were displayed at 120 Lux. A print displayed at 5000 Lux would have less than 3% of the longevity it would have had it been displayed at 120 Lux.

A good perspective to keep in mind in comparing dye inks to pigment inks is that it would take years to damage a pigment print displayed in an unsafe condition, whereas the same display condition might deteriorate a dye print in just weeks. Another perspective to keep in mind is that museums display at 50 Lux or lower and although much dimmer than a safe display condition of 120 Lux, it is more than adequate for viewing artwork. Galleries, because they are trying to sell work, almost always display artwork in an unsafe level of illumination. They are terrible examples to follow if you wish to preserve the artwork you purchase from them.

Longevity Testing

How long a print lasts is the subject of much controversy. OEM’s boast significantly high numbers. Most OEM ink and media users believe that their prints will not fade for 100 years if the OEM claims that a specific ink/media combination has a longevity rating of 100 years. However, that is simply not what the OEM is actually reporting. What they are reporting is that at 100 years, the print will have so badly faded to a 35% loss, that anyone can easily detect the fade. The term “easily detected fade” is used to describe the endpoint that the OEMs are using for their fade ratings – and it is an industry standard endpoint.

The industry standard WIR Visually-Weighted Endpoint Criteria Set v3.0 which is used by all the major printer OEM’s to give their longevity ratings does not measure for fade in neutrals, flesh tones, near neutrals, near whites, mixed colors, saturated colors, the paper, etc. What the industry standard tests by Wilhelm do measure are simple densitometric changes in a 1.0 and 0.60 density patch each of cyan, magenta, yellow and three color black. When any one of these patches has faded about 35%, assumptions are made on all other possible colors and a longevity result in years is given for when the print will have faded about 35%.

While a research scientist at Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR), Mark McCormick-Goodhart (Aardenburg) invented the WIR i-Star, a new test method based on CEILAB colorimetry for evaluating the permanency of photographic images. The WIR i-Star uses a complex color target that is measured with a color spectrophotometer rather than with a densitometer.


The WIR v3.0 standard test target on the left, the WIR i-Star test target on the right.

The WIR i-Star is the most advanced method for evaluating the light stability of inks and making longevity predictions. Some of the other benefits of using WIR i-Star are that fade results for the first time can be compared in prints that use different ICC profiles (yes it makes a difference), or from cartridges that are in different stages of nearing exhaustion (yes it makes a difference), or to determine when the OBAs in a paper will affect the color appearance of an image (yes it makes a difference). Most importantly, the i-Star can be used to determine when fade will first be visible (about 5%), or/and when it has reached 35% fade, or/and many intervals in between.

Unfortunately, the OEMs are still not using WIR i-Star for their current longevity ratings. There is no way to know if that is by choice, request, the expense of performing i-Star, or because an i-Star would reveal fade levels far below the industry standard 35% and upset consumer expectations that have been established. The costs of producing i-Star tests is exceedingly expensive when compared to the current fluorescent bulb v3.0 tests.

IMHO, replacing the current density based CMY testing method and target of WIR v3.0 with the color and luminosity based WIR i-Star target and measurement method but keeping the 35% fade point would be a great interim move by the OEMs. They could then give a fade rating based upon fade that can first be detected (about 5%) by visually trained humans and a second rating based upon when it is easily detected by any human (35%). An OEM longevity rating might be something like 13 – 120 years. It would force more of the responsibility on the consumer to read the actual data. The i-Star is also designed to give varying lengths of longevity in varying display conditions. The consumer looks up their needs within the data and has a clear idea of a display prediction for their display condition. Further, if they bias their needs on portraits, or black & white made with color inks, or very saturated color they will find that some media/ink combinations actually have better or worse results in these areas. It is as near perfect a system as it is complicated. Unfortunately, the measurement of paper white causes a bias against the inks in the lighter shades. While it informs what happens to the OBAs in the paper - it may give a poor impression of the performance of the ink. It is this area which will require more work in the near future. Incidentally, the WIR v3.0 does not measure paper white or near white.

Our Experience

Vermont PhotoInkjet began utilizing the Wilhelm Imaging Research WIR i-Star beta several years ago. By using i-Star, we are able to effectively evaluate what changes to individual color positions will do to the overall light stability of an ink set as it relates to the entire color gamut of a print. It actually helped us to develop many of our new stable dye ink sets.

We did not use the i-Star to make longevity predictions based upon the industry standard “easily recognizable fade” of 35%. We believe that 35% fade is not a criteria for professional artists and photographers. Rather we faded samples of both ConeColor PRO and Epson Ultrachrome until both samples had faded at least 5% (where humans first detect fading). We used a late generation Atlas accelerated testing chamber that is filtered to simulate sunlight through window glass. The unit is temperature controlled (stays cool inside while generating tons of heat which we vent outside). The amount of light energy the targets receive is measured and controlled by a computer to compensate for fluctuations due to either electrical load or bulb decay. We use an automated x-Rite DTP70 measuring system. The DeltaE differences are calculated using X-Rite Measure Tool which compares faded targets to targets kept in safe dark storage.

The two following i-Star visual measurement sets are for Epson Ultrachrome and ConeColor PRO.


I. Epson Ultrachrome at 133 years at 120 lux exposure (4.0% to 5.3% fade) 

Epson Ultrachrome K3 on Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper
  • # delta94 Average/Standard deviation : 5.13/4.00 

  • # delta1 Average/Standard deviation : 1.27/0.69 

  • # delta2 Average/Standard deviation : 5.22/7.38 

  • # delta3 Average/Standard deviation : 5.11/5.65


I. ConeColor PRO at 133 years at 120 lux exposure (3.75% to 7.95% fade) 

ConeColor on Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper
  • # delta94 Average/Standard deviation : 7.95/3.75

  • # delta1 Average/Standard deviation : 4.62/1.65 

  • # delta2 Average/Standard deviation : 6.88/8.93 

  • # delta3 Average/Standard deviation : 6.70/5.64

Criteria
  • Light Source: Atlas Suntest+ Irradiance of 765 W/M2 which equals 170 KLux or 170,000 Lux *

  • Filter/Glazing: Simulation of Sunlight through Window Glass

  • Light Exposure Cycle: 411.6 hours - one period.

  • Average Illuminance during “on” cycle: 170,000 Lux

  • Average Temperature: 24 ̇C over full test duration

  • CIELAB measurements: D50 2 ̇ observer, Xrite Gretag/Macbeth 

Spectrolino/Spectroscan

We stopped the i*metric test when both of the inks arrived at a deltaE difference of 5 (or a 5% fade). At 70 Megalux the 3 of the 31 Epson ink test patches reached deltaE 5 and all of the test patches averaged 4.0. At 70 Megalux 3 of the ConeColor patches reached deltaE 7.95 and all of the test patches averaged 3.75. 70 Megalux is equivalent to 70 years in a moderately bright home.

Longevity Ratings

Below are ConeColor PRO longevity expectations* in regards to varying levels of illumination (lux) at 12 hours per day from safe display conditions to extremely abusive display conditions:

Light Amount ConeColor Pro UltraChrome (Pre HDx)
50 lux Museum Conditions
325 years until 7.95% fade
325 years until 5.3% fade
120 lux interior room house
133 years until 7.95% fade
133 years until 5.3% fade
A brightly lit interior room at 228 lux
70 years until 7.95% fade
70 years until 5.3% fade
A very brightly lit home room or commercial office building at 450 lux reduces the life expectancy
35 years until 7.95% fade
35 years until 5.3% fade
A room that is brightly lit for task work, or for studying at 1000 lux reduces the life expectancy
3.5 years until 7.95% fade
3.5 years at 5.3%
A commercial gallery at 2000lux reduces the life expectancy
8 years until 7.95% fade
8 years until 5.3% fade

Increasing the exposure from 12 hours or decreasing the exposure from 12 hours can increase or decrease display life.

All of the above are indoor environments. Some inkjet printer operators may consider any of these environments to be the same because they are all indoors. However, the intensity of the light is directly proportional to the amount of fade. Time is the constant. Where 35% fade is the current industry standard endpoint used by all OEMs testing at WIR and indicate "easily recognizable fade", we have tested these "fine art and photographic" inks to a minimum 5% fade which is the amount of fade that is first recognizable. Where a100 year rating from EPSON is for when the ink/media combination will have faded 35%. the above ratings are for when fade is first noticeable.

Actual print stability will vary according to image, display conditions, light intensity, ICC profile, RIP or driver settings, humidity, and atmospheric conditions. Vermont PhotoInkjet, LLC does not guarantee longevity of prints. Ratings do not estimate the durability of the media or paper itself—paper durability is the elephant in the room and will be discussed on a different section of this site. For maximum print life, display all prints under glass or properly store them in archival conditions, use uncoated acid-free and lignin-free paper for best practices.

ConeColor Pro for Epson Printers