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Iris Prints

Iris prints are photographs produced by a type of large-format inkjet printer manufactured by a division of the Eastman Kodak company. Iris printers are named after the Iris Graphics Company that developed it in the early 1980s. The printer is capable of producing a small proof image prior to executing the rest of a printing, so that digital adjustments to color can be made if necessary.

Iris printers can create reproductions of a wide variety of medium, as the machine interfaces with professional photo-editing software. The printer has been used since the 1980s primarily for industrial purposes, and as the reproductions are high resolution and the colors particularly vivid, artists quickly began to investigate the use of the machine for fine art purposes. The resolution is achieved by a continuous flow of ink under high pressure that does not result in the dots that other types of inkjet printers produce.

Though the inks used in early Iris printers were particularly vulnerable to fading, technological advances have resulted in prints that are stable and archival in quality. Iris inkjet prints can be found in commercial galleries and are now used in the creation of fine art photography editions, and are seen as a higher quality alternative to offset lithography process for reproduction.

Quick Facts

  • Artist Campbell Laird experimented with the inconsistencies that resulted from a poor interface between an Iris printer and a type of digital software. The resolution was so high that he chose to print over the image many times, creating beautiful, intricate web-like designs
  • Digital reproduction company Nash Editions championed the use of the Iris printer for fine art purposes and was first to coin the term "giclée" prints, to separate Iris prints from the association with cheap, computer-generated industrial and commercial uses
  • The first Iris printer used by Nash Editions, and the first of its prints to be published, is in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum of American History

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