The National Portrait Gallery in London last month revealed its new dedicated print on demand kiosk in the Gallery shop with its Epson Stylus Pro 4880 taking centre stage. This large format printer is used to produce high quality prints on satin paper and canvas with a choice of A4, A3 and A2 sizes for the customer to take away.
With 70,000 images available, a visitor uses the touch screen to browse by artist, sitter or collection. Once they have chosen their image, they are asked to make a size selection, which also displays the price, and after confirming the choice, pays at the till. Once payment is taken, the staff member changes the paper tray accordingly and releases the relevant print queue to output the print. The process from payment to production takes only a few minutes, and even if the customer has ordered multiple copies at different sizes, the maximum wait time is 30 minutes.
The Gallery has another printer in its basement warehouse, which usually fulfils website orders, but can be called upon to assist should the demand become excessive. Retail Operations Manager Rebecca Hossain says: “There is a huge surge in demand each summer when we have the BP Portrait Award exhibition. All the entries are available as prints and they are very popular. One of the reasons we chose the Epson printer is its reliability. Even though we produce well over 8,000 prints over the 363 days we are open each year, we never have a problem with it. It is extraordinary that it just keeps on going.” The machine is well looked after, however, with staff checking it and the stock of ink and media each morning.
Some of the portraits on display are extremely well known and the quality of the prints is of paramount importance. “The Stylus Pro range has the best reputation for quality, which was confirmed by our independent research and the fact that we have used Epson printers very happily for five years. And we also have the evidence right here,” explains Hossain. “A lot of pictures here are family portraits and some of those who visit know the paintings very well. If the colour is wrong, they will know. Our visitors literally have great expectations of what they expect from the print service.” The Stylus Pro 4880 uses Epson’s UltraChrome K3 Vivid Magenta 8/9-colour ink set, which gives an exceptionally wide colour gamut and therefore the quality required by the National Portrait Gallery.
The touch screen in the kiosk is driven by Picture Cabinet, image management software that is supplied by Cabinet UK. When the image is chosen it is sent to a web application at the till for payment and then sent to the print queue using Java. This adds white space around the image, the National Portrait Gallery’s copyright information and the name of the artist and the title of the painting. The printer is driven by a Fuji RIP and the print, if not canvas, is produced on Epson’s satin paper.
“People can come from far and wide to see the portraits. They have an attachment to their visit and enjoy taking a memento, a part of the Gallery, home with them,” says Hossain. “It is very much a growth area which is why the special print on demand kiosks were installed. The fast service, the quality and turnaround is key.”