When your prints come out looking completely different than last time, it makes for a frustrating morning.
This morning I tried to print with my MacBook Pro fresh of an update to Catalina, the latest software it can run. The first print came out looking odd. So I compared it to a previous print, and my color memory was correct, it did not print properly.
Time to start troubleshooting. I picked a second photo and printing it, triple checking that I chose all the correct settings. Same problem. So I print it again with a different profile to see if the profile is the problem. Still wrong. SO I try it on a completely different paper and profile. Still wrong. Possible root causes are going through my mind this whole time.
Maybe it’s the ink starvation issue I had when this printer was new that caused one of the colors to drop out? So I pulled out the special test sheet made specifically for this purpose. The colors didn’t match, but they all printed. So probably not that. Another sheet of paper burned with no fix.
I’m about six sheets of paper in at this point, and that is always frustrating because I hate wasting paper and money. But burning paper is part of troubleshooting a printer so I fordge ahead. And my heart rate is going up as I think about at best spending the next day or so remaking profiles, or at worst dropping $800+ on a new print head and the ink needed to install it.
With this latest piece of data, I realize I’m chasing my tail, and before I go down the road of more involved solutions, I need to try printing from a different computer to isolate if this is software or hardware related. Time to fire up the mac mini that I had validated last week as “working.”
Eureka! That fixed it. My heart rate goes down, no need to buy an expensive print head to fix it, or reprofile all my papers.
So what happened? Likely a software issue when I updated my MacBook Pro, probably the print driver. A reinstall of the print driver with the latest version should fix it. But that can wait for another day when I’m not trying to make Christmas presents.
Today’s difficulties are one of the reasons I am very cautious about major updates to my computers. Updates cause issues and deviations from the carefully controlled environment needed to make consistent, accurate prints.
Furthermore, my printer and monitor rely on third party apps to work correctly, and it’s common for vendors to take months after a major software update to write new ones that are compatible. NEC had to write the Spectraview app I use to calibrate my monitor, and IIRC it was months after OS 11 came out. Not good…I couldn’t go without my calibrated monitor for even a few days.
So some takeaways from this.
1. Software changes and or updates can cause changes to how your printer prints color, so only update when you have time to troubleshoot the problems it can cause. Expect problems and the need to revalidate your printing setup after updating system software or print drivers. In general, it is best to wait at least six months after a major system software update to upgrade to give time for the bugs to be worked out. Identify all mission critical software and ensure it works properly with the OS you are updating to. And it helps to have a way to be able to “roll back” to your old system software if the new version doesn’t work.
2. Diagnosing problems is much easier if you have test prints that validate previous printer settings so you can compare your new setup to your previous approved setup. I find few people do this, but it’s a vital part of my workflow. And a reminder that I need to finish the curriculum for my color management workshop.
3.It’s helpful to have two different computers you can print from to test if a problem is printer or computer related. This also helps during software updates because it gives you a way to continue printing from a known setup while troubleshooting issues. This helped save my bacon today.
Had I not had a second computer to print from, I might have started more invasive fixes that still wouldn’t have worked because I’m working from a fault tree that is in my head. So maybe my next step is to create a printed fault tree to help me solve these problems instead of having to tease out the answer every time and risk missing a critical fault finding step.