Friday, August 19, 2011

Printing Paper on the Cricut Imagine

Many people seem to be buying Imagine machines and getting very good prices recently.  I don't know how many of my readers have one of these machines, but I thought I'd share a bit about my experiences with printing paper with the Imagine.  There are some things about the Imagine that I like a lot and other things that frustrate me.  I have never been able to get the calibration to be perfect for an entire sheet of 12 x 12 paper.  I decided to try again to see if I can get my machine to produce the kind of results I expected from the start.  As the Cricut CraftRoom online design tool continues to be tested and updated I have high hopes that eventually I will be able to do some of the things I'd like to do with this technology.

When I first learned about the types of cartridges that could be used in the Imagine I was very surprised to find out that the "color and pattern" cartridges had only 20 items on each cartridge and that the suggested retail price was $59.99.  I thought this was far too much to pay for a few pieces of digital paper - particularly since there are usually repeated patterns in different colorways.  The suggested retail price seems to be $39.99 now (at least that is the price on the site) which is still too high for my liking.  I discovered that you can often find these cartridges on eBay and, if you are patient, you can get much better prices.  I have purchased three of these cartridges in the last week or so at an average price of $8.11  - less than I often pay for some scrapbooking magazines.

The cartridges have arrived and I decided to test them out and print some sample papers.  If you just want to print the full pattern on a 12 x 12 paper, you select the "print paper" icon on this screen.

Then you simply choose the paper you want to print and when it appears in the blank page, press next and follow the directions to proceed.  The machine actually does an overspray to insure that the paper is fully covered.  The instructions tell you to clean the mat after each printing - more about that in a bit...

One of the cartridges I bought was the Heirloom cartridge.  I printed a few 12 x 12 pages and I was disappointed in the printing - it looked odd and faded to me compared to the book.  I thought that maybe this was intentional but I was starting to regret my purchase (even though I had paid a low price for the cartridge).

Snapshot Everyday was the next cartridge I tried.  This time I just set up squares from the built in shapes on the machine and filled them with a few of the papers.  These were the results - not at all what I expected them to be!  When I looked at these images, I knew that something had to be wrong and I suspected that there was a problem with the black ink cartridge since the prints did not appear to have any black.

I went to the settings screen to check and see if either of the cartridges were getting empty but they both had a green thumbs up for OK ink levels.  So, I decided to try the "clean print heads" in the hopes that maybe something was just a bit dried up or clogged since I haven't used the machine for quite a while (since June I think!).

I printed the same sample squares again and the difference was obvious!  These images, when printed with the proper ink are very bright and really pop from the page.  Here are some side by side comparisons just to show you how different the print looks after the machine did the print head cleaning.

 I was very relieved to find that there was a simple solution to the problem and that I didn't have defective cartridges.  I never thought I'd like the Snapshot cartridges but I can see a lot of ways to use these images that I think will be fun to share.

 I decided to go back and reprint the 12 x 12 pages from the Heirloom cartridge and the difference was clear (first print on the left, print after cleaning on the right).

 Once again, the lack of black made a huge difference in the look of the paper.

 This was the only page that didn't have a dramatic difference when I reprinted - the design uses very little black ink.

I had convinced myself that it would be OK to print several sheets without cleaning the mat edges each time - and it was...until I managed to smudge ink on my clean paper.  The amount of overspray is small but it does stay wet for a while.  If you leave it too long it will dry and be harder to remove.  So, I think it is fine to do a few pages in a row without wiping the edges, as long as you are careful not to smudge, but you should not delay in cleaning the edge when you finish.  The dark lines created could confuse the machine when it is calibrating for a print and cut operation.

I went ahead and printed on my smudged paper.  Many of the papers available  in the Imagine cartridges are "distressed" and I thought the smudge would blend in - and it did.

All you need to clean the mat is some water on a paper towel.  The ink comes off easily and, even though I printed several times before cleaning, there were no problems.

I had fun printing off a few more papers.  This aspect of the Imagine was something that I didn't think would appeal to me but I really like being able to print full pages.  If I could use this machine as a 12 x 12 printer to print my digital scrapbook pages and my own digital papers I would be a very happy crafter.  I "imagine" that this won't happen since the closed system promotes the sale of dedicated cartridges.  If we were free to use our own digital content, either the price of the cartridges would have to drop significantly or a lot more content would have to be included. 

After my marathon printing session, I finally got this warning screen for low ink in the color cartridge.  I have never changed my ink cartridges since I got the machine last October so it really did last a long time.  I decided to keep printing until I see a loss of image quality since these warning tend to be premature and I don't want to waste any ink.  I was able to get some ink cartridges through the Cricut Rewards program so I will be ready to switch them when the printing is no longer acceptable.

If you have an Imagine machine or are thinking about getting one and have questions, please leave me a comment and I'll do my best to help.  I will also share my experiences with the Silhouette SD machine which is excellent for printing and cutting.  With the Silhouette, you print on your regular printer and the machine uses three registration marks to align the cutting path.  I have had great results with this system and I can use my own content but the size is limited.  If the new 12 x 12 Silhouette Cameo machine coming out this fall has an equally accurate print and cut capability it will be tough competition for the Imagine.

Hello Thursday - one new cartridge...

After a few months with an overwhelming number of cartridges released, the August Hello Thursday announcement was a bit of a surprise.  The only cartridge released this month is a new Teresa Collins Halloween seasonal cartridge called "Chic and Scary."  You can see the Look Book and other information about this cartridge HERE.  Click on the orange cartridge box on the shelf near the top left.

If you click on the shelves in the center you will find eight cartridges that "may be retiring forever" - the cartridges are My World, Playtime, Sesame Street Friends, Disney Hanna(h) Montana, Jolly Holidays, Disney Princess Dreams Come True, Cupcake and Inspired Heart.

When I checked last night there was still no update in Design Studio to add the cartridges after the June 23rd release.  I'll let you now when I see them added - I check every few days.

Have a great Friday - I will have some company today and I think we may do some crafting together...

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  1. I have an Imagine, I just haven't used it in months because of a move. I hope to get back to it soon. I would love more info on the Silhouette. If I had a picture of a racecar could I print it and then the Silhouette could cut it out.

  2. Read your blog everyday. Very interesting info on the Imagine and looking forward to your thoughts about the Silhouette. I have NO idea what it does and how it works. I am still a Design Studio girl. I'm trying to use the Gypsy. I've had it for almost a year and can't get into it :)
    Nancy Jr

  3. Thanks for the great info! I haven't bought the imagine, because frankly it's just too expensive for me, then the cost of the ink. Yikes! But I do enjoy being up on all the current news and you certainly help a ton with that!
    Thanks and have fun crafting!

  4. Thank you--I really appreciate your Imagine article today--hope you have more in the future. I have been waiting for the price to decrease enough to purchase one. Appreciate the updates, with great photos--hope to see more.

  5. Recently I considered the Imagine as the price is lower but am presently struggling with the E2. Heard today, on the business channel, that HP is going out of the computer business so where does that leave the ink cartridge availability in the future? Please give more info in the Silhouette. This info is why your blog is so superior to others. Sincerely, Joan Murphins

  6. When the Imagine first came out, I thought there was no way I would ever want one but lately I have been swaying. Especially when I can't find the perfect paper that I need!

  7. Thank you for all the information you provide. I have been inspired by many of your projects. I have an imagine and really love it. I still get a little confused with the sizing (true & relative) even after watching the dvd multiple times! My one question for you is have you tried to flood fill an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper vs a 12x12 sheet? I've tried several different methods and can't get it to work. I can get close, but there is still a small white border on 2 sides of the paper. I make a lot of A2 cards and would like to use 8.5x11 paper so I don't have a lot of waste. Sorry for the long post.

  8. Thank you so much for this honest review and ideas! I have been wondering about all the issues you discussed and it's so refreshing to hear you talk about the good AND the bad. I'm afraid to get an imagine because I think I would print nothing but 12 x 12 full sheets all the time!

  9. You are so totally helpful Diane!! I just love every time you post, I either learn so much or just plain enjoy your gorgeous photographs!!! TFS Hugs!

  10. Thanks Diane for this Imagine demo. I've felt that the images I've seen printed on the Imagine have been rather flat. It's nice to see that your prints are more vibrant in color. I may have to re-evaluate my decision not to purchase one.
    - Cil anticil at comcast dot net

  11. Thanks for the info! I don't have an Imagine (can't justify the cost), my expression does the job for me! It is always good to hear about the products out there...

    rissaflor atyahoo dotcom

  12. Thanks for sharing you Imagine trials, it will help others before they even start!

  13. I hope every blogger using an Imagine reads your post as the dull colors are the biggest reason I have absolutely no interest in this machine(well, that and the fact that the images printed look like they've been cut from a book). It's almost always obvious when I see a picture of a card made with the Imagine, and it's been so disappointing when favorite bloggers use it instead of the expression. I hope it's just an easy fix that they need!

  14. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the imagine. I have been considering the machine, but also like the things I have heard about the E2. Houwever, the prices of both have been a strong deterant! I look forward to seeing your thoughts on the new Silhouette

  15. I always find your posts so informative. Thank you for going that extra mile for all of us
    Cyber Hugs
    Linda Marino

  16. I also would luv more info on the silhouette...does it take 12x12 paper, easy to use?..I'm looking for a die cutting machine that will work with my MTC software that is affordable too..LOL


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