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 Cricut.com 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...