It’s mid-winter and we are in the middle of receiving a forecasted 20″ snowfall on top of our existing base. Nothing unusual really outside.

But, inside it is a different matter all together. This is winter and this is the time that heat is used. Nearly all heating systems tend to dry the air. And dry air produces the worst possible environmental conditions for using Epson inks and Epson printers – or non-Epson inks in Epson printers.

Epson recommends best results when humidity is in the 40-60% range. But, in the winter it is not uncommon for the average house or studio to have a humidity of less than 10%. As a result, print heads often can not stay moist enough to reliably pass the ink droplets through the piezo crystal function. Many of the individual inkjets (and there are hundreds and hundreds of them) can become blocked.

Additionally, the inkjet paper itself becomes so dry that the absorption of ink into the coating can be quite different than on a day in which the humidity is higher.

I own a professional studio, Cone Editions Press. It’s large and has several rooms in which 15 Pro model printers are running. I have baseboard heat and without adding moisture to the air it is typical that the humidity index drops to below 10%. When this happens, printing suffers. The printers can produce banding and striations from dropped nozzles. Color can change. Tone can change.

But, it is a simple matter to add humidity to the air. Most people run dehumidifiers in their home to dry them out. Fewer buy humidifiers to add air (unless someone has chronic sinus issues or very stuffy noses!)

I purchased two of the large Honeywell QuietCare 11-Gallon Console Humidifiers to take care of the main studio. We find that in order to keep the humidity at 40% we must replace the water twice in a 24 hour period (this varies from day to day only to some degree). We are putting more than 40 gallons of water in the air each day in a closed studio of of only 1200 square feet (10 foot ceilings).

It’s a lot of water! For a small home studio, a smaller humidifier is necessary. But, smaller humidifiers mean frequent water replenishment. I would opt for a big Honeywell Quiet Care (and no, they are not sooo quiet – they sound more like a quiet a/c).

We monitor the relative humidity with a digital gauge called the Caliber III Thermometer Hygrometer. There are many similar devices and you can buy them in cigar shops or gardening centers. They have a basic function of temperature and humidity.

A humidifier and a digital hygrometer are two of the best “tips” we can give you for surviving this winter as a digital printmaker using Epson and Roland printers (both use similar head technologies).