How To Disable Star-Wheels On An Epson 3880


The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 (and the 3800 before it) has been one of the best and most popular printers for making high quality digital negatives for contact printing using various alternative photographic printing processes. However, it has one potential drawback which is that the star-wheels on the eject path of the paper transport mechanism can leave a trail of pin-prick dots on the printed surface of the negative, or any glossy surface. One way of avoiding this is to use the Manual Front Feed mechanism which does not  engage the star-wheels. The problem with this is that the Front Feed is designed for very thick materials like poster board, and doesn’t always handle thinner materials well. I have 2 3880s; on one of them the Front Feed works perfectly with the Pictorico Ultra Premium OHP transparency film that I use for digital negatives, but in the other it doesn’t.

Here is a way to disable the star-wheels without having to make any permanent modifications to the printer. We take advantage of the retracted position of the star-wheel mechanism when the Front Feed is in use by tricking the printer into thinking that the Front Feed is closed even though it is in the open position.


Step By Step

  1. Open the Paper Eject Tray Cover and the Front Feed Tray.3880_FrontTraysOpen
  2. On the left side you will see the Front Left Housing Cover which is secured by one screw at the upper right. Remove the screw, tilt the cover towards you from the top, and remove it.3880_FrontLeftCover13880_FrontLeftCover23880_FrontLeftCover3
  3. There is a Leaf Switch behind the large white plastic cam near the right side of the opening. When the tray is closed the cam lifts it. It is small and well hidden, and a bit tricky to see at first. What we need to do here is to hold it in the closed position so that the printer thinks the Front Feed is closed even though it is not. That way we can use the Manual Rear Feed or even the Auto Feed but the star-wheels will not be lowered. I used a Printer Cleaning Swab from InkjetMall.com which I happened to have on hand to push the switch lever down just far enough that it is in the closed position while the tray actually remains open. The business end of the swab is wide enough to stay in place by friction without being taped. The panel display will no longer indicate that the Front Feed is open.3880_LeafSwitch_p513880_FFLeafSwitch3880_Swab3880_SwabInPlace
  4. Now locate the guide tab on the front right corner of the Front Feed Tray. Using a piece of electrical tape or similar flexible tape, cover the tab in such a way as to create a ramp that exiting film or paper can slide over.3880_FFTrayRightCorner3880_FFTrayTaped
  5. Finally, take a strip of film or smooth paper the width of the eject tray opening (17 inches) by 3-4 inches and place it so that it acts as a bridge to prevent the exiting film from sliding below the Front Feed Tray which is left in the open position. The piece I used here came from a roll so it has a slight downward curl. It’s not really necessary to tape it in place.3880_ExitRamp
  6. Optional: The 2 little white hinged flaps that are visible in the preceding picture shouldn’t be a problem unless your film curls up too much. If it does, you can push the metal frame that is just behind them in a bit, push the white plastic pieces in and up with a piece of cardboard wide enough to push both flaps up together, and then let the frame back out. It’s really easy.



The only drawback to this procedure that I can see is a very minor one. You won’t be able to close the Front Feed and the Eject Tray if it is to be left set up this way, and you’ll have to leave the Left Front Cover off. On the other hand, there is no reason that I can see why it can’t be used this way for printing on paper too, so why not just leave it as is. Alternatively, remove the swab from step 3 and the film bridge from step 5, and close the Front Feed Tray.

This modification does affect how much margin you need on the trailing edge. Since the star-wheels passively (by which I mean they are not motor driven, contact with the paper/film makes is what turns them) help keep the paper/film tracking straight, circumventing them limits the ability of the transport mechanism to to keep it moving properly as it runs out of material. A 1.5 inch margin is no problem; a 1 inch margin skewed before finishing; so it’s somewhere in there. I’m going to stick with and an inch and a half.

That guide tab on the right corner of the Front Feed Tray is a real nuisance since it pushes the front feed path about 1/4 inch to the left of the rear/auto feed path. When film goes over it, as it does with this modification, there is a chance that it may curl upward from the right edge which may cause a problem with the head brushing the surface of the film. It seems that having the strip of film in there helps, and that flipping the flaps up is a good idea, since if the film curls upward along the leading edge it may get caught on them.

I haven’t tried the auto-feed, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I just never have used it much.

It is also possible that this procedure will work on the P800.



I wish I could say that I came up with this modification from my own ingenuity, however that is not the case. Many thanks to Walker Blackwell of Inkjetmall for giving me the clues I needed to figure it out. I’m glad to be able to help out by writing up these instructions.

Notes on Washi for Pt/Pd Printing

Below are some preliminary notes on the various washi (Japanese paper) that I have tested recently. I’ll be adding more details as I have time.

One thing to mention now is that I had to learn a different strategy for coating most of them than what we are used to with most western papers. Rather than pouring a pre-measured quantity of solution on the paper and then spreading it, due to the absorbency of most washi it is much better to to mix your solution in a container large enough to allow dipping the brush. I suggest studying these excellent videos by Masayuki Nishimaru and Nobuyuki Kobayashi:

The volume of solution needed can vary widely among washi. I am currently printing a new body of work on Gampi Torinoko for which I have found that I need 4-5ml for a 7×17″ image size with very tight edges. This is not quite double the volume needed for the same thing on Arches Platine. It is not necessary to go over the entire area repeatedly and rapidly, unlike most western papers; try to work slowly and deliberately. I have not done anything larger than 4×5 yet on most of the others, though I can say that Mohachi and Shin Torinoko behave much more like western papers, and that Gampi-shi, Hakkinshi, Hosakawa, and Goyu are very thirsty. The pre-sized washi that I tried are less absorbent as expected, but I wasn’t very impressed with them. I haven’t yet tried sizing them myself but intend to with the 4 listed above.

The papers are listed by source.

Hiromi Paper 

Gampi Torinoko White (KH-1)

  • 100gsm; 22.5×30; $22.00
  • 100% Philippine gampi; unsized; hand-made in Kochi by Kensho Ishimoto
  • Dmax=1.47; ES=1.82.
  • Fairly heavy by washi standards, and with a pronounced texture somewhat like distressed leather.
  • Rich lustrous black and smooth tonal scale. Coats easily even without sizing. Sometimes appears to be underexposed until dry. My personal favorite.

Gampi-shi (HM-5)

  • 30gsm; 25×38; $19.36
  • 100% Japanese gampi; unsized; hand-made in Shikoku by Awagami
  • Dmax=1.46; ES=2.05
  • Somewhat like Hakkinshi as far as printing and handling characteristics. Surface has a nice sheen

Tosa Hakkinshi

  • 28gsm; 24.5×38; $27.90
  • 70% kozo, 30% gampi; unsized; hand-made in Kochi by Hiroshi Tamura
  • Dmax=1.40; ES=2.10.
  • Good black and extremely long tonal scale. Tricky to work with since solution soaks through and spreads. Almost disappears in tray when wet. May respond to sizing.

Hosokawa Student (HO-67)

  • 39gsm; 24×36; $5.25
  • 70% Thai kozo; unsized; hand-made
  • Dmax=1.43; ES=2.02
  • Rich black and long scale. Solution soaks through, similar to Goyu, but less bleeding. Try sizing with dosa.

Mohachi (HM-64)

  • 185gsm; 16×25; $11.22
  • hemp, cotton, and sulphite; internally sized; hand-made in Fukui
  • Dmax=1.30; ES=1.62
  • Prints much like a high quality western paper such as Arches Platine.

Echizen Hanga Dosa (EHD)

  • 103gsm; 26×38; $26.25
  • kozo and sulphite; internally sized; hand-made in Fukui
  • Dmax=1.35; ES=1.35.
  • Smooth tonal scale, good depth, a bit contrasty.

Tosa Maruishi (KH-19)

  • 100gsm; 25×38; $23.75
  • kozo and sulphite; internally sized; hand-made in Kochi
  • Dmax=; ES=.
  • Long scale and good depth, but many fibers did not absorb coating.

McClain’s Printmaking Supply

Gampi Torinoko (P6805)

  • 100gsm; 22.5×30; $22.00  (website says 75gsm and 21.5×30)
  • 100% Philippine gampi; unsized; hand-made in Kochi by Kensho Ishimoto
  • Dmax=1.47; ES=1.82.
  • Rich lustrous black and smooth tonal scale. Coats easily even without sizing. Same as the Gampi Torinoko above. My favorite.

Masa Dosa (P6903)

  • 90gsm; 23×32; $8.95
  • kozo and acid-free pine pulp; sized; hand-made
  • Dmax=1.36; ES=1.74.
  • This is not the Masa commonly found in the US. Prints well but delicate when wet.

Torinoko White (P6853)

  • 145gsm; 25×37; $17.60
  • 70% mitsumata, 30% sulphite; sized; machine-made
  • Dmax=1.37; ES=1.78.
  • Prints well, but this is a multi-ply (2 or maybe 3) paper that separates when wet.

Shin Torinoko White (P6905)

  • 125gsm; 25.5×38; $4.95
  • 50% manilla linen, 50% acid-free pine pulp; machine-made
  • Dmax:1.32; ES=1.69.
  • A western style paper that prints very easily. Black could be better. Like a lighter weight version of Bergger COT320.

Bostick & Sullivan


  • 50gsm; 21×29; $5.25
  • 50% kozo, 50% sulphite; unsized; hand-made
  • Dmax=1.42; ES=1.95
  • Prints beautifully, but solution soaks through quickly and bleeds. Similar to Hosakawa but bleeds more. Try sizing.

Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag – First Impressions


First, I would like to thank Carol Boss from Hahnemuhle, for generously sending me a few sheets of this soon-to-be-released new paper to test.

For the last ten years or so, Arches Platine has been my standard paper for platinum/palladium prints. I also use Bergger COT320 as a slightly warmer (paper base color) alternative. Prior to that, I also used used Crane’s Cover Natural White Wove (aka Platinotype) and Van Gelder Simili Japon, along with Platine, on a regular basis. For special projects, I have used other papers such as Swiss Opaline Parchment, Fabriano Perugia, and Gampi Torinoko. I have tested dozens of papers over 25 or so years that I have been practicing platinum/palladium printing. The one overriding lesson that I have learned is that paper is a moving target. Inconsistencies from batch to batch can be subtle or dramatic, especially with those papers not specifically made for this process, but also with those that supposedly are. The ill-fated Magnani Revere Platinum is a perfect case study of how good and bad a paper can be. The initial samples I received were wonderful, but the stuff I bought was unusable. This was well documented elsewhere so I won’t go in to further detail here.

This is all to preface that I look at any new paper for platinum/palladium printing with a critical eye and a cautious optimism. A couple weeks ago, 2/8/16, the silence was broken when Christina Anderson announced that she had been beta testing a new paper from Hahnemuhle to be called Platinum Rag, and Kerik Kouklis followed up a couple days later with a blog post. Not long after, I was contacted by Carol Boss from Hahnemuhle asking if I would like a few sheets to test. Last week I received a package containing 4 11×15 sheets of Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag which I have spent the last few evenings testing. What follows are my first impressions based on my testing procedure with the limited amount of paper I had to work with.


I primarily print from original large-format negatives, so even with my best efforts to produce negatives optimized for Pt/Pd I don’t always hit my mark and therefore need to use some form of contrast control at the printing stage, unlike those who print from digital negatives which can easily be tailored to any process. My preferred method of contrast control is to add sodium hexachloroplatinate (usually abbreviated Na2 in the Pt/Pd world) to my coating solution using a set of serial dilutions made from the 20% stock solution available from Bostick & Sullivan. My full set includes the following dilutions: 0.3125%, 0.625%, 1.25%, 2.5%, 5%, 10%,and 20%. This gives me 7 “grades” of contrast. This range of dilutions is useful for 4×5 prints. For 8×10 prints, the minimum useful dilution is 1.25%, and higher contrast levels are achieved with multiple drops of 20% though this is rarely needed.

Also, long ago when I started making prints larger than 8×10, I found that the traditional drop counting way of measuring out the coating solution was not very accurate or precise (or maybe I just couldn’t count that high!) so I switched to using pipettes and measuring in milliliters. A typical 8×10 print on most papers requires 2ml of solution — 1ml ferric oxalate + 1ml palladium — to which I add 1 drop of the appropriate dilution of Na2 and 2 drops of the surfactant Tween 20 (1 drop per ml). It is my experience that Tween 20 is beneficial for most papers, but not all printers agree.

I use a 4×5 Stoufer 21 step wedge as my test negative for the first round of evaluation. I print the 21 step at each of the 7 grades which I then measure and graph using Phil Davis’s ancient BTZS Plotter software. This gives me a graph of the response of the paper to each contrast level at 1/2 stop increments, revealing the shadow compression typical of the Pt/Pd process, the long toe of the highlights that is characteristic especially of palladium,  the shortening of the exposure scale as contrast increases, and the relative speed for each grade. It also provides a chart that can be used to match negative density range (DR) to the exposure scale (ES) of each grade.

The particulars of my printing procedure are as follows:

  1. Cut paper to 5×6 or 5.5×6.5
  2. Measure out sufficient solution to coat 8 sheets – in this case 0.5ml per sheet or 4ml total — 2ml ferric oxalate + 2 ml palladium + 4 drops Tween 20. Swirl to mix.
  3. Draw 0.5ml of solution with pipette or syringe and place in separate container. (I use little 1 oz medicine cups.)
  4. Add 1 drop of Na2 and swirl to mix.
  5. Coat paper using glass rod or brush.
  6. Let coated paper rest long enough to be dry to the touch – about 5 minutes in my darkroom at 60-65% RH. *
  7. Place paper and negative in printing frame and expose to UV light. With my Hitachi BL bulbs the standard exposure time is 2:15. (Yes, 2 minutes and 15 seconds – wicked fast!)
  8. Develop in Potassium Oxalate (KOx) at room temperature for 5 minutes.
  9. Clear in 3 consecutive clearing baths (1 liter water + 1 tbsp each EDTA, citric acid, and sodium sulfite) for 5 min in each bath.
  10. Wash in gently running water for 20-30 minutes.
  11. Let water drip off for a few seconds then place on screen to dry.

* I long ago stopped using warm air to speed up the drying step. Unless you are working in a very humid environment it is just not necessary. An exception to this would be with very absorbent papers that take a very long time to dry.

The evaluation procedure, which I learned from Dick Arentz 25 years ago, is like this:

  1. Wait until paper is completely dry.
  2. Read and record each step of the 21 step from darkest to lightest.
  3. Enter the readings into BTSZ Plotter.
  4. Print out results.
  5. Compare to similar tests of other papers.

Note: I am currently using a Spyder 3 Print SR spectrophotometer to make the readings. It works but has a down side in that it won’t allow me to zero on paper white. For comparing papers this is fine, but it skews the analysis a small amount toward higher contrast than what I find in practice. My X-rite 400 black and white reflection densitometer which I have used for this purpose since the ’90s malfunctioned a couple years ago (just before a workshop of course!), but I finally sent it in to be repaired and look forward to using it again, and seeing just how accurate or not the Spyder is. A benefit of the Spyder is that in addition to measuring density it also provides LAB readings which can be used to compare relative warmth or coolness of paper base and image tone, though I’m new to LAB readings and am unsure how to interpret them.


For comparison, I am also providing data for Arches Platine and Bergger COT320, both of which I have retested recently.

Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag

  • DMax: 1.42
  • Dmin: 0.03
  • Paper Base: L=97.42; a=1.56; b=1.83
  • Maximum ES: 1.87
  • Minimum ES: 1.05
Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag

Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag

Arches Platine

  • DMax: 1.40
  • Dmin: 0.03
  • Paper Base: L=97.10; a=1.64; b=02.47
  • Maximum ES: 2.00
  • Minimum ES: 1.20
Arches Platine

Arches Platine

Bergger COT320

  • DMax: 1.36
  • Dmin: 0.04
  • Paper Base: L=97.04; a=0.88; b=2.77
  • Maximum ES: 1.84
  • Minimum ES: 1.08
Bergger COT320

Bergger COT320

An analysis of this sort is useful to a degree, especially if you do as lot of printing with original film negatives like I do (as opposed to digital negatives), but the real question is how does it print? Here are a few observations:

  1. As others have pointed out, HPR has a very hard surface that is slow to absorb the coating solution. As a result, it can be coated using about 20-25% less solution than the other papers in this comparison.
  2. I found it absolutely necessary to use Tween 20 in the coating. Leaving it out resulted in poor absorption and a very speckled print from paper fibers that did not absorb any solution.
  3. The tonal scale is very smooth. There is no mottling and no abrupt transitions. This is true of the current Platine and COT batches that I have tested, and is something I look for in any paper I consider using.
  4. All things the same, it prints a bit more contrasty than most papers. Some may like this, others may not.
  5. Dmax is measurably higher than Platine and COT. I can’t see the difference between HPR and Platine, but I do see it with COT.
  6. Palladium on HPR has a very nice warm image tone developed at room temperature in KOx. Maybe a bit warmer than the others. Heat the developer up to 120°F and it gets really lovely. I think this is my favorite thing about this paper.
  7. The paper base tone of the 3 papers are quite similar. There are differences that are more or less noticeable if you look closely in just the right light, but they are slight. Some have said that HPR is a brighter white than the others but I can’t really see it. If anything, COT may be very slightly creamy compared to the others.
  8. Others have reported that exposure times may be slightly faster than Platine and COT, but I did not find that to be the case. If anything it might need a bit more exposure with my setup.

I ended up with 2 9×11 pieces left after finishing all of the step wedge tests, enough for 2 8×10 prints of an actual negative. Above: A palladium print using 0.75ml FO + 0.75ml Pd + 1 drop 5% Na2 + 2 drops Tween 20, developed in potassium oxalate at room temperature. Below: A palladium print using 0.75ml FO + 0.75ml Pd + 1 drop 2.5% Na2 + 2 drops Tween 20, developed in potassium oxalate at 120°F. The negative has a density range of 1.6. This print has a wee bit more contrast than when printed on Platine with 5% Na2, though it could stand a little more exposure.


The Grotto – Atlin BC 1998; palladium print on Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag developed in KOx at room temperature


The Grotto – Atlin BC 1998; palladium print on Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag developed in KOx at 120°F


I’m reluctant to draw any definite conclusions based on the limited tests I’ve been able to do so far. I can say that based upon the 4 sample sheets I was sent to test, Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag is a welcome addition to the range of papers suitable for platinum/palladium printing. In summary, it seems to be quite easy to work with:

  • has a very smooth hard surface
  • coats easily and with slightly less solution than what I consider normal
  • has a shorter tonal scale and prints with about 1 “grade” more contrast than Platine
  • printing with palladium developed in potassium oxalate yields a pleasing warmth even without heating the developer
  • clears easily

One thing I am concerned about is that while pricing has not been announced yet, I have heard that it is expected to be 25-30% higher than Platine and COT320 which are already fairly pricey. For a machine-made paper without deckled edges I’m not sure how well this is going to go over unless Hahnemuhle is able to conquer the consistency issues that have afflicted most of the papers we use for platinum/palladium and other hand-made alternative photographic printing processes.

Secrets of the Black Art

There’s been some interesting discussion about salt printing lately, both on the Facebook Alternative Photographic Process group and on the venerable old alt-photo-process email list. I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I did have the pleasure in the late 90s of assisting Michael Gray of the Fox Talbot Museum at a workshop he gave at the Center for Creative Photography (UA Tucson) where I was employed at the time. The discussion on FB primarily concerned toning, while the email group discussion was about sizing (or not) of paper. I made some contributions to the discussions that I have recapped here for easy reference in the future.

I work primarily with the platinum/palladium process using original large-format negatives exposed and developed with the requirements of that process in mind. An ideal negative for a straight palladium print (my usual choice) on most papers has a density range of about 1.8 with a maximum density of about 2.1 – 2.4. Sometimes, not too often, I misjudge exposure and/or development and end up with a “bulletproof” negative that is beyond the range of what I can print in palladium. This is where salt printing can be a useful alternative for me. Because it is or can be a longer scale process than Pt/Pd, I can print negatives as salt prints that I can’t (or can only with great difficulty) as palladium prints. I have found that a salt print exposed in full sun has a tonal scale of 2.4 or longer due to the self-masking effect of the printing-out process.

I have not done a lot of salt printing, but I did experiment with it a bit in 1999 shortly after the workshop, and again in 2009. As of this writing, the 2009 prints have gone missing, though I know they are here somewhere. The prints shown here are all from 1999 and illustrate a few of the variations in the color of the final image that are possible. These are the successful ones – I had many failures. Click on the small images to open a larger version.




untoned salt print


selenium toned salt print


gold toned salt print

And for comparison, here is a palladium print of the same negative for which I made a shadow mask to maintain some detail in the dark area at lower right. I slightly stronger mask might have been useful to pull out even more detail. In the end I preferred the palladium print of this image.


palladium print

The other issue discussed was whether or not to size the paper and if so how to do it.  Christina Anderson began a thread on the alt-photo-process email list asking salt printers whether or not they sized their paper. Of those who responded, 6 said yes, one said sometimes, and I said I did not. Of the 7 who do use sizing, most admit to the salting solution. Only one said that he presized his paper. A look at the literature I have on the subject also showed much disagreement.

I do think there is a little confusion about exactly what we are talking about here. On the one hand there is sizing of the paper itself, and on the other there is sizing added to the salting solution. I have just been looking over half a dozen or so book chapters and articles on slat printing and no two of them are in agreement on much of anything. Some, such as James Reilly, William Crawford, John Schaefer, and Christopher James, add gelatin or starch (arrowroot) to the salt solution but no 2 formulas are the same. James does mention that “Talbot had no need to size his papers with gelatin because the fine stationary of that time was manufactured with gelatin and other organic binders in the rag fibers.” (I’ll come back to this.) Terry King and Wynn White size with gelatin prior to salting and sensitizing.

Even the silver nitrate concentration varies from 10% (James) to 20% (James – high altitude formula), though most are 12 or 13%.

So back to the question of whether size is needed or not. At Michael Gray’s workshop, we did not apply additional sizing at all, and there is no reference to it in my notes, nor is there in the pamphlet from the Fox Talbot Museum that I have. I suspect that it really depends on the particular paper – how and with what is it sized in the manufacturing process. If it is sized with gelatin, especially if it is surface sized with gelation, I seriously doubt that it would need additional gelatin sizing. However, if it is sized with aquapel, a synthetic size that seems to be becoming more common, that would be another story. The prints that I made in the late 90s were on Crane’s Platinotype which I if I remember right was alum-rosin sized. That may be why I did not need any additional sizing.

Here are my workshop notes. I typed this up many years later. I think the toner formulas may have come from elsewhere.

Salt Printing Notes (Michael Gray Workshop @ CCP, 1998 or 1999)

1. Soak paper in salt solution for 2-3 minutes.

– 1 liter distilled water
– 20 gm Ammonium Chloride
– 20 gm Sodium Citrate

2. Sensitize salted paper with 12% Silver Nitrate.

– 100 ml distilled water
– 12 gm Silver Nitrate

3. Coat with glass rod using approximately 2ml per 8×10.

4. Expose to ultraviolet light

Print out should look well over-exposed, it will lighten considerably.

5. Rinse up to 10 minutes in running water

6. Tone (optional)

– 1 liter water @ 100°F
– 6 gm borax
– 12 ml 1% gold chloride
tone for 3-10 minutes

– 1 liter water
– 4 ml Pd solution (15%)
– 5 gm citric acid
– 5 gm sodium chloride
tone for 3-10 minutes

– 1 liter water
– 2 ml Pt solution (20%)
– 5 gm citric acid
– 5 gm sodium chloride
tone for 3-10 minutes

– 1 liter water
– 3 ml KRST (Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner)
tone for about 1 minute

7. Wash 3-5 minutes in running water

8. Fix in 10% sodium thiosulfate – 2 baths 4 minutes each
– 1 liter water @ 90°F
– 100 gm sodium thiosulfate

9. Wash 3-5 minutes in running water

10. Hypo clear
– Kodak HCA or
– 1% sodium sulfite for 2-4 minutes

11. Final wash 20-30 minutes

Here is a link to a pdf scan of Michael Gray’s pamphlet The Art Of Photogenic Drawing.