Wednesday, 6 August 2008


I recently got wind of theprintspace and decided to check it out whilst I was doing the rounds in Shoreditch, east London.

Launched in October 2007, theprintspace occupies two floors of a 4000sq foot area comprising of exhibition space, retouching booths, walk-in print stations and large format digital C-type and Epson Giclée printers. The concept gives photographers, graphic designers and artists the ability to come and produce their own professional prints on the highest specification digital equipment by using retouching booths with the latest professional Mac Pro’s and imaging software.

With the rise of digital technologies and the increasing affordability of closed-loop home printing systems, professional printing labs have found the struggle to innovate and adapt their services a principal challenge. Sadly, these changes and the pressures they have exerted on the industry have meant that many professional printing labs in the city have had to shrink with demand, or face closure.

In the words of Dominic Apa, Public Relations for theprintspace, “Our business model is very much a response to what we see as a need for a democratisation of the top-level of digital printing. With more and more people becoming familiar with Photoshop, a sharp rise in the profile of digital art and design, and an increasing number of photographers even retouching their own work, people simply needed the ability to access resources that, until now, had only been available to a very select few. Just as we have made our colour profiles available for download, we have attempted with to open up our systems to become platforms for user innovation. theprintspace is about enabling our clients to act as ‘prosumers’ - to have full creative control over every aspect of their work, from start to finish, while we provide guidance and assistance whenever it is appropriate.”

In a bold step towards revitalising the conventional approach to top-end printing, theprintspace is the first ‘DIY’ printing lab in London. The ethos at theprintspace is to give creative control back to individuals, whilst giving them the access to the kind of high-end equipment which currently only the most successful photographic and creative companies can afford. The workhorse of theprintspace’s digital C-types is a ‘Chromira’, which is a professional quality, colour-managed, high resolution print device producing exhibition quality archival prints suitable for the professional art market on Fuji Crystal Archive & Kodak Professional paper. The machine prints up to 30'' wide, and up to 50 metres long. Alternatively, Epson (inkjet) prints are from the recently released 880 range using Epson's new Vivid Magenta inkset, exclusive to the range. These 'Giclee' prints are printed on professional art papers, such as Hanhemuhle Photorag, Pearl, and Epson Gloss and Semi-gloss. The Epson prints up to 60'' wide by 30 metres long.

By incorporating the same professional standard of colour profiling into a user-driven ‘creative process’, theprintspace negotiates the prolab’s biggest problem – offering the standard of services professional photographers have come to expect, but making it accessible for more than a select few. The result - quality is of the highest standard, but the prices are really affordable, costing as little as £6.50 for a 12” by 16” digital C-type print, and £12 per hour for a cutting-edge, colour managed ‘DIY’ retouching booth.

The team behind theprintspace are no strangers to the demands of the photographic industry, having run the successful retouching business Happy Finish for the past three years. Stuart Waplington the MD says, “Our whole culture is changing because of digital; information is becoming decentralised. We need to recognise this change in the industry and facilitate that change. And that’s essentially what we’re doing at Theprintspace. Photographers have become well versed in using these technologies... so it makes sense to provide and manage the infrastructure for them to use the best possible technologies available.” (British Journal of Photography, 21/11/2007)

Theprintspace certainly seems to be enjoying the acclaim from both industry professionals and clients alike and rather unsurprisingly has already established a excellent professional photographer client base. They boast an original approach and an ethos based on nourishing the integrity of the visual artist / photographer by offering complete control over the printing process. If you add to that the affordability of their service which allows emerging artists to print to an incredibly high standard, that would otherwise only be the province of highly established artist, I could not recommend a better print lab than theprintspace.