From Engaging Computing Group

HOWTOs: BigInkjet


The Poster Printer is a HP DesignJet 650C with Postscript Level 2 engine. This is a ca. 1995 machine.

To print, bring a PDF or JPG on USB memory stick to the white "eMac" in the 2nd floor copy room. The machine is not on the net.

It's best to use a draw program to prepare posters. PowerPoint is actually a reasonable draw program, and you can size a single slide to be your desired output size of the final poster: up to 36x60 inches. Then output as a PDF.

Please do not use heavy color backgrounds—this will waste lots of ink. Just leave a blank sheet (white) background and do spot color, text, or other graphics.

Note: DO NOT TRY TO PRINT SUPER COMPLEX DOCUMENTS. See FAQ below, My document will not print.


How To Print

On the eMac, open your PDF in Adobe Reader. In case you are not a Mac person, you can bring up a context menu by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on the document icon. Go into the “Open With...” menu choice, and select the newest version of Adobe Reader.

Turn on printer if it is off (button is front lower left corner). Wait for printer to initialize. On Color/Mono button, make sure it's on Color. On Enhanced/Final/Draft button, set to Enhanced.

After your document is open, choose “File:Page Setup...”:


After this, select File:Print. You will see a preview showing how it will appear on the page. You may need to click the “auto-rotate and center” option. Then Print.


While the job is unspooling, the printer will display “STATUS: Receiving” and the Mac's print queue/unspooler window will display “Processing job” with the rotating-barber-pole, please-wait-indefinitely gadget. There is no progress indicator, only the barber-pole activity indicator. This is a live demonstration of the halting problem.

If the Mac dialog completes, but the printer continues to display “Receiving,” that is a good sign. Continue to wait—the printer is still computing.

If you hear activity and the printer says “Plotting,” you are in luck!

When it is done printing, press Form Feed on the printer to cut.


How to Print 30x20 Poster

If the Mac dialog completes, but the printer continues to display “Receiving,” that is a good sign. Continue to wait—the printer is still computing.
If you hear activity and the printer says “Plotting,” you are in luck!


The printer is printing in black and white, but my document has color. On the printer's front panel, there is a pushbutton to select Color or Mono on the printer. Make sure it is set to Color.

My document does not print. There are two possibilities to solve: (1) use Preview instead of Acrobat Reader to print it (sometimes this works), or (2) reduce its complexity. In the worst case, render it as a JPG of 1000x1000 pixels or less.

Note: if the PDF takes a long time to image on the eMac, it will probably blow the PS stack on the printer and fail to print. Do not make an overly complex design. Wait up to 30 mins or so before giving up.

JPGs should be no bigger than 1000 x 1000 px or they will fail to print. You can print using Preview or Graphic Converter. Make sure to scale to proper size for how big you want it (up to 36x36 inches).

Help! It's printing the wrong thing, and I don't want to waste paper. Press the button labeled Cancel on the printer's front panel.

I keep getting the error "Power off printer. Check pen path." The carriage needs to be lubricated with WD-40. Add very little oil since the pen carrier will spread it out evenly. Also, you don't want any oil to drip onto the electronics below. Ask for help if you don't want to do this yourself.


Faculty who have overhead money should take turns buying supplies. It's actually not too expensive to operate.

Plotter paper is best bought from WBMason, HEWC1861A (cheaper paper, $28/roll) or HEW51631E (better paper, $50/roll).

Inks are available there, but their prices aren't great:

$12 from

On-line vendors sell remanufactured cartridges for about half the price of WBMason, even after the univ. discount. Search on the HP numbers (e.g., 51640A, etc.).


Technical Info

Here is a link to HP's information about the machine.

Loading the Roll

This is tricky. Basically the steps are:

  1. Wait for the printer to display “Out of Media.”
  2. Mount the new roll per the diagram – paper comes up off the back.
  3. Make a clean shear of the edge, using a razor knife and the slot on the top of the printer (which is there exactly for this purpose).
  4. Feed the edge into the printer. Pay attention to the guideline arrow on the right – line up the right edge of the paper with this. Make sure the paper goes straight in, evenly across the whole carriage.
  5. The printer will detect the paper, and will draw the paper in a bit. Then wait for you to tell it what kind of paper you just inserted.
  6. From the menus, tell it to load a roll of opaque bond.
  7. It will then draw the paper in with a bunch of back and forth actions. Monitor this and make sure the paper doesn't get wound up in the roll.
  8. If you're lucky, it will tell you to raise the lever. Otherwise: it will reject the roll and make you try again from step 4.
  9. Raise the lever, pull the paper taut to the roll, and lower the lever.
  10. If you're lucky, it will continue to accept the roll (otherwise, reject and back to step 4).
  11. Close the roll guard and you're done.

It is recommended that you get a lesson from someone who's done this before attempting it on your own.


Print Driver (For Reference Purposes Only)

All I have is Postscript Printer Description file from the Mac OS 7 era that I hacked myself to add some page sizes. Here it is:

It seems to work.

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Page last modified on April 26, 2012, at 10:33 PM