How to get good-looking photo prints from a colour laser printer.
You’ve taken a great shot and, naturally, want to produce as large a print as possible to display. But how can you know just how big you should make it?
All printers come with software for producing prints. This bundled software usually reflects the price and functionality of the printer and always includes the printer driver and an editing application. An online instruction manual is sometimes provided. The functionality of the software usually reflects the price and complexity of the printer, with entry-level printers providing very simple editors, while printers designed for serious amateur and professional photographers come with more sophisticated products like Adobe’s Photoshop Elements.
As we’ve covered printer drivers in Using Printer Drivers and Editing Software, this section is devoted to using paper profiles. When you buy an inkjet printer, the driver software contains pre-loaded ICC profiles for papers suitable for use with that printer. Paper profiles can also be found in the Technical Support section of the printer manufacturer’s website under Inkjet Printer Drivers. Most manufacturers update them regularly as new products are released and existing products are improved. However, only papers produced by (or for) the printer manufacturer and sold under the manufacturer’s brand name are profiled.
Each link in this chain must connect correctly if you want the pictures you print to have the same colours and tones as the shot you captured. Control is required at each step in the workflow to ensure the best possible prints.
Regardless of the output type, the more image data you have to start with, the more you can use for printing. This means shooting with the highest available resolution and quality, using raw format where it’s available and shooting in colour, even though you want to end up with a B&W print. However, when composing shots you should use the same strategies as you used when shooting with B&W film: think in black and white and pre-visualise the subject as a series of tones.
We’ve already covered the selection of inks and papers for everyday printing in Choosing the Right Inks and Papers but, when you want to make prints for display, the printer manufacturer’s range may not include the surface you wish to print on. Fortunately, there are plenty of ‘fine art’ papers with textures ranging from ultra-smooth to as rough as watercolour paper and a wide range of thicknesses (see below). Some suppliers offer media with textured surfaces like canvas, linen and even silk, which will allow you to turn your favourite pictures into attractive works of art. However, care should be taken when selecting them.
The Layers palette resembles a series of acetate sheets stacked one upon another. Where there is no image on part of a layer you can see straight through to the layer beneath it and where there is an image, you can adjust its transparency to control the degree to which the image below can be seen. You can cut out sections of an image and create a new layer that can be adjusted without affecting other parts of the image or use layers to combine several images into one.
How Many Inks? The simplest printers use four ink colours: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Such printers are commonly known as CMYK printers, the ‘K” standing for ‘key’ and representing black. In theory, all other colours can be produced by combining these four colours in different proportions. However, it is almost impossible to produce inks that are totally colour-pure so printer manufacturers have developed ink sets with increased colour and tonal accuracy.
Keen photographers quickly outgrow the basic software applications and want more control over the adjustments they can make to their digital photos. At the same time, families may also look for applications that extend the range of things they can do with their digital pictures. Fortunately, both groups are well catered for and there are lots of programs to choose from. In this chapter, we’ll look at some of the best.