Tips for Painless Digital Printing

A few tips and reminders to help you create the inkjet prints you want:

1. Use manufacturer’s inks in your printer. Third party inks are ok for general home use. but not for quality photo printing. Besides, using third party inks will usually void the printer’s warranty.

2. If you’ve just gotten a new printer, try the manufacturer’s papers first – and for photos, use the higher-quality media. This will help you get off to a good start – you can always try other papers later. When you do try other papers, try to match quality level, feel, and appearance to the original manufacturer’s.

4. If you are using glossy, lustre, or satin finish papers, make sure your printer is using “photo black” ink. If you are using so-called “watercolor” or “fine art” papers that have a matte finish, be sure your printer is using matte black ink. In each case, you’ll get better blacks and contrast in your prints.

5. Keep unused paper in the original package, and if possible, in the plastic bag liner. This will keep air and moisture from degrading paper quality.

6. If you use your printer infrequently, make a small print occasionally to keep the print heads clean and functioning properly. Pigment inks tend to dry out over extended periods, and the print heads may require extensive cleaning cycles if left to themselves.

7. Ensure that the printer drivers and firmware are up to date, and that the driver is matched to the current version of your Windows or Mac operating system. The download page on the printer manufacturer’s site will provide this information.

8. Calibrate your display. This means you’ll need a calibration device like the Huey Pro, the X-Rite iOne display, or the like. Generally, you’ll want your screen to set to 6500k, and 2.2. gamma.

9. Most displays, when new, are set up by the manufacturer to be very bright. When you calibrate, make sure your display brightness is set to a level suitable for photographic printing – usually 90-100 cd/sqm. Your calibration software should provide a software adjustment – sometimes iit is located under the “advanced” settings.

10. When printing, you can use “Printer Manages Colors” or “Application Managed Color” (in the case of Photoshop, it may say “Photoshop Manages Colors”. Printer managed color works OK, but application managed color generally gives better results. If you are using application managed color, be sure to specify the ICC/Printer profile for the printer/paper combination you are using. On some Epson printers, you will also have to check  the “no color management” box in the printer driver.

11. When printing, you’ll notice that the printing dialogue box includes an adjustment for “rendering intent”. Generally, when printing photographs, try perceptual rendering intent first. However, in some cases, you may get better results if you try “relative colorimetric” rendering intent. It is generally better to ignore the “saturation” and “absolute colorimetric” settings.

12. When you are printing, evaluate your prints in controlled lighting. Some people prefer to use daylight corrected lighting, such as the lights offered by Solux. Some photographers prefer to use “gallery lighting” which is warmer in tone, and is frequently set to 3800k. If your prints look significantly darker than your screen, see Tip number 9, above.

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