Perhaps you’ve been thinking about adding wide-format printing to your
repertoire. Or maybe you’ve already brought this high-end output service
to your studio, but you’re looking for ways to increase customer satisfaction
and assure the highest quality.
Studio Photography talked to experts who know how to maximize their results by carefully selecting the most appropriate inks, substrates, printers, RIP software, and color management processes. Read on for specific tips on how to optimize your printing results.
The Image Perspective
By R. Mac Holbert
The top three factors to be aware of when doing wide-format fine-art printing are DMax, color gamut, and surface durability. However, it all starts with the original image. We have a list of top mistakes people make when turning in images, and we check for all of these things when the image comes to us. Some of the most notable mistakes are:
• Oversharpening the image in Photoshop. I normally request that any images that come into us not be sharpened; I’d rather do the sharpening myself.
• Lack of midtone contrast. Many people know how to set a good blackpoint on a piece, but they leave the midtones alone; in many cases, they turn out very flat and two-dimensional. I have a little routine I use that increases the tone contrast very subtly, but it does a wonderful job of separating those midtones.
• Overlooking artifacts on the edges of prints. People will do a bad cropping job, and they won’t see it at screen res. Then they’ll ask me to print it large, and all of a sudden they’ll notice there’s a black stripe running down one side.
• Faulty image alignment. People will send us a proof after viewing an image on-screen. Then when it’s printed 30x40, they’ll notice that the horizon is off.
• Having unreasonable expectations in terms of size when working with digital files. People will come in with a digital file of a certain size, and we’ll create a 16x20 print that looks great. Then they’ll get a request that someone wants it at 30x40. I explain to them that even though digital files can go up a lot more than traditional film scans due to the lack of grain, there’s still a point at which they’re not going to work, where the softening of the image due to interpolation is going to be so great that the image itself will suffer. That’s one thing I’m constantly battling with clients about.
Printing is a two-dimensional output. What you have to do as an artist and as a photographer is enhance the three-dimensional quality of a piece to fight its natural inclination to be a two-dimensional object. You have to use every little trick you can to fool the eye into sensing a lot more depth and dimension than is really in the print.
The Paper/Printer Perspective
By Andrew Darlow
Photographers today are quite fortunate because of the incredible variety of printers and papers on the market, but with that variety, it’s also easy to be overwhelmed by options. Acid-free materials are generally chosen for fine-art. Much more care goes into the selection of materials used for large-format fine-art prints, because they’re expected to last for 100 or more years without noticeable change.
Paper selection is a bit like finding just the right beverage for a meal. Do you choose wine, beer, or sparkling water? It all depends on your personal preference and budget. I have a number of favorites, which are based on specific printers. For example, when using an HP Designjet 130 printer (24-inch width), I almost always choose the HP Premium Plus Photo Satin paper (www.hp.com). This is a swellable inkjet paper that gives the HP dye-based inks excellent longevity. The surface is reminiscent of dye-transfer prints.
Canon USA (www.usa.canon.com) has both dye and pigment-ink printers, and a wide range of compatible media. The Canon imagePROGRAF W6400 (24 inches wide) and W8400 (44 inches wide) offer excellent longevity on semi-gloss, gloss, and matte papers. Canon officially announced the imagePROGRAF iPF5000 printer at PMA.
With Epson pigment-ink printers (www.epson.com), such as the Epson Stylus Pro 7600 (24-inch width) and the new Epson Stylus Pro 9800 (44-inch width), my list of favorites is quite long, and usually depends upon the project.
For fine-art prints I sell to collectors, I like the Arches Infinity Textured 230gsm paper (www.archesinfinity.com). It’s slightly off-white, has no OBAs (Optical Brightening Agents), and offers great tonality, with just enough texture to enhance sharpness without overwhelming the image.