An afternoon of digital printing

© Andrew Fitzgibbon, 2016. Casablanca.

Technology and applications are continually evolving – Adobe seems to release significant application updates every 6 months or so! I thought I’d reassess my printing workflow, which has been from Photoshop. A few interesting points discovered during the afternoon:

  • Marrutt, the ink and paper supplier, posted a series of videos on output dpi for printing. They say this was based on discussions with printer technicians and industry experts (including Martin Evening, the multi-book Photoshop author). Until now I’ve been following advice in oldish books that there is little point in outputting at beyond 360dpi as it makes no difference to print quality. However, it seems that this was an arbitrary number, possibly from when computers and printers were slower, and best results (ie with clearest resolution) are obtain by outputting at the maximum possible dpi based on file size for the print size. The rationale being that this preserves the maximum actual camera-pixel information in the print, rather than digital approximations. A series of tests seem to prove this point. So, a change in my workflow will be to stop limiting my output dpi to 360 when I have pixels to spare.
  • Lightroom print module seems to have evolved since I last used it. It seems to be straightforward to create soft prints using ICC profiles and also save these versions as copy images. It seems to me a more efficient workflow doing this in LR rather than switching on/off additional layers in PS for different output formats. The PS version then remains a straight, print master. I’m swapping to LR for printing. I’ve also heard good things about LR’s AI output sharpening for prints – for my basic requirements, I think this should be more than sufficient.
  • Out of gamuts – this has been a source of frustration in the past, trying to fix OOG warnings in soft prints. An option is to ignore them and let the printer bring the areas back into gamut but this feels counter intuitive, given the manual work put into honing print master files. I experimented on one image that included significant shadow areas and saturated highlights as a test (the image above). I found best results by adjusting the black point to the paper by using a curves adjustment and leaving the printer to deal with the saturated highlights itself. The blacks adjustment is important on lustre paper to avoid the loss of shadow detail – there was a significant difference on my test prints; without correcting gamut the shadow areas were close to completely flat. Of course, the result will depend on the image. An advantage of printing at home is being able to make test prints and reprint if necessary. I’ll consider the OOG warnings critically and possibly ignore them depending on the specifics of the image.

Overall time well spent printing with an old image that I’m not as involved with as my current BoW – allowed for a dispassionate view! I’ll now put into practice with my BoW prints.