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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

DPP Solutions: Perfect Prints

Fine-art master John Paul Caponigro’s essential tips for print-making

There’s no mystery to what it takes to make great prints. There are many things to consider before making them and many steps to take while making them. Set clear objectives, map the process out clearly, master the skills in each step (or collaborate with people who have mastered specific skills) and you, too, will be able to produce great prints. Whole books are written on this subject. Here, in a more brief venue, is an overview of what it takes.

1 Know What To Look For
More than half the battle is learning to know what to look for. While there are many things to look for, and many exceptions that can be made, the guiding principle can be stated simply as reproduce fine detail without process artifacts. Focus, depth of field, shadow and highlight detail, smooth gradation, minimal noise and flawless surfaces are all prized. Exceptions are useful if they’re made for a reason. Find out how great prints can be by looking at some of the best prints produced in galleries and museums. Nothing is quite like the real thing.

2 Choose A Versatile Ink Set
All inks are not created equally. To make the best prints, choose the best ink sets. The best ink sets produce rich blacks, neutral neutrals, good gray balance and saturated colors. They offer substantially reduced gloss differential and metamerism. They’re fast-drying and permanent, both light-fast and water-resistant.

3 Choose An Expressive Substrate
Take a little time to explore your options. There are many great papers from which to choose, and you can print on other substrates like wood, metal and plastic. Each material brings unique expressive dimensions to your images. Experiment and evaluate before you commit. Make it a point to continue exploring your options in this fast-evolving field.

4 Use Color Management Correctly
Take these six steps: 1) Make profiled conversions into a wide-gamut, device-neutral editing space, like ProPhoto RGB; 2) Calibrate your monitor using hardware; 3) Set good Photoshop Color Settings that alert you when color-management operations are about to happen and give you choices for how they will be handled; 4) Softproof before you print to choose a rendering intent and make output-specific adjustments; 5) Navigate your printer driver correctly, choosing high-quality profiles and one kind of color management, not two; and 6) Control your environment, editing and evaluating proofs and prints in neutral, well-lit surroundings.

5 Proof Before You Print
Color management gets you 90% of the way there, but to get the last 10% you need to proof before you make your final prints. To get the best prints possible, you often need to take extra steps like restoring deep shadow detail, sharpening for substrate and size, compensating for scale, and viewing light temperature, to name a few. It’s this last 10% that often separates good prints from great prints.

6 Frame A Sense Of Destination
They say, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” But will you be happy with where you ended up? Before you start out, take a little time to decide where you want to go and how you want to get there, and you’ll avoid wandering aimlessly and taking fruitless sidetracks. You won’t waste time and you’ll be much less likely to abandon your quest out of frustration. So look before you leap. With a clear idea of what you want to achieve, the steps you need to take will become clear, and you’ll be far more likely to achieve your goal.


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