Tuesday, November 10, 2009


To make consistent prints, a proofing regimen is a good idea

Proof At Reduced Scale
You can save considerable time and materials (both mean money) by proofing images at a reduced scale. It’s even possible to use paper scraps, damaged paper or proof on both sides of double-sided paper. Just remember, for proofing to be meaningful, you have to proof on the same substrate under the same conditions on which you’ll make the final print.

Customize Ink Limit And Print Speed
The amount of ink applied to a substrate has a significant impact on print quality. More ink yields higher Dmax and greater gamut, but excessive dot gain can subdue detail and even create spattering. One way to allow for more ink layout without excessive dot gain is to allow more time for the ink to dry by slowing print speed. The key is an optimum balance.

Many printer drivers will allow you to customize these settings. Using the Epson driver, you can customize color density and drying time when accessing the Paper Configuration dialog box. Epson has done an excellent job with its settings, which are specified by a selection of media type. You may wish to confirm this with your own testing. The ability to customize these settings is particularly useful when using third-party or exotic substrates.

Under Print Settings, choose the nearest Media Type and then customize Paper Configuration from that point, as the latter refines the former. As Color Density rises, increase Drying Time. Guard against excessive dot gain. Watch for loss of shadow detail. Watch for spattering in highlights and midtones. Raise the amount of ink laid out to a maximum without encountering these adverse side effects. This is the kind of test you can do once and expect the results to hold when you print with the same substrate. As an aside, using these tools to speed or slow the rate at which a substrate advances through the printer can cure banding (dark lines) or microbanding (light lines).

Compensate For Loss Of Shadow Detail
Classically, inkjet prints are over-inked. This produces dense blacks and rich midtones, but it often sacrifices deep shadow detail. Some printer drivers enable you to reduce ink limit to prevent this. The side effect is that midtones are weakened. If this isn’t an option or an unacceptable trade-off, select and mask the deep shadows only and lighten them to compensate. This is similar to compensating for drydown in the traditional darkroom. As inkjet prints emerge from the printer almost dry, and the majority of drying occurs in the first 20 minutes, it’s rare that drying has a significant impact on a print’s appearance. Inkjet prints dry lighter, so when in doubt, print very slightly dark.

Keep A BAT
For centuries, it has been a time-honored tradition to keep a final proof on file, something to refer to when you evaluate prints over a large run or decide to print an image again. Keep a BAT, or bon à tirer, which is French for “good to pull.” Though you may wish to, it’s not necessary to keep all the proofs from a proofing session. You may consider keeping the first proof pulled without additional adjustments as this can be used to compare previous printing conditions with current printing conditions separate from session specific adjustments. At a minimum, keep the final BAT, which you can use to evaluate all other prints and proofs. Replace old BATs with new BATs after each new proofing session.

Every day is a new day. And every print can be a new print. As technology advances, I’ve seen my prints get better and better. And so will you.

John Paul Caponigro, author of Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution, is an internationally renowned fine artist and authority on digital printing. Get over 100 free downloads and his free enews Insights at www.johnpaulcaponigro.com.


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