Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Why inkjet printing?, part of Inkjet Printing for Photographers.
Not all inkjet printers are created equal; for photo printing you want a really particular kind of inkjet printer. The good news is, there aren't actually that many that you need to consider. The realm of photo-quality inkjet printing is pretty small, so you'll probably just be looking at about half a dozen printers. For the rest of this chapter you're going to sit in with my class at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute as I talk with them about all of the issues you need to consider when you're trying to pick a good printer for photo inkjet printing.
And we're going to start that right now with a discussion of why inkjet is better than the other printing technologies that are currently available. There are a lot of different printing technologies out there. There is inkjet, which we've been using. There are also Laser printers which you might have used. And there are some other technologies what you might not have heard of, like dye sublimation or thermal wax. For the most part, as far as photo printing goes, it's entirely about inkjet these days. Those other technologies, like thermal wax where, those were printers that actually had kind of like crayons in them that were melted onto the page.
Most of that has gone away. Dye sublimation, or dye sub, is still around, and one nice thing about dye sub is it gives you a truly continuous-tone print like you get in the darkroom; it's not a bunch of dots or anything like that. The downside to dye sub is you have to print on special dye sub paper, so you don't have a lot of paper options and it's expensive and the prints can be a little soft. Laser printers are nice because they're cheap. They're cheap to buy, and they are cheap to use. Cost-per-print wise is cheaper on a laser printer than anything else, even a color laser printer, but they don't have-- they're not continuous tone.
It's more like a newspaper. You look up close. You can see little dot patterns. They don't have the color gamut, meaning they don't have as wide a range of colors. Their detail isn't the same, and you can't print on lots of different media like glossy paper and stuff like that. So it comes down to inkjet. And inkjet it's a technology that's been around for quite a while, and it's called inkjet because it really is just that. It's a bunch of ink, and there is a little nozzle that's goes "splzzzz" and spits it all over the page in the shape of a photo. Now you might have an inkjet printer at home that you use for printing out Microsoft Word documents and things like that, and it might be color, and it might do an okay job of printing a photo.
What we have here is an actual inkjet printer designed specifically for photos. This specific one is an Epson Stylus Photo R2880, and they still make this printer. It's also been supplemented by a new printer, the R3000. The important thing about this printer is it uses--it doesn't have the sticker on anymore--the Epson K3 ink system, which is a very particular set of inks that's great for photo printing. So what happens when you send an image to the printer is as you know, onscreen every pixel is an individual color.
So the pixel in the upper left-hand corner might be red, and that red has a particular numeric value. That value is sent to the printer driver, which tries to translate that single dot of color into a pattern of printer dots of the same color. So this printer has eight different inks in it, I believe, and those are mixed together to create every other color. But they are not mixed together in the way that you would in a painting studio, where you glob a bunch of different inks together and swirl them around, and now you've got a final ink that's a particular color.
Instead, it's more like what you see in a magazine. They lay down patterns of dots in particular ways, and it just so happens that if you lay down out one of ink colors in a certain way next to some of the other ink colors, you get fuse or whatever. So a single-colored pixel on screen is represented on your page by maybe a hundred printer dots, teeny, tiny, little printer dots. So the first thing--the first mistake that people often make is they see the resolution of the printer--and this printer will list its resolution as 1440 dots/inch or 2880 dots/inch and they think, oh my gosh, I have to have an image that's 1440 pixels per inch. And that's not true, because a single pixel on your screen is represented by a whole bunch of printer dots.
And we'll talk about resolution later when we talk about how you size your images. So there are a number of different things to think about when you're choosing an inkjet printer. There are inks, whether you want to print black-and-white stuff, how big you want to print, what kind of computer you have, and so on and so forth. So we're going to talk about those in the next couple of movies here. For now I'd just say the thing to learn if you're serious about photo printing is don't worry about any other printing technology; get an inkjet printer, one specifically designed for printing photos, and we'll talk in a minute about what the differences are between that and the inkjet printer you might already have at home.
After a discussion of how to choose a printer, the course covers the process of preparing both black and white and color images using Adobe Photoshop. Ben describes how to take images from looking good onscreen to being properly adjusted for best results on paper, covering details such as sizing, sharpening, and color management.
With photographer and master framer Konrad Eek, Ben explores the creative decisions that photographers should address before printing. What size print? How does print size relate to the message of the photo and to the space where the photo will be displayed? What kinds of paper choices do you have, and how does your photo's content relate to the paper you choose?
The course also describes how to properly evaluate a print and how to handle common challenges that crop up during the printing process.
- Why print with inkjet?
- Types of inkjet printers: dyes versus pigments
- Making image adjustments specifically for printing
- Printing black-and-white photos
- Resizing an image
- Choosing paper
- Working with sharpening and noise reduction
- Color management