What Should You Know When You’re Printing Images Yourself

As a photographer there will certainly be a day you will become interested in seeing your work as actual prints and printing images yourself. And not only printing it out, but also to know more about the quality of the prints and the material you’re printing it on.

For me, printing my work myself lead me to examine the quality of my images and the colour correction I did – or didn’t at the the time – do.

It’s not as exciting if you just see your images on your laptop, and whether you’re going to exhibit them in galleries or not, just going through the print process will make a huge difference in the appreciation towards your work.

Here’s steps to printing images yourself.

STEP 1: What you need to start

You might have access to quality printer like Epson SureColor, but with these steps you can manage with a more inexpensive printer.

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • A high-quality scanner
  • A high-quality printer (optional)
  • Quality photo paper

You can find great scanners at second-hand shops. Notice, that the more older ones might not detect certain colors when scanning. If you use a wide range of colors in your work, you should invest in quality scanner.

printing images

Similarly with the printer; you can always find good printing services to do the printing for you, and to make sure you’re not printing with the wrong settings just to waste ink. The printing services some photography or print shops provide are high quality and save your time and money, if you know what you want and can provide them with the right files. They can provide more insight on the right materials to print on.

The easiest way to make a test layout with images would be using Photoshop. You can probably do this with other software, but in the long run, Photoshop will make it a lot more easier.

STEP 2: Scan your work

Have your artwork ready, whether they’re paintings or images. If you do not have your work printed yet, prepare your files for the printer. You can find a tutorial for it on youtube.

printing images

Always make sure your scanner is dust-free, with wiping it from time to time.

Make sure you know about DPI (dots per image), so you can scan your work properly. Higher DPIs create a better, higher resolution in the final prints. Setting the DPI to no less than 300 for a standard print is recommended. Anything lower and you’ll end up with a visibly pixelated print.

When scanning, make sure the top, bottom, and sides of the artwork line up on the scanner perfectly. This is especially important if your artwork is too large to fit in the scanner and you need to scan it in several batches.

At this point in the process, you can even edit out parts of the original artwork that you don’t like, so they don’t show up on the prints.

If you’re scanning in batches, you’ll then need to “stitch” the pieces together in Photoshop.

STEP 3: Printing a test piece

printing images

Once everything is looking good in Photoshop, print a test proof onto acid-free archival paper. The colors may look different on the page as they do on the screen, or compared to the original.

You can adjust the colour and contrast in Photoshop, if necessary. Don’t print a whole batch of prints without doing a proof first, or you risk wasting a lot of expensive ink and paper.

Which photo paper to choose

There are two things to keep in mind when considering the best paper for art prints: the paper or other surface that you create the original artwork on, and the paper you print onto. 

If you’re a graphic designer or draw in pencil or pen, you will probably already be creating artwork on a scannable surface, but if you’re a photographer or multi-media artist, you might not be. If, before creating the original artwork, you know you’ll want to scan it and turn it into a print later, it’s a good idea to use canvas paper as it is flat and easier to scan.

printing images

Stretched canvases can also be scanned, but they’re a little trickier to perfect. When you’re just learning how to make prints of art, opt for the simplest method possible until you’re familiar with the process.

As for the paper you print onto, archival, acid-free paper is best. This paper will last longer and keep your artwork looking as it’s meant to, even if it’s framed and gathering dust and light.

Whether you opt for matte or gloss paper is up to your preferences and the requirements of the printed content. Matte paper tends to absorb and diffuse pigments more than gloss paper, so if you are printing an artwork with fine details, you may prefer the final look on gloss.

These are the papers to choose from

Glossy – The most widely used finish is the glossy finish which comes in degree of glossiness from normal to high glossy. The shine from the chemical coating helps distinguish the smallest details of the photograph, however the resulting glare makes viewing the print from certain angles challenging on occasion.

Matt – Depending on the brand, you will come across this finish as Matt or Matte. It is situated on the other side of the scale with zero glossiness. The lack of expensive finish makes the photo paper slightly cheaper to produce and more affordable to buy which helps explain why it is commonly used in brochure and flyer printing. It is also commonly used when printing black and white photos, as glossy finish can diminish from the photo’s credibility.

Satin – The satin finish is situated precisely in the middle, between the glossy and matt finish. It benefits from a level of glossiness, but nowhere near that of the actual glossy finish. Certain brands such as Epson call their range of satin finish “semi-gloss” so the best description will be a toned down glossy finish.

Pearl and Luster – These are offered by the more professional manufactures and represent a type of satin finish with a textured feel. The normal satin or semi-gloss finish is flat, but these two include a delicate texture to make the print feel more special when held.

STEP 4: Print your images

Whatever paper you choose from, printing depends really on the printer you have.

Printers use a fundamentally different colour model from computer monitors and other electronic display devices. While your computer monitor uses an RGB (red, green, black) colour model to get a better range of colors on a dark screen, printers almost universally use CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and “key colour” black) to be able to get good results on white or light coloured paper or card stock.

printing images

Both professional and home printers will often automatically convert RGB files to CMYK, since printers cannot use RGB as is.

While results are often acceptable, this sometimes results in an unwelcome surprise as the final print may look quite different from how the design initially looked on the design tool. This is especially obvious on larger prints such as posters.

Accurate colors are especially important for colour branding and art reproductions, and neglecting to convert files from RGB can result in prints you may find unusable.

When possible, any designs intended for print should have their colour model changed to CMYK from the very beginning.

This can save designers a lot of time fine-tuning the results, as is often the case if you only convert your artwork to CMYK just before printing.

Once you’ve printed your test proofs and are ready to print the final product – always wear gloves so you won’t leave any marks or stains on your prints.

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4 thoughts on “What Should You Know When You’re Printing Images Yourself

  1. This is perfect. As an amateur photographer, I’m about to do a gallery wall in my loft space and I need to print my prints. Thanks for all the helpful info.

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