Printmaking – 10 Tips to Make Better Prints

Last week a previous PhotoShop student of mine stopped by my store to discuss printmaking. We talked about a lot about techniques, papers, and one of my favourite topics, how to make black and white prints.  Consequently, for this week I decided to pass along a summary of that discussion in the form of 10 tips for readers that should help them to make better prints.

1. I’ll begin with the most important tip for getting a good digital print, which is a good quality image. You will need a good original image in order to get top quality digital photography printing. It’s like the old saying, “garbage in, garbage out.”

2.  Learn to white balance your camera. Proper camera white balance means the camera’s sensor reproduces the “colour temperature” of a light source, or the relative warmth, or coolness of white light. Setting the camera’s white balance corrects all the colours in your pictures, taking into account the light in which they were shot.

3.  If you are using a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera be sure to clean the sensor regularly. Even if you never remove the lens, dust will get in and show up on your prints.  Some cameras have self-cleaning, but that doesn’t remove all the dust from the camera, it only shakes it off the sensor and it will eventually find it’s way back, so to make sure I regularly clean my sensor with a clean blower.

4.  Calibrate the computer monitor. Do this about every two weeks with a new monitor, and then every month or so after it is a year old.  Adobe Photoshop provides the Adobe Gamma Wizard or use a more a specialized product by Color Vision, Monaco, Digital Light, or other manufacturers.

5.  Choose a colour space for the camera’s image files.  The two most common with digital images are sRGB and Adobe RGB 1998.   Check the camera’s menu for that initial selection.  If you are making enhancements to your images in PhotoShop you will do better with Adobe RGB 1998; it covers a wider colour gamut.  Wider range of colours mean more precise colour adjustments. These are subtle.

6.  Improve contrast.  Photographs from digital cameras are sometimes pretty flat and lack the contrasts that were once provided by films like Velvia and Ektachrome VC.  If shooting JPGs learn how to use levels and curves. With RAW it’s easy using the sliders in Adobe’s RAW converter.

7.  Resize your image.  Choose a resolution from 250 to 300.

8.  Sharpen.  All digital images whether scanned, or direct from the digital camera, require sharpening for a satisfactory print. I leave my camera at normal and do the real work in PhotoShop. Sharpening isn’t all that hard, there are many ways. Just spend some time searching the Internet and choose a method that isn’t complicated. I like sharpening to fit easily into my printmaking workflow.

9.  Choose the right paper.  Just like traditional photography, the paper you choose to print with will make a big difference. In Photoshop select print with preview and choose your surface – matt or glossy.  Be sure to go on-line and download the correct profile into PhotoShop for the paper you are using.

10.  Set your printer’s driver.  To maintain the colour accuracy of your image, it is essential to set your printer driver correctly. When you are ready to print, select the print preview option in your file menu.  There are several steps – you should learn them by reading your instruction manual for your printer.   It is important to let your printer know the amount of ink for the type of paper and surface.

And lastly, after printing save those images on archival CDs, DVDs or on external hard-drives. Don’t make the mistake of leaving all those image files on your computer, that’s the best way to loose everything.  Cheap bargain discs will degrade with time. Don’t store them in the sun and don’t write on them.

I really appreciate your comments.

And my website can be found at

3 responses to “Printmaking – 10 Tips to Make Better Prints

  1. Pingback: Tweaking Your Images – Tutorial « Leanne Cole Photography

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