Fine Art Printing – step by step-ish
You were dreaming to give life to your images and bring your artist portfolio to a new professional level. Making your own prints could be easier and less expensive than you might expect and, can also help you to become a better photographer. The technology is mature and reliable and the results of Giclée fine art printing could be phenomenal!
1. Use a performant printer:
For fine art printing (the “dotless” technology) we recommend the inkjet printers. Either Canon or Epson (it really comes down to a personal choice) provide the professional quality when it comes to printing vibrant “fine art prints”. Please keep in mind two important criteria when choosing your printer:
- the maximum paper size
- the number of inks/pigments
At our Fine Art Imaging studio, we print on Canon PRO4000 (44inches) which employs 12 pigments. One of these is Chroma Optimiser that works as a “clear coat” layer when printing on satin and glossy media – this will ensure uniformity of light reflection, thus enhancing the quality of the print.
2. Use a “fine art” suitable display:
If you expect to get great prints, in order to adequately evaluate your images before printing you have to use a high-quality desktop display. You should get into the habit of “soft proofing” every printing job before sending it to the printer. A smart combination of display and software (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.) will definitely help to preview on screen a reasonably accurate “printing interpretation” of your image.
At Fine Art Imaging studio, we use an Eizo monitor that we find to maintain consistent color gradation from capture to print. When the time will come to acquire a new professional monitor, will take a closer look at Apple Retina 5k display.
3. Calibrate and profile your display:
Whatever monitor you use it needs to be set-up correctly to make sure would display colors as accurate as possible. This could be achieved by periodic calibration of the device by creating a custom profile (in these regards we recommend x-rite professional display calibration)
One of the most common problem when starting to print is that prints come out too dark – this is most often related to the brightness setting of your display (which was probably set up too bright)
4. USE PRINTER PROFILES!!!
In our opinion, the ICC media profiles are the most crucial element of the fine art printing workflow. An ICC profile is basically the communication bridge between the printer and your computer for a selected media. Using a media profile will provide you with the ability to remain consistently accurate across a range of printing conditions.
The generic ICC profiles are provided by the media manufacturer (the professional ones). Here is an example of Hahnemuhle ICC profiles download center: start by choosing your printer model, than the type of media and, boom! you get a link to download your ICC profile into your computer and hopefully employ it within your printing workflow.
Note: you can make your “in house” custom media ICC profiles or have a studio as ours to do it for you. This will help reaching even higher results on your fine art prints.
5. Employ performant support media:
Not all the media are created equal; in general, the price is an expression of the quality. If we are talking about the leaders in the industry, Hahnemuhle in Europe and the younger related Breathing Color in North America, you will simply boost effortlessly your chances to obtain the perfect print (but you will have pay bigger $). The good news is that they are many fine art media producers on the market nowadays and, with the right workflow, you will be able to get your vibrant fine art prints on these fine art media as well and save on the production costs.
Want to know more on printing media? Read our article – “How to select the right medium for your Fine Art Prints” and choose the right paper for your image.
6. Choose printer settings carefully:
Either the printer driver or the plug-in printing software will allow you to set up the rightful printing instructions. When you are ready to print the job, the choices you make are absolutely critical in getting the correct input. Here are a few examples:
- choice of media (“textured paper” for example will instruct the printer to position the printhead into the highest position in order not to touch and scratch the media)
- “use ICC profile” versus “no color correction”
- rendering intent: “perceptual”, “saturation” or “relative calorimetric”
- quality & media – highest versus standard (will have an impact on the printer’s usage of inks/pigments for a specific media)
- paper detailed settings – “calibration value” ; “unidirectional printing”
- page processing – “automatic cut” or “print cut guidelines”
There is no place for shortcuts in “fine art printing” process. Any cut-off will reflect poorly on the print, and you and your eventual clients will be disappointed. It takes a commitment to do it right as was meant to be!