Beginner's Guide to Printing
This guide will help you get good prints from your home printer. It assumes that you have a calibrated display and one of the common photographic software packages - Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements or Aperture. While there are many other software packages for printing, the process is typically similar. If you do not use one of these four applications you will need to determine what the proper settings are for your software.
For an excellent primer on enlarging and printing, see Tim's printing faq.
Note: I am not covering soft proofing in this post. Some people believe this is an essential component of getting the best quality prints, so if that is your goal you should investigate soft proofing and how to incorporate it into your workflow.
1. Papers, Printers and Profiles
Each paper requires a distinct profile matched to a specific printer. Companies that manufacture printers usually include profiles for their papers during installation of the software that came with the printer, but not for other papers. Because of this, if you use papers from other vendors you must (1) download the profiles from the vendor web site, (2) make your own profile using a specialized and expensive colorimeter or (3) pay someone else to make a profile specific for your paper and printer (for every paper/printer combo you need a distinct profile). This tutorial will only discuss option (1).
2. Choosing Paper
There are many companies that manufacture papers other than the printer manufacturers (e.g., Canon, Epson, HP, Kodak, Brother, etc.). These papers are often of superior quality and sometimes less expensive. Some companies, such as Harmon, even sell fiber-based papers. These companies include:
Red River (http://www.redriverpaper.com/)
(and many others)
Papers come in many sizes, weights and surfaces. Some are better for archival purposes than others. A minimum weight should be 66 lb (266 gsm) and minimum thickness of 10 mil. Common surfaces include glossy, satin, luster, matte and metallic, but there are many others.
3. Installing Profiles
a. Choose a paper. For instance, you may choose Red River's Arctic Polar Luster.
b. Download the profile from Red River that is specific for your printer, in this example the Epson 3800.
c. Install the profile in its proper place.Windows 7, Vista, XP:
Mac OS X Lion (10.7) or Snow Leopard (10.6):
d. Once installed, restart your photo software so the profiles can be loaded.
I'm an OS X user, and while I don't use Windows or Linux, the general approach is nearly the same. You will need to post questions here to get answers from others who know the proper procedure. It is also possible that different versions of the software listed here have different methods of managing color, so you will need to ask version-specific questions.
4. Printing from Photoshop CS5
I have an Epson 3800 printer. If you have a different printer the details of this section will vary from a little (other Epson printers) to a lot (Canon or HP printers). However, you should be able to garner enough from this section to at least learn what to look for with your printer, or enough to ask more specific questions about how to set something with your printer.
The first step is to open an image and choose File > Print... This opens the following Photoshop print dialog box.
1 Photoshop dialog
Box 1 in red should list your printer; however, if you have more than one printer make sure you set this to the one to which you intend to print. Box 2 should be set to Photoshop Manages Colors and then you choose the printer profile that you installed as directed above. This will be a long list, so you'll need to search carefully. For most printing you want to set to relative colormetric and enable black point compensation. Box 3 is very important - click on Print Settings and you should get the Print Dialog box.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/digi-film/6697051931/
2 Print settings
In box 1, choose Print Settings. This allows you to select a paper type. If you're using paper from the company that makes the printer, it is likely that the paper you're using is already listed. If you're using a third-party paper, then just select one from the pull-down that is similar to yours. For example, I use Red River Arctic Polar Luster and have chosen Epson's Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster in box 2. This setting adjusts the volume of ink that is deposited onto the paper. Box 3 is critical - this should be disabled; if it's not, then when you print you'll get the infamous double profile - Photoshop sends one color profile and your printer applies a second color profile. This will completely screw up your prints. You can verify it's disabled by choosing Color Matching pull-down menu.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/digi-film/6697087417/
3 Color matching
Next, use Save As... from the Preset pulldown (image below) to save a preset for this particular paper for this printer. (I have found Arctic Polar Satin and Arctic Polar Luster to have the same characteristics, thus I use the same preset for both papers.) Give it a name that is easy for you to identify. Once saved, you no longer have to go through all of this - just pull up the preset in the Printer Dialog Box. After you have everything set, click Save to return to the Photoshop print dialog Box.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/digi-film/6697051433/
4 Save settings
You should be returned to the Print Dialog Box and now you just need to click Print.
5. Printing from Photoshop Elements 9
Photoshop Elements is similar. After opening a file, choose File > Print... to bring up Elements' Print dialog box.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/digi-film/6697053069/
1 Elements dialog
Click on More Options... (red box at bottom) to set the three pull-down menu items as in the image, making certain that the profile you choose is for the profile you installed as directed above.
After that, click Print... and you should be brought to the printer's Print dialog box. Select Color Match from the pull-down menu; it should be disabled. If not, you'll get double-profiling. Next, select the Preset from the Photoshop section above and you should be ready to print.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/digi-film/6697053229/
2 Printer dialog
6. Printing from Aperture
Printing from Aperture is probably the easiest because it has a single dialog box for printing.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/digi-film/6697053341/
1 Aperture 3 dialog
Set everything as in the box (with appropriate paper size and profile) and click Print... In the next box, choose the Preset you made above and then print the image.
I don't have Lightroom but I will add it if someone can prepare this section.
8. Digital Photo Pro
Click here for DPP.