Producing Prints

So you have completed your masterpiece and want to print it? It can be satisfying to see your hard work emerge from the printer. Not to spoil your moment, but hold the press! The rapid adoption of personal computers by the masses had some thinkers speculating that the digital age would be "the end of paper." Instead, stark reality has shown an exponential rise in paper consumption. The reason is highly correlated with the habit of impulsively printing without due consideration.

Before you send your file to a printer, there is a work flow to follow that reduces the need to print a document many times before it meets your expectations. If you follow the printing work flow presented in this section, you should be able to digitally proof and preview and end up printing your final document only once.

This book assumes that you are printing on a desktop or floor model printer such as an inkjet, a laser, a thermal, an electrostatic, or a dye-sublimation device. In general, these devices accept input in the form of RGB color data.

TIP Do not convert your document to CMYK if printing on a consumer or professional-level digital print device. These are designed to receive RGB data and internally convert to the device color space

(based on the number of inks used).

However, if you are planning to use a commercial printer (using offset lithography, gravure plate setter, prepress, or any other image setter technology), contact the technical people at the service bureau and agree on a custom work flow. Often commercial printers want you to convert to CMYK color mode, but not necessarily so (see Chapter 2, "Working with Color").

Let's get started with the printing work flow on a desktop printer.

1. Open the file Illustration.tif from the companion CD. You will print the illustration from Chapter 8 in this tutorial.

The next three steps are not strictly necessary in order to print, but they are recommended if you are serious about color accuracy.

2. Ensure that you have a color-accurate system. You might need to characterize or calibrate your monitor, output device, and/or print media for accurate color rendition. See Chapter 2 for more information.

3. Once you are satisfied with your color environment, soft-proof the document to see how it will look in the output color space on the screen. See Chapter 2 for a tutorial.

4. If you perceive that changes should be made before printing, color correct the image next (see Chapter 3, "Digital Darkroom Skills").

The next step will set the image resolution for the planned print quality. Traditionally, web graphics are shown at 72 pixels/inch, and printed work has a minimum of at least 200 pixels/ inch resolution. If the image's pixel dimensions allow you to still reach your target document size, using greater resolution (300 dpi on up) yields higher print quality up to the resolution limit of your printer. See Chapter 1, "The Basics," to review these relationships.

5. Choose Image > Image Size to open the Image Size dialog box. Clear Resample Image if it is already checked. Change the height parameter to 3 inches. Notice that Width automatically changes to 4 inches and that Resolution changes to 256 pixels/inch (see Figure 9.1). This resolution is sufficient for printing at a good quality level, although the document size is still quite small. Click OK.

If you find that increasing the resolution to print quality results in a document size that is too small for you needs, the best solution is to go back to the source of your image and acquire more pixels. The source of your image may be a digital photo, drawing, or 3D model, for example.

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