Perfect Prints (For Beginners)

Undeniably, photo prints still remain the most popular way of sharing memories. With the right printer and a handful of simple techniques, your pictures can look as sharp as the lab-processed ones. Read on for some great tips for getting the best prints possible.

Start with a Good Image
The first thing you need to get a good print — a high-quality image. An image that merely looks good onscreen is not enough. Here’s what a good image file would have:

Good Resolution
Resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image {usually stated in dpi (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch).}. The more pixels a photo has, the more clarity and detail it will retain as you increase its dimensions. Resolution can also be expressed by the width and height of the image, and the total number of pixels it contains. For example, an image that is 1500 pixels wide and 2100 pixels high (1500 x 2100) contains 3,150,000 pixels—or almost 3.2 mega pixels.

Most digital cameras offer a variety of resolution settings. It’s a good idea to use a higher-quality setting if you plan on printing large sized pictures. Here are some general guidelines:
Less than 640 x 480 pixels = Wallet-size prints. Good for E-mailing to friends , picture displays on the refrigerator etc.
640 x 480 pixels = 4″ x 6″ photo prints. These are going to be best for photo albums, General usage including craft projects (scrapbooks, stickers, etc).
1152 x 864 pixels = 5″ x 7″ photo prints. These are good for framing for home display, screensavers and photo greeting cards
1600 x 1200 pixels = 8″ x 10″ or larger. Good for framing, screensavers for home or gallery display and photo calendars

Best Format
Even if your image is high resolution, you will still need to save it in the correct file format: TIFF or JPEG. For best printing results, always save your pictures in the TIFF format (example: my_friends.tiff). Although this format results in a slightly larger file size, it will produce the most satisfactory results. The JPEG format (example: my_friends.jpg) is preferable for e-mailing photos as it results in smaller, compressed files—ideal for sending electronically.

Quality Control
Use a good image-editing program to remove dust marks and specks on your photos. The printer will most definitely pick up imperfections even if they’re very small. You can also use the sharpening option to more clearly define the edges of objects in your print.
Use a Good Printer and Know How to Use it
Once you are familiar with the features and settings of your printer, you will be able to get the best possible results.

Avoid DPI Dilemmas
Dots per inch (dpi) is a measurement of print resolution that indicates the number of individual dots a device can create on a page per square inch of area. For crisp, colourful, professional-looking prints, you should choose a printer with at least 600 x 600 dpi. Otherwise, your photos may turn out pixilated (objects will appear jagged and speckled).

Printer Drivers
Printer drivers play the role of translators, acting as a medium of communication between your printer and computer. To help fix problems and bring significant performance improvements, it is important to use the most current version available for your printer. Printer manufacturers regularly update drivers, and you can download new versions for free from the company’s website.

Resolution Settings
Refer to your printer’s manual to learn how to change quality settings. Usually, you would want ‘best quality’ resolution for photos; however, for wallet-size prints, ‘normal’ resolution may be enough. Experiment with your printer settings to see which ones give you satisfactory results.

Paper Settings
Paper settings control the amount of ink that is laid down on paper; therefore, using the setting that matches your photo paper is essential to making good prints. When you find a setting that works best for a particular paper type, make note of it so you will be able to get the same results when you use that paper again.

Clean and Clear
Running the ‘clean’ function in your printer every two to three months improves print appearance and prevents problems such as streaking and clogging. You can access ‘properties’ settings to perform maintenance actions such as cleaning the printer nozzles and aligning the print head.
Understand Your Ink and Paper
Your choice of printing supplies, such as paper and ink, can make the difference between a good print and a great one.

Paper and Ink Selection
Using Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) supplies would definitely assure you of the quality but they come with a price. Nowadays, Canon and HP boast of inks that deliver optimum colour and fade resistance up to 110 years. Non-OEM supplies are definitely cheaper, but its debatable whether they can achieve the same quality.

Drying Time
Before you frame a photo print or add it to a scrapbook, be sure to give it enough time to dry. Most OEM inks and papers are designed to dry within an hour or so, but it is best to allow the print to dry for about 24 hours prior to framing or placing it in a photo album.
If you are printing multiple pictures, remove them from the printer slide as they come out and set them aside. This will eliminate any chances of accidental smearing or running.