4.8. Digital Photos on an Inkjet Printer
Printing decent photos on an inkjet printer boils down to three things:selecting the right paper type, choosing your photo's resolution and size , and adjusting your printer's settings. Make a mistake on any one of these three tasks , and it's easy to muck up your photo. Here's how to make the right choices when it's time to print out your masterpieces.
4.8.1. Choosing Photo Paper
When you want the best photos, buy paper from the same company that made your printer. Manufacturers create their printers, paper, and ink to work as a team. The coating on the paper binds with the ink to keep the colors from blurring. If quality really doesn't matterfor children's daily art projects, greeting cards, or refrigerator printsbuy the cheapest stuff you can get (and cheap ink, as well). But if you care about how your photos look, read on.
Tip: Don't leave photo paper sitting in the printer's tray; the light and temperature fluctuations dull its look. Instead, store the paper in a cool, dark place and feed it to your printer, sheet by sheet, when needed.
Manufacturers describe their photo paper using a wide variety of terms.
Tip: Don't print on the back of botched photo paper. The paper prints well on one side onlythe shiny side. Printing on the other side bleeds the ink together into arty smears. To determine which side is the rear, look for writing on the backside ; alternatively, some paper manufacturers put notches on one corner and direct you to insert the paper with the notch facing a certain direction.
4.8.2. Choosing Your Photo's Size and Resolution
The concept can be a bit tricky to understand at first, but the size of your photo onscreen doesn't translate into its printed size. That's because your monitor and printer work at different levels of resolution the number of dots needed to create the image.
Since people sit a foot or two from their screens, monitors create images by stringing together about 100 dots per incha fairly low resolution. Your eyes blur the dots together to create an even image. Printers require more dots than monitors because people ( especially nearsighted ones) hold the paper much closer to their eyes. To fool the eye into seeing smooth, clean prints, most printers need to pack in at least 300 dots per inchconsiderably higher resolution. That means your digital photo must be about three times the size of your monitor to print out at your monitor's size.
This isn't a big problem for digital cameras that use three or more megapixels. Those photos can easily fill a full sheet of paper at full resolution. But smaller photosor portions of photosmay lack the resolution needed to print at certain sizes. When printed too large, photos look grainy. Sometimes you can see bunches of dots instead of a smooth image.
How do you know what size to choose? Some photo-editing programs (Section 5.4.2) let you know when you're trying to print a photo at too large a size. (Some even help you crop photos to a standard photo size.) As a rule of thumb, the more megapixels your digital camera shoots with, the larger sized prints you can make.
Table 4-1 offers some guidelines as to how large a print you can make from your particular digital camera.
Table 4-1. Choosing the right size for your printed digital photo
As shown above, cameras with three or more megapixels can fill a standard-sized piece of paper without much problem. Cameras with four or more megapixels give you the luxury of cropping (Section 5.5)trimming out all but a photo's best portionwhile still creating a decent-sized print.
You'll see similar charts elsewhere with slightly different numbers . That's because a lot depends on the quality of your printer and your own definition of quality. The same photo can make professionals shudder and amateurs smile.
Tip: To shoot the most detail with your digital camera, browse through its built-in menus and change your detail setting to Fine or Super Fine rather than Normal. The resulting files are larger, but they look better when you print them out.
4.8.3. Adjusting Your Printer Settings
Once you decide on your photo's size and paper type, be sure to tell your printer about your choices. If you skip this vital step, the printer chooses its default settings, which usually means printing your stunning photo onto plain paper at low quality.
To see how your photo will appear on paper, choose File Print Preview, and then adjust the printers settings (Section 4.4) to match your chosen paper selection and photo size. When both the preview and settings look correct, click Print to send your photo to the printer.
Remember that sunlight, particularly ultraviolet rays within sunlight, fades photos quickly. For best preservation, request UV protected glass or plexiglass when framing your picture. That filters out the most harmful rays, giving your photos the best chance at long- term survival.
Tip: After printing a photo, let it dry for 10 minutes on a clean flat surface. That gives the inks time to bond with the paper. If you handle it too quickly after printing, a fingerprint could smudge the ink.