Friday, 25 January 2008

Getting to grips with black point

Lake hut, Mongolia, September 2006

Over the past couple of days I've been putting a lot of effort into printing. Now I've got my printer working again, there is quite a back-log. I'm also putting together a series of prints for a print review session at an up-coming workshop. It's been quite a trying experience at times.

i realised that I had to put together a more robust workflow for printing than I had, plus most of my print optimization had been in preparation for the local print shop. Different printers, different final edit.

I always work my output (web, print, distribution CDs) from a 16-bit TIFF exported from Lightzone. I had to make a few changes to the settings there. Black point needs to be set high enough in the TIFF to cover all outputs (e.g. my printer has a black point of around 35). Then the image needs some levels & contrast adjustment to get the blacks (and sometimes whites) in the right place. As I pay more attention I'm finding more and more I need to do to get it just right.

Then there are the printer settings. I ran through about 10 sheets of awful prints before realising I'd set colour management in both Photoshop and the printer. The iP6700D (and I'd presume other Canon printers) has an annoying pre-sets function where output settings are stored. It's fine if you stick to the setting saved but make a change and everything else seems to revert to default. I had to go carefully through each of the pre-sets I use to make sure they were all just right Plus you can't modify & re-save the settings, need to create a new set but at least the old filename can be overwritten.

The outcome of all this is a dramatic improvement in the quality of prints I'm putting out, more consistency and a much easier process to boot. Next I'll need to start trying Fine Art papers, now that I think I can cut down the wastage.

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