I’ve read that many people are having a tough time getting their prints to look right when printing from Adobe Lightroom. I finally figured out how to get consistent print quality (i.e. matching what I see on the screen to what I see on my print). So here’s a step by step procedure for getting good prints.
- iMac 2.1GHz PPC G5
- ColorVision Spyder2 Suite
- OSX 10.4.10
- Adobe Lightroom 1.2 374426
- Epson Stylus Photo RX580 using Claria inks
A word about paper. Amazingly, the paper I used to use was messing this whole process up. I had some older Epson and Canon paper that I was using. Come to find out, this is what was causing my bad prints. If you’re using an Epson printer with Epson inks… use NEW Epson paper! Throw that old stuff out and buy some new paper. I’m currently using Premium Photo Paper Glossy (4 stars). I forgot what the old paper was called, but it used similar words, just in a different order. Apparently, Epson has a habit of changing the name of their papers often.
1) Calibrate Your Monitor
So, the first thing you need to do is calibrate your monitor. I spend the $200 to get the ColorVision Spyder2 Suite. The Suite product comes with PrintFix, an application that supposedly helps you get good prints by using canned .icc profile files. I’ve never owned a printer that PrintFix supports, so it was a waste of money for me. I would suggest that you just get the colorimeter and skip the PrintFix software.
If you don’t want to buy some calibration hardware, then Adobe offers a visual profiling solution that comes with Photoshop I think. I’m not really sure as it just seemed to always be on the PC I was currently using. I guess OSX has it too if you’ve installed Photoshop. I don’t use it, so I can’t really tell you how to run it.
Honestly, the best .icc profiles will be created with the hardware solution, but I guess the visual solution is better than no calibration at all. And remember, you need to calibrate your monitor more than once. As monitors age, their display characteristics change. I calibrate my monitor every 6 months.
2) Install paper/printer icc profiles
Different papers react different to different types of inks. This means that printing with paper from Epson may look different than printing on paper from Canon or HP. This is where paper icc profiles come into play. They tell the application that is managing color how to print this particular image on this particular paper, using this particular ink, with this particular printer. Sometimes these profiles are installed when you buy a new printer and load all that software that comes with it. Since I’m using an all Epson solution, paper icc profiles for all of their papers was installed when I installed the drivers for the printer. If you’re using paper from another manufacturer, you might have to consult their website for profiles of their papers .
3) Clean and align your print heads
Make sure you’ve clean and align your print heads occasionally. Always align the print heads after replacing an ink cartridge. The procedure for this varies from print to printer, so consult your manual.
On to Printing
OK, now we’re down to it. You’ve taken some great shots of the kids and you want to print them out. I’ll assume that you’ve already imported the digital negatives into Lightroom, and have edited them to your liking. From here you select the photos you want printed and click on the Print module. You should see something similar to the following:
For the sake of convenience, I’m just going to select one photo and print it on 4×6 paper. You can select multiple photos and use many different layout templates of which I’m not going to get into in this article.
One of the first things you’ll need to do is make sure you have the paper size set correctly. Press the ‘i’ key and it will toggle the display of some information in the upper left corner of the photo. Notice the ‘Paper’ field. This should match the paper size you will be using. If it doesn’t, then click the ‘Page Setup’ button where you can select the paper size you’ll be using by selecting it in the ‘Paper Size’ combo box. As shown below, I’ve selected 4×6 boarderless paper:
Template BrowserThis panel allows you to select some pre-existing layout templates to choose from. I’ve chosen the ‘Maximize Size’ template as shown in Figure 1. This will try to maximize the print to fit the selected paper size.
Image SettingsThis panel has some useful option for making sure your pictures fill each cell of a template. I choose ‘Zoom to Fill Frams’ and ‘Auto-Rotate to Fit’. I think their function is fairly evident. The one I wasn’t sure about was ‘Repeat One Photo per Page’. This allows you to select a template that has multiple cells, or frames, and apply one image to all of them. For example, if you were printing wallet size photos of one image, you’d want to select this option to place the same image in all of the cells.
Layout and Overlays
I’m skipping over the ‘Layout’ and ‘Overlays’ panels because the have little effect on print quality.
This is a very important panel in determining how your print will come out. Don’t select Draft mode if you want a nice looking print for obvious reasons.
Print Resolution. This field sets the ppi count of the image that is set to the printer. My Epson seems to print best at 360, but other printers fare well at 260 or 300. Refer to your printer’s manual for guidance. And as a side note, the higher the ppi, the larger the image (file size) and the longer it will take to print. So if you can get away with 260ppi, all the better for print speed.
Print Sharpening. Most inkjet printers need some sharpening applied to the photo. I usually just select ‘Medium’ sharpening as that seems to result in nice prints that are not overly sharpened.
Color Management. The ‘Profile’ field is probably the most important option on this panel. You want to select the paper profile that matches the paper you are using. As I mentioned above, each paper has it’s own printing characteristics. This is where you tell Lightroom how to print to the paper you selected previously. If you haven’t set this before, it probably says ‘Managed by Printer’. You don’t want this option. Click on it and select ‘Other’ as shown below:
This will bring up another dialog to select from the list of available paper profiles. As you can see on Figure 4, I have several options with pretty cryptic names. The paper I’m using is called ‘Premium Photo Paper Glossy’, which doesn’t appear to be in the list. It is however since this paper used to be called ‘Premium Glossy Photo Paper’, or PGPP. That matches up with the option ‘SPRX580 RX590 PGPP’. By the way, the ‘SPRX580 RX590′ part of the profile name stands for Stylus Photo RX580/590 printer.
After you select your profile, you may have to re-select the ‘Profile’ option and actually select the profile that you had just picked from the list. I think I read somewhere that this was a bug in the Lightroom software, and I’m not sure if it’s been fixed yet.
You can also mess with ‘Rendering Intent’ if you wish. I don’t notice that much difference between the two, so I just leave it on Perceptual.
Now to print. Click the ‘Print’ button and the Print dialog pops up. The two most important options here are ‘Print Settings’ and ‘Color Management’.
Under ‘Print Settings’ you need to once again select the appropriate Media Type (paper). For ‘Color’, choose color even if it’s black and white. I’ve never had good results selecting greyscale. For ‘Mode’, select the ‘Advanced’ radio button and then choose ‘Photo RPM’ in the combo box, and deselect ‘High Speed’. See Figure 5
Next go on to ‘Color Management’. Select ‘Off’. This is really important. You don’t want any other application trying to mess with the color of your print because you’re setting it up in Lightroom. Once again, TURN THIS OFF!
Now click the ‘Print’ button and wait for your print to be printed.
After it’s Printed
Your prints probably will look a little off right after they’ve printed. Just lay the print on a flat surface and let it rest for about 15 minutes. The solvents in the ink need to out-gas and ‘set up’ before the print will look its best. If you read the instructions that come with your paper (yea, who does that!!!), it will tell you to let your prints rest for a period of time, and then to sandwich them in between pieces of regular printing paper to rest over night. This helps absorb any extra moisture in the print and will result in a better, longer lasting print.
The Cliff Note Version
- Calibrate your monitor.
- Get paper/printer profiles.
- Set your paper size.
- Set your printer/paper icc profile.
- Choose Photo RPM and deselect High Speed.
- Turn off color management by other applications (ie. the printer or OSX color sync).
- Print, then let it rest for 15 minutes.