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10 home printing tips

Aimee Baldridge

Printing tips that will help you get the results you want and produce digital prints that will last.

If you choose to print your photos at home on a desktop or portable printer, the process can get complicated. The most common problem with home printers is that the colours and exposure may not come out in print the way they look on a computer monitor. These tips will help you get the results you want and produce prints that will last.

1 Calibrate your monitor. To see the brightness and colour of your photo accurately before you print it, you need to ensure that your monitor is set to the appropriate brightness and colour settings. To do this, purchase a monitor calibration package. Prices start at about $60. A package includes a small device to put on the front of the monitor and software that guides you through the calibration process, which takes just a few minutes.

2 Set the appropriate print (or output) resolution. With a decent printer, resolutions as low as 200 dpi can produce excellent results. Using 240 to 300 dpi is usually a safe bet, and you can go to 600 dpi or higher for nuanced photos or your best prints.

3 Use high-quality paper. For the best archival quality, choose an acid-free 100 percent cotton rag or alpha cellulose paper.

4 Use good ink. Don't buy cheap inkjet inks sold under office-supply and other third-party brands. They can produce unpredictable results, are likely to fade more quickly, and may even clog your printer nozzles. Stick with the printer manufacturer's inks or a high-quality alternative that has been reviewed and tested for print longevity.

5 Buy a printer that uses more than four inks. All photo inkjet printers have at least four inks—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. The printer mixes the inks in different amounts at each pixel to create a wide range of colours. However, some colours are hard to render with just three colour inks. Higher-end printers add more inks to render greater nuance and accuracy in colours.


organize-your-digital-life.jpgReprinted with permission from the book Organize Your Digital Life by Aimee Baldridge. Copyright © 2009 National Geographic Society. Text copyright © 2009.
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