Preparing a photo for online printing at a bureau is risky if you don’t work in a colour managed workflow. You might get away with it – why risk it?
High Level Overview
- Profile your Monitor or Display. THIS IS A MUST DO.
- Download and install the Printer Profiles from the Print Bureau.
- Go Image > Duplicate
- Layers > Flatten or Layer > Merge Layers
- Go to Image > Image Size… and ensure resolution is 300 PPI and units are inches.
- If resolution is NOT 300, untick Resample and change to 300. Make sure you re-tick Resample when done and Go OK to commit.
- If the resolution is 300 go cancel or OK.
- If resizing is not necessary, cancel or go ok and skip to No. 8.
- If resizing is necessary, cancel or go OK in the Image Size dialogue box. Use the Crop Tool (“C” on your keyboard) add the Ratio you need by just entering the size in inches and committing the crop.
- Revisit Image > Size… and change units to inches and enter your size you want and commit the change. If the ratio is right it will be straightforward. Ignore any minor rounding errors.
- Sharpen slightly more than you would for a screen. Ink spreads on paper. You can do this after proofing if you wish.
- View > Proof Setup > Custom and find the printer profile under Device to Simulate.
- Pick either Relative Colorimetric or Perceptual and tick Black Point Compensation.
- Turn on View > Gamut Warning. By default, any out of gamut colours will have a grey overlay.
- Bring any colours into Gamut if you wish using any of tools you need. If you have a profiled monitor the printer will try it’s best to replicate the colour. So, bringing the colours back into the gamut of the printer is not always necessary.
- Go to Edit > Convert to Profile… and ensure the settings match the proof version.
- Go File > Save As… > JPEG with a quality of 12 Maximum and a format of Baseline (“Standard) and the printer profile embedded.
- Upload the file to the Bureau.
The steps for online photo printing success
Work in a colour managed workflow
Colour profile your monitor using a Monitor Profiler or manually using your operating system.
The two Monitor Profilers I recommend are:
Choose an online printing bureau that has downloadable Print Profiles and clear instructions. The colour profiles have the extension of .icc
Add the print profiles to your operating system. On a Mac copy the profiles and paste them into: Finder > Go > Library > Color Sync > Profile. If you cannot see the Library hold the option key. On Windows right click on the profile and add it to your system.
Bureaus to Avoid
I avoid bureaus without downloadable profiles. Or bureaus that supply profiles but insist you upload an image with an sRGB profile rather than conversion to their printer profile. These types of bureau often correct the colours of the image to what they perceive is right — what! That said, you won’t be too disappointed if you use a bureau that only accepts sRGB just make sure they don’t edit your photo and you’ve got a profiled monitor.
Duplicate and Flatten
Now would be an appropriate time to go to Image > Duplicate and then Layer > Flatten or Layer > Merge – if you have layers.
Image Size for Print
Every quality photographic print bureau requires you upload images that have resolution of 300 PPI.
Use File > Image Size and make sure the Resolution is 300 PPI and the units set to inches to see what size your image will be without cropping.
If 300 is not the resolution untick resample then change it to 300 then commit the change by going OK.
You do not have to print at a bureau’s template size. Providing the image is not larger than the bureau’s largest size you can have any size you like.
If you like what you see and the resolution is three hundred, carry on without resizing. The print will come back the same size in inches that you see in the Image Size dialogue box.
If you do need a fixed template size use the Crop tool then crop to that size as a Ratio rather than using Width, Height & Resolution. For example, if you want an image that is twenty inches by sixteen Inches — crop to the Ratio of 16 x 20.
Use File >Image Size making sure you use Inches as the units and the Resolution is 300 PPI. Then enter the dimensions you want, and tick Resample. If you understand the different Interpolation methods pick one. If you are not comfortable with picking a method, pick Automatic.
Resampling or Interpolation
Personally, I use Bicubic Smooth Gradients when down sampling (reducing the size) and Preserve Details 2.0 if up sampling (increasing the size). Make sure you tick Preserve Details 2.0 in the Photoshop preferences under Technology Previews.
Final Sharpening or Output Sharpening
If resizing taken place it’s good practice to sharpen now. Sharpening for print is different to sharpening for screen. You need to over sharpen more for print as ink on paper leads to softer edges. You could if you want, sharpen after converting the image to the printer profile.
As sharpening is arbitrary and only validated when you receive back the print from bureau – trial and error is the only correct approach.
Go to View > Proof Setup > Custom and locate your chosen print profile under Device to Simulate.
Choose a Rendering Intent. Either Relative Colorimetric or Perceptual. Tick black point compensation. If you wish you can tick Simulate Paper Colour and Simulate Black Ink personally I don’t.
Go to View > Gamut Warning this normally will put a grey overlay on areas that are out of the Gamut of the destination profile. You can change the overlay colour in the Preferences under Transparency and Gamut.
If there are out of Gamut Colours (you will see a Grey Overlay on these areas), you can either bring them back into the gamut of the destination printer profile or leave them as they are.
Note: You can change this colour in the Preferences under Transparency & Gamut.
If you’ve profiled your monitor the printer software will do its best to match any out of Gamut colours. Personally, if there is only a small area out of gamut, I will leave those colours alone.
Go to Edit > Convert to Profile… and make sure the settings match your proof settings – they should be pre-populated.
Go: File > Save as > JPEG > Quality 12 > Baseline Standard
Upload the file to the Bureau.
A few reminders
- You do not need to crop your image to a certain template size in inches. Normally the charge will be for the template size your image fits into.
- Changing the resolution to anything other than 300 PPI is not the right way to do resizing. Remember you cannot control the quality of the printer, only the bureau can do quality control. If you give the print bureau a 150 PPI image it will try to up sample the image.
- All resampling or Interpolation is destructive, but Up Sampling is more destructive than down sampling.
- Make the Image Size dialogue box full size as you can see what result you will get with any give size and interpolation method.
- Ensure you keep Resample ticked.
- If you choose Automatic as the Resampling method and you are up sampling, you will get Preserve Details (enlargement). If you are down sampling, you will get Bicubic Sharper (reduction)
- I recommend for Up Sampling; Preserve Details 2.0.
- I recommend for Down Sampling Bicubic Smooth Gradients.
- Crop to Ratio rather than Width, Height and Resolution as you lose control of the Interpolation method (Resampling).
- Out of Gamut Colours are not a disaster if you’ve profiled your monitor.