Online Printing is not straightforward, I hope this helps.
- Profile your monitor/display.
- Find a good online print bureau.
- Download the bureau’s printer profiles, and put them in your System.
- Soft Proof your image in Lightroom.
- Crop to the aspect ratio of the size you want on export.
- Export from Lightroom.
- Check the quality of JPG file for any quality issues, (all resizing causes some degradation of quality).
- If 7 is ok, upload to the print bureau.
Profile your Monitor
If you don’t have a profiled display you are wasting your time and money.
Sometimes the word profile is used interchangeably with calibrate.
You can either profile your monitor using a colourimeter or do it manually. I use a colourimeter from Datacolor called a Spyder Four. Monitor profiler is the common name for this device. Sometimes the colourimeter gets called a spectrophotometer.
If you want to profile manually on Windows try this
If you want to profile manually on a Mac try this
After calibrating, or profiling your monitor, your computer, is now a profiled device in a colour managed workflow.
Find a good Online Print Bureau
The following criteria for choosing a Print Bureau are listed in importance order. Obviously this is my criteria. Other’s might see this procedure to be too pedantic.
But this is what I look for in a Print Bureau:
- Downloadable Print Profiles.
- What PPI (pixels per inch) do they want or recommend. 300 PPI is considered the benchmark for quality. But you should definitely find out.
- Do they accept custom sizes? They should do, but do ask if you don’t see it mentioned on their website. My Bureau will accept custom sizes without prior knowledge. I will then be charged for the template size my custom size fits into.
- All accept JPG. Some will take an 8 bit flattened TIFF. Some will even accept PSD but this is very rare.
If the bureau doesn’t meet 1. and 2. think very carefully about proceeding. Some bureaus will have print profiles, but they want you to use sRGB or Adobe RGB 1998 in the upload file. In other words, the printer profile is just for reference purposes to show what your file will look like. Pretty pointless in my opinion.
If you want a look at a decent online print bureau look here
P.S: Some bureaus will meet some of these requirements, some none at all. If it’s the latter type of bureau you will probably be somewhat disappointed, or luckily surprised.
If you want to give the cheap bureaus a go. I suggest you export at 300 PPI resolution and sRGB colour space and Sharpen Standard.
Download the Print Profiles
The print profiles will have the file extension of ICC (International Colour Consortium).
Once you have downloaded profiles you have to place in your Operating System. Unfortunately, this is not easy.
Basically, you have to put the profiles here:
Mac OSX – Library\ColorSync\Profiles
Windows – Windows\system32\spool\drivers\color
The How to Geek has penned a good article here
Once downloaded these profiles are now available to use in Lightroom or any other imaging software you have.
Soft Proof your image
Soft proofing is the ability to view a simulation of how your image will look when output to the printer.
Go to the Develop Module and you start the Soft Proofing in three different ways:
Tick Softproof in the bottom lefthand corner:
Go to: View/Soft Proof/Show Proof. Keyboard shortcut: S
The Histogram area will change to this view.
Now you should pick your printer profile. If it’s not listed click Other… find it and tick it.
I recommend you create a Proof Copy now. This Proof Copy is a Virtual Copy leaving your master file untouched.
If you go to change the file now using any development module tool you will be prompted to create a proof copy.
There are two views you can have. Monitor Gamut Warning, and Destination Gamut Warning. We are interested in the Destination Gamut warning.
This can be accessed by going to View/Soft Proof/Show Destination Gamut Warning keyboard shortcut, Shift S
Or you can click the paper icon with the right-hand top folded down in the Histogram
This will, or rather might add a red overlay to the image showing the areas that are out of printers gamut (range of colours).
The two choices you have are:
- Use the develop module tools to bring back the colour into the gamut of the printer.
- If you’ve got a profiled monitor the printer software will do its best to match those colours.
Personally, I often go with 2. I do not try and bring the colours back into the gamut of the destination profile unless there’s a very large area of out of gamut colours. The red overlay is not telling you to make an adjustment, it’s just a warning.
Using a global adjustment in the Basic Panel will obviously impact the whole image. The Adjustment Brush (K), is the safest option. It could be a very minor shift in saturation, or even luminosity can bring the out of gamut colours back into the destination profile. Maybe the HSL/Color panel can help. The point is you will never know what exactly is the problem, it could even be just the luminosity of the colour, not it’s hue.
Crop to the Aspect Ratio
If there’s anything that confuses people new to this process it’s the Crop Tool.
The crop tool is all about aspect ratio. The chance of you cropping to the exact size you want on export are slim. So you have to crop to the aspect ratio of the export size you want.
Whether you want a custom size (not listed by the bureau), or a template size, you have to do this.
Go to the crop tool (R), and enter in custom the size you want on export in inches. Lightroom will turn this size into the lowest divisible numbers automatically. Saving you the effort. So, if it’s 30 inches by 40 inches, just enter that into the box.
Export From Lightroom
- Pick your format, usually JPG and 100 quality. 100 is probably not needed. But why not use it as you are unlikely to break the file size limits of the bureau.
- Pick the Color Space of the Printer.
- Tick resize to fit: Width & Height.
- Enter the size in inches you want to be printed.
- Enter 300 in the Resolution Box and PPI in the other.
300 PPI What does it mean
PPI is only relevant when using inches as the measurement. Put simply it means you want the equivalent of 300 pixels in one inch of paper. Those pixels might be poor quality, the printer does not care about quality only the image size. There is no 1 to 1 relationship between a pixel and printer dot. How many dots are needed to represent a pixel on a sheet of paper is not relevant. The way to work out what size you are going to get at 300 PPI, is to divide the cropped dimensions by 300. With this in mind, making the image smaller or larger will impact the exported image size.
Tick Sharpen For: and choose your paper type. Pick Amount: Standard – this works for me. You must sharpen on Export as your usually resizing the image.
Check the quality of JPG file
Open the file in any Photo viewing program and view it at full size. If it looks good your okay to upload.