PC Magazine Guide to Printing Great Digital Photos ( PC Magazine Series)


Packed with practical, hands on guidance, PC Magazine’s Guide to Printing Great Digital Photos is the perfect book for computer users who are looking to get that little bit extra out of their color printer investment.  Digital print expert David Karlins guides readers through everything –from selecting the right kinds of ink and paper, calibrating your computer monitor and making colors match, to getting your images ready for printing and giving your photos that professional touch with a bit of ...
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Packed with practical, hands on guidance, PC Magazine’s Guide to Printing Great Digital Photos is the perfect book for computer users who are looking to get that little bit extra out of their color printer investment.  Digital print expert David Karlins guides readers through everything –from selecting the right kinds of ink and paper, calibrating your computer monitor and making colors match, to getting your images ready for printing and giving your photos that professional touch with a bit of editing. Readers also learn tips for printing photo projects such as invitations, stationary and greeting cards and even t-shirts!

Coverage includes:

  • Taking digital photos that will print well
  • Optimal file size and resolution for great digital printing
  • Editing your digital artwork for printing
  • Matching monitor and print colors
  • Choosing the right paper and coating
  • Matching papers to in ks
  • Borderless printing
  • Matting and framing
  • Special printing projects such as t-shirts, greeting cards, stationary and more
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
You’ve got a color printer, but you’re not quite getting the results you hoped for. It happens to everyone. But there are solutions -- and PC Magazine has them.

PC’s overrun with digital photography mavens. Given a chance to strut their stuff, they cover this subject from every angle. Saving your images at the right resolution. Using the optimal paper and ink. “Soft-proofing” to check your image before you use up expensive paper.

You’ll learn how to remove digital “noise” from your photos (along with a host of basic photo editing techniques). You’ll master printing transparencies (and everything from invitations to T-shirts). There’s great advice on using online print services, and on preserving your digital prints. And that’s just scratching the surface. If you’re serious about your printed images, this one’s for you. Bill Camarda, from the December 2004 Read Only

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764575785
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/20/2004
  • Series: PC Magazine Series, #1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 7.46 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

David Karlins is a graphic design instructor at San Francisco State University. He has written several books on Web and print design and has managed digital printing projects ranging from gallery-quality posters to prints for framing.
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Preparing Your Digital Darkroom.

Chapter 2: Calibration and Soft-Proofing.

Chapter 3: Editing Your Whole Photo.

Chapter 4: Touching Up Photos for Printing.

Chapter 5: Choosing Paper and Ink.

Chapter 6: Printing Great Photos from Inkjets.

Chapter 7: Printing Great Photos from Dye Subs.

Chapter 8: Special Photo Projects: From Greeting Cards to Calendars.

Chapter 9: Printing to Other Media: CD Labels, T-shirts, and More.

Chapter 10: Creating Great Prints Online.

Chapter 11: Preserving and Presenting Your Digital Photos.


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First Chapter

PC Magazine Printing Great Digital Photos

By David Karlins

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-7578-3

Chapter One

Preparing Your Digital Darkroom

You've taken a photo with your digital camera. A wide range of options is now open for you to produce a digital print of your photo. At the most basic end of the spectrum, many photo printers allow you to print directly from your camera or from a memory card.

Considering you've taken the time to pull this book off the shelf, you're probably interested in creating higher-quality prints than those that come straight from your camera. This book shows you that if you spend a bit of time in the "digital darkroom," you can produce much better color (and even black-and-white) digital prints.

What is the digital darkroom? It's many things-software that organizes and edits your photo files and hardware that allows you to view, store, and process photo files (see sidebar). The final stages of the digital darkroom include printer, ink, paper, and perhaps other media to create a print. This book walks you through the entire digital darkroom process, and this chapter gives you an overview of what you need and how you use it.

Evolution of the Digital Darkroom

The darkroom has always carried a kind of mystical quality. The traditional film photographer plunged into a chemical-filled, closet-like space illuminated only by red lights. After hours of experimenting with filters, cropping, and dodging and burning (brightening or darkening selected areas), the photographer emerged with a carefully crafted work of art.

The modern digital darkroom is just as exciting-but without the smell! Digital photography is just as much an art and science as its predecessor, traditional photo development and printing. The remainder of this chapter introduces you to the elements of creating great digital prints and previews the themes, topics, and techniques that will become familiar to you throughout the course of this book.

Components of the Digital Darkroom

Before diving into the specific elements of printing great digital photos, it will be helpful to survey the components of your digital darkroom. Don't run out and buy everything listed here-certainly not yet. But as your standards rise, understanding these elements will help you gradually improve the quality and efficiency of your prints.

Of course, what you need first of all is a color printer. But even before you send any photo to a printer, you need the core component of your digital darkroom: a computer, monitor, and photo editing software. A properly configured monitor allows you to "proof" photos before you print them.

Table 1-1 summarizes what you want to have in place, or think about getting to prepare to print great digital photographs.

Camera Issues: The Great Megapixel Race

Better digital cameras take better pictures and create the possibility for better prints. A full survey of how to select a digital camera is beyond the focus of this book. Study the reviews, choose the best lens you can afford, and price other goodies ranging from a reliable flash attachment (necessary) to in-camera editing options and power packs.

One element that is prominently displayed and discussed-and is particularly relevant to the quality of your digital prints-is the megapixel capacity of your digital camera. In short, larger megapixel values allow you to print higher-quality, larger photos. The megapixel capacity of your camera is also a major factor in the price you pay. Although you want to avoid paying for unnecessary megapixel capacity, be sure to buy a camera that takes large enough pictures to yield quality printed results.

As I write this, I'm hearing from sources in the digital camera industry that the standard is heading toward 10 megapixels-and we'll all be able to afford it, too. At the moment, however, 8 megapixels is the standard for high-end (professional quality) digital cameras and you probably do not need that much.

If you're printing only 4 x 6 photos, you can do fine with a 2 megapixel camera. Your 5 x 7 prints will look good too but not as good as prints from your local photo print shop.

High-quality cameras like the Canon 10D support 6.3 megapixels, which create files that can be printed on 9 x 13 paper at a very high level of quality.

Table 1-2 provides a rough estimate of how many megapixels you need for various print sizes (see sidebar). There are many factors to consider in choosing a digital camera and many features to investigate on your own, but this book focuses on the megapixel factor because it relates directly to print size.

Your Computer, Your Monitor ... and Your Prints

Both accurate color representation and photo editing software put steep demands on your computer's processing capacity. Here I briefly alert you to issues related to your system and settings that will help smooth the path to great digital prints. In Chapter 2 you will discover how to use special software and calibration tools to configure a quality monitor to display colors accurately as they appear in prints.


A philosophical and moral argument can be made that there is such a thing as too much money. But you'll find that in working with and printing digital photos, more memory always helps.

To configure your system for accurate color display, you'll do yourself a favor by starting with a CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor that is no more than two to three years old.

You need sufficient memory in your computer to support the highest level of color display. Digital designers generally agree that 512 MB of RAM serves you much better than the recommended minimum memory that came with your operating system, or the "minimum" memory recommendations of your image editing software.

Not only is memory a huge help in enabling your system to display and edit photos; it's also a relatively good value. Your computer manufacturer or retailer is more than happy to sell you additional RAM. In many cases you can install it yourself. You've already invested money in your camera and other photo equipment; you don't want your computer to be the choke point in producing nice prints.


One important element of relatively hassle-free color management is coordinating your monitor with what comes out of your printer. Chapter 2 explores in depth how your monitor presents colors and how to mesh that with how your printer produces color. Let's look quickly at some computer settings that facilitate calibrating and coordinating your system for consistent color management.

Your monitor generates colors using the red-green-blue (RGB) additive system. This means that colors other than red, green, or blue are created by mixing combinations of those colors. For instance, combining green with red pixels creates yellow. Your printer, on the other hand, layers cyan, magenta, yellow, and black toner to create colors. That system is referred to as the CMYK system. (The abbreviation stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black-the letter K being used to avoid confusion with B for blue.) The two color systems are illustrated in Figure 1-3.

The RGB color system that generates a wide array of colors on your computer uses more than simply red, green, and blue pixels. Each of these three basic colors is subdivided into hundreds or thousands of tones to create subtle gradations in color that are essential for accurate color presentation.

By combining elements of red, blue, and green, computers generate thousands, millions, or even billions of different colors, tones, and shades. Higher color-quality settings (defined using your operating system) produce more accurate colors. The range of colors produced by your operating system and displayed on your monitor is measured in bits-which is a techie term for micro amounts of data.

To make sure your system is configured for the highest available color setting, execute the following steps:

1. Right-click on your desktop and choose Properties from the menu.

2. Click the Settings tab.

3. Choose the highest possible setting available in the drop-down menu in the Color Quality section of that tab.

To define the best color quality for a Mac running OS X, follow these steps:

1. Click the apple menu icon in the menu bar.

2. Choose System Preferences [right arrow] Displays.

3. Choose Millions from the Colors pop-up menu.


The essential challenge you face with soft-proofing (previewing your prints on a monitor) is that your monitor generates RGB color by backlit pixels, while your printer mixes four (or more) colors of ink to generate color. These two systems do not communicate well.

One time-tested solution is simply to print, adjust the colors, and print again until your print comes out with just the right shade of red, blue, or mauve. This option can quickly become frustrating and expensive.

The better solution is to use software, and sometimes hardware, to calibrate your monitor with your printer output (see Figure 1-5). This means fine-tuning the color monitor and printer settings so they match. This calibration is not perfect, but it produces remarkably more synchronization between what you see and what you get.

By defining, for example, exactly what red means on your monitor and then incorporating a profile from your printer (or other hardware device), you can use calibration to greatly reduce color mismatching between the monitor and printer. A profile is a file that documents how any device (monitor or printer) "sees" a defined color. Profiles for devices (referred to as ICC profiles) can be loaded into image editors like Adobe Photoshop to manage color coordination automatically.

Generating Quality Scans

Many people convert regular (analog) photos and slides to digital files to take advantage of accessible and powerful digital editing and printing technology. Others convert older, fragile photos to permanent digital files.

If you're shopping for a scanner, resolution is not the main issue. As I mentioned earlier, 300 dpi is all the resolution you need for high-quality prints, regardless of the high resolution numbers on your printer or in your scanner documentation. What you want to look for in reviews is an evaluation of the quality of your scanner: Look for scanners that minimize distortion and noise.

Windows XP and Mac OS X integrate your scanner with their software so you can import directly into your printer an image of something scanned. For best results, scan the object in its entirety. Later you can crop and resize the scanned image in the editing software, while preserving the original.

Two settings you should concern yourself with are colors and resolution. At this point, the more colors and the higher the resolution, the better. You can always decrease the file size by reducing the colors and resolution, but it's much harder, and fundamentally impossible, to "restore" color gradation and pixels lost in the original scan. Figure 1-6 shows a photo scanned at 300 dpi and 24-bit color.

Digital Darkroom Software

You cannot turn a pumpkin into a princess, but you can do a tremendous amount with photo editing software. In fact, it's safe to say that photo editing software is essential to getting great digital prints.

Photo editing software is not just for correcting flaws in your photo. You may have composed your photo perfectly, set the lighting just right, and taken the "perfect" picture. Even in this unlikely scenario, your digital camera has probably integrated some digital noise - objects that aren't really there-into the file. In any event, you can still do quite a bit to enhance your photo with photo editing.

Very basic photo editing tools come with your computer's operating system. They allow you to organize, rename, and view your photos. In Windows XP, for example, you can view photo thumbnails in Windows Explorer. Double-clicking a photo in Explorer previews a full-sized, zoomable version of the image in Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, as shown in Figure 1-7.

Many of the features I explore in this book are available in almost any photo editing package, of which there is quite a good selection. Your printer may have been bundled with its own photo editing software, or with Adobe Photoshop Elements. Photoshop Elements is essentially a subset of the professional-level Adobe Photoshop. An example of editing in Photoshop Elements is shown in Figure 1-8.

Whenever I explore touching up photos with photo editing software, I'll keep my advice and instructions generic, so that you can comfortably use whatever tool is at your disposal. If I ever need to describe a specific tool in Photoshop, I'll take you there. For instance, Figure 1-9 shows me touching up just the blue in the sky with Photoshop.


You can improve almost any photo using features like contrast, color, and brightness correction. But there are also issues related specifically to images captured with digital cameras (or scanners) that require some correction to remove artificial input (junk) that ends up in your photo.

Noise is sometimes short-handedly described as grain in a photo. Noise can be unintended visible specks in a photo. On the other hand, photos with no noise at all can look artificial- resembling designed graphics more than real photographs. Image files with too much noise look grainy and distorted.


Because art imitates life and, more specifically, because your digital camera reflects part of what you see, you can almost always enhance your image by raising the brightness and, often, the contrast of your photo.

There are times when, for effect, you won't want to do this; you might want to darken a photo for artistic reasons. In any case, the brightness and contrast controls available with the most basic photo editing tool can improve your printed photos tremendously. Figure 1-10 shows a photo enhanced by adding brightness-the simplest, most universally available tool for image editing that comes with every operating system and photo software package.


While an exploration of the whole process of taking and transferring digital photos to your computer is beyond the scope of this book, I do want to caution you against repeated resaving of files in some formats, such as JPEG.

Most digital cameras save by default to the JPEG format. This format records enough data to preserve a highly accurate image. More expensive, professional-quality digital cameras also allow you to save photos in the RAW file format, which captures even more data and allows for more freedom in digital editing.

However, you need to take caution when saving your photos. The JPEG format is very "smart"-perhaps too smart.


Excerpted from PC Magazine Printing Great Digital Photos by David Karlins Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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