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Once satisfied with an image on a monitor, the challenge is to transfer it to paper. It is at this point that deficiencies of basic colour management become apparent.

Digital printing has made it possible to print onto a wide range of materials having very different colour saturations, contrasts and textures. However, the best initial results with ink-jet printers are obtained using a custom-made photographic or art paper having a reasonably consistent finish, absorbency and permanence. Working with paper manufactured for your own printer will give a reasonable result, and encourage understanding of how the material behaves with your printer and images. Photo-quality papers are available with various weights and coatings, and with matte, lustre, semi-gloss, silk, gloss and other finishes. Art papers are ultimately more interesting but results are less predictable because of their increased absorbency and open texture. The range of such specialized materials is constantly expanding, so be prepared to experiment.

Printers are also designed to work with the ink supplied by the manufacturer, and printer software may not be able to cope with colour imbalances and other problems arising from third party or cheap replacement inks. Such products may serve you well, but don't attempt to use them until the limitations of basic printing as recommended by the printer manufacturer are well understood.

An image is a mosaic of pixels arranged in a grid, each element having an unique address consisting of horizontal and vertical coordinates. As with traditional chemical prints, the quality of reproduction falls as the size of the print increases and the available information is spread more thinly. In practice an A4 image rarely needs a file size greater than 12 -15 MB. More information, or greater resolution, produces little visible improvement in the printed image.

The permanence of a digitally printed photographic image depends upon the characteristics of the media and ink used to create it. Inks fade with time, particularly when colours are exposed to strong light. Since some colours fade faster than others the effect shows itself as an overall colour shift. Pigment-based inks and black-and-white images are generally more stable, but papers can also change in colour with time. Nothing survives extended exposure to direct sunlight. However, archival papers remain neutral when exposed to small levels of atmospheric acidity, and consequently should not discolour as quickly as cheaper papers.


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