Prepping Your Photos for Digital Printing and Framing

Have you ever printed an image to be devastated by what you got? When you’re using an online printing service, you do not want that to happen, especially if you’re adding the frame to your order.

What you see on your monitor isn’t always going to be what gets printed. That’s because digital displays are reliant on your screen resolution.

For the closest resemblance of what you’ll get, your best option is to test print using your home printer. The reason being, you can calibrate your monitor (assuming you’re using a PC or laptop) to display different colour profiles, such as RGB (red, green, blue) or CYMK (cyan, yellow, magenta, key).

Know the Printer Difference

Most basic home printers will use the primary colours of red, green and blue, whereas professional printers use the broader CYMK colour profiles to give a more detailed and realistic output.

Now, what you see on your screen are pixels. In print, those pixels can be seen if the image isn’t the right size. If you’ve ever watched a high-resolution film or viewed high-res images on a low-resolution screen, you’ll notice pixelation. It’s tiny squares that shouldn’t be visible to the eye but can be if the pixels aren’t optimised before printing. That’s done with scaling.

A Few Pointers to Optimise Your Photos Before Sending to Print

  • Image Scaling

If you have image editing software such as Photoshop or Gimp, you can use those programs to scale your images to various sizes. The higher the number of pixels, the bigger an image you can print. But, the bigger you go with the image size, the more pixelated the image can become. The maximum pixel size is determined by your original image based on the quality of the camera you used. A high-quality DSLR camera will have more detail than what a 3 MP camera can take.

The math for getting the right number of pixels is simple:

Whatever size in inches you want to print to, multiply that by 300 to find out the number of pixels your image needs.

Say you want a photo print size of 8.5” by 11”. You’d need the pixels to be 2550 x 3300, translating to numbers of pixels to the per image coverage of your print.

300 DPI (dots per inch) is the standard for printing digital files.

Should you not have access to photo editing software, you can find a lot of services online for free. Just search on whatever search engine you normally use to search for “image resizer”. Some are paid programs; plenty are free to use.

  • Test Print on Any Printer

To get a real idea of what your image will look like when it’s printed, you can’t beat a test print. The reason being, calibrating your monitor to any colour profile is only a rough guide. It’s still going to be affected by brightness, contrast and sharpness. If the screen is set to the brightest, black can display on the screen as grey, so the best way to see what’s going to be printed is to do a test print using any printer.

Keep in mind the difference between the RGB and CYMK colour profiles of different printers. CYMK gives more detailed and real-life true vibrant colour than RGB so don’t be disheartened if your prints aren’t fameworthy right away.

When you order from specialist print stores, it’s (usually) a professional CYMK printer using genuine ink cartridges for quality and longevity along with quality photo paper.

  • Consider the Two Ways to Print and Frame More than One Image

If you have a group of photos you’d like to print as a collage, you can do this in one of two ways. One way is to simply order a collage print and upload each file separately. An alternative method is more hands-on requiring you to merge the various files together into one larger image.

If you are merging the files, you’ll most likely hit the PPI problems. This is because with multiple pictures having different pixels, with each one added, it will alter the maximum size you can print to so it can take quite a bit of image editing to get a good quality digital picture of multiple photos that don’t have pixelation issues.

The higher you scale an image up, the more pixelated it becomes. For that reason, if you want to print more than one picture as a collage, you can get a better-quality print by choosing a collage print with a multi-aperture frame designed to house a collection of prints.