Whether you’re printing it yourself or sending it to a professional printer, there is an art to getting digital images to appear the same way on paper.
Digital screens can display just about anything, but there are limits to what paper and ink can do.
Taking these limits into account is the key to creating faithful prints. Below are a few tips that I use to help me get a faithful print from screen to paper:
Calibrate your monitor
The first thing is to make sure that your monitor is properly calibrated. If you’re not seeing colours the way they should be on your screen, there is no way they’re going appear the same when they end up on paper.
Proper monitor calibration requires a specialist device, so if you’re doing serious design work then beg, borrow or buy one at the earliest opportunity.
After calibrating your monitor, colour profiles are probably the most important aspect to getting your digital proof to translate on paper.
There are two schools of thought to this. The ‘old-school’ way is to work in CMYK from the beginning (as that’s how printer’s work), but some designers now argue that you should work in RGB for the highest resolution and only convert to CMYK at the end.
Thanks to ICC colour profiles, which emulate most common printer set ups (both the printer and the paper), the argument is that you can work in the RGB environment (maximising the processing efficacy of your effects) while seeing what the end result will look like thanks to the colour profile’s printer/paper simulation.
Should you work in RGB or CMYK? Leave a comment and tell us what side you take?
Whichever way you work, if your design is going to be printed on a number of different papers (e.g. an ad that appears in newspapers, magazines, on posters etc.) then it’s well worth soft-proofing the image for each of these settings.
Although you may be able to use generic colour profiles, it’s well worth speaking to the printer to find out exactly what they’ll be using.
Some difference is inevitable between the RGB image and the end result, and it’s not always a bad thing – just like how some film buffs prefer the look of 35mm to HD, the characteristics of the medium can be pleasant in themselves.
But what you do particularly need to look out for is any colours that are out of gamut (i.e. outside of the printer’s capabilities) and that losing these doesn’t lose any vital information.
How do you make your prints look great?
There are lots of things to consider when it comes to making your on-screen designs look great when they’re printed. Can you share a few with the rest of us by leaving a comment?