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Learn Photography

Printing > Best Practices

For better prints, do the following.

Also go to Problems & Solutions.


The print exposure and color are important, obviously.

But, exposure and color are also determined by the viewing environment.

And, because of how our visual system works, it's hard for us to see how our perception is changed by the viewing environment.


What you see is not what you get.

Here are some examples.

WYSINWYG Example #1

Lets' say you're evaluating a print of a landscape.

There's a blue sky.

A Halogen track light is overhead.

The print of the landscape is going to look different than the photograph of it on your monitor.

The Halogen light appears to be white, but is orange.

Therefore, the blue sky will appear to be not as blue.

The orange light cancels some of the blue sky.

In addition, the Halogen track light may be brighter than the monitor.

If so, the print may appear to be lighter.

WYSINWYG Example #2

Let's say you have placed a print in a white matte.

The print will appear darker.

The same print, in a black matte, will appear to be lighter.

WYSINWYG Example #3

Let's say your work table is red.

You're looking at a print on the red table.

Your visual system becomes red fatigued.

Your color vision becomes more cyan (blue/green), the opposite color to red.

It's as if you were wearing eyeglasses with cyan-colored lenses.


So, you must adjust the exposure and color:

• For the print itself.

• For the environment in which the print will be displayed.

Judge your prints in the same light as they will be displayed.

The light must be the same color, intensity, and contrast (spotlights? diffuse?).

Calibrate Your Monitor

Go to Monitor Calibration.

Use Color Management

Go to Color Management.

 Set Up for Printing

You must set up your editing program for printing.

Go to:

Set Up Photoshop Elements for Printing.

Lightroom > Print Module > 1 - Set Up.

Also, use Lightroom's soft proofing feature.

"Change the Oil"

Follow the maintenance guidelines of the printer manufacturer.

Prevent Clogging

1) Use your printer at least once a week.

Make a print that has blacks and colors.

2) Always keep ink cartridges in place to prevent ink from drying out in the print head.

3) Turn the printer off using the on/off switch, rather than an on/off switch on a power strip.

The print head capping mechanism can then activate properly to prevent ink in the heads from drying out.

4) Don't leave the printer on for extended periods without printing, to prevent ink in the heads from drying out.

Note about Epson Cleaning Cycles

If you're trying to unclog an Epson printer, you should only do three cleaning cycles.

Epson printers have three types of cleaning cycles: short, medium, and long.

The short one occurs on the 1st and 4th cleaning cycle, and then, on every cycle until you make a print.

If repeated, the short cleaning cycle can damage the nozzles.

So, after 3 cleaning cycles, make a print, such as a test pattern.

Letting the printer rest for a couple of hours, to allow air bubble to dissipate, may work better than repeated cleaning cycles.


Check to make sure the printer is recognizing the type and size of the paper that you're using.

If the paper should be printed on one side only, make sure the paper is loaded properly.

Usually, the face of the paper is face up when you open the box of paper.

The back side of the paper may have the manufacturer's name.

The face of paper may feel stickier than the back when touched with a damp finger.

The face of matte paper may be whiter than the back.

Cotton Gloves

Wear cotton gloves to protect your prints.

Dust the Paper

If you're feeding single sheets of paper into your printer, consider using a drafting brush to "dust" the paper before use.

This may be necessary if pet hairs are an issue in your household.

Save Paper

If you're making large prints consider:

• Making test prints on smaller-sized paper.

• Using large paper, but printing several test photographs on one sheet.

1440 v. 2880 DPI

Your printer can be set to 1440 dpi or 2880 dpi.

dpi is dots of ink per inch.

The lower setting is usually sufficient.


Make a print of the same photograph at both settings and compare.

The 2880-dpi print will take longer to print.

However, counter intuitively, the additional ink used may be only 10% more than the 1440-dpi print.

This is because the 1440-dpi print is made from large and small dots.

Large dots use more ink.

The 2880-dpi print is made from small dots.

Go to Will I see any differences in print quality between 1440 vs. 2880 dpi and bidirectional vs. unidirectional printing? by Eric Chan.


Using a slower printing speed may improve print quality.

When set to a fast printing speed, the print head lays down ink as it travels back-and-forth: bidirectional.

At a slower printing speed setting, the print head applies ink in only one direction: unidirectional.

Go to What does the "High Speed" setting do? Should I have it on or off? by Eric Chan.

Room Light

As mentioned, evaluate prints using light with the same color, intensity, and contrast, as the light where the print will be displayed.

If your prints will be displayed with daylight, use OTT-LITE lights, or a similar light source, when evaluating your prints.


You can test the color of the daylight with a RHEM Light Indicator.

RHEM Light Indicator is a small adhesive patch with a unique printed design. It is attached to color proofs, color copy, color reproductions, or press sheets to indicate whether or not they are being viewed under a 5000K (degrees Kelvin) standard light source. Stripes will appear on the patch if a nonstandard light source is used.

Dry Time

Prints need time to dry before framing and storage..


Spraying prints may:

• Increase the color permanence.

• Protect the print from scratches and moisture.


Glamour 2 by Breathing Color

Golden Artist Colors

Hahnemülhle Protective Spray

Lyson Print Guard

Premier Art Print Shield

Used by Graham Editions Fine Art Printing