Tips & Tutorials

Introduction to Fine Art Printing

Fine Art printing is a rewarding process that takes photographic enjoyment to the highest level. By using a high-quality photo printer, specialised inks and paper, the photographer can regain control of how the image is presented and now enjoy limitless artistic potential in expressing colour, tones and nuanced detail.

 

Fine Art printing is a rewarding process that takes photographic enjoyment to the highest level. It allows you to express the richness of a turquoise sea or the wrinkled warmth of an octogenarian’s smile; captured in a valuable, tangible and tactile form. With the advent of online sharing of images, much of the photographer’s creative vision is lost through rampant use of image compression technology. By using a high-quality photo printer, specialised inks and paper, the photographer can regain control of how the image is presented and now enjoy limitless artistic potential in expressing colour, tones and nuanced detail.

The tools of fine art printing vary according to the individual’s need for control as well as budget, but from the perspective of a complete image-capture-to-print-output process, a typical toolbox may include:

1) A professional camera e.g. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
2) A capable photo editing software e.g. Adobe Photoshop
3) Basic colour management tools for monitor calibration
4) A professional photo printer, specialized inks and papers

 

Capturing all the details

For the best printed results, start with a professional camera that is engineered to capture images with exceptional resolution and colour depth (e.g. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV). Coupled with the in-camera RAW file format capture, you have access to the highest quality possible image quality.

 

The image editing software matters

While it is possible to process RAW files using an entry-level photo editing software, such as Adobe PS Elements, the final results will not be optimal for fine art printing. These beginner-level software are designed for lower quality 8-bit per channel processing.

8-bit, up to 256 colours

16-bit, up to 65536 colours

 

Why are the ‘bits’ important?

A ‘bit’ is a computer term for data storage. It can only contain two values, 0 or 1. 8-bit simply means the data chunk contains 8 bits in total – or 2 to the power of 8. Hence it is able to represent 256 assigned colours. Similarly 16-bit means the data size contains 16 bits in total - or 2 to the power of 16. This allows up to 65536 assigned colours. As you can see, the amount of colour information accessible in 8-bit processing is very much smaller than 16-bit.

Adobe Photoshop supports image editing in 16-bit per channel mode. This makes a huge difference during image manipulation as the extra headroom in colour space reduces the chances of banding during printing. This is especially true for images with smooth continuous tone rendition, such as blue skies and skin tones. Even if your final printed image is in black-and-white, editing in 16-bit mode allows access to a much wider gamut of gray tones for best results.

 

Colour correction tools for your monitor 

For accurate colour adjustments during photo editing, your monitor should be colour calibrated. Each monitor has different brightness, contrast, tint and colour range which makes it hard to ascertain if the edits performed on screen are indeed the effect intended on paper. An uncalibrated screen makes it hard to achieve the desired printed results, resulting in unreliable colour reproduction during printing. The user simply cannot control what he cannot see.

 

X-rite ColorMunki Display

Colour matching tools such an X-rite ColorMunki Display standardise the way colour is displayed onscreen, hence giving you more confidence during the editing process.

 

Last but not least the printer

The modern professional photo printer is capable of expressing a wide range of colour and detail. Photographers seeking the best possible colour and monochromatic expression should look at the -

 

imagePROGRAF PRO-500
A 12-ink system with 4 monochromatic inks, for photographers producing A2-size fine art prints at the best possible quality.

 

PIXMA PRO-1
12-ink system for photographers producing fine art print at up to 13”x19” (A3+ size) with great colour and monochromatic expression.

 

PIXMA PRO-10
10-ink system photo at up to 13”x19” (A3+ size) printer with Wi-Fi connectivity.

 

PIXMA PRO-100
8-ink system for photo at up to 13”x19” (A3+ size) printer with Wi-Fi connectivity.

 

To support these highly capable printers, Canon has a wide range of paper media to fulfill your photographic vision.

In our next article, we will look at basic colour theory and colour space, and why the impact on fine art printing.


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