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Jeff Schewe on Making a Digital Print

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Once you’ve got your image prepared, it’s just a matter of printing it. Of course, as always, there are some potential roadblocks and technical issues to be aware of. Jeff Schewe shares his tips for getting the most our of your digital prints.

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This chapter is from the book
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This is one of my oldest images. It was shot in 1976 for a school assignment. I used a Sinar 4x5 camera with a 360mm lens on 4x5 Ektrachrome transparency film, which I processed with one of the first E-6 home processing kits from Kodak. The image was scanned on an Epson Perfection V750-M Pro Scanner at 4800 ppi.

If you have survived the chapters on color management and preparing your images for printing, you’ll find this chapter relatively simple. There’s certainly less about theory here, and more about the mechanics. Once you’ve got your image prepared, and you’ve soft proofed with the appropriate profiles and tweaked the image just so, it’s just a matter of printing them. Of course, as always, there are some potential roadblocks and technical issues (I call them “gotchas”) to be aware of. But printing is actually kind of fun. I like making prints—which is a good thing, since I’m writing a book about printing!

Before You Print

Pay attention to the details as you prepare to print. It’s easy to introduce errors that can be frustrating (and time-consuming, and potentially expensive) to troubleshoot and fix.

Before you print, you obviously need to install the printer and printer driver. When you buy a new printer, you might be tempted to pop the CD in the computer’s disc drive and double-click the installer to install the printer driver. But ideally, the first thing you should do is read the frigging manual (RTFM). Generally speaking, by default, when you buy a printer, the printer driver on the installation CD is likely to be out of date. It’s even likely that there’s updated firmware available for the printer. So when I get a new printer, I start by reading the manual. Then I go to the printer manufacturer’s Web site and download the most recent printer driver, utilities, and firmware, if an updated version is available.

Installing a printer on a Mac

Installing a printer on the Mac is relatively simple. You run the installer—ideally the most recent downloaded installer. Then you can plug the printer in. Most printers have multiple methods of connectivity—USB, Ethernet, or FireWire (though FireWire is becoming less and less common). Because I have a lot of printers spread out throughout my studio, I connect most of mine by Ethernet (there are a couple of reasons for the exceptions, which I’ll cover later).

After installing the printer driver and connecting the printer on the Mac, open the System Preferences, and then click Print & Scan. Then, click the Plus button at the bottom of the Printers area on the left side of the dialog box. The Add Printer dialog box opens. On the Mac, Bonjour lets your computer find all the printers it can connect with. In my case, a bunch of different printers show up. If you’ve connected your printer using USB, Ethernet, or FireWire, it should appear. When you see an option of connecting via Bonjour or TCP/IP, I recommend connecting via the manufacturer’s Ethernet connection. Click the printer you want to add, as shown in Figure 4.1.

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THE MAIN PRINT & SCAN DIALOG BOX SHOWING WHERE TO CLICK TO ADD A PRINTER

FIGURE 4.1

FIGURE 4.1. Adding a new printer to a Mac.

THE ADD PRINTER DIALOG BOX SHOWING THE SELECTION OF THE EPSON STYLUS PRO 4900 CONNECTED VIA TCPIP (NETWORK)

Once you’ve selected the printer, click Add. The printer shows up in the column of installed printers on the left. Now you have some options. You can share the printer on the network. Since I’m the only person using this printer, I don’t select that. You can set the default printer. I usually choose Last Printer Used—unless you know you’ll usually be printing to a particular printer. In fine art printing you’ll always set a specific paper size at the time of printing, so I set the default paper size to US Letter. Figure 4.2 shows the result of adding the printer.

FIGURE 4.2

FIGURE 4.2. The result of adding the Epson 4900 (IP) printer.

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ADDING A PRINTER BY SELECTING OTHER IN THE ADD PRINTER DIALOG BOX

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FIGURE 4.3. Adding a printer using generic Gutenprint drivers.

THE PRINTER SOFTWARE DIALOG BOX SHOWING GENERIC GUTENPRINT DRIVERS FOR VARIOUS EPSON PRINTERS

If you click Open Print Queue, it will show you the queue for that printer. In this case, it shows that the printer is printing. If you click Printer Setup, the General tab shows you the printer driver version number; you want to always make sure your driver is up-to-date. This is also where you can change the printer’s name. Figure 4.4 shows the Print Queue dialog box and also the General tab for changing the printer’s name.

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THE PRINT QUEUE DIALOG BOX SHOWING THE PRINTER IS PRINTING

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FIGURE 4.4. The Print Queue dialog box showing status and the General tab.

THE PRINT QUEUE GENERAL TAB SHOWING CHANGING THE PRINTER’S NAME

I like to rename printers; if you have more than one printer, giving them meaningful names is important, even more so if you have multiple printers of the same model. I recommend putting a piece of tape on the printer with its number or specific name, and that way you can be sure you’re printing to the correct printer when you select it in the application.

When you click the Supply Levels tab, you can see the ink levels for the printer, if the printer you’re using communicates that to the user. If your printer includes it, you can click Utility to open the printer utility, print a test page, and clean the printheads. The options available vary depending on the printer.

If you are having issues when trying to install or use a printer, there are a couple of things to be aware of. Depending on how you may have updated your operating system, you may have accumulated some older out-of-date printer drivers that are not compatible with your current system. If simply deleting the printer and re-adding it doesn’t resolve the issue, you may need to totally reset your printing system. Figure 4.5 shows how to reset the printing system.

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CONTROL-CLICKING (RIGHT-CLICK) ON THE MAIN PRINTER PANEL AND SELECTING RESET

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FIGURE 4.5. Resetting your printing system.

THE WARNING DIALOG BOX ASKING IF YOU REALLY WANT TO RESET THE PRINTING SYSTEM

After a hard reset, you should download the most recent driver, reinstall it, and then reconnect the printer prior to adding the printer.

Installing a printer on Windows

When you install a printer on Windows, it’s important to download and install the most recent version of the printer driver before you plug in the printer. When you connect the printer, it will announce itself to the computer and usually prompt you to install it. To double-check the information for your installed printer, choose Start > Devices and Printers (which is also in the Control Panel). Installed printers are listed in the Printers and Faxes section of the Devices and Printers control panel. If you right-click an individual printer, you can select a print queue similar to the one on the Mac. It shows you how many documents are in the queue. You can also show the main Printer Properties dialog box (not to be confused with the other Printer Properties you set when printing). Figure 4.6 shows the main Devices and Printers dialog box as well as the Print Queue and the system-level Printer Properties dialog box.

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THE DEVICES AND PRINTERS DIALOG BOX

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THE PRINT QUEUE DIALOG BOX

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FIGURE 4.6. The Devices and Printers, Print Queue, and Printer Properties dialog boxes.

THE SYSTEM-LEVEL PRINT PROPERTIES DIALOG BOX

If you choose Printer > Properties, you can change the name and set other preferences, such as whether or not to share it. You can set up color management, but I suggest you not do anything with this here. As I said in Chapter 2, the Windows Color System doesn’t really have a direct impact on fine art printing, because you’ll use the application’s color management features. If you have multiple printers, make sure you give each printer a meaningful name so that when you select a printer in Photoshop or Lightroom, it’s the correct one.

If your connected printer is offline, the icon will be dimmed. However, if there are problems with the printer connection or driver, you’ll see a yellow warning triangle on the printer, as shown in Figure 4.7. Clicking on the warning will bring up a troubleshooting dialog box. You can click the Change Settings button in the Driver Software Installation dialog box and try to walk through the troubleshooting steps in the Device Installation Settings dialog box, but I’ve found it’s better to simply delete the printer, reinstall the driver, and then reconnect the printer.

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DETAIL SHOWING THE EPSON STYLUS PRO 4900 PRINTER WITH A WARNING

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THE DRIVER SOFTWARE INSTALLATION DIALOG BOX

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FIGURE 4.7. Troubleshooting a printer on Windows.

THE DEVICE INSTALLATION SETTINGS DIALOG BOX

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