File preparation guidelines

On this page are some simple guidelines to help you optimise your digital photos and ensure you get the most from our service. Mostly it's standard "best practice" that is useful to know when working with any digital image files.

If it all sounds too technical, don't worry – we can print from most image files, so just call us and we can take it from there.

Image size and resolution

Image resolution can be a confusing topic. Simply put, images should in most cases be supplied at their native (original) resolution. For the technically minded, optimum printing results are achieved at image resolutions of between 240 and 480 ppi (pixels per inch), although 180 ppi can give acceptable results for larger prints. There is rarely any need to resample an image before sending it to us for printing.

colour_sample Photograph © Peter Rees

Colour

Colour spaces

Images should be saved with an ICC profile to maintain consistency of colour rendering across different devices. Some profiles have a larger colour space, or gamut, than others. The common sRGB colour space has a fairly limited gamut and should be avoided except for web-only work. Adobe RGB and ProPhoto RGB are better choices for photographers and artists.

Getting colours to come out the way you want them is without doubt the number one challenge of digital printing. To this end, we encourage clients to use our recommended colour-managed workflow where possible. In a nutshell, colour management is getting all devices (camera/scanner, computer display and printer) to agree with each other about how colours should appear. This can be largely achieved in three simple steps:

  1. Invest in a good computer display;
  2. Calibrate your display using a hardware measuring device, such as an i1 Display Pro or Datacolor Spyder5;
  3. Make use of ICC profiles.

You can learn more about colour management in our new How to Print pages.

There are two simple ways to help ensure accurate, repeatable colour in your prints:

When converting your image, choose Convert to Profile and not Assign Profile. And be sure to use an appropriate rendering intent, as explained below.

Alternatively, you can let us assign a profile to your untagged image that gives the most pleasing colour rendering to our experienced eyes. If in doubt, a printed proof can be requested for a small charge.

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Sharpening

sharp_sample
Photograph © Peter Rees

Sharpening workflow

For optimum results, we recommend a multistage sharpening workflow (capture sharpeningcreative sharpeningoutput sharpening) as described in this excellent book.

Plug-ins

A number of affordable sharpening and noise-reduction plug-ins are available for Photoshop. Neat Image, Noiseware and Noise Ninja are great noise-reduction tools. Photokit Sharpener is an easy-to-use, multistage sharpening plug‑in.

Softness can creep in at all stages of the digital imaging pipeline, and some sharpening is nearly always required. However, careless sharpening can cause "haloes", increased image noise and other artifacts. The best way to avoid these is to sharpen sparingly and in combination with careful noise reduction. In Photoshop, use Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen; never the Sharpen or Sharpen Edges commands. Portraits need special care: a Photoshop edge mask can protect skin from turning into sandpaper. Localised sharpening around eyes and lips, when done in moderation, can sometimes be more effective than sharpening the whole image.

NB Most digital images need a final round of output sharpening. This should be tailored to each specific purpose, and therefore at the Siskin Press we prefer to do this ourselves prior to printing.

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Paper profiles

Here you can download ICC profiles for each of our papers. Once installed on your system, these profiles can be used to soft-proof and/or convert your RGB colour or black and white (not greyscale) images using Photoshop or a similar application, giving you a reasonable approximation of the way colours will appear in your final print.

Installation

Click on the profile name to save it to your computer. The profiles must be unzipped and installed before use. After installation, your image-editing application will need to be restarted.

Windows (XP and earlier)

Windows users can use the Colour applet in the Control Panel (if available), otherwise right-click the unzipped file and choose Install Profile. If an older version of the profile is already installed, the new profile must be manually copied to the correct folder: in Windows NT, 2000 and XP, the folder is Windows > System32 > Spool > Drivers > Color.

Windows Vista

In Windows Vista, open Color Management (Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Color Management). Click All Profiles, then Add. Find the new color profile, and then click Add.

Windows 7

In Windows 7, open Color Management (Start > Control Panel > search for Color Management and select it). Click All Profiles, then Add. Find the new color profile, and then click Add.

Mac

In Mac OSX, copy to Library > Colorsync > Profiles (in OS 9.x: System Folder > Colorsync > Profiles).

Some notes on soft-proofing

When soft-proofing an image, always leave Preserve RGB Numbers unchecked, turn Black Point Compensation on, and choose Simulate Paper Colour, as this will give you the closest approximation to the final print. (To help your eyes adjust to the odd effects that Simulate Paper Colour can produce, press F twice to remove distracting borders and palettes from the screen.)

If you are making colour or tonal corrections, it pays to keep a duplicate, unproofed copy of the image open for comparison.

Experiment with different rendering intents – these determine how the most saturated (out-of-gamut) colours will print. Perceptual rendering intents compress the entire gamut, maintaining where possible the colour relationships within the image. This helps maintain detail where there are highly saturated colours. However, for black and white images, or images with normal or limited palettes, Relative Colorimetric may produce results that are truer to the originals.

Our profiles are for RGB images only (both colour and black and white). If you wish to soft-proof a greyscale image, you need to first convert it to RGB.

Remember, soft-proofing is only truly effective with a good-quality, calibrated monitor.

The profiles

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