Printing your digital image after the images has been edited is the reward of your work. There are a variety of printers, paper and ink on the market to select from to print your beautiful digital images.
Inkjet Printers – spray droplets of colored dyes or pigment on the paper. These printers are commonly used in schools and individual photographers because of their low price and quality of ink. Print size is limited by the printer’s width. Desktop printers print a maximum width of 8.5 x 11 inches, letter size and some can print panoramic prints using rolls of paper. School labs have wide format printers in 17-, 24- and 44 inches sizes, services bureaus have 60 – inch and wider sizes. Wide format printers accept large single sheets as well as feeding rolls.
Entry level ink-jet printers uses combined color cartridges: cyan, yellow, and magenta in on package, black in another. Printers with individual cartridges are a better value despite their higher prices.
Dyed based inks produces prints with vibrant colors they fade rapidly compared to pigment inks. Combination of pigment ink and paper exceed the best traditional color photographic prints for longevity.
Film Recorders – print digital files onto continuous tone film that is process like conventional film. Making slides from digital film are useful for portfolio or for projection. You can convert your file to a negative after corrections. From that negative you can make a silver based print in a traditional darkroom, or you can print it in an alternative process such as platinum, that uses a negative the same size as the final print.
Photographic Laser Printers - digital prints on traditional wet process photographic paper. Laser light guide by a computer file, exposes photo paper, usually 50 inch wide color paper, then fed into a roller transport color processor. The result is an extremely high quality digital print with the wide color gamut and archival qualities of a traditional photograph. These printers are large and very expensive machines. These machines are found in professional color labs and service bureaus. Example: Lightjet and Lambda
Dye Sublimation Printers – produce beautiful continuous tone prints. Tiny heating elements vaporize dyes in a multi-colored ribbon. The color gas that is release condenses on the paper’s surface as it passes below. Dye sublimation are expensive and offer fewer paper and ink choices than what is available for ink-jet printers.
Color Laser Printers – uses dots to build images. They are faster and cheaper to operate than other printers but don’t produce prints as good as traditionally made continuous-tone photographs or those printed on inkjet printers.
It is important to note that the celebrities in Annie Leibovitz’ photographs are exhibits of large prints made digitally from scans of her original film or directly from her recent, digitally-captured photographs.
What you need to know is that your printer does not print pixels. Printers use only 8 bits per channel. Printers all use subtractive primaries. Profiles help your print look the way you want. Standard profiles are installed with the printer. You can make custom profiles and consider the light under which your print will be viewed. Each printer manufacture designs it machine to work best with its own brand of paper and ink.
When selecting ink, keep in mind that color dyes fade, even those used in film-based photographs. Pigment based inks last longer. The printer may be cheaper but the ink are not.
Replacement cartridges from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) are an easy choice, but are more expensive. The ink produces the most permanent prints.
Refill Kits are messy, can void your warranty, can cause leaky cartridges and air pockets that can clog your printer. It does save money.
Continuous Ink Supply products replace the standard cartridges with new ones connected by tubes to large ink bottles stored besides the printer. It is subject to clogging and air bubbles. Not all printers use these, do your research before purchasing this option..
Color saturation is richest on glossy papers, as it is with traditional photographic papers. Matte or uncoated papers do not yield blacks as deep, and colors may appear less intense. You may be able to restore some of the missing color saturation with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Some printers can use two different black ink, one for matte and one for gloss and semi-gloss.