18 Replies Latest reply on Mar 18, 2014 9:10 AM by DrStrik9

    Preparing an image for print

    JA430 Level 1

      Hi,

       

      I am trying to improve the quality of my prints from Photoshop and recently read Jeff Schewe's book The Digital Print. In the book one of the stratgegies Jeff suggests to prepare an image for print is to use the Color Range command to select the blacks in the image, then to copy the selection to a new layer and set the blend mode of the layer to Multiply to deepen the blacks for printing purposes. I was wondering if anyone can explain the advantage of working in this way vs. using curves or levels to deepen the blacks. Any insights would be appreciated.

       

      Thanks.

       

      John

        • 1. Re: Preparing an image for print
          Trevor.Dennis Adobe Community Professional (Moderator)

          Jeff uses this forum, so he may come by and explain himself.  How does he suggest selecting the blacks?

          • 2. Re: Preparing an image for print
            DrStrik9 Level 4

            "Prints" can mean several things. Are you printing to an inkjet printer? A color laser printer? Or are you printing your photos on a digital CMYK press? Or are you printing them on an offset printing press?

             

            Preparing photos for print in each of these situations requires a different approach.

             

            I haven't read Jeff's book, but if he suggests selecting the blacks and duplicating them, then this would give a different effect than using levels or curves, both of which will affect other areas of an image. Performing a selection (depending on how it is done) will likely isolate the dark areas in some way, and give a more defined result for the shadow values than using a global alteration layer such as levels or curves.

             

            Without having read his book, I would also suspect that the choice to darken black areas might depend more on the nature of each image than what should be applied globally to all images.

             

            In general, learning how to get great prints depends on many things. You need a good calibrated monitor, and good color management. You also need to evaluate the prints in a color-controlled environment. Probably the best possible way to learn about this would be to do some experimenting. Go ahead and print some images, and see how they turn out. Then make adjustments and print again. Each time you do this, you will learn new things.

            • 3. Re: Preparing an image for print
              JA430 Level 1

              Hi,

               

              Sorry to take so long to respond but I have been having some issues logging into the forums. First of all thanks for replying to my original post. As far as my current setup is concerned, I have an Epson R3000, a calibrated monitor and profiles that I have created with a Color Munki. So as far as duplicating what I see on the screen, I'm in reasonably good shape.

               

              Where I am trying to gain a better understanding is with regards to choosing the right strategy for dealing with blacks, especially with matte papers where your blacks can become muddy and lose detail. Your comment about making a selection and isolating the effect of whatever you do to the selection makes sense to me as, opposed to a global correction with curves.

               

              I guess the reason why I have some questions in this area is becuase using the color range command, copyi8ng the selection to a separate layer and setting the layer to multiply seems to compress the blacks and eliminate detail in the darkest areas. I sometimes find that I need to lighten the shadows with matte paper in order to regain some of the detail that is lost due to the compression effect matte paper has on the blacks. So I am trying to understand how to use Jeff's multiply stragegy without crushing the blacks to the point where I lose detail. Hope that makes sense.

               

              John

              • 4. Re: Preparing an image for print
                DrStrik9 Level 4

                I would think that selecting by color range the blacks and adding them as an additional layer set to muliltiply would crush the blacks and eliminate details. In fact, since the image is being processed by the print driver, no matter how many layers of black you add to an image, black remains, well, ... black. The printer cannot do a second pass and add another layer of ink like you can do on an offset press.

                 

                I suspect the real issue here is the paper. Soft, uncoated finishes can never yield the same color or value intensity that a coated sheet can. My favorite uncoated paper from Epson is Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte. The color and value range is surprisingly good for an uncoated sheet. What paper are you using?

                • 5. Re: Preparing an image for print
                  JA430 Level 1

                  I have been using Epson Hot Press Bright and Natural. I am reasonably happy with the results I am getting but at the same time trying to understand the rationale behind some of the decision making along the way so I can optimize the process. Thanks for your help. I appreciate your input.

                   

                  John

                  • 6. Re: Preparing an image for print
                    Trevor.Dennis Adobe Community Professional (Moderator)

                    DrStrik9 wrote:

                     

                    I would think that selecting by color range the blacks and adding them as an additional layer set to muliltiply would crush the blacks and eliminate details. In fact, since the image is being processed by the print driver, no matter how many layers of black you add to an image, black remains, well, ... black.

                     

                    Yes, I'd be interested to read what Jeff said about that, but there is no way in this lifetime that I would question or second guess Jeff Schewe when it comes to obtaining ultimate print quality.  He is very likely to be one of the most knowledgeable people on the entire planet, when it comes to that stuff.  How much do you know about his background?

                    • 7. Re: Preparing an image for print
                      Jeff Schewe Level 5

                      JA430 wrote:

                       

                      ...one of the stratgegies Jeff suggests to prepare an image for print is to use the Color Range command to select the blacks in the image, then to copy the selection to a new layer and set the blend mode of the layer to Multiply to deepen the blacks for printing purposes.

                       

                       

                      The key phrase is "one of the strategies". That particular technique is useful to crunch the blacks without impacting other parts of the image. The Color Range selection defines the levels that will be added to the selection. The simple method is simply pop that are to a new layer set to multiply and fine tune the opacity to get the results you want. Why do this?

                       

                      Depending on the image and the printer paper combo, there may be tones in the image that may seem to appear black that isn't a full black. If you have RGB levels near 10, 10, 10, you won't be getting a full black. So, I use that technique to adjust from the dark end to make sure I have a full black in the print. This often helps provide better shadow detail because the darker tones can show up better against a full black than a weak black. The trick is manipulating the Color Range selection to select only those lelvel you want to be a full black.

                       

                      The key thing to remember is there is no such thing as a magic bullet…you need a wide range of techniques you can employ to get the best out of your printed image. Making sure you have a full black in the print is just one.

                      • 8. Re: Preparing an image for print
                        DrStrik9 Level 4

                        Trevor Dennis,

                         

                        My comment was in response to what the OP said, not to a book or author he was quoting. Not having read the book referred to, I can't speak to what the book said, only to what the OP understood from what he read. In forums I generally try to stick to the subject matter, and not make comments or assumptions about individuals.

                         

                        But having clarified that, I also would be interested in understanding more fully the idea of selecting blacks by color range and adding them as an additional layer with multiply, without (as the OP originally said), "crushing the blacks to the point where I lose detail."

                         

                        What we do for a living is learn new stuff!  :+)  I suspect there may be more to this idea than we currently know.

                        • 9. Re: Preparing an image for print
                          DrStrik9 Level 4

                          Our posts crossed. Thanks for the clarity.

                          • 10. Re: Preparing an image for print
                            D Fosse Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                            DrStrik9 wrote:

                             

                            I also would be interested in understanding more fully the idea of selecting blacks by color range and adding them as an additional layer with multiply, without (as the OP originally said), "crushing the blacks to the point where I lose detail."

                            I should think it all depends on the range of the selection. 0-5? 0-20? Too much and you will indeed crush and burn.

                             

                            I can understand the mechanism and logic, squeezing as much contrast range as possible out of the paper - but still it sounds like a process difficult to control. It doesn't sound like Jeff Schewe to me. But if that's what he wrote, he probably had something up his sleeve that is missing from context here.

                            • 11. Re: Preparing an image for print
                              DrStrik9 Level 4

                              I think Jeff himself clarified in a post above.

                              • 12. Re: Preparing an image for print
                                Trevor.Dennis Adobe Community Professional (Moderator)

                                twenty_one wrote:

                                 

                                Too much and you will indeed crush and burn.

                                That made me laugh

                                 

                                I also like the idea of contrasting dark tones against full black, and it would obviously darken the tonal range if you moved the black point with a Curves layer, but wouldn't Levels or ACR set black point without any down side?

                                 

                                Like Jeff alludes to, there are so many routes to the same destination with Photoshop, and it is good to have lots of tools available.

                                 

                                Jeff, thanks for responding.

                                • 13. Re: Preparing an image for print
                                  D Fosse Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                  DrStrik9 wrote:

                                   

                                  I think Jeff himself clarified in a post above.

                                   

                                  Indeed he did... I'll go read it now...

                                  • 14. Re: Preparing an image for print
                                    JA430 Level 1

                                    Jeff,

                                     

                                    Thanks very much for the explanation. Multiplying the layer to insure you get a full black makes perfect sense and seems like it would be even more critical with matte papers. The only part of your explanation that I didn't completely understand was the following:

                                     

                                    Jeff Schewe wrote:

                                     

                                    Depending on the image and the printer paper combo, there may be tones in the image that may seem to appear black that isn't a full black.

                                     

                                    I understand how the image may have tones that aren't a full black like an RGB value of 10,10,10, but I am not sure how the printer paper combo would influence this. Can youj please clarify? Thanks again for helping me get my head around this one.

                                    • 15. Re: Preparing an image for print
                                      DrStrik9 Level 4

                                      I think he means that when the paper is soft (uncoated) and doesn't yield a rich-looking black (such as on a coated stock), that the best you can do when a value is 10,10,10 is to make sure it is 0,0,0.

                                      • 16. Re: Preparing an image for print
                                        Jeff Schewe Level 5

                                        DrStrik9 wrote:

                                         

                                        I think he means that when the paper is soft (uncoated) and doesn't yield a rich-looking black (such as on a coated stock), that the best you can do when a value is 10,10,10 is to make sure it is 0,0,0.

                                         

                                         

                                        Correct...and don't get too hung up on the 10, 10, 10 either...there is no magic number per se. This will depend on the image and what sort of printer and paper you are using-it'll be different for matte or glossy media...you may end up wanting to move 20, 20, 20 down to 10, 10, 10 and move 10, 10, 10 down to 0, 0, 0.

                                         

                                        Also note you don't need to pop a new layer set to multiply...you can do the same thing with an Adjustment Layer set to multiple as long as you have the Color Range selection made into a layer mask.

                                        • 17. Re: Preparing an image for print
                                          JA430 Level 1

                                          Thanks to both of you for your input. I'm afraid I'm missing something though so please be patient with me on this one.

                                           

                                          When a value is 10,10,10 for example and we make it 0,0,0 are we doing that because prior to the multiply step 10,10,10 was our deepest black in the image and we are trying to insure that our darkest black is truly 0,0,0? In other words prior to the multiply step we had nothing blacker than 10,10,10 but after we have some blacks at 0,0,0.

                                           

                                          Or are we pushing the 10,10,10 or 20,20,20 blacks to 0,0,0 because we want a higher concentration of our shadows driven to pure black in order to provide a heightened sense of contrast in the image to compensate for the matte paper/reduced contrast effect? So in this scenario we already have some blacks at 0,0,0 but we want more blacks in the image pushed to 0,0,0. Obviously if this were the case it would seem that we would be sacrificing some shadow detail but for a useful purpose. Again, thanks for your patience.

                                           

                                          John

                                          • 18. Re: Preparing an image for print
                                            DrStrik9 Level 4

                                            I don't speak for Jeff, (and I haven't read his book) but as I understand what he is saying ...

                                             

                                            It "may" be a useful technique (whether it's an additional layer, or an adjustment layer made from a selection), on some images, according to what the ARTIST (you) is trying to achieve.

                                             

                                            It's one more tool in your toolbox, for when it is needed. Depending on the image, you may want to (1) increase the overall presence of complete black (2) make sure the darkest sections of the image are 0,0,0 (or 10,10,10, or 20, 20,20, etc.), without affecting other areas, etc. -- Obviously, if this is overdone, or done on images that really don't need it (according to your artistic vision for each print situation), then don't do it.  :+)

                                             

                                            Making great looking prints is an art. Each image is different. There is no "magic bullet" that must be applied to all images.

                                             

                                            When you print an image, and for whatever reason (paper limitations, overall feel because of image values, color intensity, etc.) the print doesn't look GREAT (again, according to your opinion), then you might consider applying this kind of technique (among many others) to achieve your vision for that particular image.

                                             

                                            The tool doesn't make the artist. The artist chooses the right tool in each situation.  :+)