As images have come to play an essential role in any publishing material, the quality of printing has also gained importance and has become a matter of research and development.
Photographic printing is the technique of producing a printed material that is identical to the original picture and involves preparing the negative to be transposed on sensitized paper. This process generally has three main steps that can be done either with an automated photographic printer or in a photographic darkroom. First, the picture is exposed on the sensitized paper through an enlarger or contact printer. Then the image is chemically processed and the print is toned. A photo can be printed in black and white (monochrome) or in color.
The quality of the final output is highly dependent on the printer you choose. But before selecting a printer you should have a deeper understanding on how to view a colored picture. First of all, the light should be the about the same in brightness and color as when the image is seen. It may be difficult to provide the same light in all situations, but you have to know that it deeply impacts the way the image looks. For instance, if you look at a color print in the sunlight it may appear somewhat bluer than if you saw it in artificial light (the light of a bulb).
The next thing you have to do is choose a good printer. Luckily enough, the technology has evolved so much that a high quality printer can produce almost the same output as traditional photography. There is a wide range of inks, papers and processes you can choose from. To make sure you choose a good printer, try experimenting on several models with some of your images and compare the outputs.
You also need to know some things about printer resolution, although this may not be the dominant criterion for choosing a certain device. Resolution is measured in number of pixels. Each pixel is made out of many tiny drops of color that can be controlled by the PC. Color printers only use three primary colors – magenta, cyan and yellow – and compose the rest through what is called a subtractive process. Most of them also have a separate black toner so that they can produce a deeper black. Through a subtractive process a printer can provide eight main colors.
There is a very wide range of printers available and the best choice ultimately goes down to the level of quality you need. At the lower end you have inkjet printers, which can work great for low printing volumes and personal printing. At the opposite end you have dye sublimation devices, which can provide a very high quality. These printers don’t use toners or inks, but solid dye which are converted into gas through the process of sublimation without passing through a liquid state. These kind of printers are the best choice for the high-quality printing required in published materials with colored graphics.
Color laser printers are the most popular these days. These printers use a laser beam which focuses on a photoelectric drum or belt and creates an electrical charge in sections which need to be colored. The toner then adheres on these areas. For monochrome printers this process only has one step. Color printers repeat the same step for each color – magenta, cyan, yellow and black.
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