Welcome to Lesson 5 — Basic Printing Workflow in Lightroom
Once you’re ready to make a print, the next step is to configure the Print Module properly so that what comes out of the printer meets or exceeds your expectations. Again, I'm using Lightroom, but my goal is to make this lesson clear enough so that you can adapt it to any other printing software you are using.
A Note on Soft-Proofing
In my printing workshop and online course I also discuss an additional step called Soft-Proofing, which is a special mode you enable in Lightroom that simulates how an image will look printed on a specific paper. The purpose is to allow you to make adjustments to the image if needed and choose a preferred rendering intent. (I will explain those terms shortly.)
However, to keep things as simple as possible, I am going to skip Soft-Proofing. Here’s why.
Lightroom does an excellent job of translating the colors in your image to the paper chosen, and soft-proofing doesn’t add anything significant to this process.
Making good prints is not accomplished via Soft-Proofing—it’s accomplished in the Develop Module, the Print Module, and your choice of paper. When you can consistently make prints you are happy with, then add the soft-proofing step to your workflow. This will eliminate unneeded complexity at first, and give you confidence when you most need it—when you’re getting started in your printing journey.
Before we get to the settings for the Print Module, I want to make it clear that what follows will be a very simplistic, formulaic discussion of the best settings to use. I generally avoid this approach in most situations because I prefer to share underlying concepts and the reasoning behind choosing one setting over another.
But given the introductory nature of this course, I want to at least provide a reliable starting point that will give you predictable results. You are of course free to explore more as you learn and progress in your printing skills. In fact, I strongly recommend it. So with that said, here are my recommended settings.
Using the screenshot above as a guide, here are the essential steps to follow in the Print Module before you click on Print.
Area 1: Click on Page Setup and select your printer at the top, the proper paper size, and the orientation of your print, whether vertical or horizontal.
Area 2: Click on Print Settings then make sure your printer is still selected at the top of the window that opens. Then click on the dropdown that says Layout, and select Printer Settings (or Quality and Media on a Canon printer.)
Note: For Microsoft Windows users, Page Setup and Print Settings are combined into one single dialog box.
Here you will configure the printer itself as follows:
Select the Paper Source, either Top or Manual (for Canon) / Sheet or Front (for Epson.) The paper feed will often be dictated by the type of paper chosen—some printers only let you use matte paper via the manual feed, etc.
For Media Type, if you are using Canon paper with a Canon printer, select the actual paper you are using. If using Epson paper with an Epson printer, then again select the actual paper. BUT, if you are using Canson Infinity paper (or any other 3rd party), then you must select the Media Type that Canson recommends for their paper and your particular printer. You can find this information at the respective paper manufacturer's website.
Under Print Quality, select Highest (if using Canon) or 2880dpi (if using Epson.)
Area 3: Set the margins for your print in this area - I generally like to leave a 1” minimum border around a print because it looks better with a border, and it also leaves enough room for a signature and a mat should you decide to frame the print.
Area 4: Once the margins are set, make sure to expand the Cell Size as large as it will go - this will make sure you have the largest print possible within your margins.
Area 5: Finally, we arrive at the Print Job Panel.
Make sure the Print Resolution selection box is checked, and if you’re using a Canon printer, enter “300” in the box to the right. If you’re using an Epson printer, enter “360.” I discuss the reasoning for all of these settings in my workshops, but here my goal is to keep things simple and consistent.
Check the Print Sharpening box, select “Standard” to the right, and “Matte” below that if using a matte paper, otherwise select “Glossy” for all other papers.
Check the box for “16-bit Output.”
Finally, under Color Management, select the proper ICC Profile for the paper you are using next to "Profile,” then select “Perceptual" for the Rendering Intent. This determines how the colors will be translated from the original image to the paper chosen.
Important Note: You almost never want to select “Managed by Printer” for the Profile setting because that means the printer will guess which are the correct colors for your image. You want to select the ICC profile for the specific printer and paper combination you are using. Based on my analogy in Lesson 3 about languages, this is the equivalent of having the best interpretation between the computer and the printer and paper.
After you make sure your printer has the proper paper loaded, you can click on Print! Congratulations!