I know that when it comes to digital printables, most are worried about the process of printing at home. We want the best quality possible, but very few of us have professional heavy duty equipment! I admint that the process of printing seems to be a whole art form in itself! However, these days the technology available to us gives pretty fabulous results… and many independent artists selling art prints, actually print at home as well. Regular home printers are pretty darn good and I’m able to get really great quality prints with ease.
Most of us are able to print a quick photo at home with our inkjet printers and it works the same for art prints and other downloadable printables as well. There are many factors that contribute to a beautiful looking print and with a bit of testing and experimentation, I’m certain you’ll find what is acceptable to you – for your particular use at that time.
To print at home, you obviously need access to a printer. Most of us have inkjet printers…the most common for households these days. They have a lot of features and the trick is to inform yourself of what is possible. Of course, the more expensive the printer, the more quality and control comes with it. Artists in the business of printing their own artwork usually have large format printers that accept thicker, speciality papers. They usually have more control over their ink colors as well – 4 to 8 different ink cartridges. It can provide better picture detail and color quality.
I personally have a very inexpensive “home office” Canon PIXMA MP240. It’s nothing special, but does give me a lot of flexibility when it comes to borderless printing at any custom size. It’s not the best out there, but the quality is pretty darn good and more than anything, it’s about understanding how to maximize my printer’s potential. Let’s use and make the best of what we’ve got!
An extremely important aspect for me, is to use ink from the same brand as my printer. I know that it costs and might seem like all the same thing in the end. But if you think about it, there’s a compatibility when you use products from the same company – whatever that company might be. They test and use their own products, so that it works together. When they claim that pigment ink can last up to 100 years, it’s on their paper and using their ink.
I personally don’t know if the generic brands are really the same thing chemically or not. However, instead of fussing around with injecting refills which I abhor doing… I always go with the name brand. I think it’s totally worth it and makes a difference. There are exceptions I’m sure and I think the only way to go is to test and see what works for you at the best price.
Another major component in the quality of your print is the paper choice. In fact, I think it’s a pretty HUGE deal. I use Canon brand papers with my Canon printer, but sometimes opt for other professional papers as well. The key here is professional. There is a huge difference. Just do a comparison. Print on regular paper, on photo paper, on canvas, different brands, etc. You will see the difference in vibrance of color when printing on regular cardstock versus photo paper. Perhaps you can see in this photo how much more bright and true to color the top sheet is – matte photo paper, versus the bottom which is regular cardstock – same printer centers. It’s about how the paper absorbs the ink.
The bottom sheet looks completely washed out by comparison, right? And no, my printer was not running out of ink, I actually printed on the cardstock first and realized my mistake! The reason why photo paper looks so much better is because it’s manufactured to capture vivid and bold colors. The ink doesn’t sink down and become absorbed by the paper and fibers. That’s why there’s always a right side to print on and the back side, has their logo and looks dull. I also print on high resolution paper that is much brighter white to begin with – ever realized how dull and yellowish regular copy paper looks? That aspect also makes a difference in your end product.
Your best bet is to print test prints on the different types of paper you have. Just print a tiny 1inch by 1inch square, something large enough so you can compare with perhaps a crop or graphic that has different colors. You’ll see the difference in how your paper takes your ink and can make a judgement from there. Obviously, for whatever budget you have, get the best quality you can afford and go with that.
A huge tip when printing from home is to set your printer settings on the best quality possible. There is a noticeable difference between high quality and standard quality in my experience. Some people don’t use the high quality because it uses more ink, so you just have to do a bit of testing and see what is acceptable for you.
Selecting the specific paper you are using also makes a difference. If you think of a putting a puzzle together, when you have all the right settings, your image will look great. When you don’t have them matched up properly, it can be off. Dig into the printer menu and settings! Look through everything and understand what options your printer has.
I usually print directly from the preview image program on my Mac – simply because I prefer the menu options. Of course, you can print from any graphic program and simply open up your printer settings specifically.
Things to check:
- What are you printing, how many copies? Consider doing a test first! Can you see a preview?
- Select your proper paper size
- Select the proper sizing for your image – do you need to scale it down? (my girl art prints are 10″x10″ at 300dpi, so you usually will be sizing them down. the even number makes it easy to just enter percentages for whatever size you are going for, 50% for 5″x5″, etc)
- Select the proper paper type – it makes a huge difference!
- Select the highest print quality possible
I have certainly run into problems myself when printing at home, but I know from experience that it simply took a bit of education and experimentation to find the sweet spot. When I tried all the Canon products together, my prints looked pretty fabulous! In fact, I have upgraded and use even the super thick fine art museum etching paper – and WHOA it makes a huge difference!
So give printing at home a try and know that it takes just a bit of experimentation to maximize the use of your printer. These days, the quality is really fantastic.
I should note that if you aren’t satisfied with the quality at home, you can always send the image to a profesional printer or even a photo printing service. Anything printed as photo quality looks significantly better!
Let me know if you have any tips and tricks for printing beautiful artwork at home. How you find the process of printing at home? I know that with different equipment and materials, we will all get different results. I also know that some artists cringe at the thought of letting others control the quality of their work. However, I want my girls to spread far and wide and I want people to see them and feel better seeing them! Even if it’s maybe not that vibrant of a print, I don’t think it degrades the worth of the original work and idea. I think that the power of the visual imagery and message, still carries through. So although it’s wonderful to see the high quality prints, I think the not so professional copies still have just as powerful effects. I suppose that in this digital age, it’s no longer about that physical tactile item sometimes. It’s much greater and intangible…
BTW, if you are into printing at home you might want to try out my Happy Print Club – a library of over 150 stationery designs that you can download and print. With weekly new releases!