Adobe Photoshop CS5 : Professional Printing Options, Desktop Printing Options

10/4/2012 3:58:36 AM
Professional Printing Options

Depending on the type of image you have, you need to determine the right type of printer. This will be a balance of budget and availability. The simplest images, such as line art, use only one color. An illustration may use several colors, and those can be printed using CMYK inks to create the different colors or spot inks that exactly match. The most complex images are photographs because they use varying colors and tones to simulate the image. These types of images are generally referred to as continuous-tone images.

Color Separation

If your multicolored image is intended for commercial output (printing on a large press), it will need color separation. This process allows for a master plate to be created for each color. Generally, the plates created are for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—also called key—(CMYK) inks.

These plates can be created in several ways. Usually, the process is handled by a printing professional. However, let’s take a quick look at how these separations can be created in Photoshop.

Open the file Ch16_Color.tif

Check to make sure that your document is in CMYK Color or Multichannel mode.

Choose File > Print.

Choose Separations from the Color Handling menu.

Click Print. Your printer will print separations for each color in the image.

Note: Separations in Multiple Locations

Depending on the printer you are using, the separation options may also appear in the Print dialog box. Under the Mac OS, use the pop-up menu in the second Print dialog box that appears. With Windows, click the Properties button to access additional printer driver options.


To simulate continuous tones in images, commercial printers break down images into dots. For those images printed on a press, this process is referred to as halftoning. By varying the size of the dots, the halftone screen creates the optical illusion of variations in tone.

An inkjet printer also uses dots, but it’s not the same. An inkjet printer’s dots are very small and uniform in size.

Quality of Detail

How clear an image prints depends on its resolution and screen frequency. Professional printing devices are often capable of high resolution. As such, they require a finer screen ruling (lines per inch).

Desktop Printing Options

The majority of Photoshop users print their images on desktop printers most of the time. These printers generally fall into three categories:

  • Inkjet. These printers are the most popular and widespread. They offer relatively affordable printing. For best results, look for inkjet printers with cartridges for each color.

  • Dye sublimation. These printers allow for printing of lab quality prints. The price of these printers has recently plummeted. These printers do not use dots; rather, transparent film (using CMYO dyes—Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Overcoating) is heated and transferred to the paper. The vaporized colors are absorbed into the printer paper. This method is less vulnerable to fading over time if it uses a laminated overlay.

  • Laser printer. Laser printers use static electricity to affix powder to the page to form the image. These printers are generally more expensive than inkjets but can usually print faster and at a higher quality.


Inkjet printers use CMYK inks, but they prefer to ingest RGB images. If the image is in RGB mode, there is no reason to convert it if you’re using an inkjet printer. Desktop printers are designed to do their own CMYK conversion using internal software. Sending a CMYK image to an inkjet printer will usually result in a second (and unpredictable) color conversion. It is important to realize that the computer screen can display more colors than the printer can print. You might want to use the Gamut Warning command (View > Gamut Warning) to identify areas that need to be toned down with the Sponge tool before printing.

Printing Paper

Several specialty papers are available for desktop printers. You will not get good results trying to print on plain white copy paper. These specialty papers must be selected in the printer window. It’s a good idea to identify the paper you are using so the printer driver can adjust the density of the ink coverage to match the paper stock. To conserve paper, you might want to create and print a contact sheet with several smaller images first. It is a good idea to stick with the ink and paper recommended for your particular printer. Remember that different papers and different printers will warrant very different output.

Tip: A Better Print Needs More Data

If you’re printing on a Mac, you’ll have the option to print using 16 bits of information. This option is best when working with a 16-bit image because it will give you the highest possible quality. The extra information really helps reproduce subtle tones like skies and shadows.

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