Any printer can be used to print photos. Thermal dye printers produce the best quality, but because of their high cost, most home users will print their pictures on the more affordable ink jet printers.
Some ink jet printers are made especially for printing photos. These are labeled “Photo Printer” and will usually have additional ink cartridges and a higher print quality.
Whether you have a photo printer or just a plain ink jet printer, there are a few things that can make your photos look better and last longer.
The quality of a home-printed photograph is directly related to the quality of the paper that is used. Unfortunately, choosing the best photo paper can be very confusing due to labeling inconsistencies by manufacturers. Some paper will say simply say Premium Glossy Photo Paper or Heavyweight Matt Photo Paper. Other paper will be rated by weight, like 46 lbs. Others will give brightness and sheen ratings like 93%. So try to purchase your paper from a reputable dealer who displays samples of the paper and/or will let you open the package to inspect the weight and quality.
It is best to start with a photo paper that is offered by the manufacturer of your printer. For instance, if you have an Epson printer, use Epson photo paper. Although most printer manufacturers purchase their paper from another company, the printer manufacturer has calibrated their printer profiles and ink sets to perform best with their own branded paper. This will usually give better colors, contrast, and overall quality. If the manufacturer of your printer does not produce paper under their own brand, check with the company to see which brand of paper they recommend.
Once you have seen the output using your manufacture’s paper, you can try other papers. You may have to adjust your photos by making them lighter or darker or adjusting contrast. Be ready to spend some money on different types of paper and some time to try out various combinations. Once you find the paper and look you like, you can stick with that brand and those settings.
It is best to use the ink that is provided by your printer manufacturer when printing photographs. If, however, you are using third party ink cartridges, you can print some photos and see if the quality is acceptable.
This is an important part of printing photographs. You must choose the proper paper settings in the printer set up. This is usually done by choosing Properties or Preferences from the print menu, and changing the settings under the Paper Setup or Paper Type. Depending on your printer the choices may say something like glossy photo paper, coated paper or premium photo paper. The paper choices for some printers can also be chosen right on the printer itself. The printer lays down differing amounts of ink depending on the type of paper chosen. So if you choose plain paper in the settings, but try to print on glossy paper or vice-versa, you are sure to be disappointed in the results.
When you print your own photos you want them to look good well into the future. Like traditional photographs, digital prints will fade over time. Some will fade much more quickly than traditional photos. How long the photos will last depends on the printer, paper, and ink that you are using. Check out the documentation that came with your printer and/or the printer manufacturer’s Web site for details. Remember that storing photos under glass will greatly extend their longevity.
Spend some time with your photo software to learn how to manipulate your photographs. Not only should you be able to use your software to lighten, darken, and remove red-eye, but you should also investigate the functions that allow you to crop the photos and adjust the size so that they will print correctly.
It will take time, patience, and an initial monetary investment in paper and ink to be able to produce good photographs on your ink jet printer. You will, however, be rewarded with great photos without a dark room or photo processing fees.
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