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8 tips for better print files

Would you love to have your albums arrive on your doorstep faster, hassle-free, and beautifully printed? You put a lot of work into them, so they might as well be perfect. We definitely want to give you the best possible print job, because if there are problems with your files, you can guarantee your clients will see them. By carefully checking for these issues before you send your files you'll avoid maybe 90% of the issues we see.

Check for "banding"

If you've put vignettes on images, or burnt in the sky, take a moment to check the files at 100% for "banding". Reducing the feathering on the vignette often helps, or adding a small amount of noise to the layer. Unfortunately, banding sometimes doesn't show up until we print, but you'll find most of it.

("Banding" is a hard distinction between one colour and the next in an image. It's particularly obvious when you have graduated colour such as in vignettes, or a dark blue sky graduating to a lighter sky. Another example (and this is very hard to pick on a file) is in clouds. (Here's a hint: If you open a file in Photoshop and then select Image > Adjust > Equalize, the banding will show up. Don’t freak, as this takes your image to an extreme, but will highlight my point). Banding tends to occur more with images set as SRGB and JPEG.)

Check for sensor dust 

There's nothing worse than having a beautiful blue sky and sensor dust in the middle of it. It's really common and when we query it, some people say to forget about it, it's ok. I disagree! People are paying you for these images, and if we’ve spotted it, your client will too. I think in some cases this boils down to the cost of fixing the problem. If you check your files that becomes a non-issue.

If possible, avoid soft images

OK, lets be honest, we mean out-of-focus images, but we're being nice! If you can see the eyes aren't sharp, for example, the odds are it will print up like that. We know that sometimes you need to use an image that is not pin sharp, but we suggest that, if possible, you cull soft images before showing the client.

Check for pixelation and noise

Generally if you see pixelation in your image at 100% then it will show up in your print. I say generally because this is not an exact science. If for example, if the image is small then it may be ok, but at least you are aware of it.

Noise in shadow areas is quite common, particularly when images have had a lot of work done on them: the file has lost information and is trying to compensate.

Check your image alignment

What I'm  referring to here is images or apertures in albums that don't "line up" with each other. If the misalignment is substantial it may look intentional, so doesn't matter, but if it's minor it will just look like a mistake. It's less common now, as album design software has improved (and become more template-based), but keep an eye out for it if you're designing "freestyle". Remember you're probably looking at the design at a reduced scale, so it may be more obvious after printing.

Always double-check your artwork 

There are two things to look for here. First, make sure that there really are no red eyes, stray hairs or other things to fix. But also check to make sure the images you have artworked are correct! We see some interesting examples where work has been done and problems missed. Extra heads and hands … eyes appearing in space or on different parts of people’s bodies. I would love to show you some stuff, because it can be quite funny, but the boss gave me the big thumbs down on that one. Sometimes artwork problems are not obvious to us, simply because people have artworked one set of images and sent us another. It happens occasionally.

Queensberry's colour correction service

An album of images is a big job and it’s easy to make mistakes. Everybody does from time to time, and it helps to know where to look for them. You and your clients deserve the best possible result and it’s our job to help you get it. But if this stuff gives you a headache, be sure to try Queensberry's colour correction and art services.

Less work, less hassle, more time and top quality.

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