This past month I got into large format printing (and printing in general), making 24x36-inch prints on my Canon IPF 6100. What fun! Printing has added a new dimension to my photography. I actually can't believe that it took me this long to get into home printing.
In looking at the prints, I was reminded of two famous quotes about printing:
1) "I don't care if you make a print on a bath mat, as long as it's a good print." Edward Weston (Weston, for newbies, was one of the greatest photographers and printers of all time.)
2) "If you can't make a good print, make a big print." Overheard at a bar, I think :-)
I know what Mr. Weston was saying. The material does not matter – the artist does. Today, however, I think you might void your inkjet printer's warranty if you try to shove a bath mat through the paper tray!
As far a making a BIG print. Sure, it can be more impressive than a small print. But who wants to look at a big print of a bad image?
Well, speaking of quotes/tips about printing, here are a few of mine (that apply to all size prints):
1) Make the best possible in-camera image. Screw up big time, and you can't fix it in Photoshop.
2) Make the best possible file in the digital darkroom. Among other things, use Adjustment Layers and sharpen (selectively, of course) for the viewing distance. Nik Sharpener Pro does a good of this.
At this point in the process, remember: garbage in, garbage out.
3) Calibrate your monitor... at least once a month. If your monitor is set too dark, your prints will look too light. If it's set too bright, your prints will look too dark.
4) Calibrate your printer - for the paper you'll be using.
5) Use your printer's color management software. Check each setting very carefully.
6) Use the right paper for the right profile.
7) Don't expect your print to exactly match the image on your monitor - when you make your first print. For one thing, different ink jet nozzels act differently, even from the same-model printer to printer. (The same is true, by the way, for cameras: you'll get slightly different colors from two same-model cameras.)
Here is something else to consider: ink dries at different rates depending on the humidity in the room. Different dry times means different results.
And perhaps most important, keep in mind that reflected light is illuminating your print; unlike your monitor which projects light. View your print in different lighting situations, and your print will "magically" change colors.
Consider your 1st print a test print. See what went wrong. Print again. But... wait at least four hours for the print to fully dry.
If you are feeling a creative low, get into printing your own images. I think you'll find it a rewarding process. After all, when you make your own print, you have total control over the final result.
Explore the Light,
P.S. Want prints to last a very long time? Use pigment inks rather than dye inks... but know that dye inks look a bit brighter than pigment inks.