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Author Topic: April 2010: Understanding Your Photo Printer  (Read 48911 times)
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« on: April 13, 2010, 01:37:59 AM »

April 2010: Understanding Your Photo Printer


Years ago I wrote four articles related to the understanding of how to make the most of the paper you use in your printer, the tradeoffs of borderless and non-borderless printing, and some problems you might run into if you are new to photo printing... and possibly even if you are a seasoned professional.  Judging by the number of emails that I get each week related to these topics, I thought it important to go over these points again and point my readers to the in depth articles that discuss each of the topics.  To effectively use any photo printing software, you must understand the basics of how your printer handles paper and how to work within the limitations of the equipment.  As such, these topics are applicable to every photo printing application available since they all are bound by the limitations of your printer and its associated driver!  To make each subject clear, I'll pose questions as I normally receive them via email and I'll then offer solutions to each.


Why can't I print a photo that is as big as the entire sheet of paper?

Printers have physical limitations that result in mandatory margins along the edge of the paper.  If you have 8.5 x 11 paper loaded in your printer, you might notice that you can't print anything larger than an 8.23 x 10.76 inch print.  The exact numbers aren't important: the question that often arises is "Why can't I print an 8.5 x 11 photo"?  The answer lies in the fact that your printer has physical limitations that make it impossible to print over the entire surface of the paper unless you print in borderless mode (see next topic).  If you haven't selected borderless printing in your printer driver, no software will be able to print over the entire page: all software will be limited by the capabilities defined by your printer driver and if those limitations are 8.23 x 10.76, then that's the largest size you are going to get regardless of the printing software used.

Limitations such as the fact that the print head must be able to accelerate and decelerate near the edges of the paper, and the fact that the roller can only guide paper a certain distance from the top/bottom dictate the margins.  The smaller size is often referred to as the "printable area" of the page.  Here's my article that explains the process in detail.


I checked borderless in the driver but now my prints are the wrong size or some of the edges are missing

To overcome the limitations of non-borderless printing as outlined in the section above, most printers now offer borderless printing.  Just check "borderless" in your printer driver and, as long as the paper type you have selected supports borderless printing, you're off and running.  Well, not quite!

Borderless printing comes with a new set of limitations.  In order to print edge to edge (and top to bottom) with no gaps or white slivers at the edges of the paper, most printer drivers expand the size of your prints when you print in borderless mode.  If you are using 8x10 paper and you are printing in borderless mode, your printer will actually expand that 8x10 to be larger so that parts of the print are actually printed beyond the edges of the paper!  For example, your printer may decide to expand your 8x10 to 8.2 x 10.2 so that about .1 inch of the print is actually printed off the edge of the paper (many printers actually have a sponge to soak up the excess ink that prints off the edge of the paper).  This is an "artificial" expansion because the user often cannot tell that it is happening: the printing software actually sends an 8x10 size but the driver then takes over and has a mind of its own, adding whatever amount of expansion it thinks it needs and therefore making the size bigger than 8x10.

If this artificial expansion is not done and you try to print exactly 8.0 x 10.0 inches on paper that measures 8.0 x 10.0 inches, inevitably you'll end up with a print where a tiny sliver is cropped off on one side and a white sliver appears unprinted on the opposing edge.  The reason is that the paper loading mechanisms in printers are not exact.  If the paper loads even a small fraction of an inch or a fraction of a millimeter too far to the left or right or if the paper isn't perfectly "square" or it doesn't load perfectly parallel to the guides, you'll notice immediately.  Any error at all will result in cropping on one edge and unprinted paper on the opposing edge.  The expansion (and printing beyond the edge of the paper) is a way to mitigate this problem.

Unfortunately, this artificial expansion always occurs no matter what size you are printing which causes a slightly different issue if you try to print multiple prints on a borderless page.  If you print two 5x7 prints on an 8x10 sheet of paper for example, the 5 inch side of the prints will be expanded to about 5.1 inches each so you'll end up with part of the left edge of one print being cropped off (it will print beyond the left edge of the paper) and part of the right edge of the right print on the page being cut off (it will print off the right edge of the paper).  Here's my article that explains the ins and outs of borderless printing in detail.


When I print a large print, pieces of my print are missing or the page prints blank

This is an age old problem that is a leftover from the Windows 95 era that still exists in even the latest printer drivers and operating systems.  When printing large prints, particularly on wide format printers, your system has to be able to handle huge amounts of data.  A modest poster size print can be well into the gigabytes as far as the amount of data being sent to the driver.  Your computer, operating system, Windows print spooler, and printer driver all have to be able to handle the amount of data being sent to the driver.  Professional high quality photo printing applications like Qimage typically send much more data to your printer than a typical "dumb printing" app like a photo editor.  Fortunately Qimage is designed to handle unlimited amounts of data without overwhelming the driver because it sends data in smaller chunks rather than just dumping an oversized image all at once.  Still, your system must be set up properly or it may be overwhelmed by the data processing required for large prints.  There are quite a few techniques and tips to be aware of when it comes to printing large prints including Windows printer spool format, network printing tips, and more.  This article on wide format printing and this one on print troubleshooting both serve as a repository of tips that can help you if you run into printing problems when printing large prints.


Some other questions I often get as author of Qimage

My printer isn't holding it's page size or the settings are behaving strangely: Qimage is the only application on the market that allows you to save and restore printer setups that record all printer driver and program settings, allowing you to recall all driver and program related settings at any time in the future.  Unfortunately if you've updated your printer driver, it is possible that the new driver is not compatible with settings from the previous driver that was used when printer settings were saved by Qimage. To correct this, you must recreate the driver settings from scratch. Click "Help", 'Reset printer settings" and when you restart Qimage, set the driver settings manually (without recalling a printer setup or job). Once you recreate the settings, you can save them for future use. The problems occur when you load an old printer setup or job that has settings based on an old (and now incompatible) driver.

Qimage reverts to "print to file" when it starts or Qimage hangs on startup: Like the previous tip, Qimage tries to restore the printer settings that were used previously each time it loads.  With many users switching to Windows 7, be sure you have updated your printer driver to a driver specifically designed for the edition of Windows 7 you are using!  If you are trying to use an XP or Vista driver in Windows 7, it is possible (likely in fact) that some of the functions in the driver will not work properly and it is actually your driver locking up or causing the problem.  Search for a driver that is specifically designed for your operating system.

The color of photos printed in Qimage is better (or worse) than software XYZ: Qimage uses standard ICC (International Color Consortium) color management like most high end photo applications and in almost every case, will produce color visually identical to the printed color produced in any other application that also uses ICC color management provided your software, printer, and ICC profiles are set up the same way in both applications.  If you observe any difference, the difference is likely caused by a mismatch in the ICC profiles being used, their rendering intent, or the driver settings such as paper type, quality, and whether or not you've switched color management on/off in the printer driver.  Carefully go through Qimage and the other software and make sure both the software settings and the settings used in the printer driver are identical in both programs.  Since Qimage allows you to save these settings and the other software you are comparing likely does not, once you get things right in Qimage, just use "File", "Save" and click the "P" button to save a printer setup so that those exact settings can be reloaded at any time.  Then you only have to worry about replicating those (correct) settings in the other software XYZ each time.


Mike Chaney

« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 10:28:14 PM by Mike Chaney » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2012, 11:42:10 PM »

Hi Mike
This is George Messmer in Port St Lucie.  I have used Qimage Pro for a long time on a limited basis.  I like so many others, have struggled through the 2 megapixel sensor Point and shoots (Nikon 950) and improved through the D100 and now the D300.  I continue to search for a way to print reduced pixel images (6 megs and the 12megs) as a way to enlarge subjects by cropping down.  This effort is a result of my bird photos which because of my location is  just too far away.  My Nikon lens, 80-400 on the D300 is  great, but I still need to crop down to get a decent image size and composition to print out a 13x19 on my Canon i9900 printer.  I am on the threshold of buying your new Qimage Ultimate because of your hybrid interpolation formula.   Is there a procedure that I could use to print a 4x6 at the output level of 13x19, hoping that the 4x6 would show a cross section of the 13x19 and in doing so, telling -  hey go ahead and print this at full size.

I hope I didn't muddle this narrative up, and maybe oversimplified a more complex issue.
Thanks in advance for your help.
George Messmer

Ps I have read your 2008 article "Interpolation Revisited".  I understand many of the issues, and even though the D300 increases the pixel size, I have some nice D100 and 950 shots that I would like to print on my Canon i9900 printer.

Fred A
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« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2012, 10:46:12 AM »

I am on the threshold of buying your new Qimage Ultimate because of your hybrid interpolation formula.   Is there a procedure that I could use to print a 4x6 at the output level of 13x19, hoping that the 4x6 would show a cross section of the 13x19 and in doing so, telling -  hey go ahead and print this at full size.

The new interpolator in Ultimate is called Fusion and you will appreciate the results

On the second part, the answer is YES! Assuming I fully undertand what you are asking.
You want to make a small test print of what the image will look like in print had it been printed at 13 x 19 size,

There's a routine in Qimage called TEST STRIP.
You find it in the Page editor.
You can do step by step using the HELP FILE.

This routine will hold the ppi of the 13 x 19 as it reduces the print size to your 4 x 6 size. You use some 4 x 6 paper, and tell the printer too. Make your small print and it will be as if it was the 13 x 19.

Help says:

"Test Strips - Before printing large prints and committing large amounts of paper, printing a small section of the large print can be helpful for the purpose of judging detail, sharpness, and color.  There is a "Test strip" function on the full page editor that will allow you to create a small, proportional print that contains a piece of the larger print.  From the main window in Qimage, start by adding the photo you wish to print at the desired final size (20x30 inches for example).  Then click the "Edit Page" button below the preview page, select the print on the page, click the "Cropping" button on the right and the "Test strip" button will be visible under the small crop window.  The test strip button can be used in any of the following ways:

You may repeatedly click the test strip button to make your test strip progressively smaller until you have a size as small as you like.
You may click the test strip button once and then change the size of the print manually using the sizing functions on the main window.  Once the test strip button is clicked, that print remains a test strip which will conform to a piece of the original size print until you remove the print crop or manually move the crop zoom lever in the page editor.  You could, for example, start with a 20x30 inch print, click the test strip button, and then choose a new size of 4x6.  Since the print has been identified as a test strip, the 4x6 print will be a 4x6 portion of the 20x30 print!  The area of the 20x30 print shown in the 4x6 can be adjusted by simply dragging the crop in the page editor or using the high precision cropping tool in the page editor.
You may select a smaller paper size (4x6 for example) and add your large print to the queue, specifying that it is OK to create a poster larger than one page.  Then simply click the test strip button in the page editor once and the test strip will automatically be resized to the size of your (smaller) paper.  The crop can then be moved manually to any part of the print using the cropping tool in the page editor.
Note that while left clicking on the test strip button will make the test strip smaller, right clicking or Ctrl-clicking on the test strip button will make the test strip larger"

Fred A
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« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2012, 11:07:40 AM »

I am over on the other side of the state in Sarasota, and I experience the exact same issue. Great bird shots which are sort of far off.
Need to crop for both bringing the subject out larger, and also to compose nicely.

I have learned over the years that Qimage will make wonderful prints given even 100 ppi, Pixels per inch!   Less than that, you can see some compromise.

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