How to Prepare Images for Fine Art Printing

Posted by Michael Brown on

Printing thousands of museum grade prints a year, we like to think we know a thing or two about how to obtain the highest quality for fine art prints.

Preparing optimum digital files plays a key role in the quality of prints. How your digital files reproduce for fine art printing is dependent on a number of factors - here are some of our top tips to get your images print ready.



Tip #1 - Capturing your image

Probably the most important is the original file size an image is captured at. When capturing those amazing moments, it’s important to ensure that your camera is operating at the highest quality that it will allow. In this case, we strongly suggest shooting all images in RAW at the highest resolution your camera allows. 

Don’t be fooled, capturing images at a lower resolution may look good on screen but will not reproduce well in print (particularly at large format sizes). Trying to upsize small files into larger image sizes will most likely incur problems when printing.

What is RAW, you ask?

A RAW file is the most common file format for uncompressed images. RAW files are generally large in size as they contain minimally processed image data with lossless quality. As such, it holds the direct image data from the camera sensors with no loss of quality and alteration.

Tip #2 - File Format

Once you have captured your image and completed your post production editing, (we suggest using software such as Photoshop, Lightroom or similar) ensure that you export your image at full size with no compression. Prior to this, it can be a good idea to lighten an image on screen about a quarter of a stop, as images will always appear lighter on a computer with a backlit screen than they will appear in print.

Most fine art printers prefer images to be shared in TIFF format at 300dpi, as these files are uncompressed. TIFF are large format files and do not lose any quality or clarity when edited nor when saved repeatedly. Other formats, like JPEGs, will lose a small amount of quality and clarity each time they are saved. Hi-res PNG’s will also print well and are very website friendly for uploading an image to a web page. 

The size of the print you’re preparing a file for is also a factor to consider when determining the file format. If preparing for a smaller print, a JPEG file will be suitable, whereas larger prints will require a TIFF or PNG file.

Tip #3 - Colour Spacing

A common debate amongst photographers is whether to use Adobe RGB98 or sRGB for colour spacing - some photographers favour sRGB; others swear by Adobe RGB. Regardless of this, we can all agree on one thing: you need to make sure you’re using the best colours possible to really make your photos shine and look their best when printed. Whether photography is your full-time job or a side hustle, ensuring quality should be the number one priority.

sRGB and Adobe RGB are two different colour space profiles (also known as colour models, or colour systems). A colour space is simply a range of possible colours. Adobe RGB is newer and holds more colors than sRGB. Adobe RGB encompasses 50% of visible colors sRGB encompasses ~35% of visible colors. Given this, we suggest saving your images Adobe RGB, as this allows for a wider colour spectrum than sRGB. In saying that, sRGB images still have the potential to produce great prints. 

Tip #4 - Checking the image

At this point you can check the quality of the image and determine any potential issues that may arise in print. Our suggestion would be to first size your file at the maximum size it will be offered for print. Once sized, view the file somewhere between 65-100% zoom, which needs to be set up in your computer's preferences under units and rulers by setting your screen resolution to 300 pixels per inch. This will allow you to move about the image and check for pixelation and chromatic aberration (some of the undesirable issues that arise when an image is printed larger than its capabilities). If the file looks good and the image is clear then you’re good to go! 

If you’re unsure how to do this or want a second opinion, our team at Riptide Prints can do this step for you. 

In summary, our suggested file setup for print is:

  • File type: TIFF (preferred), PNG or JPEG 
  • Resolution: We print at 300DPI at the size required, we prefer being supplied the original image's resolution however we can easily resize the image before printing
  • Bit Depth: 8 Bit
  • Colour Mode: RGB
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB 1998
  • Ensure there are no layers, paths or channels (flattened file)

The good news is that when printing your images through Riptide Prints, we’ll manually inspect each image before it heads to the printer, following and checking off the steps above. Even better yet, a member of our team inspects each finished print before it ships out to ensure it is of extreme high quality.

Any questions on printing your images? Feel free to contact us for any advice - we are always here to help!

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