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I have 2 shots I would like to print out as large as possible, probably at Costco given the prices. What steps should I take to prep my images for printing? The only thing I was planning so far was to provide the images to the printer in .png format.

What else do you do when you take your images to a printer?

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I should add that I'm leaning towards the canvas printing option. –  Dakine83 Jun 17 '12 at 2:39

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I know this comes a little late, but I'd like to add info for other people printing images at Costco. First, Costco supplies printer profiles for all of their locations via this website: http://www.drycreekphoto.com/icc/ Just browse for your local Costco and download the appropriate profile(s).

That website also has a handy link at the top to a page which describes how to install the color profiles on your system.

To understand how to really make use of color profiles in Photoshop, please read this article: http://www.computer-darkroom.com/ps13_colour/ps13_1.htm

It's long, I know, but it's clearly written.

One other important bit of information to know is that the photo printer at our local Costco does a little cropping in order to make up for the lack of bleed in submitted photos. It seems as though their software will scale up the image by about 1/8" in both directions and then cut off the extra amount. In the final print, this appears as a very minor zoom effect that most people might not notice. After all, you're only dropping about 1/16" from each side.

Please note that, by default, Costco will post-process your photos unless you tell them not to do so during your checkout process. Their post-processing appears to increase the contrast and saturation in a recent test run I performed. The results aren't terrible, but if you're like me, and you've spent a lot of time getting your picture just right, you probably don't want Costco messing it up. Be sure to turn off that option on each order.

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I wouldn't bother with PNG; it's a lot of extra card/disk space (or upload time) for no real gain. A high-quality JPEG (11 or 12 in Photoshop, 4x or thereabouts in Paint Shop Pro, 80 to 100 in the GIMP) will do just fine most of the time. It's only when your image consists of a lot of high-contrast geometric detail that you'd really need to worry about lossless formats like PNG or TIFF. If you can't tell the difference on screen at a 50% zoom level, you won't see the difference in a print. (You'd need to save the file as a JPEG, close it, then re-open it in order to see whether there is any damage from compression artifacts.)

You'll also want to see what the printer's preferred colour space is. A lot of printers prefer sRGB, some will work with Adobe RGB, and a very few will accept ProPhoto RGB. You're usually safe with sRGB when printing on photo papers, but for inkjet processes (like canvas printing), you may get better results with aRGB if it's accepted.

Finally, if your printer can supply you with a printer profile, you can use the soft-proofing feature of your image editing software (if it does colour management)—along with a properly calibrated monitor—to adjust your image for the best results obtainable on the printer. The screen and the print both have their own nuanced characteristics, and what looks good on-screen might not translate into good prints (and vice versa) without accounting for their differences. You might find this video by Kevin Kubota more helpful in explaining this than I have been.

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