How to Setup Your Digital Files

We want you to have the best possible photographic print or fine art reproduction with the least amount of difficulty. For an engaging experience with outstanding results, simply follow the instructions below!

Recommended Working Color Spaces

While we suggest that you convert to profile for all large format prints (LightJet and Giclee Pigment Prints) we provide you the freedom to submit your files in any color space you prefer. The table below shows our recommended working spaces.

 GicleeLarge Format Photo (LightJet prints up to 49x120)Enlargements and Proofs (Frontier prints up to 12x18)
Recommended Working Color SpaceAdobe 1998 or sRGBAdobe 1998 or sRGBsRGB

A note on filenames

  • File names must have the appropriate .tif or .jpg extension and must not contain characters such as: \ / :*?”|’~ $ spaces right before the period, bullets or foreign characters.

Monitor Calibration and Color Profiles

  • Let’s start with how you see your digital files. Every monitor is different and changes over time. It’s important to keep your monitor calibrated and as close to output reality as possible. The purchase of a quality colorimeter is a good investment.
  • We calibrate our production displays using the X-Rite i1 Display 2 colorimeter. Our monitors are set to a gamma of 2.2 and a color temperature of 6500k. We use Daylight balanced (5000k) illumination for color assessment unless you request otherwise. This excludes backlit trans, which use an industry standard of cool-white.
  • The best prints come from the best digital files. No amount of profiling will accurately compensate for poor exposure, over-worked corrections or inaccurate color. Profiles merely help with attaining a print that is truer to the actual content of the file. We strongly recommend using a properly calibrated display with the correct working space/output profile combination for a given printer or device. If you want to learn more: Color calibration information is available by clicking here.

Turnaround

  • All instructions must be written legibly, verbal instructions will not be exclusively accepted. When supplying a file for output, job turn around times begin on the first business day when we have received all required elements to complete the job.
  •  Compress (zip archive) your fonts if you are uploading your files, or convert your text to outlines.

Please include:

  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Lightjet – converted to our output profile, or in a working space such as Adobe 1998 or sRGB
  • Failure to properly set-up and include all necessary files MAY DELAY YOUR JOB! Any production time required to correct set-up errors, improper color-space, incorrect file type, proportions etc, may result in intervention charges billed at a $60 set-up fee, plus applicable hourly rates. All output pricing is based on the size required to print all data in your layout, including crop-marks, registration marks and bleed. Because we use a multi-platform network, it is imperative that file names be fully cross-platform compatible; no punctuation or extended characters such as bullets, trademark, slashes, dollar signs, commas, etc. Hyphens and underscores are acceptable.

Programs

Our Fuji-Frontier Mini-lab only accepts .jpg and .tif RGB files (sRGB is preferred for the most predictable color). Layout files and or PDF are not printable on this device. Please convert your files to .jpg or .tif before submitting for small format printing.

For large format printing, we accept files from the most current versions of the most popular professional graphics and layout programs listed below. If you are using a different program for your work please give us a call.

Adobe In-Design

  • .native, .eps, .pdf
  • RGB preferred
  • Please convert all text to outlines
  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Adobe Illustrator

  • .native, .eps, .pdf
  • RGB preferred
  • Please convert all text to outlines
  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Adobe Photoshop

  • Flattened, uncompressed tiff or max quality jpg.
  • Adobe 1998 or sRGB.
  • We reccomend converting to our profiles when applicable
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.

Microsoft PowerPoint

QuarkXPress

  • .native, .eps, .pdf
  • RGB preferred
  • Please convert all text to outlines
  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Fonts

  • All screen fonts and printer fonts must be included or text converted to outlines.
  • DO NOT use keyboard commands for bold or italic fonts.
  • Use actual bold or italic fonts where applicable.

Layout

  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Color

  • All efforts will be made to approximate to your supplied color samples, however, due to the limitations of the different media, we cannot guarantee an exact match.
  • Color corrections that require more than global corrections will incur retouching charges. Items that we scan may require billable retouching time to match an original.
  • If a test must be approved before finals are hit, the finals will have normal turn around times, beginning from the time of approval for color.
  • If Pantone or process color matches are requested, we recommend calling so we can give you the closest equivalent color build for a given media.
  • All devices print differently, and different media on the same device may not produce the same results. An image corrected for one media may require additional retouching time to correct the image for another media.
  • Images supplied by the customer will be charged computer time to match color to a proof.
  • Remember, what you see on your monitor for color is not always a good indication of how the final print will look.

Proofs

  • If a proof is required, it will be done on the same device and media as the final print.
  • The proof will be the full image, printed to an 8″x10″.
  • If a strip test is requested at final size, there will be an additional charge applied.
  • If you require a proof after layout adjustments ie: text changes, image placement etc., we can email a PDF. If the files exceed 50 megabytes, we may print a screen capture of the layout. We will e-mail a PDF or screen capture free of charge.

Removable Media

We accept the following removable media:

  • CD-ROM/ DVD
  • Thumbdrive
  • Micro storage cards
  • You may also send you files via our web upload page.

LightJet – large format photo prints

LightJet Calibration Specifications and Profiles are available by clicking here.
Files submitted for LightJet output must be supplied:

  • In an RGB color-space
  • As non-compressed, flattened tiffs or maximum quality jpeg – no layered files.
  • Use of our profiles is highly recommended but not required.
  • At a minimum resolution of 150 ppi at 100% of final size.
  • For prints smaller than 20×24 it is recommended that the resolution of the file be closer to, but not to exceed 300 ppi. and rely less on the LightJet’s superior built-in interpolation.
  • The LightJet’s maximum resolution in normal mode is 300 dpi. For large prints from lower resolution files, we rely on the lightjet’s internal interpolation algorithms to achieve that final resolution.

Giclee Pigment on Canvas and Watercolor

  • The Pigment printers will print up to a 60 x 120 inch image area on a maximum paper size of 60 inches wide.
  • Watercolor paper or canvas,
  • Raster Images should be supplied at a minimum resolution of 200 ppi at 100% of output size as RGB TIFF- Adobe 1998 or sRGB.

Fuji Frontier Mini Printer for prints up to 12×18

The Fuji Frontier Digital Photo Printing Minilab accepts files in the following formats:

  • sRGB 8-Bit Tiff (no LZW)
  • sRGB 8-Bit Jpeg
  • Greyscale 8-Bit Tiff (no LZW)
  • Greyscale 8-Bit Jpeg
  • File names must have the appropriate .tif or .jpg extension and must not contain characters such as: \ / :*?”|’~ $ spaces right before the period, bullets or foreign characters.

Learn about Tiff versus jpeg. Does Size Really Matter?

Is Bigger Always Better?

men on a very large bicycleYou are probably frustrated with the Tiff vs Jpeg debate. The truthful answer is not one of always use this, or never use that.  Like cars versus trucks, they each have attributes that make them well suited for certain tasks and not others. Often we are asked to describe the difference between tiff and jpeg files. While they share a few similarities, there are a few differences and particularly some characteristics in the Jpeg format that any individual looking to get the very best image quality should know.

A Tiff file (Tagged Image File Format) and a JPEG file (Joint Expert Photographic Group) are both raster file types. A raster is a grid, and raster images have their pixels (picture elements) arranged in a grid pattern – like a chess board with a large number of squares, with each square being assigned a color and density value. When the squares get small enough that our eyes cannot see them individually, they blend together to create the image.

Both file types contain what is called “Meta Data”. Meta originates with the Greek language and means beyond or above. So meta data is information that is above or beyond the “normal” data in the file. In this case, the data that forms the image. This meta data may contain image relevant information such as what color space the file is in, what embedded or assigned color profiles are of note, the actual file type – tiff or jpeg, image dimensions in pixels and inches/cm, a thumbnail preview and some pertinent info that software uses to rebuild our image file from the raw data. This meta data may also contain additional extended information that is not used to display the file, such as the type of device used to capture the image, i.e. what camera or scanner, exposure settings, flash settings, date, time and even GPS co-ordinates and copyright information if available. This list is not intended to be a complete technical description, but just enough info to give you a general idea.

JPEG files use a variable compression scheme to throw information away, thereby allowing the stored image file to require less file size. Jpeg compression is fairly intelligent. The software throws data away to save space, then the application that opens the file uses information embedded in the file to “rebuild” what the lost data might have looked like. The more data that gets discarded, the less there is for the software to base it’s rebuild on and we begin to see anomalies, or what are called “artifacts”. The authors of the JPEG standard knew that the human eye is far more sensitive to density information than it is to color. So color information sees the most loss of detail. Maintaining as much density information as possible here is key to keeping as much quality as possible. While this does effect color-detail, this process is nicer to look at than throwing out the density detail. Our eyes are less likely to see a smearing of the color than smearing of the detail. At higher levels of compression, more information is discarded, including more of the density detail, resulting in an image that looks blurry, or grainy. Some applications such as The GIMP – http://www.gimp.org/ – allow the user flexibility to increase compression in the color only, and leave the detail alone, thus allowing for a bigger bang for the compression buck. One of many nice GIMP features that Adobe could learn from.

Mid Level CompressionLow Quality-Maximum Compression

Max quality - Minimum Compression

 

 

 

Jpeg likes to work in 8 pixel by 8 pixel blocks and any one block has no idea what the next block contains. This can result in the borders of neighboring blocks failing to match for color and density. As levels of compression increase, these blocks become increasingly apparent to the viewer because the “rebuild engine” in the software has less original information to work with and therefor errors will be greater.

The tiff standard had it’s birth in the desktop publishing world as a proposed standard amongst desktop scanning devices. It is widely accepted as one of the image format defacto standards for printing and publishing. The other being EPS. Many consider tiff to by synonymous with uncompressed or lossless compression. This is a false assumption. While the baseline (basic level) of tiff is either uncompressed or uses a lossless line level compression, a tiff file can also be a “container” for a jpeg compressed file. This jpeg-in-a-tiff scenario is subject to all the loss and limitations of any other jpeg file. So be aware that a file with a .tiff extension may not have all the integrity you are expecting.

Tiff’s early days were very limiting. The format supported only 1 bit of data per pixel – meaning black or white. No gray and no color. Over the years the tiff standard has expanded to support ever increasing bit depths and files up to 4 gigs in size. Files over that size use a format called Big-Tiff.

Just in case this whole file comparison thing is not quite “geeky” enough for you, here is a fun fact; The third and fourth bytes in a tiff file alway represent the number 42, which is a nod to “The Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question” in “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrases_from_The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy#Answer_to_the_Ultimate_Question_of_Life.2C_the_Universe.2C_and_Everything_.2842.29

And they say programmers don’t have any fun.

The tiff standard has been expanded to include support for multiple “pages”. Just like a layered photoshop file. Adobe, who owns the rights to the tiff format, have taken advantage of this flexibility and allow layered photoshop files to be saved in the tiff container, alongside a “flattened” version of the file so that standard tiff reading applications can provide you with a usable composite image.

So I hear you asking: “Which one is best?” This of course depends on your needs. For general photographic and fine art pigment printing, file quality is a majority factor in the final print. Lossy compression means less than stellar printing. So use jpeg if you must, but compress it as little as possible. If you are using tiff, if you must compress, avoid using jpeg compression and go with line level compression. LZW for example.

Now if maximum quality is your biggest concern. Stop shooting JPEG in your camera, unless your raw files are compressed too. Many manufacturers only provide compressed raw.  Check your camera specs. If you aren’t gaining anything by shooting raw, then go for JPEG and save the space. If you have an uncompressed raw or a tiff option, these will yield the best file integrity but take the most room in storage.

If storage space is your primary concern, then jpeg is your friend, at least until camera makers are willing to include lossless compression in their firmware, and it is unlikely they will until there is a demand for it. So if you think it’s a good idea, write your manufacturer and request it.

Want more on shooting Raw vs Jpeg?  Check out my blog post on that topic here

Have a question? Put it in the comments below!

 

How big can I print my file?

Here is another great question we hear quite often. Sometimes more than once a day. So it seems low resolution file showing pixelsa relative bit of information to pass along here to our blog reader friends.

There are two valid answers to this, depending on whether we look at this as a relative issue or a subjective one. As a relative issue, we use math to compare number of file pixels versus output resolution. Subjectively we look at quality as simply a matter of personal taste – what I like to call “The quality to pain threshold”. Or how big can we go before the quality drops to where it becomes painful to look at or pay for.

First, in either point of view, image quality is more than just the number of pixels contained in the medium resolutionfile. For a simple example; a modern 24 mega-pixel file shot out-of-focus will be of lesser quality than a properly focused 4 mega-pixel file.

Let’s look at the relative approach first, since most folks like easy and firm answers, such as 2+2 always = 4, and George Washington was the first US prez.

The easy answer is achieved with simple math:

File pixel dimension ÷ minimum input resolution = output dimension.

Consider this:
The example camera has a pixel dimensions of 2000×3000 (6 mega-pixel)
and the example device wants a minimum of 300 ppi (pixel per inch) file resolution.Full resolution file uncropped

2000÷300 = 6.66″
3000÷300 = 10.00″
The largest maximum quality print size would be: 6.67″ x 10.0″

If your printer recommends a minimum of 150 ppi:

2000÷150 = 13.33″
3000÷150 = 20.00″
The largest minimum quality print size is 13.33″ x 20″

If your file is from a 24 mega-pixel camera with dimensions of 4000×6000:

4000÷150 = 26.66″
6000÷150 = 40.00″
The largest minimum quality print size would be 26.66″ x 40.00″

With the subjective approach, there are limited fixed answers. The size of output is usually limited by one or more of the following factors:

* The physical limitations of the printing device.
* Your budget.
* How ugly you are willing to accept it.

At some point the cost of the print will break your budget. That is a hard and fast limitation. So that’s easy – you can print as big as you want to go as long as you can afford the print.
The printing device or medium will support a maximum specific size. For instance, some ink jets will not print any larger than 40″ wide, but they will go several hundred inches long. You can’t go any larger unless you pick a different printing device or you print in multiple tiles and deal with matching the seams. If you are willing to do the latter, then your budget is again your limit.

The subjectivity comes in with your opinion. How big is too big before the quality drops below your level of acceptance – your threshold of pain. Or you might call it the “Yuck factor”. When you get to a level of enlargement that degrades the quality to a point where you don’t like the results, you have hit your threshold of pain. In essence, you see the print and say “Yuck! That’s one ugly print and I’m not willing to pay money for it”

What does the yuck point look like? I can’t answer that for you, only you can. My level of acceptability may be different than yours. A professional’s need for quality is likely higher than that of the average consumer due to experience and training. Because of this experience, the professional will usually hit his/her level of pain sooner than the consumer.