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    Inkjet Printing Basics

     
    As digital photography increased in popularity, the desire for printed images began to decrease. But now the pendulum is swinging back as people yearn for tangible, hold-it-in-your-hands pictures, photo gifts, and ideas. As the quality of inkjet printers advances, it is now easier than ever to hold your memories in your hands again.
     
    Getting great prints
    Here are the three things you need to remember to produce lasting, high-quality prints. Repeat after us: Printer. Ink. Paper. Printer. Ink. Paper…
     

     

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    Printers-Choose wisely
    Given today's numerous options, it's difficult to pick the printer that's right for you. But it's easy to narrow down your choices. Keep these points in mind as you're shopping:

    • Do you print documents, pictures, or both?
    • Do you print black-and-white only, or in color?
    • Do you also need to copy, scan or fax?
     
     
    If you print mainly black-and-white documents, or in very high volume, you may be better off with a laser printer. If you like color documents and printing photos, an inkjet is for you. If you simply want to print photos quickly and easily, and nothing else, you may want to look for a single-purpose printer to serve as a standalone photo lab. And if you’re looking for copy, scan or fax capabilities, many all-in-one inkjet printers can handle these tasks as well.
     
     
    still life picture
     

    framed images on wall
    Share the Inspiration:
    "I'm very happy with my color printer, especially when I print really color-rich images like these pear photos. I used the heavier weight archival gloss paper to enhance the water droplets on the pear. I made several prints and framed them to be unique gifts for the holidays."
    — Ann, Rochester, NY
     

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    Think about the ink
    Printer ink falls into two categories: pigmented and dye based. Look for a printer that uses pigmented ink because it dries quickly and is fade resistant and water resistant.
     
    While the printer is a one-time investment, you'll be buying ink cartridges on a regular basis. So when shopping, don't just compare printer prices, compare ink prices as well.
      
     

    collage of images
     
    Share the Inspiration:
    "I take pictures of patterns, textures, and colors on my travels and use them to create simple cards and gift tags. I print the images on the heavier weight matte paper with pigmented ink so I know they'll hold up well."
    — Amy, Chicago, Il
     

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    Select the right paper
    Even if you have done everything else right, if you don’t have the right paper for the job, your results could be disappointing. While plain copy paper is fine for graphics, standard documents, and letters, you’ll want a high-quality inkjet photo paper for your favorite photos or ultra-premium photo paper for framing and archiving.
     
    Considerations include output quality, how long you want the print to last, and the choice between gloss and matte finishes. Inkjet photo papers have special coatings that prevent inks from spreading and give your photos bright, vivid colors and sharp details. Glossy paper provides excellent color contrast and definition so your colors pop. If you’re concerned about fingerprint marks on your photos, look into matte papers, which produce excellent images with a non-shiny finish.

    collage of picutes
    Share the Inspiration:
    "I used the lighter weight matte paper to make this unique souvenir booklet. I carry it with me everywhere I go and share it with others."
    — Lisa, Rochester, NY
     
    completed book from collage of pictures
     

     

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    How long is this going to take?
    Printing speeds can vary from 10 to 30 pages per minute for draft-quality color documents. Full-quality photos can take anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes. Check each printer’s specifications before you buy.
     
     

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    Maintaining your printer
    Using high-quality ink and paper goes a long way toward keeping your printer running smoothly. Lesser quality ink and paper can decrease functionality and even cause hardware problems.
     
    Even under the best of circumstances, every printer needs a tune-up once in a while. Maintenance tools such as nozzle check, print head cleaning, and print head alignment can be accessed through the printer software on your computer.
     
    Nozzle check
    If a printer hasn’t been used in some time, the ink can dry and clog the nozzle. If a nozzle check indicates a problem, clean the print heads.
     
    Print head cleaning
    This process removes blockages in the nozzles. Sometimes cleaning must be performed more than once, so it might be a good idea to run another nozzle check after cleaning.
     
    Print head alignment
    Use this tool to realign print heads whenever you change ink cartridges, if lines or colors look wrong, or if there is banding.
     
    Keep it covered
    This keeps out dust, pet hair, chocolate cake crumbs — anything that might cause problems with electronic equipment.
     
     

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    You now have the power to print. But in case we missed anything…
     
    Glossary of terms
     
    All-in-One – A printer that includes a copier / scanner. Some include fax capabilities.
     
    Automatic Paper Detection – A printer function that uses an optical sensor to identify paper type, then optimize the printer settings for that paper.
     
    Borderless – A print with color all way to the edges of the paper.
     
    CMYK – The primary printing colors: Cyan (greenish-blue), Magenta, Yellow and black.
     
    DPI (Dots per inch) – A measurement of printer resolution. The higher the DPI, the higher the vibrancy, clarity, and quality of the print. DPI is also commonly applied to the resolution of monitors, scanners, and cameras.
     
    Driver – Software that makes data recognizable to a specific printer. Drivers are often updated and can be downloaded from the manufacturer's Web site.
     
    Dye-based ink – Ink in which dye completely dissolves, like sugar in water. This dye will redissolve and run if water hits the print.
     
    Inkjet printer – A printer that operates by propelling droplets of liquid ink onto a medium.
     
    Feed tray – Adjustable plastic tray to hold paper in proper alignment before being taken into the printer.
     
    Finish – The surface characteristics of paper stock, such as luster, or texture that differ from grade to grade. Different finishes have varying degree of printability, smoothness, and ink receptivity.
     
    Gloss finish – A coating on paper that provides a higher reflection of light, resulting in a shiny appearance. Gloss coatings reduce ink absorption, which allows excellent contrast and color definition.
     
    Matte finish – A coated paper finish that is flat, not shiny like a gloss, but still keeps much of the ink from being absorbed by the paper and produces an excellent image.
     
    Firmware – Data or programs that are permanently written to a piece of hardware such as a scanner or printer and have little meaning outside it. Firmware is often updated and can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s Web site.
     
    Landscape Printing – Output with side length shorter than top/bottom length.
     
    Laser printer – A printer that operates by fusing dry ink (toner) particles onto a medium through direct contact and heat.
     
    Nozzle check – Process to determine whether one or more of the nozzles that dispenses ink is clogged.
     
    PPM – Pages per minute, a measure of printing speed.
     
    Photo paper – High-quality base paper coated with an ink-absorbing high-gloss, semi-gloss or matte finish that gives crisp, sharp results when printing.
     
    Pigmented ink – Pigmented ink – Ink in which dye does not dissolve completely, like flour in water. Ink particles settle into paper fibers and get stuck, making it much more water-resistant than the dye-based ink. The best choice for archival print life and color stability.
     
    Portrait printing – Output has side length longer than top / bottom length.
     
    Resolution – The number of dots per inch that a device is capable of recognizing or producing.
     
    Software – Programs that reside on your computer and enable it to communicate with a piece of hardware such as a scanner or printer. Software is often updated and can be downloaded from the manufacturer's Web site.
     
    USB – Universal Serial Bus. A type of slot or port used to connect electronic devices.
     
     

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