How to Print from Lightroom
In this tutorial we look at how to print from Lightroom. Printing can be frustrating but equally, extremely rewarding when you get it right. If you want to achieve consistently high-quality prints, Lightroom is an excellent tool. But even then, there are a lot of things that can go wrong and that you need to consider. This tutorial will help you understand what these are and how they fit together when printing from Lightroom.
Let’s start with an outline of the process when printing from Lightroom.
The Printing Process in Lightroom
To learn how to print from Lightroom and achieve consistently good results, you must take control of your “printing ecosystem”. I call it an ecosystem because there are a lot of elements that must work together to deliver high quality prints. If just one of these elements isn’t working correctly you will experience problems when making prints.
The key elements of the printing ecosystem are:
- Monitor Calibration.
- Paper Selection.
- Image Resolution.
- Soft Proofing.
- Printer Setup & Maintenance.
Let’s look at why each of these is important when printing from Lightroom.
If your monitor isn’t correctly calibrated, you won’t know if your prints are accurate or not. This is one of the most common causes of poor printing, especially amongst those who are new to printing in Lightroom. Imagine thinking your images appear good on your monitor but really, they have too much contrast and saturation. This can easily happen if your monitor isn’t correctly calibrated. Be sure that you calibrate your monitor before printing. It will save you time and money.
You need to select a quality printing paper with a surface that suits the image you’re printing. Most importantly, you also need a printer profile that matches your paper selection and printer combination. Personally I use Fotospeed papers for these reasons but also because they provide a free printer profiling service.
The images you print need to be large enough for the size of print you are making. If an image doesn’t have sufficient resolution to achieve the chosen print size, the print quality will be poor. Whilst Lightroom will automatically resize images that are too small when you print them, there are limits to what it can achieve. Be sure your image is large enough or reduce the size of the print you are making.
This is another area that causes lots of confusion and problems. Soft proofing simulates how your print will look once printing but displays this on your computer screen. Lightroom does this using something called an ICC Profile. This is why it’s essential to use an ICC Printer profile that matches your paper and printer combination.
Another common mistake when Soft Proofing an image for printing in Lightroom is that you don’t apply adjustments before printing. All printer papers will struggle to reproduce the image you see on screen when editing. Unless you adjust the image during soft proofing your prints are likely to disappoint. It’s not enough to simply look at a soft proof, you need to print the adjusted image.
Printer Setup & Maintenance
If you don’t regularly print, the print heads or nozzles in your printer can become blocked. Sometimes this is difficult to detect but in more severe cases the printer can produce one or more colours. If your printer has been idle for a while, it’s worth making a test print using your printer’s maintenance tools.
A Note on Print Sharpening
Before you print from Lightroom you should ensure that you have applied all your editing adjustments to the image. This includes any Capture Sharpening and Creative Sharpening that’s required.
Lightroom approaches sharpening as a three-stage process:
- Capture Sharpening – countering the softening effect of digital capture in the camera.
- Creative Sharpening – emphasises some areas of the image so they appear sharper than others.
- Output Sharpening – compensates for the softening effect of applying ink to paper when printing.
When you print in Lightroom you should apply the first two stages of sharpening before printing. You then apply Output Sharpening as an option in the Lightroom Print module which we will look at later.
The Lightroom Print Module
When you are sure that you have the elements of your printing ecosystem in place, and your image is ready, switch to the Lightroom Print Module.
The Lightroom Print Module has lots of controls. Most of these relate to the layout of the print you are making, for example how many prints to a page, the borders around the print and the orientation of the image on the page. There are however three areas that you need to pay particular attention to:
- The Print Job where you set up the printing options and apply any output sharpening.
- Print and Page Setup where you configure the page and printer settings.
- The Print buttons which initiate the printing.
We will look at these three areas in the remainder of this tutorial.
If you would like to understand how to use the other layout controls in the Lightroom Print Module, I demonstrate their use in the following video. Whilst the video explains printing to a file, the layout controls in the Lightroom Print Module are the same.
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The Lightroom Print Job Panel
You will find the Print Job panel in the Lightroom Print Module at the bottom, on the right side of the interface. You can use the controls in this panel to configure several important print settings.
The key controls in the Print Job Panel are:
- “Print to” – used to select where you would like to print the image to. The options in the dropdown are “Printer” and “File”.
- “Print Resolution” – determines the density of the pixels in the image sent to the printer. Don’t confuse this with the resolution of the image although they are related. Imagine you have an image with a resolution of 240dpi. When you send this to your printer, the printer interpolates (or resize) the image to achieve the resolution it needs for printing. What the printer does is translate the image pixels into ink coming out of the print head nozzles. Epson printers work best when you send them a file that’s 360dpi and other printers use 300dpi because of their nozzle configuration. The Print Resolution setting takes care of this resizing better (probably) than the printer can achieve. Set the value based on the type of printer you are using.
- “Print Sharpening” – applies the output sharpening we mentioned earlier in the tutorial. Unlike other forms of sharpening you only need to pick the type of media you are printing to (Glossy or Matte) and set the level to high, medium, or low sharpening. Lightroom will then do the rest depending on the resolution and size of the print.
- “Color Management” – controls how the printer converts the colours of the image into a print. We’ll discuss this in a moment.
- “Print Adjustments” – additional adjustments you can apply to the print to control the Contrast and Brightness. If you’re printing with an accurate ICC Profile and you’ve correctly configured everything in your “ecosystem”, you shouldn’t need to use these sliders.
Color Management Settings
When you make a print in Lightroom, there are two options for managing the colours:
- Turn the colour management over to the printer. The print driver then does everything it can to reproduce accurate colours and even has some controls for further adjustments if needed. The problem with this approach is that printer doesn’t know the characteristics of the paper you are using. It’s therefore unlikely that it can produce truly accurate image colours.
- Adobe Lightroom manages the colours rather than the printer. It does this by using an ICC Print Profile which we discussed earlier. In most cases this will produce a more accurate colour print.
If you want to allow Adobe Lightroom to manage the colours in your print rather than the printer, select the ICC Print Profile in the Color Management list. Remember, this should match the profile for your paper and printer combination used for soft proofing.
When you allow Lightroom to do the colour management for printing, you should also check you have turned off the colour management in the printer. You can do this using the “Print Settings…” button to the bottom left of the interface.
When you click the “Print Settings…” button, Lightroom displays a dialog for the printer settings.
This screenshot shows the dialog from a Mac. The layout of the dialog will change depending on the printer and computer operating system, but the basic principles are the same.
On the Mac it’s possible to select different elements of the printer to control using the dropdown list (1). On a Windows PC you may need to open the Printer Properties to do the same.
In this example you can see that the “Color Matching” option is selected which controls the “Color Management” we talked about. Here, the printing system disabled the two options automatically when I selected a printer profile.
Saving these settings updates the printer driver. This means when you click the “Print” button to make your print, these are the settings used.
The Page Setup button opens the “Page Setup” dialog.
These settings control the size and orientation of the page displaying the image. For example, if you look back to the screenshot of the Lightroom Print Module interface, you will notice the page has a vertical orientation with a horizontal image. You can change the orientation of the image on the page in the “Page Setup” dialog as well as changing the paper size.
After applying your page setup, you are ready to print the image.
You can print the image using either the “Print” or “Printer…” button. The Print button will make a print using the settings applied in the “Print Settings…” dialog we looked at earlier. It does this without displaying any further dialogs. If you would rather double check the printer settings before printing, use the “Printer…” button. This will open the Print settings dialog we looked at earlier but this time giving a Print button rather than Save.
Summary of How to Print from Lightroom
In this tutorial we’ve looked at how to print from Lightroom in a way that allows you to produce consistent quality prints. The key to achieving consistent quality is to understand the printing “ecosystem”. Lightroom is one component of this system but also provides a way for you to combine and manage the other components.
To achieve quality prints be sure to:
- Calibrate your monitor.
- Select a good paper which has a profile for your printer.
- Print using a suitably sized image for the size of print you’re making.
- Soft proof your image in Lightroom using the correct paper profile.
- Maintain and setup your printer correctly.
If you do these things you will achieve consistent high-quality prints.
You can learn more about printing in my book “Perfect Prints Every Time” which is available from Amazon.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
More Lightroom Tutorials
You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Adobe Lightroom Tutorials page.
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