When starting a new project, I always go through the same preparation. It’s like my composite preparation ritual. This prep will save you a lot of headaches. Trust me. Every single time I skip this ritual, I regret it. Over the next few posts I will share with you my ritual. Today, I’m just covering the first step and that is, how I set up a new file for a conceptual portrait.
Create a new document. Click on File>New… this little dialogue box will pop up…
Set the measurements to the largest print size you are going to offer. Now, a word about the resolution settings. PPI refers to how many “dots of ink” are printed in one square inch or “Pixels per inch”. The more dots the finer the detail. It’s kind of like thread count on sheets. Some sheets have 200 threads per inch and the really “fine” sheets have 600 to 800 threads per inch. It’s the same with images. The more pixels you have per square inch, the more detailed they will print. I have had printers tell me, after 150 ppi, its all the same. They say the actual printers themselves don’t have the capability to print any finer than that anyway. I don’t know if this is true exactly, however I do know that all the prints I’ve sent in at 150 ppi looked just as good as the 300 ppi, once printed. However, I leave it at 300. Why? It allows me to go larger if I want to and I don’t have to worry (as much) about having a low resolution print. Think of it this way. The larger the image, the lower your ppi is going to get. You don’t want that ppi to go below 150 for a print. If you REALLY want to get into how to calculate how big you can go, you can view the equation here… How to calculate image size and ppi when printing.
Now a word about “Color Mode”. You will get 1000’s of opinions on how you should set this up, but this is the way I do it. RGB stands for “Red, Green, Blue”. This means the colors in your image are printed using various combinations of those three ink colors. Most home printers use this system. You have a RGB cartridge and you have a black one that is separate. CMYK is also a reference to ink. It stands for “Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black)” Typically, this type of printer is used for high volume publications such as Vogue or Elle. All their images are set up as CMYK. The K stands for Key and it is the black plate. It is called the “Key” because it is the color plate upon which everything else is aligned. So when you see “K” it’s really just the industry word for the Key plate, which is black.
For composites I keep it at RGB. Here’s why. All color labs and printers can print in RGB mode, however not all color labs and printers can print CMYK. I set up a file as CMYK one time and sent it to Walmart. I came back a weird grey green. Basically it jacked the colors up when they converted the file to RGB. Just stick with RGB and only use CMYK when you have to. Technically you can changed the color mode after the file is created, but doing this will cause a shift in colors and it will affect your blending modes and how they are applied. I did that one time as well. I converted CMYK to RGB and all my layers with a blending mode got this weird halo. So the color space you choose is important. I would just stick with RGB.
A word about 8-bit and 16-bit. Now, this setting right here will affect your computers processing speed. This refers to how many colors make up your image. 8-bit has less colors than a 16-bit. Choosing 16-bit helps with a problem referred to as “banding”. It’s where you get bands of colors in a gradient instead of a smooth transition. Those bands show up when you print and they look awful. The more colors you have available in your image the less you have to worry about banding. Here is a really great article, written by Steve Patterson at photoshopessentials.com, that gives you a lot more detail on this subject. “8 Bit Color vs 16 Bit Color”
NOTE: These settings make for very large file sizes. However I believe it is worth it, as most of my images are printed very large and I hate having .jpgs with those blurry artifacts in them. You can save on file size by setting the inches to 1/2 of your final print size. Here is what I do…As long as I have the resolution set to 300 pip, I am able to print larger by dropping the ppi to 150 and I still have a pretty good detailed print. If you end up getting a file size larger than 2GB and PS is giving you problems trying to save it, see my post on how to save PS files over 2GB here…
That’s it! You will find you will use certain settings over and over, therefore I recommend you save this as a preset. You do this by clicking on the “Save Preset” button. A little dialogue will pop up and it will ask you what you want to name it. Now when you go to create a new document you can click on the drop down menu and your saved preset will be in that list.
More to come! If you have any questions about this message me or comment and I will do my best to answer.
Keep learning and keep #SharingItForward,
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