It all starts with a sharp image …

If you ever produced a ChromaLuxe panel, than you know that it will show every detail and color of your beautiful image … also when your image is not 100% sharp. It all starts with a sharp image, and sometimes that’s not the case (because you didn’t shoot the image yourself for example). That’s one of the reasons why they did invent the application Photoshop back in 1988. In the latest versions of Photoshop, you have the filer called “Unsharp Mask”. The Unsharp Mask filter in Photoshop works by increasing the contrast of your image and I will explain below how to use it in a proper way:

 

How to sharpen photos with the Unsharp Mask filter

STEP 1 : Crop and resize
Open your image in Photoshop. Use the Crop tool to crop the image as desired. Choose Image > Image Size, enable the Constrain Proportions and Resample Image check boxes and set your desired resolution and size. We set Resolution to 300 Pixels/Inch and Width to 16 Centimeters. Click OK.

 1

STEP 2 : Launch the filter
To sharpen the image, choose Filter >
Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. Click a portion of the image that contains detail such as the centre of the flower. This then appears in the filter dialog box sized at 100%.

2

STEP 3 : Set the Amount
Set the Amount to 150%. The Amount controls how much sharpening is applied to the image. You can readjust this later, but for now, you want to see the results of adjusting the other sliders clearly.

3

STEP 4 : Radius tweaks
The Radius sets the width of the haloes around the image edges. The larger the Radius, the wider the haloes are. For a sharp image, set the Radius to something between 0.5-1.5. We used a setting of 1.0 here.

4

STEP 5 : Adjust the threshold
The Threshold setting controls how much difference in brightness there must be between adjacent pixels for them to be considered an edge. A small Threshold value sharpens everything and a large one sharpens nothing. We set the Threshold to 10.

5

STEP 6 : Fine-tune the result
Readjust the Amount to fine-tune the result. When sharpening for your output on a ChromaLuxe panel, adjust the Amount based on what you see on your (calibrated) screen. Do not over-sharpen, because on the ChromaLuxe panel, you will see the over-sharpen effect very easily. Click OK to apply and save your sharpen image.

6

Now your image is ready to print on the ChromaLuxe panel. Add your image in the RIP software to print it on a professional large format sublimation printer and enjoy the sharpness and details, after pressing it on a heat press, on the size you want.

END

 

 


stevieSteven Roesbeke has a huge experience in the graphical industry with a lot of expertise in color management and output solutions. Since 2013 he is the Technical Support Field Engineer at Universal Woods EMEA. Read his technical blog posts to discover helpful tips & tricks and learn more about the do’s and dont’s of (large format) sublimation. You can always contact him at stevenr@chromaluxe.com

Is your heat press up to it? Two easy tests!

If you want to start with large format sublimation, you need to have a professional heat press. You can find a lot of different brands on the market, so this means that it is very difficult to know which ones are the good ones.

You can only have optimum results if the pressure and temperature is equal all over the heat plates. Those 2 parameters are very important, because, when sublimating large format ChromaLuxe panels, you want the colour everywhere equal.

You can perform 2 easy to made test to know if you have a good heat press

TEST 1:

Print out 9 times a square panels (5x5cm) with 100% cyan colour. Put those 9 panels on your heat press (see image 1). Sublimate them together with the settings you would normally use.

Featured image

Let them cool down and lay them all next to eachother. Now check if they all have the same colour. Do check them in a room with good daylight colour and switch the 9 panels, so you are sure all 9 panels are equal in colour.

Image 2 = OK. Image 3 = Not OK.

Featured image

Featured image

TEST 2

Another test is to put 2 ChromaLuxe panels on your heat press, that are slightly bigger than your press, and press again one solid colour. Again, after sublimation and when the panel is cooled down, check both ends (upper and down), to verify if colors are equal.Featured imageAll steps in the sublimation procedure are important. When you’re not getting the results you had in mind, testing all different elements is key, so see which one influences your sublimation process. Start with these tests! They might give you some answers!


stevieSteven Roesbeke has a huge experience in the graphical industry with a lot of expertise in color management and output solutions. Since 2013 he is the Technical Support Field Engineer at Universal Woods EMEA. Read his technical blog posts to discover helpful tips & tricks and learn more about the do’s and dont’s of (large format) sublimation. You can always contact him at stevenr@chromaluxe.com

True Colours?

Working with photographers and printers I get involved in a lot of discussions about colour.

The first thing I will ask anyone is if they are working with a calibrated and profiled monitor. Many, even some professional photographers, are not. Do you work with raw files, I ask? ‘Oh yes!’ comes the reply. Well, if you work with raw files and do not have a calibrated and profiled screen, you are frankly wasting your time. Every correction you make is based on what you see on your screen. If the screen is wrong, the resulting file will have the wrong colours.

The best way of explaining this is to ask if they have visited a television showroom. If you have, you will know that every screen in the showroom will display different colours – see the photo. It’s Featured imagethe same with monitors – they are all different. Depending on the type of monitor, you will have different controls and settings, but once it is calibrated and profiled you will see a close rendering of the correct colours. If someone else also has a calibrated and profiled monitor they will see almost exactly the same colours. EIZO and NEC are probably the two most commonly used professional monitors. If you cannot afford a top end monitor like these, profiling will still bring you much much closer to the correct colours. Profiling is done to an international standard set by the CIE.

I have on my desk a MacBook Pro (generally considered to produce great colours) and a large monitor. The large monitor is fully profiled and is the one I use for all colour critical work. If I drag an image in Photoshop from the large screen to the MacBook, the colours shift significantly. If I run a slideshow on the MacBook it looks great but the colours are not technically right!

Why does all this matter? Well, it really matters when you start printing. Here we have other factors coming in like the type of printer, the inks and the paper used. But if we also profile these combinations, we can produce prints in two different locations on the same type of printer using the same paper and inks with almost identical colour. We can also get very close colours on different papers or media, only restricted by the available colour gamut of that paper/ink combination. Without using ICC colour profiles this would simply be impossible. Don’t forget for optimal viewing of prints you should use daylight (5000K).

Of course the next question is, do we all see colour in the same way? The vast majority of us do. The colour blind will not and those with synesthesia may not. I remember holding a pink card against a grey filing cabinet and someone with colour blindness saying they were identical, just one was lighter. For colour blindness there is the Ishihara test. For those whose job involves working with colour, you should try the X-Rite Colour Test and hope to achieve a perfect score or close.

http://www.xrite.com/online-color-test-challenge

Recently we had the famous blue and black dress problem. Different people viewing the same image on the same screen saw it in different ways. Some as blue and black and some as gold and white. The image went viral around the world with hundreds of theories. Psychologists who study colour had many views. Our own industry cFeatured imageolour management specialists also had a range of explanations. The image was badly exposed when taken and in unusual lighting which did not help. The original shop dress is blue and black. Personally I see it as blue and black. For me the black areas are somewhat brownish but my perception of the image puts this down to the lighting and my brain reviews the information to conclude that it is black. If we open the file in Photoshop and measure the colours, be it in RGB, CMYK or Lab, the measurements will show the colours to be in the dark and blue parts of the spectrum.

Finally, colour is also important if we are posting images on the web or using them in MS Office programs or similar. Our responsibility is to get the colours as close as possible to the ‘correct’ colour when we post an image or use it in a software. Sadly we cannot control where or how the image is viewed or how it might be printed, but at least we have given the world the chance to view an image in the way that we intend.


Featured imageCharles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.

4 sublimation challenges

I want to talk this month about 4 sublimation challenges:

BANDING

Banding are small white lines on your output. They can be horizontal or vertical. You don’t need a trained eye to see them and those lines are already visible on the sublimation paper, before you sublimate the ChromaLuxe panel. It happens because ink dry out in the print head of your printer. You can avoid this by printing a nozzle check every day or at least print on a regular basis. Don’t turn off your printer, because this will deactivate the automatic cleaning of the nozzles.

MOISTURE ISSUES

If you pressed image ends with what look like white spots of missed color, you are mostly dealing with moisture issues. Because of the moisture in the panels (wood) and the paper (inks) this is a common problem. You can avoid it by putting your sublimation paper on top of the ChromaLuxe panel and to us something called ‘Endura Fabric’. This fabric let escape the moisture easily to the edges of your heat press.

GASSING OUT

Gassing out is when you end with a ‘burst’ of ink outside of the image area. Sublimation requires a tight marriage between the sublimation paper and the ChromaLuxe panel. If the paper shifts, or it is not firmly fixed against the substrate, you can have gassing. To avoid this, please fix the sublimation paper with heat tape (on the longest side).

COLOR PROBLEMS

The problem of color mismatch is not the result of a defective heat press or printer, but most of all of printing without a RIP software. RIP software like Wasatch is designed to have optimum ink coverage, linearization and a perfect color profile for color and black & white. Contact your dealer to receive more information about how to use a RIP software and install the latest color profiles


stevieSteven Roesbeke has a huge experience in the graphical industry with a lot of expertise in color management and output solutions. Since 2013 he is the Technical Support Field Engineer at Universal Woods EMEA. Read his technical blog posts to discover helpful tips & tricks and learn more about the do’s and dont’s of (large format) sublimation. You can always contact him at stevenr@chromaluxe.com

Resolution, DPI, Pixel Density, Megapixels, PPI, … What’s in a name.

There is much confusion about the correct resolution of a high quality photo that is expressed in dpi. Searching with Google for the keyword ‘dpi’ results in a long string of questions. DPI is however very important when preparing an image for sublimation on ChromaLuxe: the more DPI, the sharper the result.

DPI is a confusing concept: when we talk about printing, it means the resolution in Dots Per Inch. When we talk about cameras or monitors, we talk about the resolution in Pixels Per Inch. To make it even more confusing, here in Europe we talk about Pixel Per Centimeter.

So what is Dots Per Inch? DPI is the total amount of dots that can be placed in a line within the span of 1 inch (25,4 mm).

You can find the properties of your digital photos in a photo editing application like Photoshop, but also in Windows Explorer. These properties are called the EXIF (data). To find those properties in Windows, do a right click on your file and after that Properties > Summary > Advanced. In Apple Finder, just click on the photo icon, the press Command-I to bring up the info dialog. When it appears, click on the right-facing triangle beside the word More Info.

If you are a professional photographer or printer, you need to open your images in Photoshop to know the exact size that your image can be printed on. There is only one rule: your image must have 300 Pixel/Inch to have perfect sharpness and detail. To find out, go in Photoshop to the Image menu and choose Image Size. Change Width & height to Centimeters and be sure that Resolution is set to Pixel/Inch. Check if the Resolution is 300 Pixel/Inch to know the dimensions in Centimers (right image in the example below is faulty).

300vs072

What to do when your original image is only 72 Pixels/Inch ? Well, than you need to Resample it. To do this, go in Photoshop again to the Image menu and choose Image Size. Untick the Resample-checkbox and type next to it 300 (check example below). Width & Height will show you now the exact size that your image is printable. Save it this way and start to print.

resample3

What happens when my image has a low resolution but has the correct dimensions ? The image will look great on your screen, but… once it’s printed you will see the pixels very strongly. If a high resolution image is not available, you can try to lower the resolution. You can go as low as 150 PPI for printing with the sublimation technology. Don’t go lower, because you will start to see pixelation (check example below). Another trick is to blow up your image. You can do this with Photoshop, but you have also 3rd party applications (e.g. blow-up3 from AlienSkin). The trick is not to blow up your image in one time, but to do it in several steps (4-5 times).

bad

Not sure if your dpi is sufficient? You photolab will be able to give professional advice. When you are sublimating yourself, always follow this rule: more dpi is better. Play with it and experiment, you’ll soon understand the value of dpi!


stevieSteven Roesbeke has a huge experience in the graphical industry with a lot of expertise in color management and output solutions. Since 2013 he is the Technical Support Field Engineer at Universal Woods EMEA. Read his technical blog posts to discover helpful tips & tricks and learn more about the do’s and dont’s of (large format) sublimation. You can always contact him at stevenr@chromaluxe.com

Do I need a RIP? The answer is YES.

Almost every day I receive the following questions: ‘Will a RIP software make your colors brighter and improve your image quality?’ – ‘Is it really necessary to run your printer with a RIP?’ – ‘Can’t you achieve the same results simply by using the included print driver?’ … “Do I need a RIP?”

wasatchWHAT IS A RIP?
RIP stands for Raster Image Processor. A RIP program is similar to the print driver included with your printer, but with much more control and features. A RIP is designed to handle many files, file types and file sizes without limiting your print capabilities. A RIP efficiently processes your files faster and more consistently, resulting in faster print times and less waiting.

‘Have you ever tried to print 20 large format images (100 x 150 cm) with a file size more than 300 MB at once ? ‘

Through the standard print driver, this can be stressful and time consuming. With a RIP you will have the capability of processing and printing multiple files simultaneously and you will be able to store all of the processed data (the files that you’ve printed), making reprints a breeze. Having this capability will greatly improve printing production and efficiency. A RIP software will give you complete control over handling your files including: scaling, rotating, color correction, color profiling to a wide array of media types, multiple copies, nesting, and much more. Have you ever wanted to maximize the use of your paper roll? do you want to cut back on waste? Do you want to print 250 copies of the same image (in a nice grid) at the same time? The nesting function allows you to combine many different files in one print job.

‘Let’s do the calculation: try to make 250 copies of a 20 x 30 cm image in Photoshop on a canvas that is 111 cm (42″) width with a gap of 1 cm. Indeed, this is time consuming in Photoshop … A RIP can do this in 5 seconds. And if you are unable to do that in Photoshop, then calculate the amount of time it needs to print this big file that contains the 250 copies.’

NEED FOR ACCURACY ?
In addition to above handy functionalities, there are some more important factors to start using a RIP, because a RIP does 3 important things:

1. it can linearise your printer(s):
This means, if you ask to print 50% of cyan, the printer will put the exact amount of ink on the paper, so it will give you 50% of cyan on the Chromaluxe panel. Because the sublimation paper is only an intermediate phase of the total workflow, the printer needs to know how much ink he needs to print that 50% of cyan.
LINEARISE2. it can handle the total amount of ink:
This means, if you print for example a dark grey background, it will use 95% Cyan + 95% Magenta + 95% Yellow + 95% Black. That’s a total of 380% ink on your paper. This will be too much ink for the paper and you will have a pooling-effect. You’ve got the same effect when you drop too much water on a sheet of paper. LINEARISE2A RIP will be able to reduce the total amount of ink (from 380% to 340% for example) without reducing the total amount of colors (also known as color gamut). This makes that you will not have a ‘wet’ output (certainly when you print a lot, or big pictures on the full width of your printer).

3. Color Management is more accurate:
Photoshop or other graphical applications do render (calculate) their colors in 8-bit mode. RIP software, like Wasatch SoftRIP, calculates every color in 16-bit mode. This means 4 times more data to calculate all colors, certainly for the difficult colours like skintones, solid greys or gradients. Do the test: print the below image on your current system (click on the image to download the files). If you see anything other than a perfectly smooth gradient, you need to use a RIP solution.

sixteenBitChallenge


stevieSteven Roesbeke has a huge experience in the graphical industry with a lot of expertise in color management and output solutions. Since 2013 he is the Technical Support Field Engineer at Universal Woods EMEA. Read his technical blog posts to discover helpful tips & tricks and learn more about the do’s and dont’s of (large format) sublimation. You can always contact him at stevenr@chromaluxe.com

Respect your work: Safe Shipping (+ video)

One of the worst imaginable calls in your business is from a client who has received a wonderful ChromaLuxe panel damaged in transit. No matter how great your piece of ChromaLuxe is, if the panel arrives damaged, your customer is going to be upset. In my experience, most damage can be avoided with careful planning and packaging, just to be sure that the ChromaLuxe panel arrives ‘in one piece’.

boxIt all starts with using the best sublimation paper, using the correct time, temperature and pressure on your heat press. When your panel has cooled down, the shipping process can start. Rule number one: use the same professionalism for the final part of your job – packaging – as you do for every other step. We searched for a long time to find the easiest, most economical and fastest way to pack your ChromaLuxe panels. Result is a 3-piece packing solution that is shown in the below video. If you want more info about this solution or you want to buy a sample, please contact the Universal Woods EMEA office.

Some other practical tips:

  • always wear soft white gloves (like you would to handle photographs), to prevent fingermarks on the ChromaLuxe surface.
  • add on your shipping documents that the packages can’t be stacked.
  • buy the best packing tape you can afford. Cheap tape is harder to apply, harder to cut and doesn’t stick.
  • use enough ‘fragile’ stickers. I imagine that delivery companies become pretty immune to those stickers, but it makes you feel better when you use enough and large stickers on every shipment.

stevieSteven Roesbeke has a huge experience in the graphical industry with a lot of expertise in color management and output solutions. Since 2013 he is the Technical Support Field Engineer at Universal Woods EMEA. Read his technical blog posts to discover helpful tips & tricks and learn more about the do’s and dont’s of (large format) sublimation. You can always contact him at stevenr@chromaluxe.com