File Submission & Review
Every image file submitted to Cacao Editions for printing undergoes a thorough and extensive assessment before we begin work. This always entails studying the entire image under at least 200% pixel magnification, usually more. The pixel structure of an image contains vital clues to its inherent quality. Unwanted sharpening halos, edge artifacts, dead or hot pixels, microbanding, visible quantization and color clipping are just some of the damaging issues that affect final print quality.
To achieve the highest quality prints, we start with the best quality master files. If you need clarification on any area regarding your image files, please contact us for help and advice.
Files submitted for printing should be in TIFF format. PSD is ok. JPEG files may be accepted depending on file quality, but is otherwise discouraged. If your original capture was in raw please do not save your edited master files in JPEG format. JPEG files are much less malleable, and any subsequent processing may result in visible degradation to the image.
All files must be tagged with the correct RGB working space profile. Untagged files are not accepted. Do not convert to CMYK. Files tagged with CMYK profiles will be rejected. If scanning, output to RGB, not CMYK. Converting back to RGB is not the same. All commonly used RGB profiles are accepted, including Joseph Holmes’ Dcam working space profiles. Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB are recommended for very colorful images, to avoid unnecessary color clipping. Our printing process is capable of a very wide gamut on some papers, producing some colors outside of Adobe RGB.
Your files should be in 16 bits/color channel. 8 bit files are accepted conditionally, if the quality is not too degraded. This is especially so for images with smooth gradients (e.g. skies) and some types of monochrome pictures. Maintaining 16 bits throughout the digital processing workflow, from raw conversion to final editing is ideal. Converting an 8 bit file to 16 bits will not yield the full benefits of high bit image quality apart from protecting the data from further quantization. 8 bit files may exhibit visible quantization errors which will then be visible in the high quality prints we make.
Pixel Dimensions and Resolution
More is better. It is possible to make relatively significant enlargements starting from files with small pixel dimensions, depending greatly on the subject matter it contains, the expected average viewing distance of the audience and the demands of the artist. However, having a high resolution capture for large format printing is vital to preserve a believable structure to the image. Please submit your files in their native pixel dimensions. Do not resample your image – do not check the “Resample Image” checkbox in Photoshop’s Image Size dialogue. We have special routines to prepare your files optimal output. We are capable of achieving higher quality enlargements of your pictures.
Our printing setup is highly sensitive. It does not hide flaws in image files. Images that exhibit banding or suffer from excessive poor sharpening or noise reduction will be similarly reproduced in print. We try to avoid that. Each image is vigorously inspected for such flaws and also for dust spots, hot pixels and unnecessary tone or color clipping or quantization errors. If you require assistance in digital imaging, we can help.
You may also submit a digital raw file, and let us work on it for you. It may be a client directed session, or you may want us to match a look you tried to achieve on your own. The techniques used are all in the spirit of attaining the highest quality master file, before any printing adjustments are made. It is often surprising how much information is lost through poor editing, and when the image is previewed small on the screen. Side by side comparisons at high magnification are very revealing.
Are these prints ‘archival’? In short, yes, all Cacao Editions prints are ‘archival’ prints. The printing process, material choices and media handling are designed to ensure each print lasts as long as possible. Accelerated light fade tests indicate no noticeable fading for decades on display, under UV filtering glass. During the printing process, exposure of the prints to harmful atmospheric fumes, high humidity and large temperature differences must be minimized as far as possible. But even now, there is still no clear definition for exactly what constitutes an ‘archival’ print.
Currently, Aardenburg Imaging & Archives by Mark McCormick-Goodhart is the best known source of information with regards to print permanence for inkjet prints on photo and matte papers, as well as other unique substrates like the fabrics from Kernow Coatings Ltd. It should be noted that Aardenburg does not publish consumer digestible information like the industry accepted “years-on-display” ratings, for good reason. Where and how you display your prints are almost certainly going to be different from their standard testing method. Instead we get a complex data set using megalux hours on display as an indication for the amount of light a print is exposed to, amongst other details. Aardenburg’s reports make it immediately clear that not all inks fade uniformly, revealing weaknesses in certain manufacturer’s inks. As of now, it will take a dedicated artist, print maker or museum curator long hours of study to glean useful information from these published tests. This is part of the background research I must do when recommending media to discerning clients, to ensure that their beautiful prints will last for a long time.
Print-on-demand is probably a highly appealing concept for artists and galleries needing to produce limited edition prints, but are unwilling to commit to making the entire print run at once, due to cost or storage issues. It should be clear that expecting to make a reprint sometime in the future and have it exactly match a print from today is not possible. This despite the fact that the original digital file can be archived indefinitely without degradation.
Print output is subtly or significantly variable depending on a host of factors – paper manufacturing, pigment ink batches, coatings, software revisions and other fluctuations of the printing hardware. The most detrimental factors are completely beyond any normal printmaking studio, such as a paper manufacturer discontinuing a particular paper type. The recent demise of a number of great papers and an important paper manufacturer weighs heavily on this issue. This is not unique to digital printmakers – these are the same issues that print makers struggled with in the pre-digital era.
To avoid disappointment, it is highly recommended to print the entire edition together at the same time if the consistency from print to print is vital to the integrity of the artwork.
The evolution of technology is extremely rapid and we can achieve today was not possible a couple of years ago. There will continue to be improvements in every process contributing to better and better prints over time. We surely would not want to be printing to match the quality of the 1990s! We will embrace any new, remarkable advancements. So your prints will change over time, as the nature of things dictate they must. Because manufacturing is never 100% consistent, mostly because we found a better way to do things, and sometimes it is just not possible to return to the old ways.