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Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round - Adobe Photoshop Elements

In another thread, I have been engaged in an ongoing discussion regarding inkjet printer technology, optimum resolution for printing, and related subjects. New printers on the market are capable of resolutions approaching 6000 dpi. Some knowledgeable people claim that the conventional wisdom advocating 300 ppi as the "optimum" resolution for a Photoshop image to be printed is nonsense. They claim that the new generation of inkjet printers is capable of generating printed images with resolutions much higher than 300 dpi. In fact, some have made the statement that "more is better" without limit. I would like you all to address ...

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  1. #1

    Default Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    In another thread, I have been engaged in an ongoing discussion regarding inkjet printer technology, optimum resolution for printing, and related subjects.
    New printers on the market are capable of resolutions approaching 6000 dpi. Some knowledgeable people claim that the conventional wisdom advocating 300 ppi as the "optimum" resolution for a Photoshop image to be printed is nonsense. They claim that the new generation of inkjet printers is capable of generating printed images with resolutions much higher than 300 dpi. In fact, some have made the statement that "more is better" without limit.
    I would like you all to address the following questions:
    1. Is 300 ppi still the optimum resolution value for the "new" generation of printers?
    2. If higher resolution is preferable, can the human eye see it?
    There are more questions we could raise on this subject, but let's start with these. Please feel free to raise related issues that you think are relevant. Okay...ready...set...go!!!
    Bert
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    Bert Guest

  2. #2

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Bert, I'm not going to participate in this one any more than to say that the
    confusion between image resolution in ppi (pixels per inch) and printer
    resolution (dpi) continues to be a real problem for me. The two resolutions
    can't be the same because it takes more than one dot (which is cyan,
    magenta, yellow or black) to make up a pixel (which can be any one of 16.7
    million colors). So....the best bet is probably (I say with trepidation) to
    deliver the best real image resolution possible to your printer, and
    independently set your printer to its base (uninterpolated) resolution.
    When you read that a printer is 2880x720, that means its base resolution is
    720; anything higher than that is interpolation - just like adding pixels
    via upsampling on the image side. I don't know....you'll probably hear that
    the interpolated printer resolution is better, and maybe it is - otherwise,
    why would it be a feature? But the concept of maximum pure ppi and maximum
    pure dpi appeals to me....

    OK...I've already said more than I know...again.

    :-)

    Chuck


    Chuck Guest

  3. #3

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Chuck touches on an important point that we, as this thread continues, need to make sure is abundantly clear. DPI and PPI are two different measurements. For those who are unclear as to their relationship and definintions, a visit to ScanTips <http://www.scantips.com> should clear it up.

    Having said that, and more to your point Bert, if we use the human eye as the measurement tool, then there are indeed limits beyond which more resolution makes no sense.

    The ogy is 16 bit color depth for images as well as 32 bit color displays. The common wisdom, as it relates to bit depth for images (8-bit v. 16 bit) is that the human eye cannot see the all the colors that are in a 16 bit image. There are no displays that can accurately represent those colors, and there are certainly no output devices that can reproduce those colors.

    There is considerable value however, to some cognescenti, that certain edits done at 16 bit depth, results in a "cleaner" histogram when the image is converted to 8 bit depth for the final edits/printing. It is generally agreed that a higher bit depth is more "pure" data, and thus on some images, in some cirstances, there may be some subtle benefits to using 16-bit images. But let's not mince words - there are no inkjets that can output 16-bit images. Photoshop "proper" converts the image to 8-bit for printing behind the scenes, because otherwise, you wouldn't be able to print the image.

    The point is, just as there is more data in the image that we can see, there is more data in the image than we can print (and see in a print).

    As it relates specifically to Inkjet printing, consider this. As Chuck was quick to point out,

    When you read that a printer is 2880x720, that means its base resolution
    is 720




    But not quite for the reason that he states. Inkjet printers with 4 colors, rated at 2880 produce a 720 dot per inch output. The issue is that 2880 divided by all 4 colors (albeit in varying amounts) is 720 dot per inch since 4 colors are used to make a single dot. Technically, this is not 100% accurate, 100% of the time, but this is the way that inkjet manufacturers rate printer output. There is no real way to gauge output in dots per inch since there are so many factors that affect the image output - like dot gain (or spread), and different implementations of nanoliter dispensing of ink.

    So the question you pose, technically goes to defining the relationship between pixels per inch and dots per inch. Is there one? Maybe - but no one has really defined it yet.

    Rather, we determine the appropriate pixels per inch to send to a printer based on empirical data - that is through trial and error. Usually the measurement tool is the human eye. Some people have a "better eye" than others, true, but there are limits (just like the number of colors in a 16 bit image).

    So the next question is, really, this: If my printer cannot functionally print more than a certain density, and there is no defined relationship between pixels per inch and dots per inch, can we say that there must be a limit to the resolution of an image that can be represented on an inkjet? Or is it unlimited?

    Can I keep piling more and more data to a printer and expect better and better output? Or is there some "saturation" point at which any more pixels per inch cannot be represented on an inkjet?

    Surely this latter must be true.

    Using this reasoning, the statement that:

    In fact, some have made the statement that "more is better" without limit.




    Is certainly an uninformed one.

    Specifically to your question, "Is 300 ppi the 'new' upper limit?" based on advances in inkjet technology, the answer is, really, "maybe, but certainly no more".

    The inkjets are still only putting out a density of 720 dots per inch. That's the max density. The old 1440 dpi printers have a functional output 360 dpi, and the 2880 printers are twice that (720 dpi). So it may stand to reason that you should be able to send twice the data and get better output.

    That may be true theoretically, but there is no data that concludes that point decisively. Most "purests" have been sending way too much data to the old printers (1440 dpi) and have arrived, empirically, at an image resolution of 150-300 ppi as being the optimum.

    In my own tests, with my images (I output about 6,000 images per month via inkjet, although, they are really only 300 different images, just multiple copies), I have seen absolutely NO difference in sending images to a 2880 (720 dpi) at resolutions greater than 200 ppi. Will some see better output at higher resolutions? Maybe. But it would be image composition dependant, and there certainly is a limit.

    I was going to give my two cents, but I gave a buck - keep the change <grin>.

    Peace,
    Tony
    YrbkMgr Guest

  4. #4

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Here is a link to another thread on the same subject. I would like your comments on Peter's very detailed comments. Go to Post #1.
    Peter Duniho "Resolution ?????!!!!!" 9/24/03 11:41pm </cgi-bin/webx?14.2ccd881b/0>
    Bert
    Bert Guest

  5. #5

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Tony,

    For those who are unclear as to their relationship and definintions, a
    visit to ScanTips should clear it up.




    I am also a disciple of Wayne Fulton and his book. That's sorta what prompted me to start this thread, because I'm hearing different opinions on resolution and its ramifications, and I'm getting confused, because they seem to be contradicting his dogma, and admit I am brainwashed by Wayne. He is a very convincing teacher.
    So, I'm hoping we get lots of input here. I would particularly like Peter Duniho to chime in. I hope we'll all learn from the interchange.
    Bert
    Bert Guest

  6. #6

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round



    When you read that a printer is 2880x720, that means its base resolution
    is 720; anything higher than that is interpolation - just like adding
    pixels
    via upsampling on the image side. I don't know....you'll probably hear
    that
    the interpolated printer resolution is better, and maybe it is - otherwise,
    why would it be a feature? But the concept of maximum pure ppi and maximum
    pure dpi appeals to me





    Chuck,
    That's exactly what I thought. But I'm hearing different from people who are smarter than I. Hopefully we'll both learn from the discussion here.
    Bert
    Bert Guest

  7. #7

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Bert,

    I had a biology instructor in college who was invited to debate a fundamentalist Christian in a national college symposium on the subject of Evolution. I asked him if he planned to engage - he said "Are you kidding? It doesn't whether you're right or not, it only matters if you can sell the audience that you're right - I'm a biologist without an agenda, not a salesman with and agenda."

    With that general idea in mind, I'm not comfortable voicing my comments on Peters remarks in the Elements forum. I view myself as a visitor here and the regular Photoshop forum is where I hail.

    That is a polite way to say, that while Peters argument doesn't hold water, I am not comfortable debating it here. Sorry I can't be of more help, maybe some of the other "old pro's" would be willing to comment.

    I will say, though, that if the topic were being discussed in the regular photoshop forum where the audience is more seasoned (in general) there would be many folks able to clarify the mysteries of dpi and ppi and dispel the urban legends.

    I think, as I said in my earlier post, that anyone who is interested in the subject should spend some time at scantips.

    Peace,
    Tony
    YrbkMgr Guest

  8. #8

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    "Chuck Snyder" <rr.com> wrote in message
    news:webx.la2eafNXanI... 
    is 

    No, it does not. It means the printer is capable of positioning a dot to
    within 1/2880th of an inch in one direction, and to within 1/720th of an
    inch in the other direction. It has nothing to do with interpolation or
    upsampling.

    Pete


    Peter Guest

  9. #9

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    I feel my previous posts have conveyed just about as much information as I
    can. I have done my best to combat the urban legends that appear rampant
    here, and frankly, I'm done. However, given that I appear to be the "some
    people" referenced in your message, I want to clear up one
    mischaracterization of my statements that you've made:

    "Bert Bigelow" <com> wrote in message
    news:la2eafNXanI... 
    limit.

    The only place I've made any statement that could reasonably be interpreted
    to that effect, the context was in a message where I was trying to keep
    things as simple as possible. Even in that message, a more detailed
    explanation followed.

    Clearly, for any printer, there is an image resolution beyond which that
    printer is incapable of producing. It is unfair of you to imply that I said
    otherwise.

    Pete


    Peter Guest

  10. #10

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    "YrbkMgr" <com> wrote in message
    news:la2eafNXanI... 

    I have no more a right to a comment in this forum than you do.

    Please, I would love to hear why you claim my statements "don't hold water".
    Without any further explanation, your claim to that effect is pointless,
    holding no water itself.

    Pete


    Peter Guest

  11. #11

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Bert,

    I am also a disciple of Wayne Fulton and his book.




    Wayne does a great job at defining resolution for those who have more than a passing interest. But due to the breadth and depth of the application of resolution, specifically in printing where it DOES matter, he doesn't cover the topic fully. His intention is to show how resolution relates to the image on screen, and touches on it's relationship to printing. To some extent, there is an "After Fulton" <grin> body of knowledge that attempts to deal with the application of PPI in the print environment more fully.

    The reason I posted that link was to set the stage for assuring that there would be no "common use" of dpi. You know, how we all tend to use dpi as a generic term to mean image resolution. But the fact is, as I know you already know, using dpi to measure image resolution is like using a ruler to measure the height of water.

    One of the reasons that printer resolution (dpi) has become murkey is because really, inkjets no longer fit the paradigm of dpi, beause "dots" are not the same as they used to be.

    In the days of laserjet printing, it was far more representative to rate printers on dots per inch, because they produced little black dots. Then HP implemented ReT (Resolution enhancement technology) which re-defined the playing field - ableit not by much. But what they demonstrated was that you could produce a smaller dot on a variable basis - sometimes a full size dot, sometimes a smaller one so as to fool the eye into thinking it was a smoother, more continuous tone image.

    But today, with inkjet technology, there are many variables that affect the quality of a print - I'm speaking strickly of harware variables, not the data that is sent to them. With color inkjets, the actual "dots" are not dots at all - they are "sprays" of ink. When you fine tune nanoliter and picoliter dispensing devices, you can synchronize the quantity of the sprays and vary the quantity of multiple colors - one of the reasons that there is a difference between different manufacturers has to do with how well they implement this synchronization.

    Further, one of the reasons that there is a varying gamut on inkjets, is because there are lower limits on the amount of ink you can spray. That means that the color mixing ability of the printer is limited by that lower limit of dispensing technology.

    So the current discussion on image resolution v. image output is really skewed. It's not an accurate discussion because it normalizes all inkjet technologies, which, hopefully I've explained, that they aren't created equal.

    You cannot really relate ppi to dpi because in point of fact, there really isn't a dpi anymore - they aren't discrete dots. The "dots" are an average number and by no means an accurate measurement. Until there is a way to accurately measure the output of inkjets however, dots will have to do.

    Conversely, there IS a definition of a pixel (a picture element). This is very well defined because it is digital, not og (rather, mechanical), like the printers.

    So this is a long winded way to say, that no matter what anybody tells you - no matter how credibly they advance their point, you cannot definatively relate ppi to dpi - dpi is a moving target. So the next best thing you can do is gather empirical data.

    Some may claim that this is a science, and they are right - but like quantum mechanics, we don't understand it all yet, so it is mostly theory.

    Peace,
    Tony
    YrbkMgr Guest

  12. #12

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Pete,

    I apologize. That was very rude of me. Bert is a regular in the main Photoshop forum and we have corresponded via e-mail several times. He's a brilliant guy whom I respect. In fact, he's an on-line "friend".

    He asked me and several others to join in on this topic because what was being proposed is inconsistent with information that has been hashed out many times by the professionals in the main photoshop forum.

    What I said about "holding water" was unfair to you. But my point was, as a visitor to this forum, I don't know you, your background, or area of expertise as I do many of the others in the main Photoshop forum. I simply don't want to "engage" with you in this forum because I am unfamiliar with the audience. I am clarifying my points to Bert because he asked for my commentary - right or wrong, I gave it.

    You are obviously convinced that your presentation in the other thread is right. I'm not here to debate you, rather to add my bit, as my friend has asked, to help clarify some of the issues related to resoltuion. I'm not really a part of the other thread. The information you present in the other thread, is probably fine for your audience. Mostly, IMO, you're right, but I don't agree with your conclusions.

    This issue of resolution has been hashed out and explored at much greater length in the photoshop forum in addition to the contribution from Adobe Engineers, which is why I think Bert asked for additional input.

    Please accept my apologies for my rudeness - it was wrong.

    Peace,
    Tony
    YrbkMgr Guest

  13. #13

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Tony, thanks for coming over to the Elements forum to share your knowledge
    and experience; it's much appreciated! If you provide this kind of
    in-depth, readable guidance over on the big PS forum, I may have to visit
    there more often!

    :-)

    p.s. and thanks, Bert, for inviting Tony to 'speak'!
    p.p.s. I may try to chase some of those threads on ppi/dpi on the full PS
    forum, too - sounds like some good stuff there


    Chuck Guest

  14. #14

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Chuck, when you do so, please post the links over here. It would be a great source of information
    for everyone!

    Ray


    Ray Guest

  15. #15

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Yes, Tony, if you don;t want to persue this further here, could you provide links to any of the PS forum threads so that we can see what was said there?
    Barbara Guest

  16. #16

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    I haven't done a search on the photoshop forum for the discussions on resolution because in the two years I have been visiting (every day) there have been many.

    There is no "quick" phrase or statement that can really help much in understanding the relationship between what we see on screen and what is produced from printing. That's why today, most folks in the main photoshop forum send inquisitors to Wayne Fulton's site, Scan Tips, mentioned in post #1. This is a complicated subject and Wayne does an excellent job of bringing the reader to a better understanding of resolution - a far better understanding than most can do in a forum thread.

    The following is a link from Wayne's site that summarizes recommeded resolutions for various output devices.

    <http://www.scantips.com/p86.pdf>

    Most people just want to know "What's the best resolution to scan, print, display, etc." Wayne's site can answer that question and much much more.

    Once someone has spent the time there, they have a good working knowledge of terminology and application.

    I found Bert's question intriguing since there ARE better printers today, and it seemed pertinent to touch on the issue of "Is the old paradigm still true".

    Just know that at some point the discussion becomes academic. The real answer is where the rubber hits the road - your output.

    The following are far more important, at some level, than whether sending more than 200 ppi images to the printer is "better".

    The paper you use, the dot gain setting of the printer driver (in Epson models this is the choice of media), the color profile embedded in the image, the printer driver settings (whether the printer is doing the color management or photoshop is), and the actual algorithm used by the printer driver to convert RGB to CMYK data so the printer knows what to print.

    After you have ALL of those right, only then can you really have a discussion on whether sending more data produces better output. And even then, it would be for a specific printer make and model.

    So my point is, for those who are interested, gain the understanding that Wayne shares with us and then you will have some pretty decent knowledge. I mean at the end of the day, it's really "What resolution should I use?" Wayne provides some meaningful guidlines that are not urban legends.

    Peace,
    Tony
    YrbkMgr Guest

  17. #17

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    wow, heavy thread
    JodiFrye Guest

  18. #18

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Tony-
    Thanks for the Scantips link. I backed it up to Scantips.com and saw the much more comprehensive content on this entire subject matter.

    Al
    Al Guest

  19. #19

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    I, too, have enjoyed reading these comments. I'm not going to claim to fully understand all that was written (I could feel my eyes glazing over a couple of times, not to mention my brain), but I am bright enough to get the general idea. However, this is probably a good place to insert my beliefs about the value of some of these more recent threads on the issue of resolution as that concept applies to users of Elements, which is the scope of this forum.

    It's my perception that a large number of people who log on to the Elements forum are amateurs taking their first tentative steps into the world of digital photography. I was there, too, a couple of years ago, and I'm still nothing more than a more seasoned rank amateur. I don't think my experience was much different than that of a lot of other newcomers - I started out knowing next to nothing, and I also had to overcome some "bad information" that was causing me to be unhappy with results I was getting. Thanks to the patience and guidance of people with more knowledge and experience, I was given some concrete guidelines for working with both my equipment and my software. As I became more fluent in the "language" of digital editing and more comfortable with the basics, I began to develop techniques of my own, and I also began to experiment with settings to determine what combinations I found acceptable and pleasing to my eye. Now, when new users of Elements post questions, I do have a tendency to pass along the information in much the same way it was given to me, because it served me very well.

    As a rule, I don't have anything against "spirited debates", as long as they remain civil and either gentlemanly or ladylike. I think some of these posts, though, have had a tendency to be counterproductive in response to requests for help from newcomers, and that's where I've been taking exception to the issue of their existence. I'm going to use one in which Peter was involved as an example, but I hope, Peter, that you keep reading so you'll see that my concerns aren't addressing the level of knowledge you possess on this subject nor its veracity. I'm coming at this from a different angle.

    The post I'm thinking about was from someone obviously very new to digital photography; I think they might have been having trouble resizing an image so they'd get an acceptable print. One response was the "tried and true" found so often on this forum - some information about the generally acceptable range, measured in ppi, for purposes of printing and how to go about resizing an image. Another post indicated there was no need to know anything about resolution, because today's printers were capable of making all of the "decisions" about size and resolution using nothing more than the functions available in the Print Preview screen of Elements.

    I have no desire to quarrel with the second position. But what, I ask myself, did the poster learn from that response that will be helpful to them as other situations come up? Did they learn anything about image resolution? Did they learn that there really is a difference between the way sizes of digital images are measured and the way printer output is measured? Did they learn that an image downloaded from a digital camera at 72ppi won't really print well at that resolution? Did they learn anything about using the Image>Resize>Image Size feature of Elements? Or about when to resample and when not to? Did they learn how to use the Crop tool to reduce the size of their image? Did they learn how to use the Rectangular Marquee tool to accomplish the same thing, but perhaps in a way they might find easier to control?

    In education, questions like many posted on the forum are referred to as "teachable moments." (By the way, I'm not a teacher, and I probably would have been a crummy one.) The person has provided an opening into which someone else with more knowledge or experience can insert information. Here on the forum we don't always manage to match our response to the level of the poster, but we try. And we also try to give them information that they can apply to different situations. I guess what I felt was inappropriate about the response to use Print Preview for all resizing was the fact it caused that poster to miss out on information they might have gained when they presented us with their "teachable moment."

    I'll quit soon. Sorry guys. I did pull this thread off in another direction, and I apologize. But, I do believe that some of the frustration I've been experiencing isn't even related to issues of resolution as much as it is my questioning whether extremes - either oversimplication or advanced technical discussions are serving newcomers well. I'm strong!! I can rise above talk of picoliters! I can even adjust to the idea that the world wouldn't end of I printed an image at 240ppi or 400ppi instead of 300. I might even get super brave and decide to resize in Print Preview some day! I'd just feel more comfortable if we could address the questions posed by newcomers in a way that gives them basic information about the concepts of digital photography and leave it up to them to decide what they want to do with it. I also encourage exchanges of more advanced ideas, but I'd feel more comfortable if we could manage to do that in a way that isn't confusing to people still struggling to learn the basic concepts. And, most particularly, I'd feel most comfortable if those exchanges can remain friendly.

    Thank you all. I will now resume scrubbing the kitchen, since the bathrooms are done. :)
    Beth Guest

  20. #20

    Default Re: Printer Technology...all you "old pros" gather 'round

    Beth,

    some of the frustration I've been experiencing isn't even related to issues
    of resolution as much as it is my questioning whether extremes - either
    oversimplication or advanced technical discussions are serving newcomers
    well.




    That is really, THE point. You're right, and that's where I was headed by my use of the term "audience".

    At the end of the day, folks just need to get the basics right. They need a little clarification of the terminology (i.e., dpi is not ppi) and need to be set on the path of printing decent images.

    For these ends, "rules of thumb" suffice. Just like all of us, as you gain experience in "cause and effect" of image editing and output, your questions become more focused. Most people don't care how a car works, they need directions to their destination - is there more than one way to get there? Sure. But the point is to give the direction and not argue over which way is shorter or faster.

    There is nothing perposterous about setting the expectation that sending an image that is greater than 300 ppi to the printer is a waste - especially for someone struggling to just print their darn image.

    This is probably going to be my last post in this thread so as to avoid contributing to a diversion of the topic as well as to avoid antagonizing anyone. I only wanted to contribute, as asked by Bert.

    Peace,
    Tony
    YrbkMgr Guest

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