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Archival Prints:

Can my prints and reproductions really last over a hundred years?

Yes, absolutely — and then some. Producing archivally stable prints and reproductions that stand the test of time requires a dedicated giclée printer equipped with special — and very expensive — pigments. We are current with the state of the archival art. Even when you choose to print your order on our cost effective, photo-style paper, we still use the same archival pigments as for our highest-grade fine art prints and reproductions.

For the superior 12-color pigment inks we use, the widely industry-respected Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR) has predicted archival stability to last for centuries.

The following are the latest print permanence data from WIR:

Process & Media Display with UV-blocking Dark Storage
Canon LUCIA Pigment Inks & Hahnemühle/Harman Papers® 125+ years 300+ years
Fujicolor Crystal Archive (Silver-Halide) 50 years 100+ years

Big Prints:

How can I get really big prints and reproductions?

That question's easy. Just order from us. Send us a really big file of your image — a file with plenty of pixels. And by the way, please use little or no image compression (avoid JPEGs!) — see our FAQ: Camera and Digital File Tips and Techniques.

Bill Nordstrom standing next to our 80-inch Canon
           giclée printer

The above photo shows Bill Nordstrom watching a 3½ x 7-foot print come off our Canon giclée printer.

If you need something larger, we'll see what we can order or jerry-rig as a custom product just for you. But here's what our current supply inventory, standard lab processes and equipment can do:

  • Individual ceramic tiles up to 12 x 12 inches
  • Mosaics of ceramic tiles as large as you want
  • Paper, canvas and polyester-sheet prints up to 44 inches by virtually any length (up to 50 feet)
  • Metal prints up to 32 x 45 inches
  • Posters up to 24 x 30 inches
  • Greeting cards are 5-1/2 x 7-3/8 inches

Camera and Digital File Tips and Techniques:

How can I capture images that print well?

First, don't overuse your camera's automatic settings. Auto-focus and auto-exposure algorithms are carefully designed to produce acceptable results under a very, very wide range of conditions. However, that is a totally different goal than producing really excellent results under whatever the exact lighting conditions happen to be when you capture a particular picture.

Second, if possible, set your camera to save images in 'RAW' mode, or in the uncompressed version of TIFF (Tagged Image File Format). For large, high-quality prints, the widely accepted JPEG format (Joint Photographic Experts Group) format is your enemy. As a photographer friend says, "Over using JPEG is like throwing away your negative." Minimize your use of JPEG files, or completely avoid JPEG.

The JPEG standard compresses your digital image to produce a smaller file for quicker file transfer, as well as for increased storage capacity in small devices. Aggressive compression algorithms can meet these goals only by distorting your image. Substantial information loss often occurs each and every time you write or rewrite an image into a JPEG file. Some image editing software allows you to control the degree of compression; thereby reducing JPEG's visual distortion — or thereby increasing compression when it's your friend, such as for a website image file.

The following photo shows the effects of over-compression via the JPEG format upon a digital image:

Before and after images showing the effect of over compression on
           a digital image

Third, if you digitally edit or manipulate your image, then please use the Adobe RGB 1998 color space. This color space is widely used, though not universal, among high-end equipment manufacturers. Importantly, Adobe RGB '98 works best with our equipment, our software, and our calibration procedures. If you use this color space, then your image's hue, saturation, and color range are completely compatible with the workflow within our carefully color-calibrated print lab.

Fourth, for best results, please provide us with the highest resolution RAW image file format that your digital camera can produce — a file directly from your camera without any editing or manipulating. Or, provide us with an uncompressed TIFF image file that has at least 250 DPI (dots per inch), that uses Adobe RGB 1998 color space and that exactly matches the size of your print or reproduction with respect to aspect ratio. The first, raw option provides an excellent starting point for our master print maker and advanced software algorithms to do their thing. The second, edited option gives your own personal skill a high degree of control over how your picture appears when physically printed.

And last, but not least, please don't let this overlong FAQ discourage you. Making excellent prints and reproductions from less-than-ideal digital image files is just part of a day's work here at LaserLight Prints. These four tips and techniques are words of wisdom that might be impractical in your situation; they are neither hard and fast rules nor mandatory requirements.

Color Control:

How can I better control the colors with which my prints are rendered?
How do you control color when you print?

We provide our clients with two simple, low-tech solutions:

  1. We'll send you an 8 x 10 proof print. After you have a look, just phone or email us with your corrections. We charge $25.
  2. We can consult with you by phone while your image is up on one of our color-calibrated workstations. We're always happy to work together with you to improve the quality of your print.

For clients who are technologically inclined, there's a variety of image editing software available today. Some programs are some simple to use, some support powerful capabilities, some cost hundreds of dollars, and some are open-source and free. All allow you to substantially manipulate your images.

However there might be a significant difference between your image as it displays on your screen, and your image as rendered on a particular print medium.

Feel free to contact us for a consultation on calibrating your system. Using standard techniques for color-calibration, the hues you see will match the hues on your print. Such a calibration should work with any printmaker that is properly aligned with the Adobe RGB 98 color space.

The major steps we take to maintain color calibration within our print lab are as follows:

Each of our Mac-based digital-image workstations includes a high-quality Light-Emitting Diode (LED) display. We ensure consistent ambient lighting controlled by a dimmer, to which are display calibration is set.

Our image-adjustment software (the latest Photoshop®), color-correction profiles, printers, display and print drivers all use the same color space (Adobe RGB 98).

We generate an individual color-compensation profile for each display in order to precisely align the displayed hues within the Adobe RGB 98 color space. This calibration process uses a spectrophotometer to accurately measure the light actually emitted by that particular LED screen. Then based on that measurement, an individualized color-correction profile is generated and installed directly into that display's driver.

Color calibration is only part of the issue of controlling the 'look' of your print. No light-emitting display can match the brightness-contrast curve of a light-absorbing print. The look of your print will vary widely with the specific print medium you choose. It will also vary with your lighting conditions.

Ansel Adams taught photographers to previsualize both the deep shadows and the highlights of the final print before even capturing the image. Today we can in fact previsualize a print based on how its digital-image file displays after editing based on our knowledge of the brightness-contrast curve of that particular print medium.

Dye-sublimation printing:

What is dye-sublimation printing?
Why do you use this process?

Bill Nordstrom lifting a brand new metal print out of our heat

The above photo shows Bill Nordstrom lifting a brand new metal print out of our heat press at the end of the dye-sublimation process.

Making prints or reproductions on metal or ceramic tile requires a dedicated dye-sublimation printer. We load our dye-sub printer with 7 colors of special dyes costing hundreds of dollars per liter.

Our dye-sub printer renders your image by depositing dye, via a giclée printing process, onto specially designed transfer paper. A blank piece of multi-layer print medium and the transfer paper are loaded, facing each other, into the heat press. The medium is specially fabricated to include a lower layer of metal or ceramic tile under a polyester surface layer.

Next the press heats to about 400° for a few minutes. The heat causes the dyes to 'sublimate'. In sublimation, the dyes, much like dry ice, change from their room-temperature solid phase directly into their gas phase. These gaseous dyes then easily infuse deep into the polyester layer of the multi-layered print medium.

Unlike inks, these dyes are not merely deposited atop the surface of the print medium. Furnishing your print glowing luminosity, this deep infusion also provides either a dramatically high gloss or a silky-smooth matte finish.

This deep infusion also affords far more protection from environmental stress than is possible with any paper print. Unless subjected to direct sunlight, dye-sub prints will outlast dye-based inkjet prints — outlast not by a modest percentage factor, but rather by a substantial multiplier. The polyester that holds the dyes within the multi-layer medium is a shield from ultraviolet (UV) light. This shield means the dyes are far less prone to fade from exposure to light. The polyester also allows your dye-sub print to be cleaned with water, household glass cleaner, even lacquer thinner if you rinse it off.

Editing Digital Images:

What image editing and adjustments can you perform for me?

Pretty much whatever you want. Each and every print or reproduction we make is hand crafted by one of our skilled lab technicians and then quality checked by Bill Nordstrom personally.

Many of the images we print require adjustments to the image's aspect ratio. We often make simple adjustments to the color balance, saturation, or brightness-contrast curve. We are happy to include any straightforward but customized adujstments based on your specific requests — for example, you can ask us to bring out the foreground rocks, or to de-emphasize the texture of the background wall.

We perform such standard adjustments, when needed or requested, at no extra charge. Our media, pigment inks and dyes are too expensive for us to print without previewing. And while we've got your image up on our large, color-calibrated display, it's our pleasure to make a few straightforward adjustments you may request, or that your image requires.

Beyond the quick-and-easy, we have the highly-specialized skill, experience, software and equipment to perform the full complement of Photoshop® adjustments. If you are interested, please don't hesitate to contact us for a quote.

File Formats & Sources for Digital Image Files:

What source media can you work from to make a print or reproduction?

Any of our prints or reproductions can be produced from the following source media:

  • Send us your digital image file — almost any format works, but we definitely prefer large 'RAW' files. See also our FAQ: Camera and Digital File Tips and Techniques
  • If we have worked with your image before we will still retain it in our secure temperature- and humidity-controlled archive
  • Your original work of art that we scan
  • Your photo transparency, negative or original print that we scan

Giclée Printing:

What is giclée printing?
Why do you use this printing process?

The giclée printing process is widely used for photographic prints and artwork reproductions of fine art or museum quality. You can think of the phrase 'giclée printing' as analogous to 'inkjet printing'. The word 'giclée' is actually a neologism based on the French verb gicler, meaning to spray or to squirt.

However giclée printing and inkjet printing are not like brother and sister; rather, they are cousins who have diverged significantly.

The giclée side of the family has been optimized for artistic expression using fine detail and a broad color gamut. For example, each giclée nozzle must be able to produce a stream of ink or dye at about 1/100th the diameter of a human hair. On the receiving end, modern giclée media require require elaborate manufacturing processes and high-tech chemistry in order to properly absorb such tiny streams. The costs of inks, dyes, media, and printer maintenance are significant, but lowering such costs is never a design goal that supercedes image quality.

In contrast, the inkjet side of the family must use color to convey information and emphasis. Such use of color is in the context of business and home-office use. Provided that color rendering meets a basic standard, the design goals of cost-effective operation, ease of use, and low maintenance generally supersedes photo-realism and aesthetic pleasure.

Equipment designed to make low-cost prints in high-volume contexts is a design trade-off. Its image quality is well above that of an office printer, but well below our fine art giclée technology. 4-color 'photo quality' equipment is widespread. In contrast, we print with either 12-color inks or 7-color dyes.

ISO Whiteness:

What does it mean when a particular medium is rated at 97 ISO whiteness?

In colorimetry, "whiteness" is the degree to which a surface is defined as white. Two pieces of paper could appear equally white when viewed individually, but careful side-by-side comparison will reveal one as noticably whiter than the other. This term precisely quantifies such differences. For example, white wrapping paper may be rated at around 85 ISO whiteness, while everyday office copier paper may be rated at 94.

The International Commission on Illumination (aka CIE — Commission Internationale de L'Éclairage) describes whiteness as follows: "To promote uniformity of practice in the evaluation of whiteness of surface colors, it is recommended that these formulae be applied only to products that are called "white" commercially, that do not differ much in color and fluorescence, and that are measured under equivalent conditions."

Paper Types:

What are the differences among the various types of paper you offer?

The following table summarizes objective characteristics of our paper media:

Type Brand Opacity ISO White­ness Weight (GSM) Price for 16 x 24"
Photo Luster Hahnemühle Photo Luster 290 Paper 96% 110 290 $50
Photo Glossy Hahnemühle Photo Glossy 290 97% 145 290

Photo Metallic Fujifilm Pearl Metallic 97% 79 60 $50
High Tooth Hahnemühle William Turner 99% 88.5 310 $66
Medium Tooth Hahnemühle German Etching 99% 91.5 310 $66
Low Tooth Hahnemühle Photo Rag Bright White 99% 99.5 310 $66
Texture Gloss Hahnemühle FineArt Baryta 98% 103 325 $66
High Gloss Harman Gloss Baryta 98% 100 320 $66

The following table summarizes subjective characteristics of our paper media:

Type Description Typical Use
Photo Luster Newly released and significantly improved as to weight and whiteness. Has the elegant look and feel of traditional E-surface, wet-chemistry photographic emulsion Flexible as to black-and-white, color, image style
Photo Glossy Just released and significantly improved as to weight, rigidity, whiteness and ink absorption Flexible as to black-and-white, color, image style
Photo Metallic Outstanding color gamut with beautiful high-gloss finish Excels at high-contrast color, adds unique metallic look to black-and-white
High Tooth Heavy weight and matte white provides the texture, look and feel of traditional fine art watercolor or sketch paper Excels at fine art reproductions — popular with painters, sketch artists, watercolorists
Medium Tooth Fine-grained but velvety smooth, heavy weight, white-etching medium Excels at reproducing watercolors, pencil drawings, oil paintings
Low Tooth Bright-white look and subtle low-tooth feel Excels at high-contrast images
Texture Gloss Wide-gamut, high-depth color and superior image definition Excels at black-and-white with high density and fine gray tones
High Gloss High gloss aids deep blacks, high whites and bright color saturation Flexible as to black-and-white, color, image style

Scanning Artwork:

How do you scan art with your Cruse Synchron Moving-Table Scanner?
Why can't I just snap a picture of it with a high-quality digital camera?

Capturing your artwork digitally in a high-quality manner is critical to how any reproductions will look. Capturing accurately requires specifically advanced technology. Even if you get perfectly even lighting from a color-balanced source (e.g., outside on an overcast day), camera lens imperfections and perspective effects will still be apparent in your digital capture. Every lens has edge distortion. Critical photo viewers are accustomed to such anomalies, even in fine art photography, and such undesired effects may quickly transform what you envision as an authentic reproduction of your fine art into a merely documentary snapshot.

Our Cruse Synchron moving-table scanner is the most sophisticated device of its kind available today. It is world-class equipment for reproducing artwork without any observable flaws or distortions. The Getty Museum, the Smithsonian Institution and the Vatican all use cameras from this same brand of products. With its highly calibrated light source and motion-controlled table, this scanner will beat out any other camera or scanning system on the market for the capture of fine art. It handily accommodates even framed artwork, accurately capturing work that remains under glass or in a deep frame. It also handles collage-style artwork, up to about one inch of variation in surface depth.

The Synchron efficiently resolves many issues associated with more conventional means of scanning paintings and mixed-media art. For example, when photographing a painting even with a large view camera, shadows may be too dark or muddy, highlights anemic or blown out, and corners vignetted due to the normal optical fall-off of a lens (the tendency of an image to darken toward the corners). While photographing artwork with a digital camera back can avoid some issues, it is still difficult to compensate for lens fall-off or to achieve consistently even lighting.

The Cruse incorporates a linear CCD array aligned to the center of the lens for optimal sharpness. The captured digital image is then color corrected via a careful calibration system. The Synchron's table moves under very bright color-corrected fluorescent strips to provide perfectly even lighting, as well as a high-res scan that is absolutely planar and sharp from corner to corner.

Scanning Photos:

How do you scan photos with your Heidelberg Tango PMT Drum Scanner?
Why can't I just scan them on an inexpensive flatbed scanner?

The photographer's original transparency or negative is brought into the digital world with this absolute finest high-end drum scanner ever manufactured, fully updated with the latest NewColor 7000 software. For the best possible result, all transparencies are mounted on the optical-grade plexiglass scanning drum under clear mylar in a special Kami mounting fluid to protect your originals from dust and scratching. As the drum spins away at 1800 rpm, the centrifugal force presses your original perfectly flat and stationary for the half-hour scanning process at 12,000 DPI (dots per inch). The standard International Color Consortium (ICC) scan profile is also incorporated into the raw digital images for color calibration that is as close to perfection as possible. The extremely large digital file produced by the Tango is then loaded into one of our powerful color-calibrated Mac workstations where we adjust the image with Photoshop to accurately and elegantly reproduce your transparency. If you have given us any specific instructions, then at this time we effect those corrections and adjustments. Finally, any dirt and scratches are eliminated. The completed digital image is sent to our giclée printer for an 8 x 10 proof, or for the final larger print you ordered.

Sure you could simply scan your photos on almost any flatbed scanner. That certainly would help preserve your casual vacation photos. But just think back. After just a few year's time, hasn't even the most informal and casual vacation snapshot ever, somehow, magically transformed itself into a fine family heirloom? Because if so... then as with your precious fine art film or painting originals, such an inferior low-resolution capture would scarcely do them any real justice.

Terms and conditions:

What else do I need to know?

We do our utmost to protect your precious original once delivered to us. However if it is lost, stolen, or damaged, our liability is limited to replacing it with a like quantity of equivalent raw media.

Because of the elaborate, oxygen-free manufacturing process involved in fabricating a polyester layer atop a sheet of aluminum (as in semiconductor fabrication), occasional minor flaws may be present though barely visible in our ultra-gloss prints, reproductions and signs. If this is of any concern to you, we recommend you select one of our satin-finish products or contact us for a consultation.

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