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Pixels and printing

Pixels and printing

By Mitch Bain

Special to The Union

The pixel dimensions of a typical 8-megapixel digital camera is a bit less than 3,200 by 2,500 pixels. The image is too big to fit on a monitor screen and send as an e-mail attachment. The dimensions can be reduced to maybe 640 pixels wide by 480 pixels high – a “standard” viewing dimension – with a program such as Picasa2 (or the just released Picasa3) which discards over 90% of the pixels. The conversion is automatic so you needn’t be concerned about the pixel dimension details.

A picture viewed on a monitor is then 640 X 480 pixels. It looks great so you might want to print the picture to a “standard” 6 X 4 inch snapshot size. Again Picasa will walk you through the steps and inform you that in this example the print quality is 108 Pixels per Inch (PPI). Since photo quality ink-jet printers need from 240 to 300 PPI for best quality, the print appearance will be disappointing.

Why is it that an image that looks great on the monitor will not print well? I would love to hear from readers who have an explanation for this conundrum!

If you have the original 8-megapixel picture then you simply open it in Picasa and walk through the printing steps. Picasa allows you to select the size of the photo desired and you can optimize the layout for best utilization of the photo paper. If you are dealing with an e-mail attached picture you might ask the person who sent it to you to send the larger original file.

Snapshots can be printed from your camera’s memory chip at any of the local shops with photo kiosks.

Or you can do it yourself.

Photo quality ink-jet printers from HP, Canon, Epson and others have become simpler and more user friendly. With some of the latest models you don’t even need a computer since the basic editing functions are now included in the printers themselves. Simply connect your camera, or plug the camera’s memory chip, in to the printer and you have a kiosk-at-home!

The process is described at the manufacturer’s web sites; the HP site (www.hp.com) is particularly helpful. The newer printers feature better inks and papers and boast archive quality in the 200 year range. The web site at Wilhelm Research (www.wilhelm-research.com) discusses these points.

In addition to the capability of editing in the printer, photo quality ink-jet printers may differ from standard color ink-jets in the following ways:

Smaller droplet size for finer detail.

More ink colors.

Pigment based inks for longevity.

Photo quality papers matching the ink.

More expensive.

My kiosk-at-home printer is the Epson PictureMate PM 260. I took it with me on a recent family vacation. After collecting camera memory chips from everyone, I loaded the paper and in minutes delivered great looking snapshots. The cost for paper and ink is 30 cents per print. (Then everyone copied the Epson model number so that they could order one for themselves when they got home!)

Now that I have you excited about printing your own photographs I should warn you about the downside – and that is that you have to use the printer often enough so that the jet nozzles don’t clog up with dry ink resulting in awful looking streaks. If this happens you run the printer maintenance program, possibly more than once, wasting ink.

So if you don’t expect to print many photos I suggest you have the work done at the local photo kiosks or any of the on-line sites.

Mitch Bain is a Volunteer with the Gold Country Computer Learning Center. Our Web site is http://www.gcclc.org. For information about computer classes call 273-0497. E-mail Mitch with your questions at mitch@gcclc.org

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