Printing and framing.

I print for personal use, not for sale. My prints are typically replaced in the frame before they reach 5 years old. If you sell your prints, use my comments with discretion.

Print math.

I will use ppi here to avoid confusion. Dots per inch (dpi) means ink drops and there can be multiple ink drops per pixel. Pixels per inch (ppi) refer to the number of available camera sensor pixels for prints. For printing, you only need to consider one dimension. The formula for ppi is

Camera pixels divided by print inches equal ppi:

My 21 mpixel 1ds-mk3 has 5616 x 3744 pixels. My printer prints 16.75 wide, but I use 16.5 Inches for safety. Since the narrow dimension is the limiting factor, I will use it for ppi calculations.

3744 pixels/16.5 inches = 226 ppi.

My Epson 3800 printer will handle up to 17×29 paper.  Because of frame and mat considerations I usually print 15.5×23.5

3744 pixels/15.5 inches = 238 ppi.

I have printed as large as 16.5 x 29.5.   This is close to a 16/9 aspect ratio which is pleasing for wide angle lens shots.

It would be nice to be able to print 20×30 at 250 ppi. This would require 7500 x 5000 pixels which is 37.5 mpixels. I would need a new printer to get 20 inches on the narrow side and that is not likely.

Prep for print.

Refer to my  CS6 workflow:

I neither uprez nor sharpen for print in Photoshop.  I make no other changes to my master PSD file, But Qimage works better with tiff than PSD so I save the print as a tiff file at native resolution and with no additional sharpening at this time.

I also leave this 16bit file in Prophoto RGB which has satisfied my needs. I cannot see any difference between Prophoto and Adobe RGB. I dislike sRGB and only use it for web. Reds and oranges often show much different in sRGB than Prophoto and my prints support the wider gamut.

Printing with Qimage.

I like Qimage for printing. It saves all my settings for each paper size and handles uprez and output sharpening for me.

You can get print profiles from the paper manufacturers that work pretty well.  But if you keep your monitor calibrated for good web presentation which is about 150 cd/mm^2, your images tend to be dark when printed. I had a custom print profile made that makes a brighter image and compensates for this factor.

But recently I have changed monitor cal to 80cd/mm^2 for better brightness match to my prints.

Here are my Qimage settings:

Printer ICC Custom “HFA EPS3800_MK_PhotoRag (P) From Hahnemuehle

Paper: ultra smooth fine art paper

Resolution:  Max-720 PPI

Interpalation: Hybred

Sharpen 4, default


I buy frames with an opening of 20 x 28. After many attempts I find that a wider frame and mat looks better so I have ended up with an Inside mat opening of 15 x 23 which works out to 2.88 (2-7/8) wide for the inner mat and using  a ¼ inch margin the top mat is 2-5/8 wide.

I like wide oak wood frames. The only place I have been able to get custom frames on line that meet my desired style is here.


I use a Logan 40 inch Mat cutter, which will cut any mat size I can print with my current printer.

I get my mats here.

Here  are a couple good sources for choosing colors.

Crescent mat board selectSpec


Warning, mat colors viewed on line are never perfect matches to what you receive.

No matter how much you pay for custom museum anti-reflective glass, it will reflect.  Any gloss or semi gloss paper will also reflect even without glass.  This will not only show any light source as reflections, it also shows every wrinkle in the image. Unless you have the print custom mounted to a backing it will have wrinkles or more often waves.  I have used self adhesive foam core and you always get air bubbles. If not when first mounted then later when it lets go.

I used to  print on Red River Aurora art white but have ran into a wrinkling issue and have switched to Hahnemuehle photo rag 308.

Red River is an economical art matt paper that  is available in cut sheet sizes of 17×25 which is perfect for 16×24 print sizes. I also have a roll of 17 wide paper for longer prints. It must be unrolled and flattened to use, and that is a major topic I will reserve for another write up. My printer does not handle roll stock, my next one will and eliminate this issue.

Hahnemuehle is available in 24×36 so it can be cut to 18×24. 24 is tight for most of my mats which are cut 23.5 inside. I have to print at max size. I will be able to cut and print to 36 inches long however and not need to flatten roll stock.

The advantage of matt paper is that it does not cause noticable reflections. I hang it without glass and without mounting to the foam core. It never shows wrinkles or reflections even with direct outside light.

I stopped this practice.

After a day for the ink to dry, I spray coat it with Krylon acrylic coating. I give it two coats in opposite directions. I don’t know how long it will last, my oldest prints look fine but they are only 4-5 years old. A print usually gets replaced in the frame prior to that time. I am sure I can reprint one cheaper than the price of anti-reflective glass.  Matt paper has longer archival life than semi gloss.

Matt prints without glass look more like paintings and people often remark that it looks like a painting. This may be good or bad depending on what look you want to achieve  I like it. I hate reflections, they just look bad and short of some very custom lighting plus a way to prevent exterior light, you will have reflections with any glass.

Here are some examples of glass versus no glass in artificial and natural light as they hang on my wall.

This is a 16×28 image in natural light through the glass in my front door.  No glass here, just the bare matt.

Natural light.

Glass free matt print in natural light

Inside light.

Glass free matt print with overhead incandescent light plus outside natural light.

The above image is the same print with the overhead lights turned on. I tried to fix white balance to more or less match all shots but did not make a major effort, just concentrate on the reflections or lack of reflections here.

Here is a smaller plexiglass covered  image in the same location. I did not move the tripod. This has plexiglass with some anti-glare treatment. Not as good as gallery glass, but trust me, the better glass does not eliminate the glare it only reduces it. Note the reflections of me and an image on the other wall. Note, nobody ships glass, you would need to buy glass at a local frame shop.

Inside light

Plexiglass covered matt print, Inside incandescenet plus outside natural light

Natural light.

Plexiglass covered matt print with outside natural light


If you are selling images or presenting at a show, it is customary to use white mats and black narrow frames. I have done this for shows, but they are far too modern looking for my taste and I would never hang one in my home.

I think this is either considered high art, or perhaps to avoid having the frame detract from the image itself.

I like to use double mats. A narrow margin, 3/16 to ¼ inch is best, but narrow margins must be very carefully cut. Any slight variation between the two mats will show quickly with narrow margins and be less obvious with wide ones. But wide margins look clunky.  I suggest taking a mat cutting class as I did, I will not attempt mat cutting instructions here.

Choosing colors is an art. I try to match some colors in the image. Darker outer and lighter inner is usually best.  I now have a lifetime supply of mat board because of color choice changes.

9 Responses to Printing and framing.

  1. irv weiner says:

    Ben, congrats on a fine personable essay.

    At 77 yrs young I have discarded the ancient practice of prints under glass, tunnel visioning my pano/array pix. I use gallery frame wraps or bond my print to a supporting framework of 1×1 wood stock. I may even mount supports 1/4 in below the frame surface to give a floating look.

    My prints are mainly landscapes of the Western Nat. Parks–the vistas are so broad that they can be contained in ancient manner described above.

    Again, thanks for warm, fuzzy commentary–a pleasure to read and relax with in the stressful times.

    irv weiner

    • begbert says:

      Thanks for your kind reply. I hope to build a readership here and intend to have useful empirically derived information to share. I have not tried galley wraps myself, but I do like the ones I have seen.

      • Cheryl says:

        , we don’t really care how many DPI a pitnrer has or uses.An extra point to make is that PPI doesn’t just define the size of the print, it defines the quality.Differing PPI values do not actually change the image size; it is purely a value written into the metadata so that the output medium (monitor / print) knows what size to display it. For example, a 3000 2000 image directly from camera has a set number of pixels. If printed at 300PPI it will be 10 long (3000/300=10). If displayed on a regular monitor, full size at 72PPI, it would be 41 long! (That is much larger than a normal monitor could display so it would appear to be fully zoomed in or enlarged.)Print offers higher quality reproduction than monitors which is why the PPI values are higher. 300 pixels of information crammed into every inch of print gives us the photo’ quality that we wish to see. On a monitor, we don’t have that many pixels available in an inch. 72 dpi is the norm and for web use in particular, this is when we would also decide to reduce the actual size of the image.To be viewed at the same 10 size on screen, at 72 PPI, we only need the long edge of our image to be 720 pixels. This makes our original 6MP image more like 0.3MP a much smaller and more manageable size for web.Lauren, if the number of pixels in an image is fixed at 3000 2000 (for example), then the resolution or PPI we decide to print at, is what defines the size. This is the reason that for an image we print at 300PPI, if we then print the exact same image at 150PPI, it will be larger. We are effectively placing those pixels, twice as far apart so it would be twice the length (4 times the size).An important last point to make though is that when the PPI is set lower as in this example the quality is reduced as well as there is less information included.For photo quality, use 300 PPI or sometimes 240. For massive prints where we are looking at them from further away, we can get away with lower values.For web use or video slideshows, 72 dpi is the normal value.

  2. Jim Kelson says:

    I may be settling down from my constant travels and I am thinking about buying a printer, probably the Epson 3880, so I have been reading your essay on printing and framing. This has been very helpful especially about print, mat and frame sizes. I don’t know why I always framed behind glass and cheap glass at that. I will definitely follow your recommendation on framing without glass.

    I am going to need to think about your frame recommendations. I guess a wide oak frame would look good. I have always gone for the thin black metal so the frame is minimal. If I do wood, I have woodworking equipment and will research making my own frames. I will also need to experiment with double matts. I have always done simple single matting.

    I am curious about the use of Krylon spray. I had never tried this and I have no knowledge of the purpose or effects. Does this add gloss? Does this add protection from UV rays, dust and dirt? Is it easy to spray without getting runs, uneven areas or other artifacts?

    Also, what are you using for backing and how are you attaching the prints?

    Thanks, Jim

    • begbert says:

      Hi Jim:

      Good to hear from you. For printing, the key is to get a good calibration between monitor and print. I did pretty good with a calibrated monitor set dark (80 cd/mm^2) and then using profiles from the paper makers. I later had a custom profile made to lighten the print even further. Dark prints is the big issue and its even worse when you buy prints.

      I use matte to avoid reflection, otherwise I would use semi gloss. The spray is a uv sealer and does not run. Its optional if you don’t worry about fading. I replace my prints before they have a chance to fade.

      Double mats and frame colors are personal taste. My wife and I are not modern or abstract people, our furnishings are oak or maple. Both of us are living in the wrong century.

      The 3880 is the replacement for the 3800 I have. Its a great printer, but paper limited. I wish I could print roll stock easier. I have printed to 39 inches long, but its a pain to get the paper flattened and fed. If I were staring over, I might go for the next size up. 16×24 is not all that large.

      Cutting double mats, I took a mat cutting class, its tricky but once you know the trick, a sharp blade and a good underlayment (old piece of mat) is the trick. I suggest a class for that.

  3. Jim Kelson says:

    Thanks for the followup. I am sure I will have a lot of questions later. I was also disappointed on the 3880 paper size, but 17×39 is pretty decent especially since I am shooting cropped sensor. In any case the next larger printer is substantially more expensive, but also just too big and heavy. I could always having printing done if I ever have anything good enough to justify a massive size. Actually I am probably more interested in two things. I like to print 8 1/2 x 11 prints frequently. I like to see my work and think about improvements without doing a major framing and display. Second I want to try different media; e.g., metallic paper and canvas or canvas textured paper.

    • begbert says:

      I also print 8-1/2×11 mostly as proofs. But then I put them in binders in clear sleeves. I also have probably 50 16×24′s in sleeves that were printed hung and later replaced. I often hang an image for a while to decide how it looks and replace it when I don’t like it. I have one frame where I have replaced the images 6 times this year. I will probably put the original back as it is still better than what I shot this year. Been a bad year for me.

  4. Jim Kelson says:

    I look at printing as sort of the third leg of the stool. I am learning to shoot and to post process, but now I need to work on printing. I have no doubt that will entail some serious work and learning. I need to begin with the basics of color management and selection of appropriate papers, etc.

    I also want to print for instant gratification. Those are my 8 1/2 x 11 prints. I enjoy looking at my photography even though some of the attempts fall a long way short of desired expectations. Even on a bad day, there are likely to be a few images I like or that I want to look at in detail to see what went wrong. I like to use mounting putty to quickly display them on the kitchen wall. Some stay up for a few days or weeks and then end up in a storage pile. Others might be proofs to adjust the final larger print.

    I have lots of different reasons to print and I am sure I will have plenty of additional questions later on.

    • begbert says:

      Good luck and feel free to ask. I will answer within my range of knowledge. Also I am wondering why you are going to stay home more. You could send me a private email on that subject if you want to share.

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