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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.