Your Guide to Photo Printing (and Framing)

Whether you're a photographer looking to print and frame your own work for a gallery show, or simply want to frame a photo and make it look amazing on your wall, quality is important.

Several decisions and details go into printing the perfect image, and to help you through the process we've put together an easy and comprehensive guide on how to prepare your image for printing.

It's part of our mission to make online custom framing as intuitive, convenient and affordable as possible.

Image source: Brooke Lark via Unsplash

Framing a Photo Online

1) Determining Image Quality

For the digital photo you'd like to print and frame, make sure the image file is as high-quality as possible. This will help result in a crisp, vibrant print at your desired size.

The most important aspect will be your image resolution, which refers to the number of pixels in the digital file. The more pixels, the larger you'll be able to print the photo and still maintain sharp and clear details. If you're exporting an image from software like Photoshop, you'll also want the DPI (dots per inch) to be over 150, and preferably at 300. DPI is the number of dots per inch in a printed image so, as with pixels, the more the better.

Here are a few examples of ballpark minimum file resolution for various standard photo sizes:

4" x 6" = 600 x 900 pixels minimum

5" x 7" = 750 x 1050 pixels minimum

8" x 10" = 1200 x 1500 pixels minimum

11" x 17" = 1650 x 2550 pixels minimum

2) Choosing The Right Print Size

If you have a specific print size in mind, you'll want to make sure the aspect ratio you've chosen is correct. Otherwise you run the risk of having an image that looks stretched or is cut off once printed. The best way to confirm an aspect ratio is with Photoshop or another app (like Preview for Mac) that allows you to see and manipulate the size of your image. This way, you can adjust your file height or width to your desired print size, and the software will automatically adjust the other dimension.

In Photoshop: Go to "Image" in the top menu bar, and select "Image Size"

In Preview: Go to "Tools" in the top menu bar, and select "Adjust Size"

If you don't have access to a program like this, there are free online tools such as this Aspect Ratio Calculator that can help. As long as you know the original dimensions of your image (you can even use your file's pixel sizes), just enter those as "W1" and "H1", then enter either your desired width or height (as "W2" or "H2"). The calculator will then provide the missing dimension, giving you the correct print size for maintaining your desired aspect ratio.

The next important step is to confirm that your image will print well at the size you've chosen.

If you're looking to print a photo taken on a modern camera or smartphone and your desired print size is less than around 18 x 24", chances are you won't have any issues.

However, if you're printing something you found online or if the original file is fairly old, it's always a good idea to check.

Again, an easy way to do this is using a photo editing software, like Photoshop's view print size feature, but there is a slightly more manual method as well. If you know the image's pixel dimensions, you can use those to calculate your max print size. Just divide the width and height of your file in pixels by your DPI. In order to optimize quality, keep in mind that your DPI should always be 100 or higher.

For example: If your pixel dimensions are 6000 x 4200, divide each of those numbers by 150 to get your max print size with a DPI of 150: 20 x 14".

How We Make It Easy For You

If any of the above is unclear, you can simply upload an image to Level's website for printing and framing, and we''ll automatically detect the resolution and present a range of size options that will print well.

You can crop your photo however you like and fit it into a range of suggested and square sizes, or click the Original tab to keep the print true to the original aspect ratio of the image:

If you have any issues figuring out whether or not your file would print well at a given size, reach out to us and we'll make some recommendations.

3) File Types

PNGs and PNGs are very common file types for images and should print well.

If you're trying to upload a TIFF, PSD, PDF or if your file size is too large, just contact us and we'll coordinate getting your file ready for the next steps.


Materials For Printing and Framing

When it comes to your photos and printed artwork, we know that materials matter, which is why we only use the best printing and framing components. There are tons of options out there, but here are the basics you'll want to know (and what we offer):

Printers

To make sure your images end up looking exactly how you envisioned them, our Epson SureColor P9000, Canon 8400 and Canon 9400 printers are color-calibrated, which means they will print true to the colors in your original file.

Keep in mind that printed images do not have the same color range as the one on your monitor, so physical prints can sometimes look darker than what you see on your screen.

Our printers are wide format, and can print images for framing up to 60 x 96". So, if you're looking to frame large artwork and photos, we're well equipped for the job!

The Ink

Archival pigment inks are the go-to for any serious printer (including us!) and ensure that your image will not fade or discolor for a very long time -- If you were curious, up to 200 years in ideal conditions. They're also eco-friendly, which we love. Other types of inks, such as solvent dye-based inks, are not archival and should be avoided if you're going for real longevity and depth of color.

Paper Types

As far as paper goes, there are several types to choose from, each with its own unique qualities and textures. They can vary in finish and thickness, and can play an instrumental role in the overall look of the final result. The papers we use to print artwork and photos are archival, acid-free and thick stock.

Here are our main two offerings for printing photos:

Matte

Our 285g Archival Matte art paper has a slightly textured surface, with no reflectiveness. It gives a more painted, artistic look that's ideal for art prints and black and white photos.

Lustre

Professional Kodak Lustre paper is a classic type of photo paper and has a slightly glossy, reflective finish. This one is great for portraits, as well as more colorful, crisp photos.

Metallic

This paper is also glossy, but with the addition of an eye-catching metallic and slightly pearlescent effect to enhance depth and iridescence. This paper type makes bright colors more vibrant and darker colors bolder for better contrast.

Image source: Etsy: FineLightArtworks
Canvas

Images printed on canvas will have a smooth finish, with some light texture.

If you want your personal photos to look a lot more like artwork or a painting, then this medium is for you. Artwork and photos on canvas can either be stretched on bars or mounted on canvas board before framing. If you're interested in having your image printed and framed using canvas, reach out and we can walk you through the process.

Image source: Level Frames' Instagram

Once your images are ready for printing, all that's left is to choose the perfect frame.

At Level, we make it a point to only use premium ingredients, like 4-ply conservation-grade mat boards, framer's grade acrylic glazes and 100% wood frames.

We hope we've answered all the questions you'll face during the printing and framing process, and that you'll now be able to sail smoothly through. If you're ever unsure about whether your image will print clearly, or have questions about how Level will make sure your images look their absolute best, we're here!

Watch a framed photo go from start to finish, handcrafted by our talented printing and framing teams:

Sign up for $15 off your first order and see how easy it is to frame with Level

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