Print Discussion Pt. 5 – Files

The webmaster here again. Last time I talked about what to print. Now let’s talk about the basics of the files we need to make (sorry, next time we will get to laying them out).


First, we need to look at our original. If the medium is well saturated and not too textured, you can probably print equal sized, or larger. The project that Laura has been working on are done in marker, and have very little variation and texture to the lines and coloring. As such I plan on printing at the same size as the originals. If the medium does not have complete saturation, like colored pencils, you probably want to go equal or smaller than the original. In all honesty, shrinking things will usually give you a better results overall since it smooths out variations.

Having a general idea of how big you want to go, pick the closes standard size and start designing that way. If you don’t know what sizes are standard, go to your local store and find the picture frames. The sizes change from area to area… so make sure you are not making something that will be hard to frame for no real reason. Exceptions exist… but you will have to bridge the gap with custom matting or frames.

Also keep in mind that you will need to allow some space for bleeds and cutting in your final design. As such it is likely you may be trimming off a section of the original, or adding something…. and so far it has always been easier to trim than to add. I will talk about that more about that in the post about layouts.


Next we need to figure out what resolution to scan in. In my personal opinion, if you want to print it, then get as many pixels as you can. After all the hope is the original sells for lots of money and you never can scan it again. Storage is comparatively cheap in all honesty. Anyway we can always downsize it later. Keep in mind that adding pixels later almost always degrades quality.

Speaking of resizing…. When we send it off to be printed, it can be assumed they will be printing around 600 dpi. So I tend to look for finished products around 1200, just in case they can handle a bit extra resolution.


I scan to bitmap. Why such a space wasting format? It is a lossless format. Jpeg always has some compression, so there is some loss in fidelity. Gif has a limited color pallet. Other formats such as png can be lossless, but just don’t have the track record of compatibility. Mostly you can chalk this up to me being a geezer (with files he can still read from  16 year old scanning project) shaking his cane at new-fangled formats. Once I have a working copy, I zip up these bitmaps to get the compression (if not convenience) I would have had in another format. I highly suggest you make some thumbnails at a traditional screen resolution (72dpi) to leave outside the zip, so you don’t have to wonder what was in it… I have yet to find a naming scheme which lasts long enough in my memory.

My working format is Photoshop’s PSD files. It is standard enough that I can expect it to work for a few years, it is a bit smaller, and it works with the application I am using. Since other applications (like Gimp and Krita) can also read it, I don’t feel completely wedded to one application.  This format allows me layers, notes, and anything else I need to make corrections and changes down the line.

Once everything is arranged the way I want it, I export to jpg. This file is useless for making changes since it is flattened and compressed… but it is a compressed format everyone understands. It also allows me to double check the final print in other applications before sending it off to someone along with money.

Color depth:

Well, I ended up with 24-bit color depth. I could do 48, but I saw very poor adoption of that format. Since it doubled my file size (halving the resolutions I could use) 48 was just plain out. I imagine I could live with 16-bit for what I am doing, but I might regret it later.


Well, that is enough of that. Next time, actually laying out a file.