Pro Tips for consistently amazing results!

16-bit colour depth vs. 8-bit

We print in 16-bit colour depth, allowing us to take advantage of about 281 TRILLION possible colours MORE than with 8-bit colour. The difference? 65,536 shades for each colour (RGB), compared to just 256 shades in 8-bit mode. In terms of colours that can be represented, 8-bit colour is 16.8 million colours. 16-bit is 281 TRILLION colours! In standard 8-bit mode, banding in tonal graduations becomes an issue especially in the blues, and when an image has been edited/resurrected from a poorly exposed shot, resulting in a similar result called posterization. (NOTE that all JPEG files are 8-bit. Send us 16-bit TIFF files if you're particularly concerned about retaining your smooth image!)

The two shots below are show a slightly exaggerated example of this problem. The 8-bit image shows banding or posterization in the sky, whereas in 16-bit mode, the sky is smooth.

Shoot in RAW format, and open the files as Adobe RGB (1998) 16-bit images in Photoshop or Lightroom. Work with them without down-sampling to 8-bit. Don't save them as JPEG files, because you'll loose the 16-bit depth. Send us ZIP compressed or uncompressed TIFF, or Photoshop (PSD) files via dropbox.com, yousendit.com.

NOTE: Our order form allows multiple files, of practically any size. If your file(s) are enormous, we would be happy to share a dropbox.com folder with you.

For a more in-depth description, please check out the PhotoshopEssentials.com site HERE.

Adobe RGB (1998) vs sRGB

The differences between Adobe RGB and sRGB can be easily understood HERE.

Basically, if your images are destined for print ON OUR PRINTERS, capable of printing the whole Abobe RGB (1998) gamut, then work in and send us the unconverted Adobe RGB files. Open your RAW files as 16-bit Adobe RGB files. If you need to display them on-screen for web presentations, you CAN convert to sRGB, keeping the original in Adobe RGB, when saving your jpeg web-destined files (save as... first, then convert to profile).

When you have your RAW file converter open in Photoshop, at the bottom of the screen there is a text link that will open the "Workflow Options" window, where you can choose Adobe RGB and 16-bits/channel before opening the image in Photoshop.

Since most monitors aren't capable of displaying the Adobe RGB spectrum, sRGB may be the most you'll see on your screen. If you have a "wide gamut" display, then you will be seeing most of the Adobe RGB gamut (some up to 100%), and will want to take advantage of the fuller gamut Adobe RGB encompasses. BUT if your monitor is a typical low-end desktop or laptop display, then sRGB colour should be your colour space, if you just want exactly what you see on screen - assuming your monitor is correctly set with the operating system's on-screen calibration tools - if available.

If your prints from other canvas printing companies are always very close or exact to your calibrated sRGB monitor, they are probably printing in sRGB. There's a nice, simple reason for using sRGB - it's because it's what MOST printers are capable of printing, so to have some consistency between devices (laptops, desktop screens & printers, ipads, HDTV, etc.), sRGB is the space to be. BUT if you want the full range of colour available on our printers, AND are already using a wide-gamut monitor that's capable of showing most of the Adobe RGB gamut, then use Adobe RGB (1998) 16-bit for editing your files.

We use the Epson SureColour P20000 printer, capable of a wider-gamut range than sRGB, for brighter more saturated colour reproduction with Adobe RGB files.

This short video is an excellent overview of the RGB colour space issue.

Resolution - it's how you see it.

Canvas is a very forgiving medium because the texture masks the jaggies found in lower resolution files. Also, most images destined to be printed at larger sizes are for viewing at a distance, therefore resolution isn't as critical as you might think.

The rule of thumb is the smaller the print, the larger the PIXEL DENSITY (Pixels Per Inch - ppi) because you will be standing closer to view the print. A larger canvas may require more RESOLUTION (Pixel count) to be able to print a clean image at 40x60" for instance. On canvas, 240dpi is plenty of resolution and unless you're trying to render type at 4 points, you won't benefit from going higher than this. That being said, 240dpi is overkill on a 30x40 canvas which is meant to be seen from a distance of 8' or more, not at arms length. Here's a simplified viewing distance/resolution chart to follow for optimal resolution of your files:

Print Size Image Resolution (Pixel Density) Typical Viewing Distance Pixel Count
8x10" 240 ppi 2-3 feet 1920 x 2400
20x30" 180 ppi 4-6 feet 3600 x 5400
30x40" 120 ppi 7-10 feet 3600 x 4800
40x60" 100 ppi 11-15 feet 4000 x 6000
54x90" + 80 ppi 16 feet and further 4320 x 7200


Note that we will always upsample lower resolution files to at least 150-180 ppi to smooth out any pixels if viewed at closer range. Also, we often print 20x30" canvases with 80-100ppi files, if that's all we have, but the results won't be as good as the 180ppi file. It will be noticeably less sharp at the typical viewing distance.

Your photos are a tile mosaic - a digital one.

Think of it like this... You have a craft project for an art class and you are given just 400 1/2" square tiles to form a picture of some flowers on a 10"x10" block of wood. You end up with something barely resembling flowers and stems. It looks pretty rough. The following week the same project is offered, but you have 6,400 1/8" square tiles - tiny ones - to make the same thing. This time, it's looks MUCH more like flowers, with lots of colours and sharper lines defining leaves and petals. Heck, you even had enough tiles to do a nice self-portrait with a decent amount of clarity in the corner of the mosaic. It DOES take a lot longer to make the second one, but it's much more realistic.

That's the difference of "resolution" between the two art projects. One has a resolution of 400 tiles, the other has a resolution of 6,400 tiles. They both take the same AREA (100 sq. inches - or 10" x 10").

Digital images are made up of many thousands, to many many millions of little tiles (let's call them pixels). They are measured in how many pixels in a line it takes to make 1 inch.... pixels per inch (or commonly "dots per inch" or dpi). For example, 100 pixels per inch at 27x39" - or 2700x3900 = 10,530,000 pixels) to get a sharp image wrap canvas print at 24x36" finished. We commonly print larger sizes with less resolution (see the previous section above). Often 80-90ppi files are upsampled (for smoothness) and printed at 150ppi for a 24x36" canvas. Optimally, we do like 180+ resolution for canvas, up to 240ppi. More isn't really necessary for canvas. Paper prints will look better at higher resolutions, especially when held within arms-length. 300-360ppi is the number to shoot for with smaller, lustre or gloss photo paper prints, under 16x24".

Have No Fear!

We will ALWAYS show you a screen proof detailing areas of concern with lower quality and lower resolution images, and give you some options, or our best effort to maximize print quality from your file. We NEVER print a file without you seeing a screen proof of the cropping, wrap option, and areas of concern or adjustment requested. You have the final OK.

Questions? Did this confuse you even more?

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