06 Optional Lesson 3.5: printing images

Lesson 3.5: A Mini Lesson on Printing

(This lesson is optional and has no homework. Nothing in it will be
needed for understanding later lessons; it's "extra credit" for
anyone who wants to print the project they made in lesson 3.)

Suppose you made a greeting card for Lesson 3, and now you want to
print it. What are your options?

First, if you don't have a good quality color printer, then don't
dispair. It's quite easy to get prints made from digital art.

The printing kiosks in drugstores and camera stores make very good
prints. They don't accept XCF format, so save a full-sized copy
of your image as a jpg or png. Put it on some transportable medium:
a floppy, a CD, or a flash memory camera card (most of the printing
kiosks can take all of the popular flash memory formats) and take
it to the store where the kiosk is. Good copy stores (like Kinko's)
also have color copiers and printers which can do a good job with
digital art, and that's often the best option if you want to make
a lot of copies (for example, if you make holiday cards to send
to all your friends).

But suppose you have your own color printer? That's where gimp-print
comes in.


Gimp-print is a separate plug-in from gimp, but it's probably already
installed along with your gimp installation. Call it up from the
Image window menu: File->Print. (You may have to click "Export"
if the image has layers, transparency or other gimpish features.)

A dialog comes up with a gazillion options.

The first thing you need to do, if you've never used gimp-print
before, is set up your printer. Gimp-print doesn't read the printer
model from CUPS, so although it knows your default printer, it doesn't
know what its capabilities are. Click on Setup printer... and choose
your printer model from the list. (If your printer isn't listed,
things get a lot more complicated; for now, skip ahead to the
"printing from other programs" section.)

Once your printer is selected, you should have options like Media Size
(where you set the paper size), Media Type (where you can set it to
print to Plain Paper, Glossy Photo Paper, Photo Quality Inkjet Paper
or whatever; this controls how much ink the printer shoots at the
paper), and, most important, Resolution (where you set the quality
of the print).

Everything below that is for position and size of the image as it's
printed on the paper, and there's a preview on the left of how the
image will be oriented on the page. If you're printing a card, then
you probably want your image printed on the bottom half of the paper,
so you can fold it in half and have the image on the front side.
Choose Orientation as Portrait, Landscape, etc. until the image is
oriented the way you want it.

Next, size it by dragging the Scaling slider. For a card, you
probably want it a bit less than 100%, maybe 90%, to leave room
for borders and still be able to fold the page in half. For the
card I made in lesson 3, I scaled to 80%, but if I'd cropped the
image so it was wider and less tall, the number would have been

Once you've sized the image, go to the preview image and drag the
image down to the bottom of the "page". Position it approximately
where you want it.

If you want it centered in one direction or the other, use the
Center buttons to center Vertically or Horizontally. For a card,
you probably want only one or the other; for a full-sized print,
Both works.

Once you have your image positioned, you're ready to print a test
sheet. I recommend printing first on Plain Paper and choosing the
lowest quality setting available (for my printer, that's "Resolution:
360x180 DPI draft"). This will be fast and cheap (it doesn't waste
a lot of expensive ink), and lets you know that gimp-print is working
and that your position on the page is correct. Use the button marked
"Print and Save Settings": this will remember your scaling and
position, so if your test print is right, you can make another
print using high resolution and better paper. If the test print
isn't quite right, then you can adjust starting from your previous

Sometimes you may find that an image which looked fine on the screen
looks too dark, too light, or has a color cast when printed. The
"Image / Output Settings" in the gimp-print dialog has an
"Adjust output..." button which lets you correct such problems.
When you "Save Settings" from gimp-print, it will remember these
settings, so if your printer is always lighter than your screen,
gimp-print can automatically make that correction for you.


Suppose gimp-print doesn't know about your printer, or otherwise
doesn't work right, but your printer works from other programs?

In that case, I'd recommend either a word processor like Open Office,
or a web browser like Mozilla. Any word processor or browser can
import a .jpg that you make in gimp. With a little fiddling you
can probably even get them to print the image on the right half
of the page, though the quality of a printed photograph probably
won't be as good as it would be with gimp-print.

There are also a couple of lightweight printing apps: a Newsforge
story a few days ago mentioned a gnome printer, and a comment
after the story mentions a kde equivalent.
The down side is that these programs generally don't let you adjust
settings like resolution or paper type, so if you're trying to make a
beautiful photo-quality card on photo paper, you may not be satisfied.

Next Lesson: Basic selection tools, and combining images with copy and paste.