Proper colour management is critical to getting consistently great prints when printing digital images. However, it can be a complicated and confusing process. Many photographers struggle with colour management issues and get very frustrated when printing, resulting in lots of wasted paper and time. Using the appropriate print driver settings and selecting the proper ICC profile for the paper being printed on are two of the biggest colour management issues that photographers struggle with the most. However, if you use a Mac computer there’s an easy and unique way of consistently producing high-quality prints without having to worry about print driver setting and ICC paper profiles by using the new PrinTao 8 software from LaserSoft Imaging, the makers of SilverFast scanning software.
PrinTao 8 is a stand-alone Mac program that’s available for Epson and Canon printers. There are five editions for different sized Epson printers (13, 17, 24, 44 and 64 inches) and four editions for different sized Canon printers (17, 24, 44 and 60 inches). Prices range from $99 US for the 13-inch edition to $699 US for the 60-inch edition. All of the different editions have the exact same functionality; they’re just optimized for the different sized printers.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed PrinTao 8 it’s just a matter of opening up the program to start the simple process of printing your image. What’s really unique about PrinTao 8, and different from any other printing method I’ve used, is how simple and straightforward this process is. You first create a new document using the Start-Pilot screen where you will select: 1) the printer, 2) paper type, 3) print quality, 4) paper source (i.e., sheet or roll) and 5) print media size. Based on your printer model, all of the appropriate options will be available for that printer and you won’t be given options that aren’t available, making the process really straightforward. This document can be saved so that you can reuse these settings again.
All of the available paper media and their associated ICC profiles from the manufacturer of your printer are automatically installed, so you don’t need to download these from the manufacturer’s website. In addition, there are currently paper media and their ICC profiles available for over 225 different papers from 14 of the major paper manufacturers including Canson, Hahnemühle, Ilford and Red River Paper. These are easily accessible online when a paper is selected in Start-Pilot.
Once you’ve made your setting in the Start-Pilot window, you then go to the Main window where you’ll choose the image(s) that you want to print and make your final layout and setting adjustments. The Main window is divided into five working areas: 1) the Mediathek, 2) Metadata/Preview area, 3) Horizontal Toolbar, 4) Tool Palettes and 5) the Central working area. The Mediathek area is where you would select your image(s) from the folders displayed there or directly from your iPhoto, Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture libraries. PrinTao 8 currently supports 11 file formats, including .jpg, .tif, and .psd, but unfortunately you can’t print from RAW files, so you’ll have to convert RAW files to one of the supported file formats. There are several ways of selecting your image(s); the simplest is just to drag it from the Mediathek Preview area to the Central working area. From here you just need to make final layout and setting adjustments, if necessary, using the various tool in the Toolbar and Tool Palettes.
One of PrinTao 8’s coolest features is its ability to resize images to fit the selected paper or image template using a slider that provides a warning if the image resolution is going to be too small or too large to make an optimal print. So there’s no need to pre-size your images prior to printing them with PrinTao 8.
If you regularly print multiple images on a single sheet of paper, then the Templates section of the Tools Palettes is going to be a feature you’ll want to check out as it contains a number of pre-defined templates for laying out multiple images. If you can’t find the appropriate template then you can easily create and save custom templates. For photographers who provide their clients with packages of different sized images, the template feature alone is worth the price of the program.
There are lots of other neat and useful features in PrinTao 8 that I don’t have room to discuss in this review. I was really impressed with how simple it was to use PrinTao 8; the user interface is well designed and the workflow is a very straightforward, step-by-step process. The prints that I got from my test images were impressive, overall as good as the prints that I produced using my normal colour management workflow.
If you’re one of the many photographers who struggle with proper colour management and/or if you regularly print multiple images on a single piece of paper then PrinTao 8 is definitely worth checking out. You can download a demo version from the PrinTao 8 website (www.printao8.com). It’s easy to use, with a straightforward interface and workflow, while also very powerful, allowing you to concentrate on your images instead of having to worry about complicated colour management settings.
To win a PrinTao 8 software package, look for an announcement on our Facebook page on January 31, 2015! When you see the announcement, “like” the post and add your name for a chance to win. Draw will take place on February 14, 2015!
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To read more of Mark Degner’s reviews and other great how-to articles please pick up the Winter 2015 issue of OPC today, or subscribe!