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CMYK and RGB Colors

Inkjet printers have come a long way in their ability to reproduce colors that rival the continuous-tone gradients produced by conventional film and darkroom methods. However, it's helpful to know that most inkjet printing is done with four basic colors, known as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) and that three basic colors, RGB (red, green and blue), are used to generate images seen on a computer screen.

This is why a finished photo print may not look quite the same on paper as it does on your monitor.

Other factors that affect print quality are the type of paper used and the fill-level of your ink cartridges. If one of your cartridge colors gets low your printer may continue to produce, but the results won't be the same as with full cartridges.

3 Colors in One Cartridge vs 3 Separate Cartridges

Also, some printers use cartridges that contain C, M, Y and K in one unit, which means if you print, say, lots of "blue sky" pictures you may run out of cyan way ahead of the other colors. But you still have to buy a whole new cartridge, even though you have plenty of yellow and magenta left. Other printers use separate cartridges for each color.

Cheap Paper Actually Better than Kodak's

As for paper, professional photographer Dennis Fugnetti says he only used Kodak during the decades he spent using film and darkroom techniques, but now buys Kirkland paper at Costco, which he says is better and cheaper than Kodak's best glossy paper for inkjet printing.

As for printers, the ones that produce only 4x6 prints have become very popular with those who prefer a traditional size print that fits comfortably into a traditional photo album. For those of us who enjoy editing our snapshots, a full size printer gives us many more options.

Editing Photos for Better Pictures & Cheaper Printing

For instance, if I get an action shot of a pooch snagging a Frisbee in mid-air, I prefer not to use a lot of ink printing the acres of lawn that may appear in the background. So I crop the picture to show just what I want, which may end up being a 3x4 instead of a 4x6. In addition to saving ink, a cropped picture can be uploaded and downloaded faster when emailed. In fact, some email systems have file-size limitations which can keep a larger photo from being sent or received.

By the way, it's not just a photo's print dimensions that determine its file size; the image format used in creating the picture is a huge factor, with "JPG" being the most popular. JPG file compression, however, has one down side — it is a "lossy" process, which means discarded information cannot be retrieved.

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