Photographic Fine Art and Inkjet Printing Terminology

At the Colour Factory we have found that there is often confusion surrounding the terminology used to describe photographic and inkjet fine art printing processes as brand names have become commonplace.

Currently there are many printing alternatives and an abundance of print media, often with a variation of names. It is no wonder the artists may be unsure how to correctly request a specific process or what to call their medium of choice when it comes to cataloging or exhibiting.

The Colour Factory has put together a glossary of terms associated with these types of printing to provide some clarity amongst the confusion.

Projection printing (Analogue) – a method of exposing photographic paper by means of an enlarger. “Projecting the image” onto photographic paper.

Emulsion – light sensitive material which consists of a suspension of silver halides in gelatin.

Chromogenic – film or paper contains one, or in the case of colour, three layers of silver halide emulsion. Exposing this light sensitive emulsion coated paper or film generates a latent image. The image is then created via a chemical reaction when liquid chemical is introduced to the light affected silver bearing emulsion. Often referred to as a C Type print or Silver Gelatin, the chromogenic print is unique, created specifically by the photographic process, hence it cannot be used to describe ink jet.

Continuous tone – term applied to the photographic process.

Digital capture – the use of a digital camera to replace film (Be careful of your megapixel size to ensure you capture enough information to achieve your final print size).

Digital laser exposing enlarger – a means of exposing photographic material to create a chromogenic print. Often referred to as a “Light Jet” or “Lambda”. NB these are brand names and when requesting quality digital photographic prints the light source (“Light Laser”) is what you need to be aware of.

As opposed to…

Digital LED exposing enlarger – a means of exposing photographic material to create a chromogenic print. Brands such as Pegasus and Chromira use these light sources.

Light jet – is a brand name for a digital light laser photographic enlarger

Lambda – is a brand name for a digital light laser photographic enlarger

Pegasus – is a brand name for a digital LED photographic enlarger

Chromira – is a brand name for a digital LED photographic enlarger

Ink jet – is a printing process that uses liquid inks sprayed onto paper to create images. Sometimes referred to as Giclee

Giclee – (pronounced ‘zhee-clay’) is French for ‘to spray’ and is a registered trademark. Giclee prints are produced by ink jet printers. The term, however, offers no standard for quality or print longevity.

Pigment Ink – is used in combination with ink jet printers. The newest archival ink is made from 100% pigment, and offers the best combined longevity and color gamut. Pigment inks are not affected by color enhancement papers in the way that dye inks are. However, they are not very compatible with gloss.

Dye Ink – was first used in ink jet printing. They have a good range and accuracy of colour, however are less fade resistant than pigment ink.

RGB – The way that the colours are recorded in Digital imaging. A large percentage of the visible spectrum can be represented by mixing Red, Green and Blue coloured light in various proportions and intensities. All Digital cameras & scanners are RGB devices.

CMYK – A colour system based on the four colours used in printing: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and BlacK. CMYK is primarily used when preparing digital images that will be printed using the process colours by a printer or publisher on a four colour printing press.

Profiles – A mathematical formula made by taking readings of up to a thousand colour swatches generated by a computer. Readings of all squares are measured by means of a spectrophotometer and are returned to the computer which then compares the information. A mathematical correction formula is made and applied to print files to ensure a more correct result is achieved

Colour Space – A colour space is a means of uniquely specifying a colour. There are a number of colour spaces in common usage depending on the particular industry and/or application involved. Computers use RGB, the printing industry may use CMYK. Color spaces, along with device profiling, allow reproducible representations of color, in both analogue and digital representations

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