My apologies for going completely down-periscope for the last month. As I was wrapping up the previous podcast episode, I found out that Adobe had transitioned to a new API to build plugins for Photoshop, and I decided to look into creating a full-blown plugin to replace my Fine Art Border Scripts, which I literally knocked together on a Sunday after in 2013 as I needed something to automatically add the above center offset Fine Art Border that I use when printing, and it was relatively easy to do. The Fine Art Border scripts have sold pretty well over the years, but they were somewhat inflexible and required the user to edit the text file script if they needed to change the ratio of the vertical offset, or change the width of the border, etc.
A relatively tertiary look at the new API told me two things. The first was that I figured I would probably be able to write the code for the plugin that required the original script files to be manually edited, which would make the plugin much more intuitive, and the second thing I noticed was how incomplete the new API currently is. Mostly due to this second point, to complete the plugin to its current feature level, I literally had to spend every waking minute for the last month, and once again, drove my wife crazy as I got up early each day, and kept my laptop open until moments before we went to bed each night. Of course, you haven’t seen a podcast or blog post for the last month either, for which. once again, I apologize.
But, I am very happy with the results. There are a few things that I want to add in a near-future update, but I’ve ended up with a much more feature-rich replacement for my 2013 scripts, which I’ve called the MBP Fine Art Border Tools plugin for Adobe Photoshop, affectionately known in short form as FAB Tools. As I completed my preparation for this post, I received word from Adobe that the plugin has passed their review, so I am really excited about this. Over time, this post will become dated, so if you check this out much after June 2021, please check the Product Page here for the most up-to-date information. You can also subscribe to the Plugin Notifications list of my newsletter, and I’ll keep you updated when any new features of note are released.
Get FAB Tools!
You can check out the plugin on the Adobe Marketplace already, so click the logo below to check that out, but we’ll also continue on to take a look at the details of what FAB Tools does and show some usage scenarios. I’ll also create a video to walk you through this over the next few weeks, so please keep an eye out for that too.
The new plugin has three main modules. One for framing and resizing for the Web, and the second for print, both with the same visually pleasing vertical offset, but with the ability to change it to any value, moving the image both up or down in the frame. The third module is completely new, to enable the addition of a watermark or logo. Currently, this only accepts images, but I intend to add the ability to add a text-based watermark soon. There is a fourth Tools panel, but that’s to provide links to a few global features, like showing or hiding Tool Tips, or showing the custom formats before the mostly uneditable presets in the Print Frame module. There may be a few more panels in the coming months, but at the time of release, I’m very happy with the specific feature set that I’ve built, and I do hope you find it useful.
Web Frame and Resize
As you can see in this screenshot, the Web Frame module is relatively simple on the front end, with a few nice tweaks to help your workflow. The idea is to add a border, the width of which you specify with the Border (px) field. If you have a specific height and width that you would like to resize your image to, you can enter both values. If you enter either the Long Edge or Short Edge value and turn on Auto-Calculate Ratio, the plugin will calculate the edge that you didn’t enter automatically.
When you enter the Short Edge you’ll notice the Short Edge heading then becomes underlined, indicating that it has priority. To go back to Long Edge priority, simply enter the long edge value. If you’d like to frame your images inside a square, simply enter the Long Edge value to resize to, and turn on the Create Square Border checkbox. We’ll then create square borders and position your images inside.
The Top/Bottom Border Offset slider is where you move the image up or down in the frame. For centuries, fine artists have positioned their work slightly higher in a matte or frame to provide more pleasing visual balance. Moving your image up slightly also gives you room to sign or add a watermark to your work.
The Magic Formula
After a lot of research around 10 years ago, I came to the conclusion that a good balance for fine art prints was to calculate 10% of the height of the image and use that for all four borders while moving the image up by 3%. This gives 10% side borders, a 7% top border, and a 13% bottom border. In the Web Frame module, we convert these percentages to pixels, as you specify the border width in pixels, so moving the image up 3% in a 100-pixel border equates to 30 pixels. Just wiggle it around and hit the Apply button to see what you get though. The Revert button reverts all changes, so it’s easy to try different settings.
Depending on the ratio of your image, you may find that you get slightly larger borders on the top or sides when working to a specific media size. With the Web Frame module though, if you only use Long or Short Edge priority, FAB Tools will add the exact sized border on all four sides, offset to the amount specified. If you want completely equal borders, leave the offset slider at zero.
There are three more checkboxes to talk about before we move on. First, you can add a one-pixel outer border using the color selected as your secondary color in Photoshop. A mid-gray is a good choice. This just helps your images to stand out against a similar color background and will disappear against a darker background.
There is also a checkbox to automatically save and close the image after applying the border, and a final checkbox to add the watermark on completion, and we’ll look at Watermarking in more detail shortly.
Print Frame and Resize
The next module is for framing for Fine Art Prints. This is closest to my 2013 Border Scripts release, but now highly customizable right here in the user interface.
There are 28 presets which, to protect the integrity of the media formats, cannot be modified, other than the border size and vertical offset. If you change the border size it will automatically be saved for future use, but a Revert button will appear, to remind you that you’ve modified the preset and to revert to the preset 10% border if necessary.
In addition to the 28 media presets, there are ten customizable formats, based on popular media size and a few square frames. You can take these and make whatever you want. You can enter the Long Edge, Short Edge, Border width, all in millimeters, as well as a custom name for your format and a short description. Each of these fields is saved as you move away from the field, but if you want to reset this and start again, just select a saved custom format and hit the Revert button. The vertical offset you select is currently not saved as part of your custom format, but if you think it should be, let me know and I’ll consider changing that in a future update.
A completely new addition is the ability to add graphical watermarks with precision to pretty much any location on your image. Start by selecting one of the nine anchor points, including the four corners, center sides, and the center of the image. From there, you can nudge the watermark up to 100% of the image away from the anchor point.
If no image resize has been performed, you can only anchor the watermark in relation to the canvas, but once you have performed a resize, you can also select to anchor the watermark to the inside or the outside of the resized image within the frame.
You can currently only load one image, but once loaded, it will generally be stored until you change it. You can scale the image to a percentage of the width of your resized image, and change the opacity, which is useful if you are placing a watermark over the image area.
Once you’ve specified your settings, you are ready to apply your watermark. When you are happy with the placement, you can also turn on the checkbox in either of the resize modules to automatically apply the watermark after resizing. There’s no need to worry about the image orientation. We calculate the position based on your image size and orientation, so the watermark should be placed perfectly each time.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a fourth panel called Tools, where you can turn off Tooltips, and have the Custom Media show at the top of the Format pulldown on the Print Frame tab, and there are some other options, such as the ability to reset the settings and all of the Media modifications if necessary. There’s also a link to sign up for our Plugin Notifications, and a button to show the folder where the plugin settings are stored, so that you can, for example, back up all of your custom media or if you want to move your settings and media to a second computer that you own, you can do that with the files in the path that is displayed. Note too that although I’ve used the Dark theme plugin screenshots for this post, it fully supports the Light theme as well, and will automatically adjust the colors used based on your theme preferences.
Practical Use Scenarios
OK, so let’s look at a few practical use scenarios for the features and modules we’ve discussed. To be completely honest, one of the reasons I started to look into the new plugin technology, was because I had to modify one of my original 2013 scripts to enable me to easily reframe some of my recent microphotography work to upload to Instagram. Ironically that was also put on hold for the last month as I worked on the plugin, but I really wanted an easy way to add what I call the Fine Art Border to my images in preparation for web upload. I had originally planned to just add a completely square border, most suitable for Instagram, but that became a checkbox option in the final plugin. Here, for example, though, is a small gallery of images with square borders, which looks really neat on sites like Instagram that list images in a square format. It also helps with uploading very tall images, as they get cropped by Instagram, and that has always been a bugbear for me.
Notice how the border automatically calculates the necessary position of the image within the border, and moves the image up, in Fine Art Border style, according to my settings, although I actually used the default vertical offset and border width for these images, and just turned on the Create Square Border checkbox, so that they were all put neatly into the same sized squares. Also, note that once you are happy with the positioning of your watermark, you can simply open the images that you want to resize and turn on the Automatically save and close option, and if necessary the Add Watermark on completion checkbox, and the image will be resized, watermarked, saved, and closed when you hit the Apply button.
Unfortunately, at this point in time, Adobe does not include actions performed on these plugins to be recorded in Actions, so you do have to open all of your images and hit the Apply button for each of them, but with everything else being automatic, it’s not a painful process to go through even a few hundred images if necessary. Adobe is saying that recording in Actions is coming soon though, and I’ll ensure that this works as expected when that happens.
Of course, the plugin also handles the addition of a uniformly sized border, adjusted based on the size of the original image. Here is another gallery of web resized images, this time without the Create Square Border checkbox turned on. Note the square image and portrait orientation image in this gallery. Nothing had to be changed in the plugin to cater to these different sizes and aspect ratios. I just pressed Apply on each image until the end of the set. You’ll need to click on the first image to open it in the Lightbox before you can view the various aspect ratios properly.
You don’t have to add a watermark, of course, and generally, for Instagram, I don’t, but this should be a good illustration of the precision of positioning etc. It’s also great for mocking up prints for sale if you sell prints that are signed. Just scan your signature and save it as an image file, and you can associate that with the plugin in the Watermark module and it will be used until you change it.
The reason that I created my original Fine Art Border scripts back in 2013 was to prepare images for print with the Fine Art Border vertical offset already in place. If you print directly to the media size that you want as your final result, the border can generally be created by adjusting the border widths in your printing software, but getting the ratios the same each time you print can be challenging. I always used a spreadsheet with my calculated border sizes in it, and managed a large number of printing templates, and that can be avoided by running your image through this new plugin. If you are printing to the media size of your final print though, it’s best to uncheck the checkbox to add a 0.3mm stroke border around the outside edge of the image.
If however, you want to use the plugin to help you to save money carrying various media sizes, leave that border on, so that you can see where to trim after you’ve printed. The idea is that say for example you create prints for sale in say A4, 8 x 10 inches, A3, and 11 x 17 inches, but you don’t want to stock all of these sizes as sheet media in various finishes. Let’s imagine that you need an A4 and an 8 x 10 print and you have a 24-inch wide roll media printer. It takes just a few seconds to resize your images using my new plugin, then click on the Padlock of the background layer of one of the images in Photoshop to unlock it, then specify a canvas size small enough to print on your roll width. 24-inch rolls are 609.7 mm wide, so you can either specify say 600 mm, and print without any scaling, or if you know like I do that your printer requires a 3mm border on each edge, you could simply resize your first image canvas to 603.7 mm so that it will fit perfectly after deducting your printers minimum edge gap. Make the height something taller than the tallest print you need, say 220 mm in this example.
Because we unlocked the first image before resizing the canvas, the we can easily move the image in slightly, and then drop our 8 x 10-inch resized image onto the newly resized image, and position it to the side of the first image, as you see in this screenshot. If you print this at 220 mm high on 24-inch roll media, you’d have minimum waste and once trimmed, two perfectly sized prints.
Even if you don’t have a roll media printer, you can save on sheet media varieties in a similar way. Say you received an order for a print on A4 media, but you don’t have any A4 sheets available. You could resize and add the trimming stroke border, then print on something larger, like A3 media. Here is a screenshot of the Photoshop Print screen with a print resized to A4, about to be printed on A3 media. There’s a waste of media that we’d be trimming away, but it does save stocking lots of different sizes of sheet media. And of course, similarly, you could simply lay out two prints on the A3 page to minimize waste.
Note too that some programs have the ability to add additional trimming guides, such as the Corner Crop Marks that I turned on in Photoshop in the above screenshot. Also note that to ensure you print at the correct size, you’d need to turn off any scaling to fit the media. The images are currently saved in the original resolution or set to 300 PPI if the resolution isn’t set for any reason, but either way, it will be set so your resized images will be displayed at exactly the size you need if you print without any scaling turned on.
Click the MBP Fine Art Border Tools logo to jump to the Adobe Marketplace to pick up your FAB Tools!
OK, so that’s about it for this update. As I say, if you are interested in this plugin, and are checking out this post much after June 2021, please check the Product page for the latest information, and if you sign up for our Plugin Notifications newsletter and I’ll keep you in the loop. If you pick up a copy of the plugin and have any problems or suggestions, please do let me know via the support contact form.
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As I finally catch up on tasks after completing my 2020 Japan Winter Tours, I have just organized the images from the three trips and took stock a little, and being as so many of us are spending time indoors at the moment, I figured I’d share some thoughts on the process, in the hope that it might help you with your workflow too. Now might be a good time to enjoy your photography introspectively, and taking a look at your organization can lead to a deeper appreciation of your work as well as making it easier to get to.
If you’ve been following how I work, you may recall that I keep all of my current year’s images on one SSD drive, which includes everything I’ve shot, and then copy all of my final selects into a second SSD drive. My entire year drive is called my Traveler, because it not only travels the world, but it travels nicely between my computers too, as I also keep my Capture One Pro catalogs on the drive, so I can just catch up where I left off simply by moving the drive between my computers. I won’t go into as much detail as my previous posts, such as episode 466, so check out that post if this isn’t just a top-up for you.
My Finals drive also travels everywhere with me, but that is where I store everything that I feel is worth showing people, and images that I will actively use going forward. From this year’s trips, I ended up with 96 images from my Hokkaido Landscape Tour that I’m really happy with. 77 of them were shot with my EOS R and 19 of them shot with my Rolleiflex medium format twin lens reflex camera. From the first of my Japan Winter Wildlife tours, I came back with 270 images that I am really happy with, and from my second Japan Winter Wildlife tour, I found myself with 179 images. The main reason for the reduction on the second tour was the warm winter affecting the behavior of the sea eagles. Although we did still get some great shots, it wasn’t as productive as the first tour.
During my tours I try to show the group what I’ve been getting from time to time, to hopefully inspire them, but also to encourage them to share their own work, as that really helps us to inspire each other as we travel together. To facilitate this, and to help me speed up my workflow, I create a Smart Album at the start of each tour, that will automatically gather all images of two stars or higher during the dates of the tours, so as I go through my images each day and make my selections, they automatically appear in this Smart Album. Here is a screenshot of the settings, and although this is in Capture One Pro, you can do something very similar in Lightroom.
You can’t, unfortunately, select multiple Smart Albums at once, although you can create a new wider-ranging Smart Album, but I’ve just selected the albums individually and right-clicked the images in each album, and selected Export > Originals to copy them to a 2020 sub-folder on my Finals SSD. I usually specify to Prefer Sidecar XMP over Embedded Metadata in the Capture One Pro Preferences > Image dialog, as well as selecting Full Sync for the Auto Sync Sidecar XMP option. This, coupled with selecting the Include Adjustments checkbox during the Export of my Originals ensures that Capture One Pro includes all of the edits I’ve done to my images.
Capture One creates a few extra folders in the export directory to include some cache and settings files, including masks that I’ve drawn on images to make adjustments etc. When I open my Finals catalog, because this is the first time I’m copying images across for 2020, I initially have to Import my images at their current location, selecting the 2020 folder that was just created in my Finals folder on my Finals SSD. The important thing here is to ensure that the Include Existing Adjustments checkbox is turned on under the Adjustments section.
You can’t actually see the adjustments in your images in the import dialog, but once you have completed the import, all adjustments will be applied to the images and so we don’t have to redo any work that we did on the images on the original drive.
I actually recalled that I’d shot a few movie files while traveling as well, and so went back into my Traveler catalog to copy those over, and that reminded me that if you do have movies in your selection, you need to turn on the Include Movies option in the Export dialog, otherwise these will be ignored. I hadn’t even rated my movie files yet, so there were not included in my Smart Albums anyway, but that is something to keep in mind if you do shoot movies and use Capture One Pro.
That did give me the opportunity though to show you how updates are handled for the rest of the year, as I now have a 2020 folder in my Finals catalog, so all I have to do after copying any new work across is right-click my 2020 folder and select Synchronize. I find that it works better to select Show Importer on this dialog, as some changes to files have not been reflected when I haven’t done this in the past, although I haven’t checked recently to see if that is still a problem.
Once this process is complete, the beauty of my workflow is that I now have all of the current year’s work on one SSD, and I keep that with me at all times, until my cloud backup is completed, and we’ll touch on that shortly. In addition to the current year though, I also have one more drive that essentially has every image I’ve ever shot that I consider being worth a hoot. So with more than twenty years of my favorite shots in one catalog, I can get to images easily to send to people, for example, even if I’m traveling, or to use in demonstrations during my workshops or talks.
Brief Summary of Backup Process
As we came so close to this during the last paragraph, I’ve updated my Studio Backup workflow slide and included that here for your reference. To summarize, I shoot my images and initially store them in my Traveler SSD, and although it’s not on this slide, if I’m actually away from home, I do daily backups to a second drive, just in case anything happens to the first. I will then keep the Traveler in my pocket or a locker for the entire time.
When I get home from a trip, I plug the Traveler into my iMac Pro, and that kicks off a Chronosynch job I’ve created to synchronize my new images and updated Capture One Pro catalog to my Drobo. On my iMac I’m running Backblaze which then starts to transfer my new images and catalog into the cloud. This can take a while, and I have to choke the upload speed a little so as not to get my Internet connection crippled by my stingy provider, but even after a wildlife trip with thousands of images, within a few weeks of getting home my new work will be backed up in the cloud.
Being slightly paranoid, I actually have a second Drobo which I turn on occasionally and run another Chronosynch job to synchronize my first Drobo with my second. This is just to save me waiting for a cloud backup to be delivered from Backblaze should I ever have anything go wrong with my Drobo. The cloud backup is really my ultimate disaster recovery plan, should something happen to my entire house, taking out both Drobos. My entire back is currently around 17TB though, so downloading it over the Internet is not really an option. I’d have to pay for physical drives to be sent out to me.
I also backup my Finals SSD to the Drobo, including the Finals Capture One Pro catalog, as I make most of my final tweaks on there, and it also contains lots of Collections for things that I’ve done over the years, including my yearly Top Ten selections, which I love to go back through from time to time. I also use it to create temporary collections like this Want to Print collection.
Printing Our Work
I’m not sure if I’ll have time to do this during the coming week, but I was thinking that I’d love to print some of the medium format work that I did during my Hokkaido Landscape tour in January. so I’ve just dropped twelve images into a Want to Print album. I might tweak the selection too, but there is something about the tactility of the format that makes me want to print at least a selection of images. I found it so interesting and calming to work with film after almost twenty years and also developing the film myself using the Lab-Box. There is something about deciding how to complete this analog work in the digital darkroom though that has me thinking a little harder than I have so far when printing digital work, so I’ll try to nail that down and talk about it once I’ve come to some conclusions.
Whether you shoot film or digital though, printing can be incredibly fulfilling, so I wanted to suggest that if you are staying safe and healthy during these times of crisis, and find yourself with some time at home to enjoy your photography, printing can be a great way to do that. It might be hard to source a new printer at the moment, but even if you have an inexpensive A4 inkjet printer hanging around, the results can be surprisingly good, so maybe give it a try.
Today I’m really happy to be able to bring you a conversation with Jack Durner, the artist behind some beautiful abstract photography that I had the pleasure of printing recently. Jack commissioned me to print 12 large prints which we decided to create on Breathing Color’s Silverada Metallic Canvas and stretched with 1.75″ deep stretcher bars.
I realized as soon as I saw Jack’s work that I had to interview him for the podcast, so I grabbed a few photos of Jack with his work as we prepared the prints. His first four prints were 20 x 30-inch gallery wraps created on a one-to-one Pixels to Pigment workshop weekend, as Jack wanted to learn more about color management and the printing process.
We then did another few hour session to create the fifth 20 x 30-inch gallery wrap to complete this set of five, and then around 10 days ago, Jack came back for two more days to create seven more prints, all very wide or very tall, the tallest of which being 60-inches. I’ll add a gallery of images from these sessions below.
As the interview was not scripted as such, I won’t share a transcript, but here is a brief outline of the questions that I asked Jack during our conversation.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get into photography?
What brought you to Japan?
Tell us about the images that we’ve just made all of your large format prints of. What led to you making your first image in that style?
Talk a little about the process in Photoshop. What sort of things do you do to your images?
Do you have any advice for people that are still searching for their own photographic style?
How much time does each image take approximately?
Where can people go to see your work? Exhibitions, web site? (Details below…)
Before and After Images
Here are two sets of before/after images to show you the transformation that takes place as Jack applies his magic to the base images. Click on the images to open them in the light box.
Making the Prints
And here is a series of images from our second final session to make the seven larger prints. Again, click on a thumbnail to open the images in the light box.
Note that at around 8:40 where Jack couldn’t recall the name of a Photoshop element, it was a Smart Object. He recalled this literally the moment I pressed the stop button on the recording.
A number of times during our conversation we mentioned a photographer named Brian Wood-Koiwa, and you can see his work on his website and Instagram.
Details of the Shibamata Art World exhibit that Jack mentioned can be seen here.
This week I was lucky enough to be able to take a look at Breathing Color’s new media Belgian Linen, and today I’m going to relay my findings, as well as a cool way to create a home-made panel to show this beautiful media off.
Let’s start with a little bit of background about my tests though, which starts, as it always does when I introduce a new media type, with the creation of my ICC profiles. I won’t go into details on this, but I always create my own ICC profiles, because that always gives the best possible results when printing. Having given the 24 x 11-inch test target an hour or so to fully dry, enabling the colors to stabilize, I scanned the 2380 color patches using my X-Rite i1 Photo Pro 2 spectrometer, which you can see under the Color Management section of my B&H Photo Gear page.
Then, to avoid the color issues with the Canon ImagePROGRAF PRO-4000 large format printer, I associated the newly created ICC profile with the Media Type that I registered with the printer, as this is my preferred method to get great color out of this printer. I explained the problem and how to work around it in Episode 573 so check that out if you are interested.
I have created so many color test patch sheets over the years, that I’m pretty much able to see how good a media is from the patch sheet, and I was already getting excited as I saw the patch sheet emerge from the printer. Even just looking at the contrast between the raw linen color on the back of the media compared to the white printable side had me giggling like a teenager.
Before we go on, let’s take a look at some of the Breathing Color information on this beautiful new media. From their website, we can see that Belgian Linen™ is a unique European textile which is woven in Belgium by members of the Masters of Linen Club. It has been prized for thousands of years for the high quality, softness, and durability it offers. It naturally has a rich color absorption and is lint-free and hypoallergenic.
Breathing Color combines this remarkable material with their advanced ink receptive coating technology, resulting in the highest-quality inkjet textile available on the market. They also provide the following bullet points of information…
Archival Certified: OBA free and 100+ years certified archival by the Fine Art Trade Guild (view certificate)
HD Image Quality: We’ve used our most advanced inkjet coating technology yet to make your prints on Belgian Linen look their sharpest and have deep, rich colors and blacks.
Strong and Durable: Linen is 30% stronger than cotton, making it the perfect textile for printing gallery wraps or rolled prints.
Sustainably-Made: The flax seed used to make Belgian Linen are grown from one of the most ecological fibers in the world
Revered by the Old Masters: Belgian Linen™ has been used for centuries by famous artists such as Dali, Whistler, Monet, and more!
18 mil Thickness 425 gsm Weight: This luxury linen textile is thick and heavy weight. It feels substantial and expensive in your hands.
So, we know thanks to Seth Godin that all marketers are liars, but in this case, I can attest that everything the Breathing Color team says about this media is 100% true.
Let’s continue and take a look at a screenshot made with ColorThink Pro to compare my new Belgian Linen profile with two others. The Belgian Linen is the semi-transparent color-filled profile, and I have compared it firstly, to the Breathing Color media that I have so far felt to be the best matte media I’ve ever used, which is their Signa Smooth. I thought that Signa had a wide gamut for a matte media, but as you can see, it fits nicely inside the Belgian Linen profile, which is a good 10% or so larger, and that’s a big difference for a matte media.
In Wire-Frame, I’ve actually included Breathing Color’s Vibrance Gloss, to show you that gloss media is generally going to give a wider gamut, and you can see by how low the wire frame goes, that the darkest black that Vibrance Gloss will provide is much darker than its matte cousins, but for matte media, the other two are still very, very respectable.
I know that these charts aren’t easy to glean a lot from when you have to view a static screenshot, but to hopefully help some, here is a different angle, again with an arrow pointing to each of the profile representations.
So, we can see from these 3D representations that Breathing Color’s new Belgian Linen is very capable with regards to the color gamut, but let’s take a look at a straight print that I made before we jump into the details of the home-made panel that I’m going to walk you through today.
Feel the History
Although Belgian Linen is a canvas, I think it’s texture is so beautiful as it is, that it doesn’t necessarily need to be wrapped like a regular canvas print, although, of course, it would be beautiful as a gallery wrap as well. I selected a photo from this year’s Complete Namibia Tour because I figured it’s rugged and worn look would suit the Linen. I printed it out using my fine art print border ratios at a size of 18 x 24 inches, because this is the size that I generally print at when printing for myself, and I keep them in an 18 x 24-inch binder.
It’s hard to see in this image, but the quality of this print when you hold it in your hand is absolutely unreal. Belgian Linen is very flexible and relatively forgiving with regards to handling, yet it has a weight that almost helps to recall the history of this media, and the artists that have laid their brushes down on this canvas.
A Closer Look
It isn’t very easy to see, but here is a 100% crop from near the center of a photograph of this print at an angle. Hopefully, though you’ll be able to see the almost painterly feel that the texture of the Linen adds to the photograph. Of course, the photo I selected has a painterly feel too, but I think they really compliment each other.
When you consider that Belgian Linen is $180 for just 20 feet on a 24″ roll, compared to $138 for 40 feet of Lyve, Breathing Colors other matte canvas, you almost automatically take more time over deciding what you want to print on it. Of course, if you are going to use this canvas for customer prints, you’re going to have to price them accordingly, but the appeal of this media should make it an easy sell, especially if you are able to meet face to face with your client and show them samples.
OK, so let’s move on and talk a little now about the home-made panel that we’re going to make and then print for. I first introduced this method of presenting prints five years ago in one of my columns in the Craft & Vision PHOTOGRAPH magazine. I actually prepared a second panel back then, so I am going to use some of the photographs of the process from 2014, so forgive me if the look of the images varies a little.
To me, printing is a wonderful way to complete our photographs. As I mentioned earlier, I have an 18 x 24-inch binder that is full of prints that I simply make just for fun. I generally use a printing afternoon as a way to wind-down. It’s almost like a way to give myself a little bonus, as I love the entire process, and the thrill of holding a tactile print in my hands never gets old. I think it gives us a way to be more intimate with our work than we can be by only ever viewing it on a computer or TV screen.
As an extension of this, I developed this relatively simple yet effective form of presentation that although takes a number of days to create as you wait for things to dry, feels very fulfilling to finally hang on the wall when you are done. I should mention though that this method is probably best kept for personal use unless you can source a panel that is made of archival material. I did not, as we’ll hear.
Required Materials and Tools
So, the main component of our presentation piece is the panel itself. I bought a piece of 600 x 450 x 5.5 mm MDF board at the local DIY store for $3 and had a guy at the store cut it down to 600 x 400 mm with their band saw. I don’t have a lot of DIY tools, so this was easier and most accurate.
I also bought a length of 24 x 40 mm pine, long enough to cut two 40 cm bars and two 25 cm bars from. This cost $8. A bottle of strong wood glue cost $4, and the brackets to attach the string to the back to hang the panel cost $2. You will also need some archival glue to actually stick your print or canvas to the panel, which you can get from Breathing Color or University Products for around $8. You won’t use up all of the adhesive on one panel, so we’re probably looking at around $15 cost for the materials, and then the price of your print media and ink, which my printer’s Accounting module tells me was around $30.
Tools required will vary and you can perhaps improve on some of these, but you’ll basically need a saw, a miter cutting block and clamp to hold your wood in place when you cut it to 45 degrees. You’ll also need a good sharp cutter, a cutting mat or surface that you don’t mind marking, and a steel rule. It’s best to avoid using a plastic rule for trimming as the blade of your cutter can ride up the rule into your fingers, which always best avoided. I also used a $10 band clamp to hold the back frame together for 24 hours as it dried, but you could improvise if you don’t have one of these. You’ll also need a screwdriver and pencil, and I think we’re ready to go.
Deciding Your Panel Size
I chose 600 x 400 mm for my panel size, because I wanted to display a standard cropped image. Most DSLR cameras create 3:2 aspect ratio images, so I was able to buy my materials before I decided on an image to print. If you have a specific photo in mind, and you have cropped it away from the standard 3:2 aspect ratio, you’ll need to check the proportions and buy your panel accordingly.
For example, you might have cropped to a 16:9 ratio. In this case, if you wanted to create a 600mm wide panel, the height would need to be 337 mm. For a totally arbitrarily cropped image, you could use the pixels to calculate your panel size. For example, say your base image is 4882 x 3624 pixels, you could divide 4882 by 3624 to get your aspect ratio, which is 1:1.347, and again using the 600mm width, divide 600 by 1.347 for a panel height of 445 mm.
Of course, you also need to ensure that you can actually make a print large enough for your panel. As you’ll need at least an inch wrapped around the back of the panel, you probably need to deduct two inches or 50 mm from your paper size to ensure that you can actually print your image.
Build the Panel
So that the panel will stand away from the wall, we’re going to build a frame to attach to the back of our panel. Use a miter cutting block to first cut off the end of your wood at 45 degrees.
Then measure from the outside edge to where you’ll need to cut your first frame bar. For my panel, I cut the long bars at 400 mm and the short bars at 250 mm.
Once you have your four bars cut, match them together to get the best fit, and apply your wood adhesive to the ends where the bars need to be fixed together, and then clamp them together. I use a $10 band clamp for this, which works very well, but you might be able to use other clamps, or maybe even screw this frame together. Ensure that if use adhesive you check how long you need to keep the wood clamped together. My adhesive was good to work the wood in one hour, but requires 24 hours to fully set.
I then aligned the frame on the back of the panel, and measured the distance from all four edges until I had it in the center, then marked around the inside of the frame with a pencil, then applied adhesive to the frame, and lowered carefully it into place, aligning it with the pencil marks.
Then we get to reap an often-overlooked benefit of being a photographer, and use some of our collection of oversized books to apply pressure to the frame as it dries for a further 24 hours.
I then use some small, hinged brackets from the framing store to attach some string to the back of the frame so that I can hang it on the wall. Now we’re ready to move on to the printing.
Prepare to Print – Adding Borders
The edges of our panel have some depth, so we have to decide if we are going to print the image a little larger, and lose the edges of our image, or to avoid effectively cropping the image on the face of the panel, we can extend the image out, as we often do when creating a gallery wrap.
For this, I use ON1 Software’s Perfect Resize. You can launch Perfect Resize from within Capture One Pro, Photoshop or Lightroom etc, or simply export a PSD or TIFF file and open it in standalone Perfect Resize. As canvas can shrink a little when when we apply glue later, I need to add about 4mm to the width, so I enter 604 mm in the width field and because I have Constrain Proportions turned on, Perfect Resize automatically calculates my image height.
In the Settings panel, I set the Image Type to General Purpose and Method to Genuine Fractals, and use the default settings. I reduced the amount of Sharpening that Perfect Resize would usually apply, as I generally sharpen a little when printing, You can view the image at 100% to check the effects, but I generally find that Unsharp Mask gives me the best results as the sharpening method. If you are upsizing an image a lot the Progressive sharpening method can be better, but again, it’s best to check at 100% as you make these changes.
I use the Gallery Wrap settings to mirror the edges of my image out to form the sides of my panel, and because the board is 5.5 mm deep, I need to reflect my image out by at least that much. I actually choose 2 cm here, so that the image wraps around the back of our panel a little. If you don’t have Perfect Resize you can use any photo editing software to extend the canvas size, then transform the edges out to create a similar effect.
Remember to add whatever border size you created when you print. I added 4 mm on the width and 2.6 mm to the height of my image to allow for shrinkage, and another 2cm border for the edges of the panel and a little on the back of my panel, so have to add a total 44 mm to the width of my print, which is the height in this screenshot, because the print is rotated for printing.
As you can see, I created a custom page size in the Canon PRO-4000 printer drivers that is 609.6 mm wide, which is 24 inches, to match the roll width. I then specified the height of the page as 684 mm. To recap, my panel is 600 mm wide, and I added a 2 cm reflected border in Perfect Resize, and I told Perfect Resize to add a further 4 mm to allow for the canvas shrinking when we put glue on it. So that’s 600 + (20 x 2) + 4, for 644 mm. Because there is plenty of leeway on the 24-inch roll, we don’t really have to worry about the sides. Note too that I have my new ICC Profile selected and the Rendering Intent set to Perceptual. Most of the time for photographic prints, Perceptual will be what you need to select, although there are exceptions.
Before we continue creating our panel, here is a photo of the printed face of the Belgian Linen canvas, so that you can see the texture again. I’ve also laid a piece of the canvas over the print, so that you can see what it looks like on the back. You can actually buy Belgian Linen Natural from Breathing Color, which I might try at some point, but the print side also looks like the back of canvas that you see here, so it would give interesting results for sure.
I usually like to give the print a day to fully dry. Once It’s dry, I trimmed the canvas so that there was a border of exactly 2 cm on all four sides. The next part is a little bit tricky, and I actually tried experimenting with a different method this week, but I prefer my earlier method, so I’ll show you the photo from my original article. Note that the back of the Belgian Linen does not look like this. It’s the brown stuff that we just looked at. The point here though, is that I measure in 4 cm from the corners of my trimmed print, then cut the corner off at approximately 45 degrees, and then cut out a notch of 5.5mm, which is the thickness of my panel. This allows us to fold the canvas up around the panel and then brings the flaps nicely into the corners where they meet.
I actually tried cutting after I’d applied the glue this time around, and as you’ll see shortly, it was a bit messy. The canvas wet with glue is difficult to cut, so the above method definitely works better for me.
The Sticky Bit
To stick the canvas or paper to your panel, you could use 3M spray adhesive, probably number 111 if you are printing on canvas, as 111 is good for wood and cloth, or check for compatibility of the two surfaces if you are using other materials. Although the archival qualities of your panel will depend on your media as well as the board material, because Belgian Linen is archival certified, I used archival glue from University Products, but as I say, my wooden board is probably not archival, although the print that I made five years ago has not faded or discolored at all, so I figured I’d just go ahead and use archival glue again. I also use a toothed spatula from a DIY store to spread the glue.
Having squeezed plenty of glue onto the face of the panel, I then scraped it out with the toothed spatula, as you can see here.
Ensure that your work surface is clean, but also keep in mind that you are going to get glue on it, so you may want to lay down some paper or something to protect your surface. Then place your panel on the back of the print, and align the corners with the notches that we made on each corner. Apply some pressure over the entire panel to ensure that it is stuck, and continuously check that the panel doesn’t slide around on the print, taking the corners out of alignment. After a few minutes, the adhesive will dry enough to stop the print from moving, and then you can apply your adhesive to the edges of the print. Again, this is a photo from my original article because I didn’t like the result with the experimental method I tried this week.
Once you have glue on each of the flaps fold them up and over the back of the panel, and keep stretching and rubbing the back edges, with a dry rag if necessary, until it’s fully adhered to the back of the panel.
This is what the back of my new panel looks like, and as you can see, the corners are not very nice to look at. Although this is fine for a print for myself, if this was a product for a client, I’d have scrapped it and started again, considering my experiment a failure.
Another thing that I learned this time around, is that if you pull the side flaps up too tightly, the thread of the canvas can get ruptured slightly. This might also be caused by the fact that my panel board has very sharp corners. Gallery wrap stretcher bars are usually slightly rounded to avoid this. Here’s a photo of my second lesson learned though, so that you can see what I mean.
Here too is a photo of my new panel hung in the entrance to our Tokyo apartment. I really like the simplicity of this kind of presentation. At approximately $45 including the print on Breathing Color’s Belgian Linen canvas, I feel that it’s worth a bit of time to put together, but it’s a labor of love. Or perhaps just my way to staying intimate with my art. I get great satisfaction from the act of completion with a project like this. If you also like tinkering around in addition to your printing addiction, maybe you can also give this a try.
I know I took this article away from a straight forward review of Breathing Color’s new Belgian Linen, but I hope you found it useful. I would like to finish by reiterating how beautiful I think this new media is. It’s expensive, and probably not going to be for every day use, but when utmost quality is necessary, Belgian Linen is it.
You can pick up both the white-coated Belgian Linen and Belgian Linen Natural from Breathing Color here.
Let’s finish with a word about print rotation. As I am not allowed to hang my prints anywhere in our apartment outside of my studio without my wife’s permission, we decided on this photograph together. Although I was disappointed that I didn’t get a flamingo head poking up into the sun on this year’s Complete Namibia Tour, I still really like the warmth and atmosphere of this photo, and it became a firm favorite of my wife’s too as soon as I got home.
There is only so much wall space, and we try not to fill all of our walls with prints anyway, so we have started to rotate prints a little according to the season. Being Japanese, my wife appreciates art differently according to the season, and that is rubbing off on me a little too, so we have fun with this.
For example, the panel that we’ve had here for the last five years is the original one that I made for the Craft & Vision PHOTOGRAPH magazine article. For that print, I used my photo of a church on the mountainside near Vik in Iceland. To us, that photo really suits the summer months, mostly because in Japan people rarely control the temperature outside of the main living space, so this entrance area gets really hot, and the cool feel of Iceland helps to balance that out.
Conversely, as we enter Autumn now, and the temperature has finally started to fall a little, we were looking for something that kind of felt warm, but not hot. My wife feels that the similarity between the end of the day signified by the setting sun in this new print feels similar to how Autumn is like the end of the heat of summer, although not as sad as the winter. Winter actually is different again. Similarly, because this entrance area is not heated either, it’s freezing cold in here during the winter, so we won’t hang a print of a winter scene, despite me having thousands of them. We’ll probably either keep the warmth of this print, or look for something that conversely warms us up, to counter the winter cold.
Either way, we have fun thinking of which art to hang based on the location of the print and the season. Do your tastes change by season, or do you take things like this into consideration as well when deciding what to hang on your walls? Let us know in the comments below. I’d love to hear how you approach this subject.
One of my biggest concerns about switching to the Canon EOS R mirrorless camera from my 5Ds R was the reduction in resolution, and how this might affect my large format prints, and I know I’m not alone in this, so I ran some tests, to see if the EOS R could keep up with his big brother.
As I mentioned in my review of the EOS R back in February 2019, during my Japan Winter Landscape tour I shot a pair of images of exactly the same scene, one with my EOS R and one with my EOS 5Ds R, so that I could evaluate various aspects of these images. I was very pleased to see that there seemed to be a stronger core of sharpness in the 30-megapixel EOS R images, compared to images from the higher resolution 50-megapixel counterpart, the EOS 5Ds R.
Because of the outstanding image quality, I went on to photograph the rest of my landscape tour and both of my wildlife tours almost exclusively with the EOS R body, only reaching for the 5Ds R when I needed to use two bodies at the same time. I still love the 5Ds R camera, but the EOS R has a much wider coverage of focus points as well as other important features, it’s more fun to shoot with, and the lower weight is a welcome bonus.
The thing that I was still not sure about though, is what we’re going to look into today. How do the EOS R images stand up to being printed large? One of the major benefits of the 5Ds R is that those beautiful large 50-megapixel images can be printed really big without the need to upsize them using a third party product like onOne Softwares Perfect Resize.
Large prints have played a big part in my business, and there have been some jobs that I’ve done over the last few years that I thought would not have been possible without 50-megapixel files, so it’s really important for me to know the limits of the 30-megapixel EOS R images. I have to add that I do not know how much of my findings would be relevant for a system such as the EOS 5D Mark IV, which has the same sensor, but does not use the new RF lenses, and I think it’s the RF mount that has more bearing on my findings than the megapixels, as I’ll explain.
In my tests, my main objective was to compare the EOS R images with the higher resolution EOS 5Ds R images to evaluate mainly the sharpness. The two photographs were shot within a minute or so of each other, using the same tripod, with the same settings. Due to variances in either the camera or the brackets and plates I used to attach them to my tripod, the EOS R image is slightly rotated clockwise compared to the 5Ds R image, and perhaps due to a change in the light between shots, or more likely just differences in how each camera processes its images, I also had to process them slightly differently, mainly with the Levels slider, and even then, the 5Ds R image doesn”t have as deep blacks as the EOS R image, but these things don’t really affect my tests.
I based my tests on three print sizes that I make a lot, both for personal purposes and to sell or display. I started by printing the entire image, without any cropping, at 18 x 24 inches. This is my regular test print size, and I apply my Fine Art Borders, meaning that the actual print area is 20.4 inches wide. This means if your largest print size is 13 x 19 inches, this first pair of prints are slightly larger than what you’d get printing borderless.
Here is a photo of each print, just laid on a table in my studio, with each side weighed down with a steel rule, to keep them relatively flat. I’ve uploaded these at relatively high resolution, so click on them to view the larger image to appreciate the detail. Or subscribe to our MBP Pro membership, and download the eBook for this post, to see the highest resolution images. You can probably tell even from these images, that the print from the EOS R image is actually slightly sharper than the 5Ds R image.
I made all of the prints directly from Capture One Pro, as that’s how I do most of my printing. Here is a screenshot of my settings for your reference. As you can see I have the Sharpening slider set to 25. This is the generic setting and unless I’m printing a soft image that needs some help, I just always leave that at 25. The resolution is set to 600 ppi automatically when I select the Highest resolution in the print drivers, even if I start off with Auto selected in the Resolution pulldown.
You can also see the width of the cell that holds the image is set to 20.4 inches, as I mentioned earlier. I’m printing with my own ICC profiles on Breathing Color’s Signa Smooth 270 fine art matte media. Matte is generally not as sharp a media as gloss, but it’s what I prefer to print on, and in my opinion, the better way to evaluate a print from a fine art perspective, and that is always my ultimate objective.
From the pixel width of my base images, we can calculate how much native resolution each image has. The EOS R records images at 6720 pixels wide, which means at 300 ppi (Pixels Per Inch) we could natively print the image up to 22.4 inches wide. At 20.4 inches wide, our base resolution that we are working with is 329 ppi. I generally set my printer to the highest resolution it will work with, but I’m looking for 200 ppi or more when possible in my base image.
The EOS 5Ds R creates images that are 8688 pixels wide, which we can calculate gives us images up to 28.96 inches at 300 ppi, and at 20.4 inches, the size of this print, we have 426 ppi, so that’s very respectable. But, the quality of the EOS R image is so much better, that the print from the smaller image is actually sharper. I had pretty much expected this based on visually comparing the base images, but it was nice to see this come through in the print.
24 x 36 Inch Prints
The next size that I make a lot of prints at is 24 x 36 Inches. Again, using my fine art borders, the actual width of the printed area for this size print would usually be 32.6 inches. To save paper, instead of making two 24 x 36-inch prints, I printed them out at 36 x 10 inches, so that I could just check the sharpness of the central band of my images.
Here is a photograph of the twigs to the right of that central large tree, for each print. On the left is the EOS R image print and the right is the 5Ds R print. As you can see, even in a 36-inch fine art print, the EOS R is slightly sharper, and this is without any additional processing. The settings are the same as I shared above, but the page size has been changed. The Sharpness slider remained at 25 for both of these prints.
Resolution-wise, we can calculate that the EOS R image at 32.6 inches wide would have been printed at a resolution of 206 ppi, whereas the 5Ds R would have 266 ppi at this print size. Of course, Capture One Pro is doing some processing, because it’s pushing the images to the printer at 600 ppi, but that is all happening behind the scenes, and with the same processing being applied to both images. Note too that I shot these images of my prints handheld on an overcast afternoon at f/4 and an ISO of 1600. Just keep that in mind as you look at the images.
44 x 62 Inch Print Test
The next test I wanted to do was to see how the EOS R would hold up to my largest generic print size, which is 44 x 62 inches. This is the largest print I can make on my Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 printer of non-panoramic, native 3:2 aspect ratio images. With my borders, the actual printed area width is 55.8 inches. I really didn’t want to make two prints of this size just to check the sharpness, so I did a bit of math to figure out how to do this still printing on 36-inch roll media.
32.6-inches is 58.4% of 55.8-inches, so if we resize our images to 58.4% of 32.6-inches which is 19.05-inches and print them at 32.6-inches, we are essentially printing at the same resolution than we would be if were printing the uncropped image at on the full target size of 55.8-inches.
Here’s a screenshot of the resize process for the EOS R image. As you can see I set the resolution to 206 ppi, which I calculated by dividing the pixel width of my EOS R image 6720 by 829.1 mm which is 32.6 inches.
Without setting the Resolution the crop size readout is inaccurate, so the recipe resolution is important. Once set, I just resized the image to 19.05 inches, and we’re ready to print. For the 5Ds R image, I did exactly the same but with the resolution set to 266 instead of 206 to compensate for the higher resolution of the base image.
I’m pretty sure this math is good, but let me know if you think otherwise. There may be a better or easier way to do this, but for someone that came bottom of the class in math, if the result is accurate, I don’t care how I get there.
From the new sizes, we can also calculate that the base resolution of each image for this largest size print is now 120 ppi for the EOS R file and 156 ppi for the 5Ds R file. In the past, I wouldn’t dream of printing something that drops below 150 ppi, but as you are about to see, the EOS R makes that possible.
Here are my two prints from the cropped images. These are the same resolution that I would have got if I had printed the un-cropped images at 55.8-inches wide. By the time I got this far in my testing, it was too dark to shoot my prints by window-light, so these final images are shot using a ProPhoto studio strobe in a softbox, from camera-right.
Here again is a pair of images for comparison, with the EOS R image on the left, and the 5Ds R image on the right. Once again, I think you’ll agree that even when pushed to the size of a 44 x 62-Inch print with borders, the EOS R has a slight edge.
As I mentioned a moment ago, once the base resolution of the image I’m printing drops below around 150 ppi, I have always pretty much automatically reached for ON1 Software’s Perfect Resize, and upsized my image to ensure that I get a nice crisp print, so I tried one last test, upsizing the EOS R image to 300 ppi, and I made one last test print, that you can see here. The quality does improve slightly, so for a print of this size, I will probably still upsize the image in Perfect Resize.
Let’s keep in mind that we are looking at photos here that are essentially mimicking the photographer’s habit of putting our nose to the print to see if it’s sharp. From a regular viewing distance, you really cannot tell the difference between the upsized version and the native resolution print.
Let’s do one final comparison here, with a before/after slider. This is the 55.8-inch print that was not upsized, on the left, and the Upsized 55.8-inch print on the right. I think you’ll agree that upsizing helps to improve the image quality, but even without it, I am surprised that the EOS R with 30-megapixels, can be printed without upsizing and still be this good.
Of course, there are still benefits to having more megapixels. Even bigger prints will still benefit from more pixels, but based on what I’ve found today, this doesn’t concern me as much as it did, with the technology we now have in Canon’s new mirrorless camera, and its accompanying RF lenses.
The other thing is the ability to crop. Sometimes I make a decision to crop an image to get the framing I want, and although I don’t like doing that, when you have 50 megapixels, you can crop away a chunk and still have plenty to play with.
So, I’m still looking forward to the rumored 5Ds R Mark II that will likely also be mirrorless, and at least higher resolution than 50-megapixels. As long as the ISO performance remains good and the frame-rate respectable, I’ll be all over that. I am now much happier that I have already shot 16,000 images with my EOS R this year, and having now sold both of my 5Ds R bodies and bought a second EOS R for my upcoming Namibia Tour, I feel much more confident that my images can be used for pretty much anything I can currently create.
Before we start to wrap this up, I should also mention that I am not using the Dual Pixel Raw feature on my EOS R. It not only imposes a number of restrictions on your shooting, but you also have to use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software to develop the resulting images, and neither of these things i acceptable to me, so I won’t be using it.
My findings today have far surpassed my expectations and knowing the sort of results I used to get from my 22–megapixel images, I believe the quality that I am seeing in the EOS R images is more attributed to the new architecture of the Canon RF Mount and mirrorless camera system.
The lenses are newer and more advanced, and the back of the lens is much closer to the sensor. With the EF System the lens was 44 mm from the sensor, compared to just 20 mm with the RF System. This must be preventing the light from spreading out as much before it is recorded by the sensor. I haven’t found anything from Canon to support this, but I did find a white paper on the RF system that attributes the shorter distance to improved image quality.
Now, positioning of large diameter lens elements much closer to the image sensor (especially the full frame sensor) would support an important enhancement of image quality.
I started these tests hoping to be impressed, and I was frankly blown away by what I found. Every time I went to the printer to cut the last print from the end of the roll, the hair on the back of my head stood up, and I found myself chuckling as I held the prints up to the light to study the details. I have been excited about the EOS R since first shooting with it in earnest during my winter tours this year, but as I’ve mentioned before, it’s the RF mount that sold me on the system. The EOS R is a great camera, but it’s only the start of an exciting and entirely new system that I can’t wait to see develop.
Now that I know that I can print my images from this system at least as big as I have been with my higher resolution 5Ds R cameras, I’m happier than ever with my decision to move to mirrorless, and even more happy that I decided to wait for Canon to make their move in this field of photography. They have done what I had hoped and taken this opportunity to not just jump on the band-wagon, but to innovate and evolve, or maybe I’d go so far as to say reinvent their interchangeable lens camera system in the process.