Understanding Print Preview in Photoshop

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Photoshop: Viewing the Print Preview

Adobe Photoshop is the standard for graphic editing and photo retouching. This also means that the number of options and functions it has might overwhelm the user. Photoshop's Print Preview is one of those. Photoshop gives you total control over the print options of your graphics, but knowing what they all mean can be a task, even for the experienced user.

This is a quick rundown of the Print with Preview function of Photoshop. While it is not a complete guide, it will satisfy the most common needs for the non-designer or the in-house designer. While this article is not meant to explain the Print Preview in all of its details, it will shed light on the most important ones.

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Getting Familiar with the Photoshop Print Preview Window

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To access the Print Preview window go to File>Print with Preview. I prefer this option over the simple Print option because with Print with Preview you not only see how your document will print, you can also change page settings and so on.

Let's explore the Preview window. On the top left you of course see the preview of your document. Next to the preview you see the value within the Position pane and the ones within the Scaled Print Size.

Those values control how your image will print on your page. In this illustration, Centre Image is checked, but if it was unchecked, you would be able to decide exactly where your image is supposed to print, by changing the X and Y values. If you don't like inches, you can choose to set your values in centimeters, millimiters, points or picas. Changing those values does not affect the size your graphic will print at on your page.

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Photoshop Print Preview: Scaled Print Size Options

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The Scaled Print Size pane instead does act on the size of your graphic. You can change the size of your graphic by typing a percentage in the Scale field or by typing a value either in the Height or Width field. Changing value in either field will change the value of the other one proportionally. The little chain icon on the right factually means that the proportions will be maintained.

If the Show Bounding Box option is checked, Photoshop will show the boundaries of your graphic. In our example the black rectangle around the logo you see in the preview is the bounding box. You can see that the logo is significantly smaller than the page itself. The bounding box will not be printed with the image, it only shows up in the preview. It allows you to change the size of your graphic by dragging the mouse from it either inwards (to reduce the size) or outwards (to increase the size).

Under the Show Bounding Box option there is the Print Selected Area option. In our example it is grayed out. In order for that option to be available, you first need to make a selection then you can open the Print preview window by going to File>Print with Preview. The Print Selected Area option will then be available and if checked, Photoshop will only print the area inside your selection.

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Photoshop Print Preview: Additional Options

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If you need to change the paper size you are printing on, go to Page Setup on the right hand side of the preview window.

Under the Page Setup button, you can see a button that says Fewer Options. If you click on it, you will see that all the options you see under the preview pane will disappear. Those options are usually not needed unless you are setting up your document for professional output. I will go over those very briefly, but I will not get into those ones very much at this time. When the extra options are not shown, the Fewer Options button toggles to More Options.

Under the preview pane, you will see a drop down menu. By default it should be set to Colour Management, but you will see that the pull down menu offers also another option, i.e. Output.

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Photoshop Print Preview: The Colour Management Options

Before I get into the Colour Management options, it is necessary to understand what colour management solves. Colours in a graphic don't look on my monitor the same way they do on yours. On my monitor colours might look more blue, maybe darker, while on your monitor colours might look more red. This is normal. Even amongst monitors of the same brand colours will look different. This is the same also when printing graphics. One printer will differ from the other, even if they are of the same brand. One ink will differ from the other and one type of paper will differ from the other. Colour Management helps you to make sure that colours look the same when viewed on or printed from different devices. Usually you can "record" your colour settings in files called colour profiles which you can give to the person who will receive your graphic, so he/she can view it or print it with the correct colours.

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Photoshop Print Preview: More Colour Management Options

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When you choose Colour Management in the Print Preview window, you will see three panes under it: the Print pane, the Options pane and the Description pane. Whenever you move your mouse over one of the options in the Print preview window, the Description pane will have an explanation of that option.

In the Print pane you can choose either Document or Proof. When Document is selected, Photoshop will print your graphic using the current colour settings--either the printer settings or Photoshop's settings. Whether that be the first or the latter, it is determined by what choice you make in the "Colour Handling" drop down menu, where you can choose "Let Printer Determine Colours," "Let Photoshop Determine Colours" or "No Colour Management" (There is another option, but we will leave that one alone for the purpose of this article).

If Proof is selected, Photoshop will emulate the type of colour environment you chose from the proof pull down menu. Professional print firms will use their own custom colour profiles to print out proofs.

You can then choose the Printer Profile (what type of printer you will be outputting your files from) and a couple of other things, but you most likely won't need to know what those options are, unless you are working in a printer's service bureau.

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Photoshop Print Preview: The Output Options

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As I said earlier, the Print preview window can show you the Colour Management options or the Output options. To see the Output options, choose Output in the pull down menu under the preview pane.

You will see that the lower options in the Print preview window will change. The options you see here are mainly related to professional output. Here you can set things like bleed, screen frequency and so on.

If you get to deal with these options at all, you will probably use the Background and the Border options. The background changes the background colour your image will print on while the border will add a... coloured border around your image.

If you have any questions about the Print with Preview option, feel free to post them in the discussion forum.