I always hear people complaining about how much better the piece looked digitally, SO, here is a run down on how to get prints that look more like your original piece.
First of all, every printer is different. Every paper is different. Make sure you take the time to do test prints and become familiar with how your printer and paper combo work, as you’ll rarely nail a print your first try. This one took about 5 test prints before I was confident to print on the expensive large paper Every time I mess up on a print, I save the remaining paper to use as scraps for test prints.
As you can see, the original piece looks very nice! The focus is super strongly on the tiger, and all of the vibrant colors are still super evident in the background. That said, when I print it as is, everything about 85% gray or darker turns BLACK. And this is high quality paper designed to get accurate vibrant colors, too.
The best way to fix this is to do layer effects. Brightness/contrast is my favorite, as a typical piece will generally print about 5x better if you up the brightness to around 15-25, and adjust the contrast up or down by 5-10 points. That said, if you have a HIGH contrast piece (Darks against brights) like this one, you typically need to do a few more steps.
Often I’ll do a second brightness/contrast adjustment layer and push brightness to an obnoxious level so the darkest darks are closer to a mid-dark range. From there, I’ll create a mask and use a transparent gradient tool to slowly pull back the brightness on all of the lighter areas of the image.
Additionally, due to printers using CMYK and your screen being RBG certain colors just physically CANNOT print. Some people will always work in CMYK because of this, but honestly I like my saturated colors and most of my work is intended to be seen digitally so I only ever work in RGB. Photoshop has a nifty toggle (Ctrl + Y) where you can toggle between CMYK and RGB view to see how your piece will appear when it prints. It’s useful to check this because if you worked in a color that cannot replicate in print, you may want to shift it entirely before you even bother printing.
Artwork tends to desaturate a bit as it prints, so I’ll often make a Hue/saturation layer to play with, too. In this case the image was already pretty damn saturated, BUT some of the shadows on the tiger were printing more brown than orange, so I adjusted the saturation a bit to keep them vibrant with the rest of the image. **DO NOT use “Lightness” to lighten your image! It basically adds a white overlay to your image. Always use Brightness, instead.
After all of that, I have a final print that much more closely captures the essence of the original painting. I could have tinkered even more, but to me the goal is a good print rather than an exact copy.
For ULTRA high contrast images, like a dark room looking out into a snowy exterior, expect to do a LOT of adjustment to get it to print correctly. Printers just aren’t too fond of super darks right up against super lights.
I could make a proper tutorial on this if people request it. Mostly, just wanted to put my thoughts down in one spot!