Prints are only a good as the file that made them, so the more we refine our files, the better our prints will become.
One of the ways to do this is to start making Target Files. Targeted Files are copies of the Master File that have been prepared for output or display on a specific device at a specific size.
I make a targeted file every time I make a print or post a file online.
My checklist for targeting goes like this:
1. Copy the Master File
2. Flatten all layers (Photoshop)
3. Size to height, width, and dpi as needed for the output / display device
4. Sharpen to taste
5. Dustbust at 100% magnification
6. Add border as necessary
7. Trim marks as necessary
8. Remove any alpha channels (Photoshop)
9. Save as copy with size in name. Use TIFF format when possible.
Once complete, the targeted file is the one that is printed, sent to the lab, or uploaded to the web.
Each one of these steps gives you an opportunity to take control of a parameter that can improve the final print.
Every software handles these steps a little differently, but it should be possible to follow this workflow with any well made imaging program.
It’s important to do these in order because weird things can happen if you don’t. For example, if you sharpen the image after adding borders, you’ll probably get a faint halo around the image instead of a nice clean line. They are in order for a reason that will become apparent as you learn the targeting process.