Printing Images

Several pages on this website have images that visitors may want to print. For example, several items on the Maps page contain high-resolution images intended for printing. Also, some folks who have visited the 1938 Pageant page have wanted to print the images found there.

This page is intended to offer some general guidelines for printing high-resolution images. All the opinions expressed on this page are those of Rich Hureau, HHS webmaster.

Saving Images to your Harddrive

When you see an image on the screen that you want to print, generally speaking you should not print it using your browser. What you should do is save it to your harddrive and then print it using an image-handling program.

To save an image to your harddrive, click it with the right mouse button (Mac users should use Ctrl-click) and a menu will pop up (called the "context" menu because it changes depending on what you click with the right-mouse button). Select the item that says "Save Image As" (in Firefox browser) or "Save Picture As" (in Internet Explorer). This will bring up a Save dialog, where you can tell it where you want to save it to. Remember where you tell it, so you can find it later.

Image Editors and Viewers

After you have saved the image to your harddrive, you need to open it in an image viewer or editor to print it. The problem is that some image programs are better than others at printing.

For example, the very popular Picasa from Google is surprisingly poor at printing images. It distorts images depending on the paper size you pick and the size you ask it to print the image.

A proper program maintains the aspect ratio of the image, no matter what paper size you use or how large you print it.

Image programs are generally in two catagories - viewer/browsers and editors. You normally want one of each on your system, because image viewers start much faster and provide an easy mechanism to move from image to image, while editors provide image manipulation tools. There is often some overlap, with most viewers providing some minor editing tools, while many editors now come with browsers and organizers. I still prefer to use both types of programs, each for its own strengths. For example, I routinely use IrfanView for image viewing, and PaintShop Photo Pro for editing.

Below are some recommendations for free image viewers and commercial image editors. All are capable of printing images correctly, with many options.

Recommended Free Image Viewers

  • XNView
    You can read about it here: http://www.xnview.com/en/xnview.html

    Download it and install it. It has several flavors, depending on what language you want to use and how many types of files you want to handle. I recommend the "XnView [version number] Standard version (JPEG2000)" version.

    XNView is the program we use at the Tuck Museum for all our image cataloging functions (IPTC-field based).

  • IrfanView
    You can read about it here: http://www.irfanview.com

    Download and install IrfanView, and then download and install the "Plugins/Addons"

  • Windows Photo Viewer
    This program comes with Windows Vista and Windows 7, and appears to be able to print an image without distortion.

Recommended Commercial Image Editors

Any of the following programs is excellent for image editing and printing. I have not included links for them because they are widely available for sale, and a web search will yield all the information you could want.
  • Corel PaintShop Photo Pro
    The best bang for your buck in commercial image editors. About 90% of the capability of Photoshop, for 10% of the price.
  • Adobe Photoshop
    Industrial-strength image editor. Very expensive.
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements
    Fairly good image editor. Not as powerful as PaintShop Photo Pro, but it has its fans.

You may have noticed that I have not included Gimp, the popular open-source free image editor. This is because I have had troubles printing with Gimp, which is the topic of this page. You could download it and install it and see how it works with your system and your printer. If it does work, it is quite powerful. For more info, go to http://www.gimp.org/

Doing the Actual Printing

The first thing people new to printing images seem to want to do is to resize their images for printing. "The picture I took with my camera is HUGE on the screen, and I only want to print it on a 4x6 card! So shouldn't I resize it? I see the resize tool in my editor." The answer is no! You do not have to resize an image to print it, and you shouldn't.

What you should do is just open the image in your viewer or editor and print it. Once you are in the Print Dialog, it will present you with options to pick your printer (and in there you pick paper size, orientation, etc), and also how large to print the image on the paper you have selected - for example, print it on letter-sized paper in landscape orientation, in the center, and print it 9 inches wide (letting the height be whatever the image aspect-ratio dictates). Piece of cake.