Using Lightroom 5 to Create a Poster for Photo Lab Printing

In my previous posts, I’ve outlined how to prepare a single photo for printing by your favorite photo lab (called “outsource printing” by some). In this article, I describe how to use Lightroom 5 to create a poster layout featuring one of your best photos and get it ready to send to a photo lab. Lightroom includes many additional layout choices you can adjust (for example, changing the background color), but I’ve kept to basic steps to keep the article a manageable length!

00 Glacier Poster

Start by selecting and processing your photo to look its best in the Develop module, including sharpening it using the Detail panel. Cropping to improve the strength of your photo is fine. There is no need to crop for a certain size since this layout provides for a border around your image.

01  develop LR5

Choose a Template

Next, switch to the Print module. From the Template Browser in the left panel, choose a layout. For this project, I select the “1 Large with Stroke” template. It has 1-inch equal borders on all four sides along with a thin black line around the photo.

02 Original Print Template

Change the Paper Size

The template assumes a letter size piece of paper (8.5×11 inches), so to change this, click the Page Setup button. Select the appropriate paper size, in my case 16×20 inches. Lightroom automatically adjusts the page layout to reflect the new paper size. [Note: I’m working with a Windows computer so if you use a Mac, your Page Setup window will look very different.]

03 Page Setup 16x20 Land

04 16x20 Print Template

Widen the Bottom Margin

To leave space for a descriptive title, I need to make the bottom margin larger. In the Layout panel on the right side, I make the bottom margin 3 inches and leave the others at 1 inch.

05 Layout panel bottom margin

Adjust the Stroke Border

The default width of the black border is two pixels. If you want to make this wider, open the Image Settings panel. Then adjust the Stroke Border size to your preference. The border is contained within the cell that determines the size of your photograph. So as you make the stroke wider, your picture shrinks slightly to accommodate it.

06 stroke width Image Settings

Add the Title

To create the title below the picture, you can use Lightroom’s Identity Plate feature. To access this, open the Page panel. Check the box for the Identity Plate. The default color is white, which makes editing the text difficult to see. Check the Override Color box, which turns the type black.

07 ID Plate Center

To change the Identity Plate text to something appropriate for your picture, click the small arrow in the bottom right corner of the Identity Plate box and choose “Edit.” Double-click to select the text and type your title to replace it. Choose a font, style and color for your title. Don’t worry about the size at this point. Click OK when you are satisfied.

08 ID Plate Edit

09 ID Plate Edit 2

Position and Size the Title

The Identity Plate appears in the middle of the page, right over your image. To position it below the photo, click on the words so a box appears around them. Drag the title into position below the picture.

10 ID Plate Center with box

11 ID Plate bottom black

Lightroom does not contain any commands to automatically center the Identity Plate. But you can create that effect by stretching the box’s borders to fit between the left and right margins. This usually makes the type too big. So adjust the Scale slider until the title looks right.

12 ID Plate Expanded

13 ID Plate sized

Change the Title Color

If you want to change the color of the type in your title, click on the black box next to Override Color. In the window that appears, click and drag the eyedropper out of the box and over the image. You can see a preview of the color under the eyedropper displayed in your text. Let go of the mouse when you are happy with the color. Close the box by clicking on the X.

14 ID Plate new color

For a preview of what your printed poster will look like, first click in the gray background to hide the Identity Plate box. Then open the Guides panel and turn off Show Guides.

15 Poster Preview no guides

Save a Template

If you think you will use this same layout again, you can save the design as a User Template. In the Template Browser panel click the Plus icon. Type a name for the template. I used “16×20 poster H” (H designates a horizontal design) and click Save. Now you can easily add a different image to the poster and update the Identity Plate.

16 Save Template

17 Save Template

Set the Resolution, Sharpening, JPEG Quality and Custom File Dimensions

Now you are ready to save this picture and layout as a JPEG file that you can upload to a photo lab. These are the same steps as you would use for an individual picture. In the Print Job panel, for Print To select JPEG File. Set the File Resolution to 300 ppi for prints up to 16×20 inches (you may want to use 200 ppi for larger prints to create a smaller file at acceptable quality). Turn on Print Sharpening. Select the amount you want applied; I usually use Standard for my nature and architecture shots. If you are printing a portrait, you may want to choose Low instead. Then pick the Media Type. Use Glossy unless you are ordering an inkjet print on watercolor or other textured paper. In that case, choose Matte.

Now set the JPEG Quality to 100. If you are ordering a very large print (16×20 inches or more), use 90 to create a smaller file but still good quality result. Check the box to turn on Custom File Dimensions. These start at the paper size that you selected with the Page Setup window. Confirm they are the correct dimensions. In my example, the dimensions are already correct at 20 inches (wide) by 16 inches (high). If they are not accurate, type the dimensions you want.

Set up Color Management and Create the JPEG File

Making choices for Color Management is the last part. For Profile, sRGB is the safest choice. For Intent, use Relative for the most vivid colors. If you know the lab can accept Adobe RGB files, you may want to use that profile for slightly better quality, especially for high saturation photos. Finally, leave Print Adjustments turned off until you have experience with the lab. If you have calibrated your monitor, you should not need to make any adjustments here. Now your poster is ready to be turned into a JPEG file suitable for a quality print. Click the Print to File button at the bottom right and save the image to a folder on your desktop for easy retrieval.

18 Print to File panel

Go to the photo lab’s website and follow their instructions for uploading, ordering and paying for your print. Wait patiently for your print to arrive. Admire your work when it does!


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