If you print your own work, then you may have varying degrees of success when it comes to getting the results you hoped for. If you are having trouble, be sure to make sure you have these three things handled. One or more of them might be the reason you aren’t getting great prints.
1. Use high-quality ink, preferably from your printer manufacturer. This is NOT the place to cheap out folks. The inks are expensive but not THAT expensive. And the profiles provided by most printer and paper manufacturers almost always rely on the manufacturer’s ink being installed. There are sometimes computer chips installed in these ink cartridges that control thinks like print nozzle cleaning. Refilling them or replacing them with third-party inks will probably deliver sub-par results.
2. Profile your monitor. I use the ColorMunki Photo – Monitor, Printer & Projector Profiler. It is not hard and there’s no reason to be intimidated by this process. It makes all the difference in the world. Unless you are very, very lucky, I doubt you can achieve similar results using software-only calibration.
3. Sharpen last and sharpen for output. Let’s say you have a picture that you want to put on Flickr at 640×640 pixels, but you also want to make a 13×19″ print. Would you sharpen each image in the same way? If you answered yes, that’s a problem. Each image needs to be sharpened according to its size and output medium. You want to take into account printer, paper, size and viewing distance. (NOTE: Some folks advocate a minimal amount of sharpening on import if you shoot RAW. I agree with that but don’t really consider it sharpening in the same context that I am discussing here.)
If you want to simplify the sharpening process, simply go get a copy of Nik Sharpener Pro as part of the Nik Software Collection.
These three tips are extremely basic, but based on my experience, a majority of the problems involved with printing images at home relate to one or all three of these points. Give them a try and see how they work for you.