Getting an accurate print at our lo tech office

I work at a building company in VT an have recently been printing images of our work for a variety of reasons. I am constantly making adjustments to my images as they make their way from the digital camera to the computer through several programs, and out the printer. I have printed the same picture on our three office grade printers (Epson C82, hp sc 2175, and hp officejet r 80) and they each look totally different. One even lost a quarter inch in length over a six inch distance!
I am printing 300 dpi tifs cmyk. I have tried to calibrate my mac g4 screen to the epson, and it just looks like crap. I make sure all the printer output settings are correct. I am trying to generate high quality prints for very limited use (accurate mock-ups, nice photos for portfolios shots), not for bulk printing.
I don’t know where I should concentrate my efforts in order to get nice prints. Any advice? What is a step up from these printers? Is there a $1000 printer that can be driven by a mac and a pc? What the hell is SWOP? Do I trust my computer to “Color manage” ? When I’m putting together a project, can I switch to cmyk mode from rgb without deteriorating the image? Does it matter if rgb images mix with cmyk images on a project, then switch the whole thing to cmyk at the end?

Thank you for any help on this confusing matter.
Here is our site, if you are interested. I just built it.

It’s a complicated combination of things to get right. That’s where “real” graphic designers and print people come in. But for us Jack of All…ID’ers, you want to keep it as simple as possible.
-If you’re going to be printing in cmyk format, work on it in that format. It will look different than if working in rgb. cmyk I believe, has a slightly darker look to it (maybe due to the use of black?)
-Make sure your photoshop settings say that you’re actually VIEWING it in cmyk format. I think it’s under view-proof setup or proof colors…you’ll have options between rgb, monitor, cmyk, custom, etc… On the title bar of your window, after the slash, should tell you what mode you’re actually seeing.
-Experiment with your paper/printer settings. If you’re printing on plain paper, don’t use the photopaper setting or you’re print will come out washed out. In general, prints on plain paper or glossy paper come out rich and dark(although much nicer on glossy). Print’s on “photo quality” matte paper will have a lighter/brighter look.
-I keep color mngmnt off mostly because I don’t really know what I’m doing, just adds more variables.

The most base, Macgyverish way to get up and running is to get the paper you’ll be using for final output, print something with the correct print settings (resolution and paper), and leave the rest of the print settings at default. Then go to your document and experiment with the options until the screen looks like the print (as opposed to experimenting with all the different print options, too many choices and wasted paper). Good luck.

i also have the same problem…altough i dont think my print (EPSON 1160) is as good as yours. 4 colours printer do help as they can give better gradiants and more vivid colours.

The best thing i did is to go through the adobe gamma wizzard to set up your mnoitor correctly. Then try some different colour management settings in phopshop…mine seemed to wrk best when i used my monitor space profile. Then comare the hard copy with the screen.

most pople have there monitors way to bright so you dont have apure black more a dull gray. If you monitor is way to bright then all your pics are going to look brighter then thery actualy are.

there is also a thing called sRGB which is ment to unify the colours between imagnig devices…but like skinny i dont full understand it all. Iknow you can get the posh tool whcih will calibrate you monitor correctly its normaly adverstised in mac format and the like.