Making digital B&W prints Making B&W prints with color ink-jet printers can be problematic, even with the 6-color photo printers. I thought I would talk about my experience in B&W digital printing since my post in another thread seemed to generate some interest. There are two ways to go about making digital B&W prints with four- or six-color printers with the typical CMYK or CMYK+pC+pM set-up. Use only black ink and a dither pattern to create the greyscale range from black to white. Advantages: - The greyscale will be a true grey, with no shifts in color dependant upon tone and lighting (usually). Disadvantages: - The greyscale is made up of small black dots of various sizes and patterns to emulate grey. There is no grey ink used. A person usually does not need a loupe to see the dots. This may work fine for images displayed at a distance, but is usually problematic for any prints submitted to any kind of scrutiny. - Reduced tonal range due to the limited versatility of dither patterns. Use a mixture of black and color inks and to create the greyscale range from black to white. Advantages: - The greyscale is a near-continuous tone, rarely showing dots. - Since the tonal range is produced by the mixture of ink colors rather than a dither pattern, the tonal range tends to be more robust. - The ability to make Duotone prints. Disadvantages: - Since greyscale is made up of varying amounts of colored ink, a color cast can be observable. This will often not be consistent over the entire print. Dark shadows may show more magenta, while highlights may show more cyan. This can become more or less pronounced depending upon lighting conditions, even changing depending upon the type of light source. - If one of the color inks fades faster than another, the whole image will shift in color. If the photo-cyan fades the fastest (Epson 1270, anyone?), the image will become more and more magenta, often even affecting the blacks. This is not a problem for just B&W prints, but you can end up with a rather garishly toned print after a few months. After pulling my hair out trying to print color and B&W with an Epson 1270, I took advantage of their buy-back (due to color shifting) and investing in a pigment-based B&W quadtone system. This uses Black, but replaces the CMY with light grey, medium grey, and dark grey. The results are pretty amazing. Quadtone system Advantages: - The greyscale is a near-continuous tone, rarely showing dots even under a loupe. -True greys! -Toned prints possible with some inksets - Amazingly accurate monitor-to-print transition with certain software and a calibrated monitor - When used with fine-art paper, can rival (or in some views, surpass) a good fiber print. Disadvantages: - Say goodbye to printing color - Cost There are several Quadtone (and even Hextone) set-ups, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. I've only used one myself, but I'm somewhat familiar with a few ways to go about it. I'll list the ones I know about and go into detail on my particular set-up in future post to this thread. It will probably be piecemeal, as time allows. Feel free to ask any questions, post observations, or call me on anything you think is a flub along the way.