Making digital B&W prints

Discussion in 'Graphics Programs and Photo Gallery' started by markc, Mar 11, 2004.

  1. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2004
    Messages:
    4,237
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Rochester, NY Velocity: Unknown
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    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.
     
  2. vonnagy

    vonnagy have kiwi, will travel...

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2003
    Messages:
    3,759
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    -36.855339, 174.762384
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    :cheer: :band: :headbang: :smileys: :cheers:

    I have been looking for this information for quite some time! thanks for sharing... i don't have the $$$ at them moment to buy the printer, but this will be a bit help once I get going.

    Thanks for posting the advantages/disadvantages here.. I know i will keep referring to this thread alot!

    cheers!
     
  3. Chase

    Chase I am now benign! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2003
    Messages:
    7,810
    Likes Received:
    51
    Location:
    Deep in the heart of Texas!
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Excellent info! thanks
     
  4. Osmer_Toby

    Osmer_Toby TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2003
    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    5
    can you give any ballpark price ranges? i've always wanted to learn more about pigment printing..
     
  5. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2004
    Messages:
    4,237
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Rochester, NY Velocity: Unknown
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    Aside from your imaging editing software, there are a few things to consider when using a dedicated digital B&W printing system. Everything below is going to apply to inkjets, as that it what is most readily available and what I have experience with. There may be solutions using laser and dye-sub printers, but they probably wouldn't be very cost effective and I don't know anything about them. Contact your local CompUSA if you want to know more. Okay, that was a joke.

    The major components are the printer, the software (ICC profiles, plug-in, or driver, not image editing s/w), the inkset, and the paper.

    Things to consider for:
    The Printer: carriage size, resolution, droplet size, four-color or six-color, is a bulk delivery system available?
    The Ink: dye or pigment, tone (warm, neutral, cool, variable), fade resistance, color shifting, clogging issues
    The S/W: versatility (works with many papers and inks?), transportability (works w/ Photoshop only?), dither pattern (dots) visible?, adaptability (need upgrade to change functionality?)
    The paper: archivability, affect on color tone, ability to hold ink

    Some of the major players:


    Piezography developed by Ron Cone. Original version used a Photoshop plug-in, the new version uses ICC profiles. Combined with their custom pure-pigment inkset, it offers a very easy plug-and-play system.

    Advantages:
    • - ICC profiles for inks and papers make this a very accurate system going from monitor to print.
      - ICC profiles mean that system will work with any image editing software. Old version only worked with Photoshop.
      - Carbon pigment inks mean prints won't fade and are very archival. No dye!
      - The original custom Photoshop plug-in bypassed the Epson driver and used a custom dither pattern that completely eliminated dots, even under a loupe. I don't think that's the case with the current system, however.
      - Very easy to set-up and use.
    Disadvantages:
    • - Cost. But while expensive for a casual user, a complete set-up, including printer, is still cheaper than some pro "L" lenses.
      - Limited to matte paper. Inks do not absorb well into glossy papers.
      - Using a new paper means waiting for an ICC profile to come out. May involve extra costs.
      - Tone is determined by the inkset purchased.


    Paul Roark, a mad genius who mixes his own ink at his workbench. He developed a variable tone system that uses the standard Epson driver and special Photoshop curve adjustments written by him so that people wouldn't have to buy extra software. Now works for MIS Associates, an ink supplier.

    Advantages:
    • - Using a variable tone inkset, you can choose to print with a cool, neutral, or warm tone at the time of printing.
      - Carbon pigment inks mean prints won't fade and are very archival. No dye!
      - No software to buy. Paul releases new curves as he develops them.
      - Cheapest aftermarket B&W solution.
    Disadvantages:
    • - May take some fiddling. Custom curves must be applied to every image before printing.
      - Uses the Epson driver, which uses dithering. Some dots may be visible on close inspection.
      - Limited to matte paper. Inks do not absorb well into glossy papers.


    The Epson 2200 is a new seven-color printer than includes a medium grey ink.

    Advantages:
    • - Print both color and B&W.
      - Duotones are very easy to make thanks to the color ink. Large variation of toning available.
      - Pigment ink. Archival.
      - Nothing additional needed other than the printer.
    Disadvantages:
    • - With only a single grey, the B&W output will be somewhere between a color printer and a dedicated quad-tone set-up.



    EASY B&W Ultratone for the C82 & C84 Epson Printers

    Advantages:
    • - Photoshop is not required. Use any software that will print images.
      - Adjustment curves are not required
      - No Workflow to learn or complicated procedures to follow
      - No RIP, Plug-in or ICC profile is required
      - Compatible with any computer that will support the printer (Mac, PC, Linux)
      - Two inksets available, one for warm prints, one for neutral prints.
      - Prints on matte with Eboni black, and on glossy with Photo black. (Must choose when buying cartridge, but may swap cartridges.)
      - Super cheap!
    Disadvantages:
    • - Only available for C82 & C84 Epson Printers, which have a limited paper size. No 11x14 printing with these.
      - No variable tone. Choose either Warn or Neutral when buying the cartridge


    There are others, such as the ErgoSoft Studio Print system, but they are either more complex, pro-level, or I just don't know enough about them. The above options are the ones I am familiar with that are most likely to be of interest to people on this forum.

    As far as pricing goes, the expensive side would be a Piezography system for an Epson 1280 at $725 for a bulk feed system.
    On the cheap end, there's the MIS EZ B&W for the Epson C82/C84 for only $11!
    Paul Roark's curves are free, and a set of variable tone ink cartridges from MIS for a 1280 would be $55.
    These prices don't include the printer.

    I'll go through my personal experience next.
     
  6. vonnagy

    vonnagy have kiwi, will travel...

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2003
    Messages:
    3,759
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    -36.855339, 174.762384
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    [​IMG]

    we're not worthy! we're not worthy!

    thats fab, markc! thanks again!
     
  7. Osmer_Toby

    Osmer_Toby TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2003
    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    5
    this is outstanding stuff, man. when i bought my printer i got what i thought was top of the line for under 1k- decided on the canon s9000. at the time, i asked about the next step up and was told epson, some kind of pigment based printing. i never looked into if further, but your post answers everything i wondered. i even considered trying a set of greyscale inks for the s9000, but i was not sure if it was even available and it seemed like it would be a pain to keep swapping out when i wanted color.
    anyway, in the not too distant future i will need to decide between buying a real good printer or sending my stuff to a lab- i'd rather be able to print my own stuff, so this is the kind of research i'll need to do.
    please, do go on...
     
  8. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2004
    Messages:
    4,237
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Rochester, NY Velocity: Unknown
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    :D
    I'm glad you are liking it. Just wait until you see my consulting fees! :twisted:

    ---

    I've been printing digitally for quite a while now. I started with what I believe was the first six-color inkjet printer, the Epson Stylus Photo. I was pretty stunned to see the difference that the extra light magenta and cyan inks made compared to the basic four-color office printer. However, I was only just starting with my photography, so it was more of a gee-wiz gadget than a real tool for me. It meant that I could print my snapshots and gaudy digital manipulations at home.

    Once I was getting serious with my work, I decided it was time to upgrade. I was getting fed-up with the local labs, even the pro ones. I hated the darkroom, too. I don't like being in the dark during the day. In Rochester, we get little enough sunlight as it is. I hate chemicals, and I'm horrible about taking notes. It might take me all day to get a print I like, but I wanted to make another a few months down the road, I'd have to start all over again, since I wouldn't remember how I did the first one.

    The biggest drawback to the traditional workflow for me was that I hate assembly-line style work. I love the experimental aspect of finding just the right way to get an image down on paper, but once that's done, I don't want to have to work in order to get a second. Working digitally is perfect for me as it allows me to experiment to my heart's content, but once I've found "it", to get a second image all I have to do is print again. I'm very ADHD, so having to time, soak, agitate, rinse, agitate, etc. drives me up the wall.

    So, I bought myself an Epson 1270. This was touted as being 30+ years archival and went beyond the first photo printers in resolution and the ability to look like a real print. The original Stylus was good, but you could still tell it was an inkjet print. With the 1270, it took some real scrutiny. Usually it was only by looking for the "Epson" on the back of the paper than people could tell.

    It wasn't long before I started having problems. Trying to get colors on the print to match what was on the screen was near impossible. Prints still looked great, but I pretty much had to live with it being a guessing game as to what I would get. After looking into it more, I realized that this was not an easy thing to accomplish. Even the pros were pulling their hair out, and they had the expensive color calibration tools. Then I started having color shifting problems.

    The cyan ink in the 1270 may have been lightfast, but it turns out that it was susceptible to airborne pollutants and ozone. Anything that wasn't covered would shift towards magenta as the cyan faded. This even affected the black, as it was made by mixing the colored dyes into a separate cartridge. So much for the 30 year claim. Some people were getting shifts in as little as two days. Can you say screwed the pooch? I knew you could.

    Epson started a buy-back program for anyone who had bought the 1270. I took advantage of it, so I was able to get my full money back. So what to do now? I wasn't all that hot about getting another color printer. Even if it didn't fade, I didn't want to mess with the whole color balancing issue. I just didn't have the patience for it. I joined the B&W Digital Printing Yahoo group. It was a great resource, but trying to filter useful information was like pulling teeth. People would quote entire messages, and put their response at the top rather than the bottom. This made reading the e-mail digest another exercise in patience. However, people like Paul Roark and others were members, so there were some real chunks of gold in there. Since I wanted a set-up that didn't require fiddling and lots of test-prints, I decided on the Piezography system. Paul was still tweaking his curves, so I didn't consider that a viable choice for me. Plus, the Piezography system offered no dots, while Roark's curves used the Epson driver and it's dither pattern.

    At the time, the Epson 1130 was the printer of choice for Piezography. It was a four-color printer, so it was cheaper than the six-color ones; Piezography only used four ink colors, so the two extra slots of a six-color printer just doubled up on two of they grey inks. It also had the smallest droplet size of any of the four-color printers: 4 picoliters; the same as the 1270.

    Unfortunately Epson had just discontinued the 1160. People were asking for $400+ for them on e-Bay. The digests from the group had people listing stores in there area that had one or two left. I called around to a few local places, but they were all out. I tried one of the listed stores in Boston, hoping they would ship it, but they wouldn't take a credit-card order over the phone. Phooey. I tried a couple more local places, and the very last Office-Max in the phone book said that they had their display model left. I ran right down and found it marked down in price since it was discontinued. I then talked them down another $15 since it was a display model and walked out the store for it for about $130 after tax. Woo!

    I then bought the Piezography system from Cone. This was their original version, so the software was a Photoshop-only plug-in, and there was only one inkset for it, which was slight warm, not neutral. I paid a little over $300 for the S/W and a single set of cartridges. I set the printer up, and... I was blown away!

    (more coming)
     
  9. karissa

    karissa The Untitled

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2004
    Messages:
    2,426
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Probably at work... *yawn*
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    I think Mark is trying to write a novel. Gezz man... way to go. I don't think my brain could handle typing that much. I don't have enough RAM.
     
  10. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2004
    Messages:
    4,237
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Rochester, NY Velocity: Unknown
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    I live to serve. ;)

    You should be glad I'm not in the same room. I don't shut up once I get going about this stuff. Don't get me started on MoPar muscle, either.
     
  11. karissa

    karissa The Untitled

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2004
    Messages:
    2,426
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Probably at work... *yawn*
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Yeah, I think you would fry my processor or memory one or the other. You're awesome man. :alien:
     
  12. vonnagy

    vonnagy have kiwi, will travel...

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2003
    Messages:
    3,759
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    -36.855339, 174.762384
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    Any suggestions for sepia toned stuff? prolly just go for a regular colour printer, eh?
     

Share This Page