B&W Prints with Inkjets?

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I've read that fairly good 8x10 color prints are now available using Epson printers. If that's true, great! But I'd like to be able to make quality B&W prints with an inkjet, and I can't find any information on this. Any information on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

-- Dan Buffum (techknow@sprynet.com), January 02, 1999


i just had some really fun results printing on coated canvas inkjet paper (from Royal Brites, among others). the texture of the paper makes the b&w ink dots nearly imperceptible. i'm looking forward to trying more experimentation with canvas.


-- john labovitz (johnl@meer.net), January 02, 1999.

Coming from traditional processes, I was intriqued yet concerned about inkjet black and white quality, when I decided to check out digital. I started reading all about it and Photoshop, learning that not only can decent proof quality be had but also duo, tri and even quadtones to boot. A good book is Photoshop 4 Artistry from New Ryder's Press in Indianapolis. I finally got an Epson Stylus Photo EX last year and really enjoy it. I'm still exploring papers and so far I really like Epson's own. I can print from cold to warm duotones.

-- Pierre Burnaugh (pburnaugh@hotmail.com), January 05, 1999.



RON VALLARIO: Yes, most inkjet printers use four colors to make-up all the colors. Like we've learned in photography that red, green and blue make-up all the colors on film; cyan, magenta, yellow and black are used for output on paper, etc. When you want a true black and white print, choose the black mode; otherwise, most printers will use all the colors to create a solid black. (ie, adding cyan, magenta and yellow makes black.) When the printer does this you may notice a slight color cast under white light as opposed to a pure black. (I mean "pure" black as in just the black ink since most offset printers will actually use 65% magenta, 73% cyan and 100% black to achieve a more solid black for their full color printing.) Sometimes this is totally acceptable and very pleasing much like a sepia tone print; although, since most inks in inkjet printers fade rather quickly (within a year if in light) you'll get a strange uneven fade among all the colors. Not exactly pleasing for displays. So yes, there is a difference in the two modes. At a resolution of usually 720dpi x 1400dpi or equivalent, you can certainly get some excellent results from these printers. Experiment. Technology is constantly changing and improving. Have fun and best of luck with everything you do!

-- Leslie Ratliff (leslie@carteret.com), January 08, 1999.

I recently bought HP Photosmart film/slide scanner (US$300) and Epson Photo 700 printer (US$240). One of my requirements when buying the printer was the ability to print good black & white photos. I am very happy with the results. Ive been waiting for the technology to get good enough for years and this it certainly is more than good enough for me. I never had the patience with the traditional process and usually gave up before I got the print just the way I wanted it. With the Photoshop editing software and the Epson printer I can get much better results than I ever could with an enlarger and photographic paper. I had some old negatives that were great but ruined by a small flaw, with Photoshop I can fix the flaw in minutes. I am not into special effects but I use the software to remove whatever I dont want in the picture: buildings, people, telephone wires, road signs, etc. I can select portions of the image and manipulate contrast, tones, and to a degree, sharpness. With Photoshop (or any other decent software of the kind) I can get the results of any filter used in B&W photography. I was amazed by the ability to make the pictures appear much sharper. In any serious work the software is your main tool, you can count on the hardware to do what the software tells it and the hardware will do it consistently, computers are very good at that. Ive been working with it only for a few weeks and already making good progress. The technology is still new but the results are truly great, all for a price of one mediocre 35 mm enlarger and a lens (if you already own a computer). I would strongly recommend both the scanner and the printer. So far I had very few problems:

- b&w prints come out much darker on the glossy photo paper than on the less glossy photo quality paper. You have to compensate with the software. Had no such problem with color. - it is easy to loose detail in deep shadows, this can be adjusted with the software. - the ink fades faster than traditional photos. I know the manufacturers are working on resolving the problem. - the scanner software has some annoying shortcomings but I am sure they will be fixed.

Other tips: - scan negatives or slides not prints. - dont count on good results without learning the photo editing software. Some software is very easy to use. - make sure to buy inkjet printer with black ink. Some produce black by combining other colors and the results are ugly. - the equipment listed above cant handle anything but 35 mm slides and negatives. Most of my good work in on 2 1/4. Greg


-- Greg G (greg_001@hotmail.com), January 12, 1999.

Dan, The prints from Epson printers are outstanding in both color and B/W. The printer itself will not let you down as far as printing to 10 x 8, merely the image you started with. I show my wedding clients prints from my Epson Sylus Photo, and they are not immediately aware they are looking at an inkjet print. To give you an idea, the recent Australian APPA awards (Australian Professional Photographers Assoc.) recently gave 4 awards to a photographer who had only been using Photoshop for 4 weeks. His first efforts in digital printing from his Epson printers all won top awards. He was voted Wedding Photographer of the Year! His four entries were judged as photographs alongside custom hand- made prints. His name is Ray Schembri.

Good luck.

-- Stephen J. Clements (cpedigital@wilnet.ocean.com.au), January 14, 1999.

I notice that MIS Supply loads up quad tone with black and three shades of gray. This should give a b&w print millions of tones rather than 256. Has anyone tried to play around with Epson printers (such as the Photo EX) and various software to make this work? I do know there are other printer/software combinations that can pull this off. I am sure you would have to use a glossy paper around 9-10 mills thick.


-- Steve Bingham (sbingham@netzone.com), January 17, 1999.

A prior answer seemed to say that an inkjet printer uses CMYK. Not true. The Epsons use RGB. The confusion may be due to the 6-color system used by the EX and 700 models where in addition to RGB, a magenta and a cyan are added to reduce the dithering necessary to achive photo-realistic printing. In regards to using only black ink to print black and white photos...don't do it. You'll get either muddy prints or very high contrast prints with many mssing gray shades. The ink jet printer uses a blend of all the colors in its cartridges to give you the tonal range you are used to from your darkroom. However, at the same time, because you are printing black using RGB, you may (most users do) get a color cast to your b/w prints. You need to experiment and adjust your inks through the Epson print driver, to neutralize this cast. Luckily, I do not find the very slight color cast on my prints objectionable.

-- Strat Simon (strat@siservices.net), March 05, 1999.

After several months of experimenting I believe I have output from the Epson Photo EX that truly is spectacular in B+W. Basically I scan my negatives to provide the output size required (5x7, 8x10 etc.) I then convert the file to a 12 bit file in photoshop and make all my adjustments using curves and setting the white point/black point. Next I convert the file back to 8 bit and change the mode to quad tone. I have setup the 4 colors from the warm and cool grey pantone colors. The output is maximized in the printer drivers using the micro weave and Epson Glossy film settings.

The final print shows almost no grain (ink dots) using a 4x loupe. This is in contrast to using just the black ink which shows the dots fairly significantly in light grey areas.

The warm greys give a result that looks like an Ilford Fiberbase Multigrade warm paper, and the cool quadtone a standard paper. I have found that most store do not sell the double weight Epson Photo Paper. I order this directly from Epson and love the weight and finish.

I have tried the Luminos pearl and glossy papers. They do not take the inks as smoothly as the Epson papers do. The pearl paper looks like it has a greenish cast when printed with the warm grey quad tone pallet. They show a shine where the black ink is applied and a different shine where the 3 other grey inks are applied. Interesting enough, Luminos is also making a Fiber Base paper. I really need to get my hands on some of that stuff and try it out.

I keep an Ilford Fiber Base print nearby and compare the density and contrast in order to refine my settings from time to time.

I use the new Minolta D'image Multi to scan 35mm and 6x6 negatives. The 35mm scans are 2800dpi but the 6x6 scans are only 1128 dpi. I think that eventually I will get frustrated with the medium format scan resolution and opt for a pro scanner, but that is another story.

In the meantime I have heard that there is a company that is selling Epson 6 color cartridges filled with 6 shades of grey ink. However, I was also told that when used in a Stylus EX one can not return to color inks after the greys have been used.

The digital world is getting very exciting. Perhaps soon "fine art" quality digital B+W prints will be common place.


-- Mike Kravit (mkravit@mindspring.com), March 15, 1999.

I have had an Epson Stylus Photo EX for several months and have been very pleased with the quality. I would be very interested if anyone has any more information regarding black and white printing, especially regarding the black and grey inks to replace the colour cartridges as I would really like real black and white prints without a colour cast. Has anybody got any addresses and/or websites, phone numbers of suppliers? Is it really true you can't use a colour cartridge again after loading a black and grey cartridge in its place?

-- Roger Packer (rogerp@chiron.co.uk), March 18, 1999.

Try http://www.missupply.com/store.cgi? cart_id=2396289.10795&page=outlet_frontpage_query.html

MIS Associates sell Archival inks for Epson printers, a 4 shade B&W ink replacement kit for dedicated B&W printing with Epson printers, and are rumoured to be devloping a 6 shade B&W ink set for the EX / 700.

I would be very interested in anyone with experience of any of the MIS ink products. My aim is to get the best possible print quality from digital scans.

-- qdb (qdb@barleigh.com), April 05, 1999.

Strat Simon is incorrect about the inks used in ink jet printers such as the Epson line. The four color printers use CMYK inks. The six color printers add a light cyan and a light magenta to the CMYK set.

-- Michael Fitzwater (mkfitz@earthlink.net), May 12, 1999.

I use an Epson EX to make high quality B&W prints. I scan negs with a Nikon Coolscan III, edit with Photoshop and print out using Kodak's superb ink jet photo paper. It's very very heavy weight & has a nice super gloss finish that makes for a rich print.

On the printer I use the Photo Paper setting, automatic, black ink. I know it's controversial to use the black ink setting, and you DO get visible dots in lighter areas using only black ink, but to my eye the overall quality is much better than using the color setting. Also, with black ink the print looks much more like a traditional B&W print and has deep blacks and excellant tonality throughout with no color cast..

I try to keep in mind that at the normal viewing distance for an 8x10 print there is totally no visible "grain" (dots). Very close viewing (3 inches or using a loupe) will, of course, reveal dots and probably slight banding. That is not really a defect. Viewing a conventionally made B&W print with a loupe usually reveals lots of grain also, as well as other problems such as undusted spots, etc.

-- Harry Cutting (hdcutting@aol.com), June 23, 1999.

I've been using an Epson 600 to print black and white with good results. Recently I scanned a print that I had made in a darkroom and that I particularly liked. I then tried to duplicate it in Photoshop, printing it out on the Epson.

The Duotone mode worked best for me. I can't make out individual dots when printing at the size of the original image at 300 dpi. The digital image didn't appear to lose much detail in the scan. The final print has more depth than the original -- I increased the contrast, but without blowing out the highlights and keeping shadow detail. I definitely like the digital print better.

I'll likely move up to a film scanner and a six ink photo printer in the future, but plan to keep printing black and white as well.

-- Harry Meyers (hgmssm@worldnet.att.net), July 04, 1999.

Wow! These months since I submitted an initial answer, have seen multiple times the interest in the subject. The knowledge, capabilites and technology keep growing. I printed the black and white images in my current portfolio on the black setting with my EX on Epson paper after comparing it to Ilford's latest. I arrived back to these basics after a practicle full circle of experiments with papers and settings. As for permanence and quad sets, I will soon be checking it now that stuff's out for the EX. MIS, Bulldog, Inkjetmall etc., for software, inks and papers. Latest 2 issues of Camera Arts for info.

-- Pierre Burnaugh (pburnaugh@hotmail.com), July 10, 1999.

I have a reasonably in-depth review of the Epson 1200 for B+W in the Focus Online Magazine and have a more extensive article covering basic suggestions for scanning, Photoshop and printer driver settings on our website:- http://www.photo-snowdonia.freeserve.co.uk Focus Online is at:- http://focus-online.com/ Hope accessing these will help cover photo reproduction being now available for the dedicated worker. However, my experience shows that scanning from prints MADE for scanning - like Ansel Adams made for reproduction - i.e. not from black to white but rather dark gray to off white with full details - is vastly superior to scanning from negatives, as enlargement usually produces a granular structure in digital prints due the actual dpi of the scanning beginning to show. In other words, the printer (Epson 1200, 740/750) can do it provided you can produce the right information in your image files. More in the review and on site but hope these comments help!

-- Brian SL Allen, HonFZPS,AHFAP (brian@photo-snowdonia.freeserve.co.uk), July 10, 1999.

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