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Printing B&W in a wet world never had the problems that the digital world has.

In the digital world of Black and White, things are not always..well.. Black and White.

Executive Summary

What is Tested and How

The Printers

Black and White:

Printing BW

First Test

Lyson Ink Experiment

Silver Paper

Print Compare Page


Executive Summary

The problem with inkjet black and white is that it doesn't often come out black; the white part is easy. The native whiteness of the paper will determine that.

The black part is hard. The inks are not really black and different papers absorb ink differently based on how much ink is being laid down, etc. And the inks may change color depending on what the viewing light source is. Most of the results look pretty good under window light; but they tend the change under tungsten and fluorescent. See Print Comparison page.

I have made digital negatives for contact printing of classic silver gelatin papers using the procedures developed by Dan Burkholder. The results are very exciting. See section Silver for results.

What is Tested and How

This page is to share my experience with three inexpensive printers, Canon S820,Epson 820, C84 and an expensive Canon printer S9000 printing Black and White.

These are non-rigourous tests. They don't have resolution charts, color fidelity measures, gamma range measurements, or anything else that might quantify the results.

The Printers:

The Canon 820 and the S9000 have six individual ink cartridges and the Epson 820 has a color cartridge of 5 inks + a black cartridge; the Epson C84 has three individual color and one black.

Each one produces very good to spectacular color prints. There is no discernible grain and the color range on all printers is extremely good.

Black and White:

There are number of ways to get black and white. You can print it on paper. Or you can print a negative and get wet again, using the negative to contact print on your favorite silver paper.

Printing Black and White

Printers can make gray toned prints in three basic ways:

1) Color Ink Method:

The printer can use all the color inks to blend together to make a neutral graytone. You leave your image in RGB mode and send it to the printer. The print driver blends the inks together to get gray.

The color ink method requires you to calibrate your printer to your monitor and to neutral tones. {Outline of this procedure soon}. Using color to make black and gray is fraught with the possibility of error. Some clients tell me that my filters are making pink, or violet, or green and white images. The output of SilverOxide is graytoned(R=G=B). When printed it may look green or pink, but in the computer it is gray. The printer needs to proportion the ink being laid down and the paper needs to absorb the ink the same for all the colors.

2) The Black ink method:

The printer can only the Black ink, the file can stay RGB, and the driver switched to black only. The driver makes halftone using only the black cartridge.

3) You can get ink cartridges that contain shades of gray. This method should produce the sharpest prints, because minimal halftoning. But the Lyson inks were not pure gray but were a purple for some of the cartridges.

First Test

I took several NYC scenes that looked very good on the screen. I then printed them with various papers and inks. And I got several shades of black. See the samples page{on line Feb 18,2004} for scanned copies of my results. Although interesting, only one came close to what I was expecting, and that was Canon black ink only on Canon Pro Paper.

Silver Printing

I have made digital negatives for contact printing of classic silver gelatin papers using the procedures developed by Dan Burkholder. The results are very exciting.

Dan sells, in addition to his book, an Inkjet Negative Companion for $15 to download or $22 + shipping for the CD. Within this gem of a download is a psd file that is a template for making a negative. Within this psd is a set of layers that have curve sets for using Epson printers with Silver papers. My first tests gave me outstanding results with the 1280 curves on my Canon S9000. I printed on Pictorico OHP ink jet transparency material.

Dan's book is an invaluable source of Photoshop expertise and worth getting. The inkjet companion is a gold mine and worth about 10 times its cost. It allows you to start at a place without doing tens of hours of testing. It even tells you how much to vary the curves when trying for better results.

By generating an 8X10 digital inkjet negative, going into the darkroom and contact printing you can use your wet knowledge to a great extent. I put a #2 multicontrast filter in place of the negative carrier in my enlarger, diffused the focus and made a contact print that was very good. And I was using Kodak Polycontrast RC paper with results that didn't vary from tungsten to daylight to fluorescent.


More to Come!!