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Author Topic: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"  (Read 3064 times)

Jeffrey Saldinger

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Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« on: April 19, 2017, 02:50:36 PM »

The P800 manual points out that “Darker” is the default value for Tone in Advanced BW printing, but that “you may see better results if you choose Dark”.

I have been usual “Normal” since I began printing a few years ago (first on the 3880 and now on the P800), and in recent days had occasion to compare the same file’s result using both “Dark” and “Normal” on my P800.

The result from the “Dark” was dark for my taste, and while I realize taste means a lot if not everything here, are there differences between what’s happening “under the hood” when the two choices are made beyond what one could work out for oneself in the Lr develop module or with adjustments in Photoshop or other software?

I haven’t tried the following yet, but it seems to me that if I chose the “Dark” tone to use in printing a file I had developed to print using “Normal”, I could develop the file in Lr or Ps only slightly differently from the original development (e.g. one final adjustment atop all the others I've made) and wind up with identical or indistinguishable prints.

Are there advantages not related to taste or the print’s appearance that come from “Darker” or “Dark” as opposed to “Normal”?  Or perhaps it is a way for the ABW mode to add universal tweak to a file that makes further work in Lr or Ps unnecessary (as I imagine some users might prefer)?

Where the manual says “better” (see top paragraph), would I be missing something valuable to think that “different” (i.e. lighter or darker, depending on the tone setting) would be more accurate.  Is it better in any technical sense?
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Jeffrey
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donbga

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2017, 04:56:54 PM »

You should print some digital step tablets to understand the effects of the print driver sans any image processing to gain insight about what is occurring under the hood.

If you have an instrument that can measure density that will help your understanding immensely particularly if you can plot the results.
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Peter McLennan

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2017, 05:06:10 PM »

You should print some digital step tablets to understand the effects of the print driver sans any image processing to gain insight about what is occurring under the hood.

Agreed. Step wedges are what's needed. Epson is no help in this regard.  ABW offers controls like "highlight/shadow tonality", which to me at least, are opaque.
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2017, 06:09:22 PM »

The P800 manual points out that “Darker” is the default value for Tone in Advanced BW printing, but that “you may see better results if you choose Dark”.


The words "default" and "better" have no relevant meaning to specific photos. It's whatever works better for the photo at hand. The two big problems with ABW are (1) the lack of ICC profiles for softproofing what it will do on paper and (2) the limited options for dialing in the tonality you want, which will be some kind of mixture emphasizing either Blacks or shadow detail or some melange of both. If you really want to use that route for making your prints, you can get to know it in a practical sense by going to Keith Cooper's website (Northlight-Images) and download his B&W printer test target. Print it with a variety of different ABW settings and examine its various components for shadow detail, Blacks, highlight retention, mid-range tonal gradation, etc. That will give you a feel for the combination of settings that would be your "basic" go-to set, from which you would vary depending on the photo. Frankly though, we have much more control over our output using the RGB driver and softproofing through our ICC profiles. The P800 makes excellent B&W prints that way.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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EricV

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2017, 06:34:11 PM »

When going through the RGB driver and color profiles, is there any guarantee (or technique to enforce) that only the gray and black pigments will be used?
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2017, 06:38:08 PM »

No - but what matters is what you see on paper.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Wayne Fox

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2017, 12:36:09 AM »

When going through the RGB driver and color profiles, is there any guarantee (or technique to enforce) that only the gray and black pigments will be used?
I don't believe there is anyway to accomplish what you suggest through the standard RGB/printer driver pipeline.  Barring some technique which takes over the driver (such as ABW or perhaps a RIP), I think at least some parts of the image will have some other colors of ink mixed in to achieve the 'tone' as interpreted by the file and the profile. The amount will most likely be very small, so I'm not sure how significant or important it is.

Jeffrey Saldinger

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2017, 08:53:44 AM »

To the respondents, thank you for pointing my question in directions I hadn’t been thinking about and thus giving me some new factors to consider.  Mark, thank you for the mentioning the Keith Cooper test target.

I fear from what Mark wrote that either I’m underinformed about matters that are important to me (and therefore hope to get help with another reply), or that I failed to explain my workflow enough (I hope only one of these is the case, not both).

In my workflow, which almost always includes work in Photoshop (starting there with the file in either color or BW, depending on the image, how I plan to develop it, and whether I converted it in Lr before going to Ps), I always print from the BW image in Adobe RGB 16-bit, using ABW Normal set to give a neutral print.  In setting up the print command, I always use “managed by printer”, which freezes the profile with sRGB (i.e., no choice of ICC profile as there would be for printing a color image).  So I wonder whether, in Mark’s mentioning the use of ICC profiles in reply to my question, there’s something important I don’t know about setting up the print command for my BW images.

Also, where Mark writes: “Frankly though, we have much more control over our output using the RGB driver and softproofing through our ICC profiles,” is this a suggestion to softproof the grayscale image in Ps by selecting the paper I’m printing on (i.e., in View>Proof Setup>Custom)?  Given that the image onscreen at that point is grayscale, would I not “merely” be seeing the effect of the tone of the paper (I use Premium Luster and Canson Baryta almost exclusively and know how their different tonalities will effect the print).  Is such softproofing part of many BW printers’ workflows?
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Alan Goldhammer

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2017, 09:13:55 AM »

Also, where Mark writes: “Frankly though, we have much more control over our output using the RGB driver and softproofing through our ICC profiles,” is this a suggestion to softproof the grayscale image in Ps by selecting the paper I’m printing on (i.e., in View>Proof Setup>Custom)?  Given that the image onscreen at that point is grayscale, would I not “merely” be seeing the effect of the tone of the paper (I use Premium Luster and Canson Baryta almost exclusively and know how their different tonalities will effect the print).  Is such softproofing part of many BW printers’ workflows?
Provided one is using Windows OS, the ability to use an ABW profile to smooth out the tonal range is still possible.  Such profiles can be prepared using Roy Harrington's QTR software.  It just involves reading the densities from a BW stepwedge and using the software to create the profile.  I believe Kieth Cooper's website has an article on this.  One can print from the ABW print driver and use the prepared profile and do soft proofing within LR.  It must be noted that this capability does not exist any longer on MacOS as Apple made a change (five years ago???) that prevents this.  there is a lengthy article by Eric Chan on this:  http://people.csail.mit.edu/ericchan/dp/Epson3800/abwprofiles.html 

It's to bad that Apple removed this capability is it is quite useful in getting maximal results from the Epson ABW driver.  Alternatively, one can also use QTR as the print driver:  http://www.quadtonerip.com/html/QTRoverview.html and it's quite inexpensive.
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2017, 09:58:02 AM »

To the respondents, thank you for pointing my question in directions I hadn’t been thinking about and thus giving me some new factors to consider.  Mark, thank you for the mentioning the Keith Cooper test target.

I fear from what Mark wrote that either I’m underinformed about matters that are important to me (and therefore hope to get help with another reply), or that I failed to explain my workflow enough (I hope only one of these is the case, not both).

In my workflow, which almost always includes work in Photoshop (starting there with the file in either color or BW, depending on the image, how I plan to develop it, and whether I converted it in Lr before going to Ps), I always print from the BW image in Adobe RGB 16-bit, using ABW Normal set to give a neutral print.  In setting up the print command, I always use “managed by printer”, which freezes the profile with sRGB (i.e., no choice of ICC profile as there would be for printing a color image).  So I wonder whether, in Mark’s mentioning the use of ICC profiles in reply to my question, there’s something important I don’t know about setting up the print command for my BW images.

Also, where Mark writes: “Frankly though, we have much more control over our output using the RGB driver and softproofing through our ICC profiles,” is this a suggestion to softproof the grayscale image in Ps by selecting the paper I’m printing on (i.e., in View>Proof Setup>Custom)?  Given that the image onscreen at that point is grayscale, would I not “merely” be seeing the effect of the tone of the paper (I use Premium Luster and Canson Baryta almost exclusively and know how their different tonalities will effect the print).  Is such softproofing part of many BW printers’ workflows?

What you described about your workflow is clear enough. So I hope I am not confusing matters. For clarity, I'll explain a bit more.

It goes back to your objectives - how much control do you wish to have over the appearance of the final product, and which option provides you with the results that you consider most pleasing. That's the framework for what follows.

You have basically two primary workflow options if operating strictly within LR or PS (i.e. Alan's contribution is a 3rd approach; I can't comment on it as I'm not using either Windows or QTR, but I trust Alan's judgment that if he says it's good it most likely is). One approach is the standard PS/LR Manages Color, using ICC profiles. We'll call it " AM for Application Managed". The other is - in Epsonese - ABW, which is Printer Managed.

ABW is more of a "black box" than AM, because it doesn't feature user-accessible profiles that allow you to softproof what the printed photo will look like out of your printer. Back in day, Eric Chan made some profiles for ABW in the Epson 3800 (I believe for several papers, but I forget - it was years ago). We don't have such profiles (apart from what Alan suggested) these days for the P800 or other printers. So the extent of control you have depends on using a good test image (such as Northlight's), trying various settings within the ABW interface, printing them, and determining what will generally best meet your needs. With AM and standard ICC soft-proofing capability, you can always see pretty closely (depending on how well colour-managed you are) on your display what will emerge from the printer.

To do this properly you want to make sure that you have paper white and black point selected in the softproof options. The advantage of working this way is that the predictability of your results will be better. There is almost always some tonal compression between the display and the printer because paper cannot reflect the full extent of the range from black to white that you see via transmitted light on a display. The difference is much more accentuated for matte papers than for gloss/luster papers, notwithstanding the great strides that have been made recently to enhance black appearance with some newer papers and inks. This particularly affects how you adjust deep shadow detail to make sure you bring out what you want to be seen in the print.

The stated advantages of ABW are that it delivers blacker blacks and more neutrality than does the AM workflow. I become less and less convinced about the practical importance of these advantages the more and more I see of B&W outcomes using the AM approach with today's printers, inks and papers. So essentially, what I was really suggesting to you is that you should try an AM workflow and compare, to see whether you may not be better off in terms of control and no worse off for quality using this rather than ABW.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Jeffrey Saldinger

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2017, 10:42:09 AM »

Thank you Mark and Alan, and Mark, what a terrifically clarifying answer.

I began learning digital printing in early 2014 (always on Epson printers) and cannot recall it ever being suggested that I use anything but Advanced B&W with color management off.

I will digest what’s been written so far and reply as appropriate as soon as I can; the day calls for several hours away from my studio.
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Jeffrey
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Alan Goldhammer

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2017, 11:30:20 AM »

The stated advantages of ABW are that it delivers blacker blacks and more neutrality than does the AM workflow. I become less and less convinced about the practical importance of these advantages the more and more I see of B&W outcomes using the AM approach with today's printers, inks and papers. So essentially, what I was really suggesting to you is that you should try an AM workflow and compare, to see whether you may not be better off in terms of control and no worse off for quality using this rather than ABW.
One thing that can be done in an AM workflow is to have a profile made with an extra BW patch set.  I don't know if some of the commerical profile makers can do this but certainly the ArgyllCMS system can.  When I do profiles for myself or others I always include a 51 step BW wedge in the 1848 patches for the profile.  this will help adjust the BW response if one wants to use that workflow.  I've tested this out on my Epson 3880 and one can see some differences when printing out the Northlight BW test image.  That being said, I do most of my BW work using the ABW driver as it gives a darker black point than the normal driver and one can see differences in images that have a wide dynamic range that include some very dark areas.

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dasuess

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Here is the first in a series of three articles that might lead to a better understanding of the Epson ABW driver and how to use it.

http://blog.brettlerickson.com/2016/03/21/epsons-advanced-black-and-white-printing-mode-translating-settings-to-ansel-adams-zones/



Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2017, 01:47:28 PM »

............  I've tested this out on my Epson 3880 and one can see some differences when printing out the Northlight BW test image.  That being said, I do most of my BW work using the ABW driver as it gives a darker black point than the normal driver and one can see differences in images that have a wide dynamic range that include some very dark areas.

Black rendition has moved on since the 3880. On my erstwhile 4900 for example, the deepest Black I could print using the standard AM workflow was in the range of L*4 on wide gamut PK papers such as IGFS; relative to that performance, ABW could do somewhat better. With the newest printers and inksets, the AM workflow is yielding Blacks in the L*2~2.5 range with the same papers, and ABW roughly in the range of L* 1.5~2, so the difference has really narrowed to a point where one doesn't see it. Once we move beyond say around L*5, the paper we use and how we edit the quartertones makes much more difference to apparent shadow detail than whether the workflow is ABW or AM. This gets to be personal preference, but especially with today's materials, working with OSX, LR, PS, speaking for myself, I would opt for image by image softproofing over fractions of an L* Blackness.
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Wayne Fox

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2017, 01:52:16 PM »

One thing that can be done in an AM workflow is to have a profile made with an extra BW patch set.
Not sure what the OP is using, but thought I would add this for those reading this thread and wondering about this if using i1Profiler.

It is interesting to note that increasing the number of patches for a target in i1Profiler actually adds “near grays” to the target until it reaches some tipping point, where it then eliminates nearly all of the near grays and then adds a large number of new colors. So while you can create a target with any number of patches that you want, there are really only about 10 “optimum” patch sets.  You can observe this by choosing a patch set and then increasing it by 1, watching the patches that are added, and when you see all of the near grays disappear and replaced with new colors, click back one.  For example, I used to use a 4000 patch target.  Then I found that if increased that to 4101 patches, the target added 101 near grays with no change in the color patches used.  Moving to 4102 eliminates almost all of the near grays and replaces them with another set of color patches. 

Additionally, you can optimize a profile created with i1Profiler by using a target consisting of only grays.  I tried this and while I didn’t notice any real change I didn’t do anything to measure the differences.  Since I mostly  work in color I was more interested in keeping color casts out of neutral tones, and my profiles using the 4101 patch set seems to accomplish this. See this thread for more info and a link to a couple of targets consisting of grays.

Alan Goldhammer

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2017, 02:16:56 PM »

Black rendition has moved on since the 3880.
Of that I have no doubt.  However, one has to make do with the tools that one has.  My 3880 shows no signs of demise so I'll keep trucking along!   ;)
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2017, 02:48:20 PM »

Oh goodness for sure! It's a superb printer. :-)
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Ferp

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2017, 07:34:27 PM »

One of the frustrating things about ABW printing is the lack of precision and predictability compared to color printing.  With color, we have profiles that enable soft-proofing and give us a reasonable chance of getting a monitor to print match. 

As several people have said, you can in fact create profiles for ABW using the profile creation tools that come with QTR, although this requires a measurement device like an i1.  Armed with an ICC, you can adopt a workflow fairly similar to color printing, rather than trying to select one of the five ABW tone settings using the approach in the Brett Erickson article.  I imagine that most people who create ICCs use the middle Dark ABW setting.

But there are potential pitfalls in creating an ICC using the QTR-based tools.  On Windows, if you select Printer Manages Color, then you'll get an silent conversion to sRGB when printing from PS (not sure about LR).  I take it that Jeffrey is on Windows, as his second post seems to mention this.  But as we've discussed here before, there are workarounds.  In PS you can set the printer profile to be the same as the image profile, e.g AdobeRGB (you'll get a warning, but this works), or you can fool the Adobe color management engine by assigning (not converting) the image to sRGB prior to printing.  You'll need to adopt one of these workarounds for both creating the ICC and printing images.  Or print your images from Qimage, which avoid's Adobe's silent sRGB conversion.

I'm not a Mac user, but I've never understood why people say you can't use ICC profiles for ABW on a Mac anymore.  I gather that there was some scope to specify one directly in the ABW driver some years ago which has since been removed, but even now I'd have thought that you could do exactly as I've described for Windows, but without the sRGB problems.

Surely using an ICC has to be better than a trial and error process for each image to see which of the five ABW tone settings is most suitable?
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Stephen Ray

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2017, 09:47:35 PM »

there are really only about 10 “optimum” patch sets. 

Wayne, I'm looking for the most minimal number of optimum patches to fit on a single page. Can you share a starting point?

Thanks in advance.

Stephen Ray
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Alan Goldhammer

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Re: Advanced Black and White "Darker" vs. "Dark" vs. "Normal"
« Reply #19 on: April 21, 2017, 10:15:35 AM »


I'm not a Mac user, but I've never understood why people say you can't use ICC profiles for ABW on a Mac anymore.  I gather that there was some scope to specify one directly in the ABW driver some years ago which has since been removed, but even now I'd have thought that you could do exactly as I've described for Windows, but without the sRGB problems.

Surely using an ICC has to be better than a trial and error process for each image to see which of the five ABW tone settings is most suitable?
There is an exhausting thread on this topic here:  http://forum.luminous-landscape.com/index.php?topic=58778.0
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