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Author Topic: B&W printing options  (Read 114091 times)

Jeff-Grant

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B&W printing options
« on: November 02, 2014, 01:15:12 am »

I have never used ABW on my Epson printers, but feel that the other options for B&W are more attractive. In looking around, I haven't been able to find any comparison of Peizography, MIS etc. I can find articles from users both for and against the various options but any comparisons or pros and cons have eluded me. I have an old Epson 2400 which I plan on using but I'd like to hear what others are using and, particularly, why they are using it.

I have all the gear that I need to build profiles, linearise etc so those are not issues. However, I can't see myself spending much time experimenting with mixed inks etc. What really interests me i stye quality of the print.
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Stefan Ohlsson

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2014, 03:45:31 am »

Don't overlook ImagePrint's B&W profiles. We did a comparison between Piezography and ImagePrint, we sent the file to Piezography and let them print this image. We then printed the same file through ImagePrint on our Epson 4900. When we received the print from Piezography we saw that the blacks were better on the IP image. They both were very neutral under daylight, but we saw a slight cast under tungsten light in the Piezography print.

We've also sent some B&W prints to Aardenburg and tested the lightfastness. We were pretty sure that the Piezography print would come out on top, but to our surprise the ImagePrint faded a lot less. The test was done on a Piezography mix were the've added some dyes to get a neutral print, so if you would compare their museum inks Piezography would probably do a lot better. But still, ImagePrint images in B&W last a long time.

And you have all the other advantages of ImagePrint. You can tint your images in a very subtle manner to duplicate the choices that we had in the darkroom with different papers and developers. And you use the ordinary Epson inks, so you can mix B&W and colour prints.
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Jeff-Grant

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2014, 06:01:35 am »

Thanks Stefan. That's the last response that I expected. I've looked at Imageprint before, and decided against it for reasons that I no longer remember. I hear what you are saying but I'm wrestling with how it can do a better job with fewer inks.
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Stefan Ohlsson

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2014, 06:32:35 am »

Download the demo version and I'm sure that you will be convinced. We're printing for some of the most demanding photographers here in Sweden, guys that are well known for their amazing skills in the darkroom. But when they are doing larger prints for exhibition purposes, they come to us. It's hard to do prints in the sizes up to 150 cm width in the darkroom. And when they are impressed, we must do something right. And ImagePrint must be good. I'm quite sure that isn't the number of inks that decides the quality of the prints.
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Mark D Segal

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2014, 08:50:37 am »

To keep life simple and get excellent results, print from Lightroom by converting the photo to B&W in the Lightroom HSL/B&W panel. Use the same paper profile you would use for any other prints. You may also consider buying NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 which can be installed to operate in conjunction with Lightroom. You would access it from the Photo>Edit In.... drop-down menu.It provides for added local control over tone and many interesting presets.
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Alan Goldhammer

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2014, 09:30:42 am »

Mark's suggestions are excellent.  The Epson ABW driver does give a deeper Dmax and can give outstanding results but since Apple OS crippled the use of profiles for this driver, one cannot use ABW profiles for soft proofing such that trial and error printing is the only route available.  Such profiles can still be used with WinOS making it easier to preview results and correct toning prior to printing.  I'm still on Win7 and most of my B/W printing is done with the Epson ABW driver.  I also submitted a bunch of test prints using Hahnemuhle PhotoRag Ultra Smooth to Aardenburg for stability testing. 
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Paul Roark

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2014, 10:32:04 am »

Which approach one takes is obviously influenced by factors such as how important lightfastness is, what print tones are preferred, cost, flexibility, etc.

I, personally, have been an advocate for using 100% carbon pigments for the best longevity.  At page 2 of http://www.paulroark.com/BW-Info/Eboni-6.pdf I summarize some of the most relevant http://www.aardenburg-imaging.com/ fade test data.  This is becoming a bit dated, but with respect to longevity, the 100% carbon pigment approaches are going to fade at less than half the rate of the OEM B&W approaches, depending on how the Epson or HP images are printed.  The differential can be much greater.

The only 100% carbon pigment approaches I'm aware of are the MIS Eboni and Cone Carbon Sepia.  The OEM gray inks are not 100% carbon.  It takes about 50% color inks in a mix to neutralize the warm carbon that is needed for glossy printing.  The Piezography inks aside from the carbon sepia are not 100% carbon.

The main challenge with using 100% carbon if one wants a Lab B to be less than 8 (on matte paper, higher on glossy) is to find a pigment and paper that print more neutrally.  That is what has made the MIS Eboni approach unique.  It can print with a more neutral tone (lower lab b) than other carbons.

For most printers, the extreme longevity of 100% carbon is probably overkill.  When it comes to adding colors, controlling the print tone can be a challenge.  Also, the colors, particularly third party pigments, tend to fade at different rates.  Again, for medium term display, all of the systems will be fine.  For longer term, stay with the OEM colors.

I personally find it easiest to use the HP Z3200 PK and grays (which can be diluted from the PK), which are the most neutral and, for this coolness they exhibit, the most lightfast.  So, I use HP grays to cool my Eboni carbon when I want cooler matte prints.

As one can gather from the above, if you are interested in flexibility and a more turn key approach, the ABW OEM approach may be the easiest route.  For me, Eboni carbon on Arches watercolor paper is the most satisfying, and the medium I think will last the longest FWIW.  It doesn't hurt that it can also be by far the least expensive.

Paul
www.PaulRoark.com
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Stefan Ohlsson

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2014, 11:00:51 am »

To keep life simple and get excellent results, print from Lightroom by converting the photo to B&W in the Lightroom HSL/B&W panel. Use the same paper profile you would use for any other prints. You may also consider buying NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 which can be installed to operate in conjunction with Lightroom. You would access it from the Photo>Edit In.... drop-down menu. It provides for added local control over tone and many interesting presets.
Converting a colour image to B&W in Lightroom is my main tool. I really like the control that the HSL panel gives me. But you have to have a very good colour profile to get a good B&W profile. Most of the profiles that can be downloaded from the paper manufacturers don't give a stable grey balance from black to white, according to my tests.

And then the lightfastness of the print isn't at all as good as a real B&W profile, which uses the three black inks almost exclusively. It's only in the darker areas that the colour inks are used.
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Stefan Ohlsson

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2014, 11:17:11 am »

Mark's suggestions are excellent.  The Epson ABW driver does give a deeper Dmax and can give outstanding results but since Apple OS crippled the use of profiles for this driver, one cannot use ABW profiles for soft proofing such that trial and error printing is the only route available.  Such profiles can still be used with WinOS making it easier to preview results and correct toning prior to printing.  I'm still on Win7 and most of my B/W printing is done with the Epson ABW driver.  I also submitted a bunch of test prints using Hahnemuhle PhotoRag Ultra Smooth to Aardenburg for stability testing. 
The soft proofing in ImagePrint is one of the advantages of that RIP. It's easy to judge how the print will look, I can even do minor changes in contrast and/or lightness. Another important area for us is that we don't have to worry about the small changes in the printing pipe line that has happened with almost every upgrade of the Mac OS. As we now and then have to reprint a file it's important for us that we have a stable system. And the tinting in ABW is pretty weak compared to ImagePrint's tinting. As the photographers we are working with want us to emulate the look of the papers and developers that they are using in the darkroom, this is an important feature for us.
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TylerB

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2014, 01:33:04 pm »

Quadtone RIP has not been mentioned and cannot be underestimated as a viable B&W printing option. Not only will it use your OEM inks in a much more optimal manner for B&W printing, it will give you much more sophisticated control of your print hue, allowing separate curve blends for highlights, mid tones, and shadows. Despite a reputation to the contrary, assuming supported printer and paper curves, you will be up and going quickly. It is a sophisticated enough driver for others to dig into and create unique use and curves for custom inksets as well, including Jon Cone's utilization of it for Piezography. Complexity comes with digging into customization and unusual inksets, but again, that is not that hard for many either, and there is a vibrant yahoo user group to help.
Given it's low shareware cost (you can try it for free), it's an option that must be on the list.
Additionally the QTR Print Tool is an amazing tool I would advise for anyone printing anything, color or B&W. For many of us involved in color management, it's become the only way to reliably print profile charts.
Quadtone RIP will make use of your 3 blacks, and the additional color inks for hue control, in a optimal manner like the much more expensive options, for$50. SHould you decide to proceed into specialty B&W inksets, you will already have QTR under your belt.
Tyler
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Alan Goldhammer

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2014, 03:19:19 pm »

Converting a colour image to B&W in Lightroom is my main tool. I really like the control that the HSL panel gives me. But you have to have a very good colour profile to get a good B&W profile. Most of the profiles that can be downloaded from the paper manufacturers don't give a stable grey balance from black to white, according to my tests.

And then the lightfastness of the print isn't at all as good as a real B&W profile, which uses the three black inks almost exclusively. It's only in the darker areas that the colour inks are used.

I get around the profile problem by creating my own using the ArgyllCMS.  I can include a 52 step B/W patch set in with the color patches and get a profile that works well for both color prints and B/W using the normal Epson print driver.
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Stefan Ohlsson

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2014, 05:35:45 pm »

I get around the profile problem by creating my own using the ArgyllCMS.  I can include a 52 step B/W patch set in with the color patches and get a profile that works well for both color prints and B/W using the normal Epson print driver.
But is it possible to create a profile that uses mostly the black inks in the highlights and mid tones and only adds colour inks to neutralize the print colour and deepens the black? That's important to minimize the metameric failure, which is a real problem with B&W prints? Can you create a profile without using the yellow inks, that isn't as light fast as the other inks? I haven't used Argyll, so I don't know.

If it's only to get a really stable gray balance there are other ways. To do that with a profile made in i1Profiler I use a target with some 2000 patches as a fine tuning step. I have no idea if that will give you a better result than the Argyll does, as I haven't tested that profiling program. But for the profiles I create for the Epson driver, it's OK.
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Jeff-Grant

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2014, 09:19:25 pm »

Many thanks. That has given me a lot to ponder. I should have mentioned that I don't use LR, and won't in the future. I use C1 exclusively and Phocus for my old H stuff. I much prefer the look of colour from them. Additionally, I use Nik Silver Efex for my B&W conversions. I'm also wary of RIPs, having bought ColorBurst at full price only to have support dropped and then buying Overdrive which has it's own set of issues for me. Currently, I am using Mirage which is proving to be stable and easy to use.

When I looked at the Imageprint site, the first thing that I saw was the B&W feature. The impression is that I just press a button for instant B&W. I've never found that to be the case. If it's true, I wonder what I have been doing all this time with SEP.

My inclination is to try QTR, just to get the hang of it. I already have it from a while back. From memory, the last time that I looked at it, soft proofing was not an option. looking again, Print Tool appears to include it but the manual is not crystal clear on how to use it. I'm assuming that I need to select a QTR profile for soft proofing. If I get this going to my satisfaction, I can look at ink sets later.
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Stefan Ohlsson

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2014, 02:01:26 am »

When I looked at the Imageprint site, the first thing that I saw was the B&W feature. The impression is that I just press a button for instant B&W. I've never found that to be the case. If it's true, I wonder what I have been doing all this time with SEP.

You can use the profile to convert a colour image to a B&W. I have never used that feature, as I loose all control over how the conversion is done. I convert  an image either directly in Lightroom/CameraRaw, or I do it in Photoshop. But believe it or not, we often print from scanned B&W negatives. No conversions necessary.

So you could continue to convert your image to B&W in SEP or whatever software that gives you a result that you like and then use ImagePrint for printing.
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Jeff Grant

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2014, 03:46:00 am »

Thanks Stefan. I can't ever open a file without having a play with it.
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Stefan Ohlsson

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2014, 04:09:37 am »

Thanks Stefan. I can't ever open a file without having a play with it.
I hope that you report how you like Quadtone. I think it is interesting software, I've tested it once and didn't really like it. But as with most software, you invest a lot of time and learn how to interact with it, how to get around the different limitations. I've been working with ImagePrint since 2002, and I think that I know how to get the most out of that program. It's hard for a new program to compete, it has to have really strong advantages compared to the program you are familiar with.
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Jeff Grant

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #16 on: November 03, 2014, 05:05:19 am »

I will report back. Imageprint is a lot of cash for personal use. If that's what I need, i'll buy it buf i'll invest time in QTR first. If I can't accurately soft proof, it won't be long.
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Stefan Ohlsson

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #17 on: November 03, 2014, 05:59:48 am »

It is a lot of cash, so I would do the same as you. From what I've heard, I think you will be satisfied. For me, who has a production running, the cost of the software is a minor consideration. Does it save me 10 minutes time each day, it is worth every öre it costs.
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Alan Goldhammer

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #18 on: November 03, 2014, 08:15:39 am »

But is it possible to create a profile that uses mostly the black inks in the highlights and mid tones and only adds colour inks to neutralize the print colour and deepens the black? That's important to minimize the metameric failure, which is a real problem with B&W prints? Can you create a profile without using the yellow inks, that isn't as light fast as the other inks? I haven't used Argyll, so I don't know.

If it's only to get a really stable gray balance there are other ways. To do that with a profile made in i1Profiler I use a target with some 2000 patches as a fine tuning step. I have no idea if that will give you a better result than the Argyll does, as I haven't tested that profiling program. But for the profiles I create for the Epson driver, it's OK.
Unless you are willing to write a new printer driver that controls the inks you are limited by Epson's driver which does use small amounts of yellow ink.  Thus the ArgyllCMS profiles will reflect this. While it does post light fast problems that is also dependent on the paper you print on.  Most of my printing is on Museo Silver Rag which seems to have better fade resistance than other papers as per studies on the Aardenburg website.  Maybe the QTR driver addresses this; I'm not sure as I print straight from LR using either the ABW or normal Epson driver.
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Stefan Ohlsson

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Re: B&W printing options
« Reply #19 on: November 03, 2014, 11:06:21 am »

There is an article on LuLa that really explains why I prefer ImagePrint for my B&W printing. http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/bw_master_print.shtml is written by George DeWolfe and in the end of that article he writes about the different B&W printing methods, how he has tested them and why he came to the conclusion that Imageprint was the best software for his needs.

This is his summary:

The quality is better than the other processes I’ve tried. This includes the HP and Epson B&W interfaces (which tend to print too green), poor profiles for all of standard printer drivers, a dirth of profiles for the Quadtone RIP, and dedicating inksets like MIS and Piezography to one printer (because they only print B&W).
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