B&W Prints on Epson 1280?

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I have a lot of 4x5 black and white negs that I would like to output on my epson 1280. Can anyone offer some good tips on doing this? Is the best way to do with the quad-tone inks? can it be done with color inks? The more help the better.



-- Matt Johnson (mattjohnsonphoto@hotmail.com), April 23, 2002


hi matt you might check out http://www.tssphoto.com/sp/dg/ (inkjetart.com) they sell inks &c and probably have some practical advice on their website. best of luck

-- jnanian (jak@gis.net), April 23, 2002.

I get great results printing B&W on my Epson 1280. I print using standard Epson color inks. I find that if I print a B&W file (8 bit) on Premium Glossy Paper using color inks I get a slight purple cast to the print, so I convert to 16 bit color and adjust the tint of the print to where I want it--slightly warm or slightly cold, depending upon the subject matter, and print using color inks. This takes away the purple cast and allows me to control the final product better. My software (Picture Window Pro) even has an adjustment for simulating toners. Eight bit black and white files print more neutrally on Matte Heavyweight paper (which has greater longevity). One key is not to adjust the printer driver to print only using black ink, always use color. I usually do the initial scan in 16 bit black and white so as to have a full range of tones to work with in manipulating the picture with my software. Using masks and curves I am able to burn in and dodge very selectively. In short, although I think that a master printer in the darkroom could outdo what I can do with Picture Window Pro and the Epson, I don't think that I could produce better darkroom prints without decades of experience. I'm quite happy with the results I get from the digital darkroom. I haven't tried special B&W inks yet. I haven't really seen prints done with them to compare to what I can do with standard Epson materials.

-- Tony Galt (galta@uwgb.edu), April 23, 2002.


A friend of mine uses an older Epson printer with the Piezography BW System. They look remarkable. It is hard to believe that they are inkjet prints. I don't know much about the process, I just know what I have seen, and they look great. Check out this website: http://www.piezography.com.

-- Dave Karp (davekarp@ix.netcom.com), April 23, 2002.

Matt, there are lots of people making B&W prints with color inks, but if you want really high-quality prints, there's really no comparison between color and the quad-tone systems. Quad-tone is AMAZING. If you want to try a sample, go to www.colorfolio.com and contact Bob Cornelis-- he is a top-notch quadtone printer. You can send him a file and get a print made just as an example if you want. But, be ready to be so blown away that you want a quadtone system right away!!

~chris jordan (Seattle)

-- chris jordan (cjordan@yarmuth.com), April 23, 2002.

This is a really big topic that can't be addressed fully here, but FWIW, following are my opinions on the most popular alternatives:

1. Use the 1280 color inks. The least expensive alternative, this also does not require that you dedicate your printer to B&W (which, as a practical matter, you must do with quad or hex tone alternatives). The disadvantages are that the 1280 color inks are thought to be less permanent than the carbon pigments used by the quad and hex tone systems and the difficulty of getting nuetral and consistent tone. The latter problem was too much for me. If it were a matter simply of a consistent, say cyan, tone across the entire scale, this would be easy to deal with, but the real problem is that highlights are one color (often cyan) and shadows another (often green). It's a real pain to solve this problem. Because of this and the permanence issue, few serious B&W digital printers seem to use this alternative.

2. The Cone Piezography system. This system uses a set of black/grey inks of varying shades and replaces the Epson 1280 driver with a proprietary driver developed by Cone. Piezography has the advantage of being an integrated, "plug and play" system supported by the manufacturer. It also has available profiles which tailor the system to most available papers. Its disadvantages include its expense and reports of technical problems such as severe clogging of the printer heads. Some have reported that these problems are solved by using third party inks designed to work in the Piezography system. Also, some people do not like the warm tone of the Piezography inks. Piezography has become something of a standard in B&W digital printing.

3. MIS Variable Mix "System." This system uses an ink set with 4 shades of black and grey inks, similar to Piezography, and 2 shades of blue ink. The idea is that by introducing various amounts of blue, you can "cool" the tone of the print. The system uses the Epson driver. Prior to printing you convert the file to color and apply a color curve which essentially tricks the driver into using the proper mix of the 6 inks. There are different curves for a range of different tones from warm to cold. The curves were primarily developed by Paul Rourke and can be downloaded for free. Advantages include cost (the only expense is the inks, which are much cheaper than Cone's), the ability to tone, and fewer reported clogging problems. Disadvantages include lack of system support (MIS only manufactures and sells the inks), and paper-specific profiles (which some claim are not necessary).

I've made and seen prints made using all of these methods. With the exception of the tone problems I mentioned using Epson color inks, I believe they are all capable of very high quality prints, and I now do most of my B&W printing using #3. The look is quite different from a traditional silver print, and attempting to copy the look of silver prints is probably doomed to failure. But the digital prints have an aesthetic of their own that is somewhat similar to platinum or palladium prints.

-- Chris Patti (cmpatti@aol.com), April 23, 2002.

Chris, thanks for your detailed write up.

Do you know if the the MIS Variable Mix "System" will work with an Epson 1200? I have one which I am thinking of dedicating to B&W.


-- John Hennessy (northbay@directcon.net), April 23, 2002.

There are MIS Variable Mix ink sets for both 4 and 6 color printers (can't remember which the 1200 is). The real issue is whether a set of curves has been developed for the particular printer, since each model needs its own set (e.g., 1270 curves apparently don't work well with the 1280). Try emailing Paul Rourke (paul.rourke@verizon.net), who has been the leading force in developing these curves. He's very helpful and generous with his time.

-- Chris Patti (cmpatti@aol.com), April 24, 2002.

I started using the MIS variable tone inks a couple days ago with my Epson 1160 printer. I used the Paul Roark curves for the 1160/variable tone inks that are posted on the MIS web site. I printed on Crane Museo paper, one of the two papers recommended for use with these curves and inks. Frankly at this point I've been disappointed with the results. They aren't bad by any means but I was expecting a big improvement over the prints I made using the Epson color inks (which actually were quite good) and so far I see no difference between the MIS inks and the Epson inks I was using, except of course for the fact that the MIS variable tone inks provide four different options for print tone (whicn probably could also have been done with the Epson inks if I had tried to do it). I don't say any of this as gospel, I've only been using the MIS inks for a few days, but based on some of the comments like the one above raving about the MIS inks I guess I was expecting to have my socks knocked off and my socks are still very much on. The consensus of opinion on the Yahoo Groups quad tone group seems to be that optimum black and white printing is done using the Cone Piezo software with the MIS inks. I haven't yet tried that software, mainly because of its cost (around $350 I think) and because I didn't want to introduce too many new things at once, but perhaps that software is necessary in order to take full advantage of the MIS inks.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlink.net), April 25, 2002.

Epson itself may come to your rescue. Please check this out:


-- Bill Eadie (wae5@pacbell.net), April 28, 2002.

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