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MarkB
09-07-2008, 09:14 PM
Friends,

For the last few years I have been printing digitally, Photoshop --> Epson Photo 2200. I bought the 2200 about 4 years ago. It has been very challenging to get the output I want, though I admit I have only used stock (i.e. free) software. I did not purchase custom printer profiles, but did try one or two profiles I found free on the Internet. I think I have now achieved a step up in my B&W printing. Not a quantum leap ahead, but a definite improvement. Here is a brief overview of the stages I've been through. This applies to B&W only, not color, and I have printed almost exclusively on the Epson Enhanced Matte paper.

Stage 1. Photoshop with the driver(s) supplied by Eposn with the printer.
This combination was very unpredictable and I never got the workflow and color management fully under control. Sometimes I got prints with a magenta cast to them, sometimes with a moldy green cast. Sometimes I wasted several sheets. I tried techniques found in books, on the internet etc. I bought a colorimiter and profiled my screen. Sometimes I could get prints with neutral black. I was unhappy with the way the shadows seemed to block up with this combination (I could see detail on the screen, but they were d-maxed on the print.

Stage 2. Black Only Printing
When you print as in Stage 1, the printer apparently blends many or all of the colors when printing. I'm not sure what is the science behind this, but that's apparently what happens. I decided to limit the printer to only use the black ink. This can be done in the print dialogue box. This resulted in an immediate improvement in the neutrality of the blacks. I was always very happy with the relatively neutral black I got from black-only-printing from Photoshop --> Epson 2200. It is very reliable or predictable, and never comes out with a color cast. The downside of this approach is that the little dots of ink on the paper are more discrete, and more visible. From a reasonable viewing distance there's nothing noticeable. But if you get up close, and definitely if you look through a loupe, you can see the individual black dots. They are much more apparent in B-O-P than when printing with all the inks. Nevertheless, I consider this a definite improvement over Stage 1.

Stage 2.5. Custom Print Curve
I felt at one point that my prints were coming out slightly darker than what I thought my monitor was showing. I used my scanner to construct a custom grey scale curve that can be applied prior to printing. There are tutorials for doing this on the internet. If you are interested but can't find a link let me know and I'll find the one I used. This actually works, but it is a bit tedious to prepare the curve, and I found it not 100% reliable, i.e. I did not always get the print I thought I would... but it sometimes gave me an improvement.

Stage 3. RIP
Several weeks ago I started to use Quadtone RIP to print rather than Photoshop. With this approach you do your work on the print inside Photoshop, but QT-RIP is a separate program in which you open the file then send it to the printer. It is shareware, with a $50 price -- far, far below any other RIP on the market (OK, I don't know this for sure, but I think this is the case, some RIP packages cost hundreds or thousands of $$). QT-RIP is designed exclusively for B&W printing, and gives you a handful of controls over the color balance or toning of the B&W image; print resolution; size and location of the image on the page, etc. The program installed easily and I was instantly happy with the quality of the prints and the ease of controlling the output on the Epson 2200 printer. The way it handles the color balance is to load one or more printer profiles such as "warm" or "cool" or "sepia." You can then adjust the weight of each curve. So, using 50% warm and 50% cool gives a neutral print. If you want a slightly warm print, use 65% warm and 35% cool. You can even make separate adjustments for highlights, mid-tones and shadows.

I haven't printed enough yet with QT-RIP to make a good comparison, but I did one test of QT-RIP vs BOP (looking through a loupe) and found that the ink spots are not as visible with QT-RIP... the tones are smoother. However I also have the impression that the detail is a bit less crisp with QT-RIP. This needs to be checked more rigorously (and I only noticed a slight difference).

I like the simplicity and the results with QuadTone RIP. I have no relation to the vendor, and have never been in contact with Sympathetic Software. If, like me, you have struggled with unwanted color in your B&W output, or just want more precise and elegant control over the toning, I highly recommend this software.

taco
09-08-2008, 05:59 PM
What's wrong with a good old fashioned "wet" darkroom ::)

MarkB
09-08-2008, 06:25 PM
I really did enjoy the wet darkroom... years ago. I even have a reasonably well-equipped permanent darkroom set up in my parents' basement (2,000 miles from where I currently reside). But for the last 20 years or so I have been unable (or unwilling) to set up for wet work mainly because I move around quite a bit (I was resident in 5 countries on 3 continents in that period) and found that the rise of convenient digital processes has enabled me to get away from the wet side. I do process my own film, but that doesn't require a darkroom (120 roll film goes into a developing can in a dark bag). And, frankly, I have 100x more control over the final print using digital processes than I ever had in the 'real' darkroom. I enjoy working on images in the computer and find it much easier to do the spotting, dodging and burning etc. in the computer. Digital tools are very powerful.

Your mileage may vary! ...to each his/her own.

antbiker
09-09-2008, 08:56 AM
Mark. I symapthise with your printing troubles. I have had many battles myself over the years & still not 100% happy (I may take your recommendation & try QT-RIP).
The biggest improvement for me came when I found a tick box in Photoshop entitled 'Let Photoshop manage colours' - or something similar. My prints looked a lot better with this set.
My Epson printer is old now, & at one stage I bought a complete set of black cartridges (dark black to light black I suppose) & set my printer up to print monochrome only. The claims behind these cartridges were not modest, they promised exhibition standard prints from even the most humble photo printer.
I had the same problem as you though, I could clearly see a sort of droplet pattern on the paper, I could have experimented further with different papers but by then I had lost heart. My chosen paper is Ilford Galerie, Satin.

One of my methods was to print a picture, allow it to dry thoroughly, then scan it in. With the original on screen and the scan next to it (displaying its horrid cast) you use curves & colour balance to make the scan look exactly like the original.
In effect you have created an inverse colour curve which will neutralise any colour cast. If these curves are saved as an action you can apply them to the picture prior to printing.
Even then it was never 100% reliable.

I have had bronzing problems too, basically the printer lays down too much ink & it looks like a bright shiny patch on the print - in the darkest of shadows.

The cost in consumables can soon escalate with just a pile of scrap test prints to show for it so at some point you have to stop.

I am glad you have found something to be happy with.

taco
09-09-2008, 06:43 PM
...One of my methods was to print a picture, allow it to dry thoroughly, then scan it in. With the original on screen and the scan next to it (displaying its horrid cast) you use curves & colour balance to make the scan look exactly like the original.
In effect you have created an inverse colour curve which will neutralise any colour cast. If these curves are saved as an action you can apply them to the picture prior to printing.
Even then it was never 100% reliable.
My problem is the following: As my enlarging frame handles only 18 x 24 cm and my trays only 20 x 30 cm but sometimes I want for some reasons a larger print, I have to let them be printed by a photo lab.
If I hand over my transformed into 256 colours greyscale jpgs to the lab, they come sometimes out like slightly sepia toned. As a large sized print is easily 5 €uro, I didn't experiment to much till now but would it be better to keep the scans in 16 million colours and tint them with a tick of blue to get a neutral b & w print as result?
Your thoughts, pleade

taco
09-09-2008, 06:46 PM
My problem is the following: As my enlarging frame handles only 18 x 24 cm and my trays only 20 x 30 cm but sometimes I want for some reasons a larger print, I have to let them be printed by a photo lab.
If I hand over my transformed into 256 colours greyscale jpgs to the lab, they come sometimes out like slightly sepia toned. As a large sized print is easily 5 €uro, I didn't experiment to much till now but would it be better to keep the scans in 16 million colours and tint them with a tick of blue to get a neutral b & w print as result?
Your thoughts, pleade

Your thougts, please of course :K)

antbiker
09-09-2008, 07:09 PM
Hi Taco

I have found that labs cause colour shifts in my (colour) prints because the machines are set to apply 'auto enhance'. This doesn't always cause a problem, but with some prints creates a bit of a colour shift. The machines are set this way to give nice, bright, punchy prints straight from the average persons digital camera.

I don't think applying some blue or any other colour will help, simply because you cannot judge how much to apply. A bit too much & you will get blueish prints instead of reddish. I also dont understand why the lab is introducing colour into a monochrome print, if I apply auto levels to any monochrome print it is just the density of blacks & whites that is affected.

You can do one of two things :-
1) Ask the staff at the lab to switch off the auto enhance for your prints (this will normally be set to ON for all printing)
2) Using your picture editing software, apply Auto Levels. If you see a shift in colour then this is what the lab will do to your picture. I have found that with some playing around with a picture you can limit the effect of Auto anything.

Hope this helps!

MarkB
09-09-2008, 10:52 PM
I don't use labs for printing... I invested in the Epson printer a few years ago and have been fairly happy with it with the one gripe as mentioned above. My other main gripe is that it does not happily feed paper that is thicker than the Epson Enhanced Matte. Some of the newer papers like Museo Silver Rag or Harman Gloss FB AI are too thick for this printer despite trying all the different feeding options.

The image below illustrates the difference between printing with QT-RIP and Black-Only-Printing from Photoshop. I took an image ("Stripes"... find it over in the Black and White forum if you want to see it) and outlined a couple of small areas with white squares, in Photoshop. This is a 25meg .tiff file. At this resolution, when I print the image 3.75 inches high, the small outlined areas are 1/8 inch on a side (about 4 mm).

Next I printed the image from Photoshop using BOP. Then I printed it again on the same paper using QT RIP and a neutral tone (50% warm & 50% cool). Then I scanned the prints at 3200dpi and blew them up in Photoshop.

At arm's length the two prints look quite similar, but the BOP print has a somewhat darker d-max which gives it an appearance of higher contrast. It looks a bit more crisp and contrasty than the QT-RIP print which has a slightly softer look to it.

When I look at the prints from about 9 inches away I can just start to notice the ink spots in some areas of the BOP print. I have to get closer to see them so clearly in the QT RIP print.

Under a loupe they would look something like what you see below. You can see how, in the bottom right part of the 2 right-hand samples, the BOP uses a smaller number of black dots to achieve the overall (average) level of grey that QT-RIP achieves using a blend of inks (I suppose) or maybe using the light black ink only.

I suspect there is a control inside QT-RIP that would increase the D-max, but I haven't figured that out yet.

I'm not sure where all this is going... I'm just trying to master the tools!


Attached files http://f295.f295.org/uploads/qtr_vs_psp_bop_2517.jpg (http://f295.f295.org/uploads/qtr_vs_psp_bop_2517.jpg)

Andrew Howes
09-11-2008, 07:52 AM
I have been fantasising about a nice big epson with a set of black inks. I have been using the lab for all my printing lately. I get good neutral BW on the colour photographic printer. They suggested turning colour management off if you get colour casts, but it works fine for me with CM on. It is not quite as fabulous as a really carefully printed fibre base darkroom print from a good big neg, but it is better than 99% of what I have ever been able to do with an enlarger.

There are labs that do digital photographic printing on real black and white photographic paper. That sounds good to me, never tried it though.

taco
09-11-2008, 06:45 PM
There are labs that do digital photographic printing on real black and white photographic paper.
Maybe professional labs in the large metropoles but in a small town with 23000 inhabitants it's not so easy. I'm already happy that my photo shop doesn't sell only digital cameras, albums and photo frames but has his own lab and as he likes me for unknown reasons (sympathy for an idiot with a shoe box as camera ::) ) he even allows me to look over his shoulder and give him directions when he tries to manipulate my photos with P.S. before he sends them to the printer (THANK YOU, KWINTEN!!!) but he exposes every thing on colour paper. No more demand for b & w :'(
http://www.kwinten.be/

rayh
12-15-2008, 08:08 PM
My problem is the following: As my enlarging frame handles only 18 x 24 cm and my trays only 20 x 30 cm but sometimes I want for some reasons a larger print, I have to let them be printed by a photo lab.
If I hand over my transformed into 256 colours greyscale jpgs to the lab, they come sometimes out like slightly sepia toned. As a large sized print is easily 5 €uro, I didn't experiment to much till now but would it be better to keep the scans in 16 million colours and tint them with a tick of blue to get a neutral b & w print as result?
Your thoughts, pleade



g'day Taco

dare i say, going digital to print monochrome is a backwards step if you have a working darkroom

printing frame too small, can't afford bigger? make one, piece of plywood, 2 pieces of moulding to make a corner, you actually don't need to hold the paper down, most papers sit flat enough and depth of focus will keep image sharp

trays too small, can't afford bigger? buy one large tray of any type, doesn't need to be photographic, and three jugs which also don't need to photographic, place print in tray, pour in/pour out each solution in turn

enlarger doesn't enlarge enough? reverse head and project onto floor, if the image is large enough and the lens can be focused what else do you need?