Pro Tips: Black-And-White
The classic look of monochrome is as popular as ever. Here’s how to get the best results.
Epson Stylus Photo R2880
When it comes to black-and-white printing, all printers are not created equal, so be sure your inkjet printer is up to the task if you plan to make monochrome prints on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis. Being up to the task means, at the very least, that the printer—such as the Epson Stylus Photo R1900—has at least two black print cartridges: Photo Black for glossy-type surfaces and Matte Black for matte surfaces. Additional gray inks will improve output even more, because it's difficult to get truly neutral (no colorcast) black-and-white prints from a printer with no gray inks.
Also, with the addition of gray inks, your photos will show a broader and smoother gradation between gray tones. For example, the Canon PIXMA Pro9500 and the HP B8850 both have a separate gray ink cartridge, in addition to the two black inks (Photo Black and Matte Black). The new Epson Stylus Photo R2880 (the successor to the R2400) takes black-and-white printing one step further with its three "black" inks (Photo Black or Matte Black, as well as Light Black and the cleverly named Light Light Black). Unfortunately, you have to manually remove and replace the Photo Black and Matte Black inks when you're switching between the two. The prints I've seen from the R2880, and from my long experience using the R2400, are of such high quality that it eases the minor inconvenience of having to manually switch inks when changing media.
|Canon PIXMA Pro9500
Fortunately, most inkjet printer manufacturers have expanded their inkjet paper offerings, so you can easily find everything from glossy and luster to matte, watercolor and fine-art media in a variety of sizes and surfaces. My personal preference is to print monochrome images on matte, watercolor or fine-art media, but advances in technology, from Epson in particular, make it possible to use these pigment inkjet printers to output on glossy surfaces, as well. Good options include Epson's Velvet Fine Art paper and Hahnemühle papers for Canon and HP. Still, not all printers are compatible with all papers, so do a little homework on your specific printer model and paper combination before you stock up on media. It's also a good idea to buy a small quantity of a variety of papers, test them out yourself, and pick your favorites before you buy in quantity.
Third-party paper options abound, and ICC profiles for the most popular inkjet printer models usually can be downloaded for free. Within the past year, paper manufacturers have noted the growing interest in black-and-white printers and have developed "Baryta" inkjet papers (named after the special barium sulphate coating applied to fiber-based paper) to simulate the surfaces of black-and-white papers used in the traditional darkroom. Epson has a wonderful Exhibition Fiber paper, and there are a number of excellent Baryta-like papers from Hahnemühle, Harman Technology, Innova and Moab by Legion Paper.
Also, do a little reading about color management and make sure that your computer monitor is calibrated. Before printing, double-check to ensure that you're not double-profiling. For example, it's possible to have both the software (i.e., Photoshop) and the printer handling the color management, and that can easily mess things up.
More importantly, experiment with different papers to find the surfaces you like best, with an eye toward matching a specific image with a particular media. With only a little effort, and following the tips we've included in this article, you'll soon be hanging gorgeous black-and-white prints on your walls.