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Robert D Feinman

Better Monochrome Prints



Some inkjet printers have problems producing  pleasing monochrome (black and white) images. This has been especially noticeable with the Epson pigmented models (2000P, 2100, 2200 and the larger models). Here is a suggestion on how to minimize the problem.

The image at left is a pure grey-scale image that will not print as a neutral black.
The first step is to convert this back to an rgb image.
Then add a fill layer above it.

Black and White Image
Black and White

I chose a brownish color for the fill and set the fill density to 14%. I'm aiming for a sepia type effect, but other colors can be used as well.

Fill Layer
Layers Pallette

Here is the image with the fill layer blending mode set to "Normal". The highlights have a yellowish tinge. This is similar to printing on a cream stock such as Kodak Ektalure G surface (no longer available).

Normal blend
Normal Blending

Here is the image with the blending set to "Overlay". The highlights are whiter more like Ektalure F. The shadows are also slightly more greenish.

Overlay blend
Overlay Blending

For the next variation we choose "Color" blending mode. This gives an effect between the previous two.

Color blend
Color Blending

This variation uses the "Multiply" blending mode.  Like "Normal", but less intense color.


Multiply blend 
Multiply Blending

This variation uses the "Linear Dodge" blending mode.  Like "Normal", but more contrast.


Linear dodge blend 
Linear Dodge Blending

This variation uses the "Linear Light" blending mode.  This gives an old-fashioned look similar to sepia toned prints from the late 19th or beginning of the 20th century.


Linear Light Blend 
Linear Light Blending

Finally, the one I chose for this image: "Color Burn" blending mode. I think this is closest to the effect achieved on a cold-toned paper like Kodabromide with Kodak Sepia toner.
Click Here for full-size version.

Now what does this have to do with color casts on pigmented inkjet prints?
Simple, just set the fill percentage to a low value such as 3 or 4 percent and the color to the opposite of the cast (usually this means using a magenta). Then pick the blend mode to neutralize the color or to give a slight tint as in most conventional prints and you have minimized the problem. A few small print samples will show you the values to use.


Color Burn Blend 
Color Burn Blending

If you don't prefer this approach here is another.

Add a curves adjustment layer to the image and apply a set of curves which correct for the color cast.
To do this:
Print out a grey scale step wedge, scan it back in and read the values of the steps using the eyedropper tool. Create a set of curves to bring these values back to neutral.
Here is the set I created for my Epson 2000P and luster paper. Notice I needed to increase the blue and red in the highlights and decrease the green. The amounts are not great, but the eye is very sensitive to color shifts so the differences are easily seen.

I think the first approach works better since the image is given an overall tint that minimizes the color shifts from grey.

Even a slight tint of 1 or 2 percent hides the color crossover that can occur with pigmented inks in certain lighting conditions.

Epson now provides a utility program that trys to do the same thing as these curve adjustments. But it only works with certain model printers and only at output time.

This curve layer can be left in place and turned on and off depending upon the output destination desired.

red curve

blue curve

green curve
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© 2002 Robert D Feinman