Posted Monday, May 16, 2005

Better in Black with a Simple Hack: How to Get Gorgeous Black-and-White Prints from a Cheap Inkjet Printer

Maybe it's because I spent so much time in a darkroom during my youth, but I love the rich look of a black-and-white print. Unfortunately, most of today's photo inkjet printers do a crummy job of printing black and white, producing muddy prints with a slight color tint.

Costlier color printers, such as Epson's Stylus Pro series and the forthcoming Epson R2400 (I'm on a pre-order list for this baby!), address this by providing more than one black ink cartridge. In Epson's new UltraChrome K3 ink system, there are three—three!—separate black inks, called photo black, light black, and light-light black. (I love that last name. Apparently, Epson's marketing department rejected the name "kinda-sorta black" for that shade.)

But you don't have to spend $850US or more in order to print gorgeous black and white photos, not according to a reader who emailed me after reading my recent post about the new Epson machines.

Some intrepid users and ink companies have discovered that the under-$90US Epson Stylus C86 inkjet printer makes a stunning dedicated black-and-white printer. The key is to use a special set of inks made by MIS Associates. The steps for printing in black and white are certainly more complicated than just choosing the Print command, but they're a lot less complicated than mixing up a quart of Dektol and getting out your Polycontrast filters.

Steve, the reader who clued me in on this, also points to a forum discussion on the Digital Photography Review site. These special black ink formulations are available for several other inexpensive inkjets, including the aging Epson Stylus Photo 890, one of which I have.

Want More Info?
While surfing on the subject, I also came across this excellent backgrounder on digital black-and-white printing. Very cool stuff—I plan to investigate this more.

And finally, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point out that my book has instructions on how to use iPhoto 5's Adjust panel to create better black-and-white images than the B&W button provides.

Have a monochrome Monday!