Colour or B/W
Black and White photographs are widely accepted as the purest form of photography. A BW picture presents the viewer with pure image tonality, line, form, shape and texture totally free from colour distraction and influence. The BW print is regarded by many “artistic” photographers as the ultimate in creative expression. Producing a high quality print in the darkroom is a skilled craft, but with an inkjet printer you can produce prints that will rival anything produced via wet chemistry.
Black and White, Monochrome, and Greyscale, are generic terms used for what we loosely call black and white photography. Black and white is, by its very name, the wrong title, almost all prints have countless shades of grey rather than the implied black and white only. Monochrome is the correct title for prints produced in the darkroom and greyscale correctly sums up prints produced on a computer.
Sending a greyscale image to a photo quality inkjet printer should produce a reasonable looking monochrome print, but can result in prints displaying a slight colour cast. Grey tones on an inkjet printer are made up from an equal mixture of the colour inks i.e. 128 red, 128 green, 128 blue produces a mid tone grey (200 R, 200 G, 200 B produces a lighter shade of grey etc.). If the ink mixture is not spot on, or your media doesn’t quite match the profile, then you may see a colour shift on your prints. With most colour printing this cast may not be visible, but when you produce prints with grey tones any slight shift in colour will be instantly visible.
Besides a colour cast, monochrome prints can also suffer with metamerism, an effect which produces a different colour cast under varying lighting conditions, i.e. tungsten, daylight or fluorescent. Metamerism can be a nightmare for photographers who display their work at exhibitions or galleries where lighting conditions may not be consistent. To get around this problem many photo printers are now fitted with dedicated grey ink cartridges, these eliminate the need to mix colour inks in order to produce the subtle grey shades.
Dedicated monochrome inks
Both Epson and HP produce printers with dedicated grey inks. Epson has the UltraChrome K3 inks which are available on the R3000 and their large format printers. HP has photo grey inks for the B9180 and larger format printers. With these cartridges monochrome printing dramatically improves, colour casts and metamerism are virtually eliminated.
Besides manufacturers’ own inks, you can fit several printers (mainly Epson) with a set of third party monochrome inks. Some products worth trying are Lyson Quad Black inks available from www.Lyson.com These inks replace the printer’s colour cartridges and convert a printer into a dedicated monochrome printer. Once the inks have been fitted the heads are charged with the new inks. To resume colour printing you have to run several deep cleaning cycles using the normal colour ink set, this is to remove all traces of monochrome ink – this can be a costly process. If monochrome is your main interest then consider buying a printer purely for monochrome printing it may be the cheaper option in the long run.