Standard drivers can leave a whole lot to be desired when you print B&W photos. Photo quality printers commonly use specialty drivers known as Raster Image Processors (RIPs) to give depth and control to image printing. This type of fine tuning is especially important when you are looking to control the black density of your print, and RIPs such as the ImagePrint RIP and the QuadToneRIP feature modes to prevent color casts when viewed under different sources of artificial light (commonly known as “illuminant metamerism”). In many cases, you can calibrate your print with RIPs to react favorably with the paper you are choosing (it matters!) which is especially important when printing irregular sizes or cutting smaller prints from an oversized roll. One problem with RIPs? Their price point. Often, getting the right RIP for the results you want will cost as significant percentage of the price of the printer itself.
Epson takes photo printing very seriously, as is apparent running through the features on the new Stylus Pro 4900. This professional photo printer features industry leading color management and pairing for RIP drivers along with HD quality pigmented inks. It’s wider 17” paper width is great for printing gallery-sized photos. The Stylus Pro’s focus on combining software and hardware make it one of the finer B&W printer options for extra-precise results. For more info on features, click here.HP DesignJet Z3200
Fine tuning of this type is key to managing the levels of black density needed to get dramatic shadowing for example. RIPs such as the ImagePrint RIP and the QuadToneRIP also feature modes designed to minimize ugly color casts and target your prints to reach naturally under different sources of artificial light (commonly known as “illuminant metamerism”).
Rather than relying on bright colors and digital processing tools to make an image pop, a black and white photographer has to harness the fundamental building blocks of photography to produce an engaging photo. As a result, B&W photography will naturally involve different technical considerations when it comes to printing. Aside from digital processing, one of the most important considerations that will undoubtedly affect the way your B&W shots look is the printer you use.
Not all inks are created equal. Pigmented ink holds its tone longer and stands up to sunlight and other environmental hazards better than other printer inks.Paper size and type
Even many good photo quality printers will lack features that give sharpness and nuance to true black and gray tones. This presents a major issue for fine art B&W photography of course, where cleanliness and sharpness are central to the whole affair.
Not all inks are created equal. Pigmented ink holds its tone longer and stands up to sunlight and other environmental hazards better than other printer inks. Photography grade printers will use three or more individual ink pots, usually in black and grey as well as gloss and matte, to achieve photo quality grayscale hues.
More sophisticated printers utilize a more precise set of color pots to derive their images from. For black and white photo prints, a minimum of three to four black-and-gray-exclusive color pots are needed to get true tones in your image. Multiple grayscale ink tones combine to create a more even toned darkroom look.
The iPF5100 is among the faster professional grade photo printers on the market, and it can print a full color A2 size image in two minutes—a great speed for smaller print shops.
Beyond the amount you want to spend, thinking about professional features for things like media size come down to the type of work you plan on doing. For example, some professional grade printers don’t print from individual sheets, but from rolls of paper.
Why does choosing the right printer, not just a good printer, matter so much? Contact with color inks and limited diversity of black and grey inks in a printer can lead to unwanted color casts, often in green and magenta, and toning on the blacks and darker hues in your print. Even some photo quality printers will lack the necessary features and drivers to give nuance to true black and gray tones. This is a big problem for fine art B&W photography, as delicate line and tonal gradations are so important.
Canon tapped into their knowledge about cameras to create the iPF5100. Featuring 12 pigmented ink colors, it has four individual grayscale tones – two blacks and two greys in photo and matte finishes respectively. Its large format size is 17” wide and features a paper roll ideal for poster sized sized images. The iPF5100 can print an A2 size image in two minutes making it among the faster professional grade photo printers on the market. A full list of features can be found here.Epson Stylus Pro 4900
Many other photographers shoot with the intent of presenting their work in oversized print sizes for gallery viewing. For this reason, it’s of course so very important to ensure that a printer can match your needs for size and paper quality.
More sophisticated printers utilize a more precise set of color pots to derive their images from. For black and white photo prints, a minimum of three to four black-and-gray-exclusive color pots are needed to get true tones in your image. Multiple grayscale ink tones combine to create a more even toned darkroom look like you get from Gelatin Silver processing.Pigmented inks
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In the digital age, color accompanies most of the images we come across during our daily lives. So when it’s intentionally missing, as is the case with artistic black and white photography, people take notice. Monochrome photography is popular in the fine arts for a variety of reasons, many of which come down to how it emphasizes different aesthetic components than color photography: texture, tone, contrast, lighting, and form.
Drivers are the conduit that translates information from your photo editing software and your printer. The importance of having a quality driver is often understated. Specialty drivers known as Raster Image Processors (RIPs) are popular for print shops, as they offer the photographer additional control over the finer aspects of the image.
One such example is the Epson Stylus Pro 9600, which can accommodate paper rolls as wide as 44 inches to create poster sized photographic prints. This print size is great if you plan on printing large sizes, but can result in extra prep work and paper waste when you are printing in smaller sizes/increments.
The Z3200 also features HP’s Quad-black ink set for clean lines and transitions as well as natural and accurate grays in B&W photos. For fans of high gloss photography in the gallery setting, the Z3200 also comes with HP Gloss Enhancer for smoother high gloss photo finishes.
This printer features 12 pigmented ink pots, four of which are grayscale tones—two blacks and two greys in photo and matte finishes respectively. That type of ink tone range is great for a wide variety of B&W print tasks. THe iPF5100 comes in a large format size 17” wide and draws from a paper roll perfect for oversized prints.
Some photographers will also use specialist inks in ordinary printers to match their specific needs. A neat technical hack for the more advanced photog printer, specialist inks are a leg up on “normal” printer ink sets and often let you forsake having to spend two or three grand for a new printer just to print B&W.
Okay, so where to get started? There are dozens of printers out there to choose from and knowing what you really need can be difficult. Here are some things to keep an eye out for when you’re shopping for your studio printer.
For working photographers and print shops alike, HP’s DesignJet series lines up a whole range of print shop quality large format printers with a range of features suitable for your affordability needs. The Z3200 is one such printer that is available in two maximum print widths for oversized prints in 22” and 44” increments. Both size models feature built-in spectrophotometers to gauge color clarity and tonal accuracy.
You can often set RIPs to interact better with your choice of paper. The downside of these marvelous programs is how much many of them cost. Getting the right RIP for the job can cost as much as a significant percentage of the price of the printer itself.
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The Stylus Pro’s dedication to both software and hardware make it one of the best affordable-range B&W printer options on the market. It also has 3-Level Black Ink Technology that simultaneously uses different shades of black and significantly improves the gray balance while eliminating color casts.
Epson has always taken photo printing very seriously. That’s why the features on the new Stylus Pro 4900 are so stacked. It all begins with a 17” paper width great for printing gallery-sized photos with HD quality pigmented inks for the utmost in clarity. Higher end Epson printers utilize industry leading color management and custom pairing for RIP drivers.
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When hunting for your new black and white photo printer, here’s what you should keep an eye out for:
Finally, if black and white is your bread and butter for gallery prints, it’s probably worthwhile to consider designating one photo printer “only B&W.” Flushing the color ink out of printer heads in order to stop color bleeding takes time and isn’t always successful.
Why does choosing the right printer, not just a good printer, matter so much? A whole range of issues unique to black and white photography mean pairing your intent with the right tech is necessary for the type of results you want. Subtle bleeding from color inks and an inadequate range of black and grey tones in a printer can result in unwanted color casts, often in green and magenta, and toning on darker spectrum tones in your print.
For the black and white photographer, there’s no hiding behind vibrant color and selective filtering to get the right effect – your framing, subject, and composition need to be on point for it to work. Because of the technical conditions necessary to get a pure black and sharp grayscale tone, B&W photographic printing requires more thought than your average color printing. When it comes time to start printing photos in a studio or at home, having the right technology to get the job done effectively will save you considerable time and heartache.
What are some of the best printer options for printing black and white photos in your studio or at home? Here are three printers to consider:
In a world of vibrant color imagery, black and white photography stands out not for what it lacks, but rather for what it reveals in the absence of color. Monochrome photography puts the focus back on aesthetic elements that are central to a great photograph: texture, tone, contrast, lighting, and form.
The DesignJet series offers a range of print shop quality large format printers at a reasonably affordable price for working professional photographers. The Z3200 comes in two widths – 24” and 44” – and features a built in spectrophotometer to ensure color and tonal accuracy. The Z3200 features the HP Quad-black ink set for smooth transitions and neural grays in B&W photos. This model also features HP Gloss Enhancer for smoother high gloss photo finishes. The DesignJet series also includes more affordable models for smaller operations, as well as ultra high-tech models to start your print shop in style. More information on the Z3200 as well as whole DesignJet line is right here.
The paper you choose will dictate the way your monochrome prints will look, so it’s important to make sure that the printer you choose can handle the size and type you want. This seems like a no brainer, but often printers simply aren’t designed to take on specialized museum grade papers that make B&W photographs stand out. Museum quality papers such as the Epson Velvet Fine Art paper are acid free and designed to maintain the integrity of the image for years to come. Some professional grade printers don’t print from individual sheets, but from rolls of paper. One such example is the Epson Stylus Pro 9600, which can accommodate paper rolls as wide as 44 inches to create poster sized photographic prints.Specialty drivers
Canon has quite a few things in their wheelhouse, but one of the things they’re known best for is camera technology. With the iPF5100, Canon clearly utilized knowledge gained in building cameras to build on of the most state of the art photo printers available.
Different types of paper can dramatically affect how your photograph looks in print. Beyond gloss and matte finishes, fine art papers interact with inks to create a certain effect. Museum quality papers such as the Epson Velvet Fine Art paper are acid free and designed to maintain the integrity of the image for years to come.
In this article you’ll learn some essential factors to consider when looking for the best black and white photo printer.
What are some of the best printer options for printing black and white photos in your studio or at home? Here are three printers that stand out in the crowd:
Designating a printer in your studio for exclusively printing black and white photographs will help keep printer heads clean and make producing artist grade B&W photos easier.
Finally, if you are serious about printing top quality B&W photos, you should probably consider having a black and white designated printer. Cleaning color ink out of printer heads to prevent color from bleeding into your prints takes time and isn’t always successful. Having one printer exclusively printing black and white will help keep printer heads clean and make producing artist grade B&W photos easier.
Sure, you can get your prints done at a print shop or using an online print service. However, printing in a studio or at home gives you the benefit of testing out different exposures, tones, and print settings immediately to find the look you want.