André Ruiter Digital Workflow

Neutral Black & White Prints

August 16, 2020
Neutral Black & White Prints - B&W photographer and collector of antique photographica
In 2012 I switched from a Canon Pro 9500 to an Epson R3000 printer and today I'm printing with an Epson SC-P600. The main reason was an extra gray ink and Epson's Advanced Black & White mode. The switch proved to be a good choice as the Epson printers create neutral, high quality black & white prints. A neutral black & white print contains gray tones without any visible colour casts, but neutral is also a matter of personal taste.

The Epson SC-P600 has nine ink cartridges. During the print process it uses eight inks. An additional black ink is needed to support printing on gloss and matte papers. Two gray inks (Light Black and Light Light Black) contribute to the Epson’s black & white print capabilities. However, it’s not possible to print al gray tones with only three black inks, so it also uses Yellow, Vivid Light Magenta and Light Cyan to create black & white prints (Vivid Magenta and Cyan are not used by Epson’s Advanced Black & White mode). The use of color inks affects the neutral look of a print. Personally I think that the default setting results in prints that are a bit too cool for my taste. Overall the prints have a slightly bluish cast in different viewing conditions and with different papers. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix this.

Neutral Black & White Prints - the colours of the Epson SC-P600
The colors of the Epson SC-P600

Go to the Print Settings dialog and click on Advanced Color Settings. At Color Toning you can choose a tone: Neutral, Cool, Warm or Sepia. I'm not a fan of toning my prints, but Color Toning is a great way to tune the neutral look of your prints by choosing your own values. By making small adjustments you can make a print warmer or cooler, without adding a visible color tone to the print.

I wanted a slightly warmer print so I started with a horizontal value of 4 and a vertical value of 2. The target in the color circle moves slightly up in the space between yellow and red. I made three additional prints and increased the vertical value by 2 for each print. I compared the prints side-by-side and choosed my favorite setting. While comparing the prints it’s important to use a neutral light source. I'am using a Color Confidence Grafilite viewing unit to evaluate my prints.

My default settings are now: horizontal 4/vertical 2 for white papers and horizontal 4/vertical 8 for warmer papers.

Neutral Black & White Prints - Epson SC-P600 advanced color settings panel
Settings panel to tune the neutrality of a black & white print