Archival Black and White Printing


For the past few months I have been printing my black and white photographs using carbon pigment ink from MIS associates.  This is a third party ink provider.  My Eboni black and white ink works in my Epson R800 photo printer.  There are three dilutions of the MIS Eboni carbon pigment ink that I can use to make pure carbon-black photographs, and I still can maintain the Epson color inks to use the printer for both black and white and color prints.  With printers other than the R800 or R1800, in order to use such carbon pigment, non-dye-based black and white inks, one must remove all the color inks and replace them with various shades of gray.

Prior to using the MIS inks, I often experienced frustration with the black and white prints produced using the Epson ink set.  The Epson R800, like all other ink jet printers using color ink, produces black and white images using one or two black inks together with a small amount of color ink.  The problem with this method is that it results in images with a distinct color cast.  Some such prints change color if the paper is turned so that the image is viewed at an angle.  Others change color over time, tending to fade to yellow or some other color.  Such images cannot truly be considered black and white photographic prints.

MIS and other providers, Cone systems among them, offer various carbon-based black and white ink sets and other tools, such as Photoshop curves and printing software designed to direct the printer to use just the right amount of ink from each of the different dilutions of black loaded into the various ink cartridges loaded into the printer.

Unfortunately, Epson tends to produce its various printers for a very short time, discontinuing each new generation of printer after a short period of time and offering “new and improved” printers.  The latest generation of photo printer, the Epson 2880 for example, use the Epson K3 inks, reputed to produce high quality, archival black and white prints.  While I understand that the K3 inks do a very good job in producing black and white prints, they still use some of the color inks to do so.  I am dismayed at what appears to be an effort on the part of printer manufacturers to quickly cease to produce printers for which third party ink manufacturers offer ink that produces results not available using Epson’s own inks.

I once read that Epson’s business model contemplates making the most profit on selling their consumables, i.e. ink and paper, so I understand why they are quick to discontinue printer models for which third party ink sellers offer alternative consumables.  I have not tried the K3 inks, so I don’t know if they resolve the problems inherent with other Epson ink-based black and white systems, that is whether the color shifting problem has been resolved.  I continue to make my black and white photographic prints using the MIS Eboni carbon-based inks.

Unfortunately, the profit motive of private industry often results in decisions that are at odds with the best interest of consumers – at least in this specialized area of archival black and white ink jet printing.

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