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Printing a Black-and-White Image

When you print a black-and-white image, approach the process differently than when you’re printing color images. I’m using a collection of 27 images called Print Show Sepia. I’ll work with an image of driftwood that is sepia-toned, essentially split toned. It’s a natural split tone because these are copies of prints that were chemically toned and made in my darkroom (yes, I still have one) that have now been digitized.

Printing black-and-white toned images using ICC-based color management

If your image is black and white with a tone, and you want to maintain the classic split-tone look, print using ICC-based color management. Select the profile for the printer and paper you want to use, then proceed as you would for a color print. Figure 4.74 shows the image in the Print module and a scan of the final print. You can see that the print maintains the split-toned look of the original image.


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FIGURE 4.74. The sepia split-tone image in Lightroom and the scan of the final color print.


Printing black-and-white images using a special black-and-white mode

There are some advantages and disadvantages to printing black-and-white images using a normal color-managed workflow. Particularly when printing neutral images, there is a tendency to have the prints contain a slight tint or color cast. This is because ICC output profiles are really designed to handle color appearance, not render neutral black and white. For really neutral black-and-white prints, I would suggest one of the following options.

Epson Advanced B&W Photo mode

The Epson Advanced Black and White (ABW) mode works the same in Photoshop and Lightroom. To print using the Epson ABW mode, choose Managed by Printer, then click Print Settings. In the Print dialog box, choose Advanced Black & White Photo from the Print Mode menu. Figure 4.75 shows the Epson Stylus Pro 4900 printer driver selecting the Advanced B&W Photo option.


FIGURE 4.75. Selecting the Advanced B&W Photo in the Print Mode menu.

For color toning, you have defaults of natural, warm, cool, and sepia. My preference is to click Advanced Color Settings to open a whole different dialog box that lets you select the tone, brightness, contrast, shadow tonality, highlight tonality, and maximum optical density. I don’t adjust any of those. I will only change from Darker, the default, to Dark.

In Advanced Color Settings, if you adjust the brightness, you see the effect on Greg’s image, not yours. Neither Mac nor Windows offers a pipeline for interactivity; because the printer driver hasn’t gotten the image yet, it can’t preview the image you’re going to send it. Figure 4.76 shows the Color Toning menu and the Tone menu in the Advanced Color Settings panel.


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FIGURE 4.76. The Advanced Color Settings tab for the Advanced B&W Photo option.


The other option I use is the ability to add a color toning. You can select Warm, which isn’t too bad and kind of looks like traditional Sepia—but if you select Sepia, it looks kind of like baby-poo brown.

The color wheel and a crosshair lets you change the horizontal or vertical numbers to adjust the color tint that’s applied. On the side, there’s a horizontal and a vertical readout. When you center it up at 0,0, it is intended to be neutral, but I actually think it looks a tiny bit too cool, so I use a horizontal setting of 4 and a vertical setting of 8 to reduce the coolness.

I tend to keep the Optical Point Shift option off. You can turn it on or on full page. It prints a very, very light scum dot over the entire image. The scum dot cuts down on the gloss differential, explained in detail in the next chapter. I keep that at 0. In fact, I use all the controls at 0 because I don’t want to fiddle with numbers and sliders when I can’t actually see how I’m affecting things.

When you’ve adjusted your settings, click Save. Also, I suggest creating a new template previously shown in Figure 4.65—then, just make the print. Figure 4.77 shows scans of prints using each of the default Color Toning settings.


FIGURE 4.77. Comparing results from the Epson Advanced B&W Photo mode.


Canon Monochrome Photo

In order to print black and white to the Canon, I can print from Photoshop or Lightroom. Printing a black-and-white image using the printer driver is the same. The Canon special Monochrome (Photo) color mode is available in both the printer driver as well as in the Canon Photoshop plug-in (although the plug-in offers some extra functionality). When using Monochrome (Photo) in the printer driver in Photoshop or Lightroom, you must set the color management to be managed by printer on the Mac (in Windows it doesn’t matter—yet) Figure 4.78 shows selecting the Monochrome (Photo) option from the Color Mode menu.


FIGURE 4.78. Selecting the Monochrome (Photo) option in the Color Mode menu.

Once you select Monochrome (Photo), click the Set button to access the special Color Settings option for Monochrome (Photo), as shown in Figure 4.79.


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FIGURE 4.79. The Color Settings options for Canon’s Monochrome (Photo) output (via the printer driver).


To adjust the color balance, select an option from the dropdown menu or drag the color sliders. Below the color balance settings is a Tone menu. You can change it to soft (light) or strong (makes it darker). I’ll set it to Medium-hard tone. You can alter the brightness, contrast, highlight, shadow, and tint. In the printer driver version, you don’t have access to special curves or a preview of the effect on your image (just like the Epson printer driver), but you do in the Photoshop plug-in version.

In the Photoshop plug-in (Figure 4.80), below the sliders you can also do a custom curve adjustment by clicking on the Curves button. And since it’s monochromatic, you don’t do it per color; it’s just a grayscale adjustment. If you click Adjust Pattern Settings, you see a preview in a ring-around for the different adjustments for toning, similar to the old Photoshop Variations interface.


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FIGURE 4.80. The extended options using the Photoshop plug-in version of Monochromatic (Photo).


Back in the Page Setup area, set up the paper size and orientation, and then click Print. One of the limitations of this plug-in is that you can’t capture your settings to use again later. Since you’re printing from an export plug-in in Photoshop, all of these image settings are one-off. If you find settings you like, take copious notes on them. Figure 4.81 shows a comparison of the Pure Neutral Black, Cool Black, and Warm Black options, and a fourth print using the maximum warm and red settings.


FIGURE 4.81. Comparing the results from the Canon Monochrome (Photo) output.


So, of all the different outputs, which is my favorite? For this image, I like the results shown in Figure 4.74 using an ICC profile-based color-managed output, because it’s the only one that kept the split-toned look of the original chemical sepia toning. For neutral black-and-white output with really subtle color tinting, either the Epson or the Canon output is excellent. However, if you want to really dive into a deeper level of black-and-white printing, I suggest using a special third-party raster image processor (RIP).

Printing black-and-white images using a third-party RIP

If you are a hardcore lover of fine black-and-white printing, and you find the manufacturer’s printer drivers or plug-ins too limiting, let me point you to an alternative third-party RIP called Quad Tone RIP, developed by an excellent black-and-white photographer named Roy V. Harrington. Quad Tone RIP is a shareware product priced at $50 and available for download at A couple of points before I go on: first, it’s not really a “plug & play” solution. It’s a rather geeky way of creating a pseudo printer driver that can be installed on the Mac and in Windows. Second, it’s only for Epson Photo or Pro printers.

With those points out of the way, here’s what I really like about Quad Tone RIP: it works like a printer driver allowing you to print out of Photoshop or Lightroom and not from a separate application. The RIP allows you to use up to three curves to achieve a true split-tone look (I always wondered why it was called “quad” when it directly supports only three curves). You can build custom curves and even ICC profiles for use in soft proofing. Figure 4.82 shows Quad Tone RIP installed as a printer driver on the Mac. It also shows Photoshop Print Settings dialog box set to the QuadR3000 (I installed it on my Epson R3000 because I could connect to that via USB).


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FIGURE 4.82. The Quad Tone RIP driver selected in Photoshop.


In the Print dialog box and with the QuadToneRIP panel selected, you’ll see a variety of various settings to choose from. For the Mode, I’ve selected 16-bit because the image I’m printing is in 16 bit. Currently, I’ve got a Curve 1 selected that reads “UCpk-raw-neut.” This is the curve to use for a neutral output using Photo K ink in the Epson R3000 printer. Figure 4.83 shows the main QuadToneRIP dialog box with additional sections highlighted.


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FIGURE 4.83. The main QuadToneRIP panel with various options selected.


For the first round of comparisons, I simply printed out each of the basic default curves, starting with cool, neutral, sepia, and then warm. Figure 4.84 shows scans of the printed output. Yeah, I know, I didn’t use the same image I used on the Epson and Canon examples. Sorry, but I was bored printing that same driftwood image and wanted to do something different!


FIGURE 4.84. Comparing the default curves.


Looking at the results, the neutral is really nice—but the default colorations of cool, sepia, and warm are not really optimal. However, it’s really the ability to blend different curves for the highlights, midtones, and shadows that allows Quad Tone RIP to really excel over the printer manufacturers’ drivers. Figure 4.85 shows the result of three different split-tone curve settings.


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FIGURE 4.85. Comparing the results of split toning in Quad Tone RIP.


I really like Quad Tone RIP because it’s installed as a printer driver. In Lightroom you can capture all the settings in a print template—which is way cool. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like the Quad Tone RIP settings can be recorded in an action in Photoshop.

Alternative black-and-white printing

If you try Quad Tone RIP and decide you really want to go down an even deeper rabbit hole of ultimate black-and-white printing, I have a suggestion for you: consider going all the way to a dedicated black-and-white printer with custom inks. Fair warning, it ain’t cheap nor easy—but if you love rich black-and-white prints (and don’t love color), go for it! The downside is it will require dedicating a printer to special black-and-white inks and use a rather tedious workflow for printing, but I’ve seen some remarkable prints using the Piezography system (

A well-known fine art printer—in printing circles anyway—named Jon Cone (Cone Editions Press, Ltd.) developed a set of special inks that can be loaded into Epson printers and a few select others that use piezo printheads. The special inks replace the standard Cc, Mm, Y & K inks with seven distinct shades of carbon-based pigment ink. There are several different toning options, including Warm Neutral, Selenium, Carbon, Neutral, and Special Edition inks designed for split toning. The upside of the Piezography system is that it works well in an integrated manner with Quad Tone RIP (which makes using the system a lot easier).

In addition to using the Piezography system inks for prints, you might want to look into using inkjet printers for making film positives or negatives for making traditional black-and-white contact prints using silver gelatin or hand-coated platinum papers. One of the leading practitioners of this is a photographer named Dan Burkholder ( The key to this practice is to prepare digital images to print to film. The film positive or negative (depending on the final coated paper) is used in contact with the paper to produce potentially stunning results. Dan has tutorials and offers workshops on the process.

What do I think about all these “alternative” black-and-white processes? Well, I’ve seen some really excellent prints, but the technical and workflow hurdles are simply too daunting for me. I don’t want to dedicate a printer to third-party inks, nor do I want to spend a lot of time in the darkroom hand-coating papers to make platinum prints—been there, done that. It’s just not my cup of tea!

But if you want to wander down the path of unusual processes, exotic inks, and spending time in a stinky darkroom, go right ahead! I will commend you, but not follow you.


FIGURE 4.86. The nude by the window was shot using filtered window light at Greg Gorman’s Mendocino, California studio. The image was shot with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III camera with a 24-105mm lens at 65mm and ISO 400. The image was retouched in Photoshop and converted to black-and-white in Lightroom with a slight warming split-tone applied.

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