MIS EZ ULTRA-TONE B&W INKS for the Epson C86 and C88 Printers
Information and Settings
The Epson C86 and C88 appear to print in a very similar matter. As such, I’ve combined my older C86 information sheet with the C88 information.
The C86 and C88 with the EZ carbon pigment inksets can make B&W prints that are as lightfast and archival as the most expensive systems available for home digital printing.
The C88 with the new Crane Silver Rag paper makes, in my opinion, a B&W print that looks not only as good as any inkjet print, but also as good as any wet process silver print.
The EZ inksets can print on matte or glossy papers as long as the appropriate black ink is installed. MIS Eboni matte black is for matte papers, and MIS Photo black (“PK”) or Neutral Photo black (“PKN”) are for glossy paper. The PKN has a higher dmax but may not be quite as lightfast. The standard DuraBrite black ink can be used with the EZ inkset, but it prints with less density on matte paper than MIS Eboni, and it is less lightfast than the MIS Eboni or MIS Photo black. A better alternative is the Epson UC Photo Black. It can be purchased in large format cartridges and loaded into MIS empty carts. (A 2400 PK cart will not fit into the C88.)
The MIS EZ inksets come in 2 tones: EZ - N (neutral [cool]) and EZ-Warm (pure carbon). Both are 100% pigment (no dyes), black and white inksets for the Epson C84 – C88 (as well as C82 but in a different cartridge). They can be purchased from MIS Associates. See the MIS website at: http://www.inksupply.com/bw/utez
The tones of the images printed with the C86 can be varied from neutral/cool to warm by installing different combinations of the EZ-N and EZ-W cartridges. Different papers also print with different tones. Note that the inks in the various “color” positions are all the same density. The chips, however, are specific to the ink position. So if you want to warm up a “neutral” set slightly, try putting an EZ-Warm yellow cart in the yellow position. That is the combination I usually use. Not only does it make the inkset more neutral on the paper I like, but it also makes the inkset a variable-tone inkset that I can profile with curves and ICCs to obtain very even tone and density distributions.
Grayscale images are printed using the Epson driver, where the profiling needed to match the printing characteristics to the paper can be accomplished using the Epson driver adjustments, or the curves and ICCs mentioned above. Any application that can handle images can print high quality B&W images with this system using the sliders to control the inks.
In Photoshop, I use these Color Settings (click on Edit, then “Color Settings”): In the ”Working spaces” box, I set the RGB line to “Adobe RGB (1998)” and the Gray box to “Gray Gamma 2.2.” (I use Windows.) When printing, see that no other profiles are embedded in the file.
In Picture Window, the default spaces seem to work very well.
For all applications, be sure the driver is one loaded from an Epson disk or downloaded form the Epson webpage. The drivers that are built into Windows are not complete.
Epson Driver Properties
There are alternative workflows for the C88. For glossy papers, I now recommend an ICC approach that can, among other things, optimize the dmax. See http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/C88_EZ_Slider_settings.pdf For more information on making ICCs, see http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/Making_B-W_ICCs.htm .
For matte papers, or where just the sliders are to be used, see below.
If printing with Photoshop CS2, use “Print with Preview.” In the box that appears below the image, there is a box that shows either “Color Management” or “Output.” Select “Color Management” and the following settings should appear if one is printing a grayscale file:
Print – Profile: Gray Gamma 2.2.
Options – Let Printer Determine Colors or No Color Management.
When one hits the “Print” button a “Print” box appears. Go to “Properties” and “Advanced.” In that box, these are the settings I use:
Print Quality – Best Photo; High Speed can usually be checked.
Color Management – Color Controls, gamma 1.8 for glossy papers and Epson Enhanced Matte, gamma 2.2 for most acid-free matte papers.
Media Type – “Matte Paper – Heavyweight” for matte papers and “Glossy Photo Paper” for glossy papers, unless stated otherwise, below.
The sliders and gamma setting in this box allow substantial control of how the print will look. These are used to “profile” different papers to look the way you’d like. I have settings below that I’ve found work for me. When you get settings that give the results you like, note that you can save those.
Additionally, for a few papers and the C86, I have made simple grayscale Photoshop curves that can also be loaded as Transfer Functions and can profile the printer more accurately. The curves can be downloaded from http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/C86-curves.html . The names of these curves will usually state the slider and gamma setting to be used. Grayscale curves are relatively easy for users to modify as needed. See my tutorial at http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/EZ_Adjustment_Curves.htm.
Many different papers will print well with this printer and inkset. I have just listed, below, some of the papers that I use. I recommend starting with these papers and settings to learn what the printer is capable of and to hold down the variables.
To test new or different paper papers, I recommend the use of 21-step test files such as I have on my web site. (See the index at http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/index.htm.) Printing these test files will show whether the grayscale ramp is reasonably linear and help in determining the best slider settings for new papers.
I usually print files at 360 dpi. If you find microbanding in the output and are sending the printer a different dpi file, try re-sampling the file in Photoshop to 360 dpi before printing it.
Printing on Matte Papers
For matte papers, have Eboni matte black ink installed for the best dmax (darkest black) and longevity. I tend to use neutral ink in the cyan and magenta positions, and warm ink in the yellow position. Many of the acid-free papers in particular have shadows that are too cool otherwise.
The recommended settings, below, are starting points. Trying different adjustments might result in a more accurate monitor-to-print match. In general, Gamma 2,2 prints darker than Gamma 1.8. The Brightness and Contrast sliders are self explanatory, but too aggressive use of these sliders will result in loss of shadow separation. If the 90% - 95% contrast is too low, consider moving the Yellow to -25 and Cyan to +25. Where sliders don’t result in an even enough ramp, a curve is the next step.
While the EZ inks on EEM with the 2.2 gamma setting print very much like the OEM DuraBrite inks at 1.8 gamma, both have rather blocked or compressed shadows with these settings. I prefer more open shadows and a longer tonal scale. The settings below reflect this preference for more open shadows. However, if one’s monitor also compresses the shadow tones, one might opt for leaving them that way on the print.
All of the papers below are acid-free and archival except for Epson Enhanced Matte. Many papers other than those listed may work very well. Media Type is “Matte paper – Heavyweight” for all matte papers. The alternative of “Plain paper” tends to band on some printers.
Epson Enhanced Matte – Gamma 2.2, Sliders: Contrast -10 (was Gamma 1.8. Sliders: Contrast -15). EEM has a paper life of just over 100 years in good storage conditions according to the Wilhelm Research accelerated aging tests. In high humidity or temperature, it might yellow much more quickly. While this paper is not archival, it makes an excellent image and is a good value for non-archival printing. To get it to print just like my 7600 and other printers that I use curves for, I also have a curve for the C86. It is on the download page for the C86, located here http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/C86-curves.html.
Premier Art Premier (aka “Dual”) Matte – This is the best bargain in acid free papers. It prints slightly light with all sliders at 0 and gamma 1.8. With Gamma 2.2 it is darker and has shadow tones that are more compressed. The paper is coated on both sides, but the convex side is slightly smoother and what I recommend. The paper is a bright paper (lots of OBAs) that prints cool and has among the best blacks of any matte paper, with a dmax of 1.7. With acid free paper this inexpensive, the use of acidic paper even for snapshots is a questionable choice. See http://www.photowarehouse.biz/premier.html, at the bottom of the paper list.
PermaJet Alpha – Gamma 2.2. Sliders: Contrast -10. This paper contains no optical brighteners
and has a very good dmax. Related papers
Omega and Delta print similarly and have some brighteners, with Delta being the
brightest, but still neutral. These papers exhibit little if any flaking. In the
Innova papers – Gamma 2.2. Sliders: Contrast -10. Innova has a range of papers, but of most interest is “Ultra Smooth FibaPrint” that is an excellent value in acid-free paper, with a nice 280 gsm weight. All have a very good dmax and appear to be relatively free from flaking once dry. Shades of Paper, at http://www.shadesofpaper.com/innova.htm, has a sample pack that is a good way to see what you like best.
Hahnemuhle PhotoRag & PermaJet Portrait Classic – Gamma 2.2. Sliders: Contrast -10. This paper was the first to have an excellent 1.7 dmax, and prints very well, but with slightly darker shadows. It tends to have some flaking (blow off the surface before printing) and a sensitive surface.
PremierArt Fine Art Hot Press 205 (“PA 205”) – Gamma 2.2. There are several options here. I originally recommended Sliders: Y -25, C +25. However, I now print with EZ-N in the Cyan and Magenta spots, and EZ-Warm in the Yellow position. This produces more even tones that better match the paper tone. I use a Transfer Function that is on my C86 download page at http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/C86-curves.html. I use a combination of the transfer function in addition to Contrast -10. The convex side of the 205 weight version prints smoother than the concave side. The PremierArt 205 paper is a good value among archival cotton papers. The heavier PremierArt Fine Art papers and Epson UltraSmooth typically use the same settings. These papers have no optical brighteners, yet are still quite bright. They exhibit little or no flaking and may be the most archival and durable papers I’ve tested. MIS now carriers PremierArt 205 paper, as do a number of other internet outlets.
PremierArt Scrapbook – Gamma 2.2. This paper is sometimes sold as bargain prices. However, it does not print particularly well with sliders. As such, I have made a simple grayscale curve that can be applied to the file, directly or as an adjustment layer. Leave the Sliders in the neutral position. The curve is on the download page for the C86, located here http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/C86-curves.html.
Printing on Gloss Papers with Photo Black Installed
When printing on glossy
paper MIS Photo Black (“PK”) ink is recommended. Even better is the new neutral version of
I spray many of my best glossy-paper prints with PremierArt Print Shield after they are dry. This largely eliminates the “bronzing” (differential color reflections) that afflicts most glossy papers. It also increases the dmax significantly. Additionally, the spray makes the surface of the print waterproof. Once sprayed, the print surface is tough enough to be cleaned with a damp paper towel if need be. I sometimes display sprayed glossy (including semi-gloss and semi-matte) papers with no glass, so that the full dynamic range of the image, including particularly the depth of the deep blacks, can be seen without the compromising effects of glass reflections.
The settings for the following papers are recommended starting points. You may be able to get a better match to the monitor with other adjustments.
What is packaged in the box may differ. Look for the country of origin label on the back of the box. As I find out about different batches, I’ll post the information.
This paper is similar to Epson Premium Glossy Photo paper, but better in many respects. It has a bit less gloss and very little bronzing, which is rare for a glossy paper. I recommend slider settings of Contrast -14, Brightness +10. The paper base appears to be buffered, making this a likely long-lived paper. Epson Premium Glossy paper has been rated by Wilhelm as having a life of 300 years. A top notch glossy paper for $0.15 per letter-size sheet is a major value. Kirkland Signature Glossy Photo Paper can be ordered from Costco at
even by non-members. This is the only glossy paper I use for letter size prints. I use Epson Premium Semimatte for large display prints.
Ilford Galerie Smooth
Typical of the vast majority of gloss papers, this paper does not appear to be acid free. Also, unless sprayed, the paper exhibits considerable bronzing.
Epson Glossy Photo Paper – Media Type is “Glossy Photo Paper.” Sliders: Contrast -13. This reasonably-priced paper has the fewest digital artifacts like bronzing – in fact, it is virtually free of them. Its thinner weight causes some waviness in areas with lots of dark tones. This paper is not archival and has a lower dmax than the above papers.
Epson Premium Glossy, Semigloss & Luster – Media Type is “Glossy Photo Paper.” Sliders: Contrast -15, Brightness +1. For Premium Semimatte, set Brightness to -4. The Epson Premium Glossy, Semigloss, Luster and Semimatte papers are rated by Wilhelm at “>200” years in terms of storage life. On plain, solid black areas pizza wheel marks may show on the Glossy paper, but probably will not show on the others.
Spraying glossy prints with PremierArt Print Shield increases the dmax, nearly eliminates the “bronzing,” and makes the paper water proof so that it can be cleaned with a damp paper towel.
Easy-Refill Cartridges and Minimizing Costs
To hold ink costs to a minimum, I highly recommend the use of MIS easy-refill cartridges (like the one pictured here http://www.inksupply.com/c84refill.cfm), with MIS bulk ink (See http://www.inksupply.com/utez.cfm) and a chip resetter. (See http://www.inksupply.com/qb7.cfm .)
Note that for the C86/84 carts fit the resetter better if the resetter guide is modified as shown in the following photo on my webpage: http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/C86_Resetter_Guide.jpg. This is also accessible from my printing information index at http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/index.htm.
To fill or re-fill these cartridges several accessories are needed. All are inexpensive and available from MIS at http://www.inksupply.com/accessory.cfm. I use the 10 cc “MIS Syringe” with a 4 inch “MIS-Needle 4” to pull ink from the bulk bottle and inject it into the top hole of the cart. The carts start printing better if they are primed first. To do this, I use a bottom fill adapter that I’ve cut down to 7 mm (MIS appears to have one that they have modified and call the “MIS-FADP” for the 4000, etc.) on a syringe. I break the outlet seal and pull a little ink through the bottom outlet, which tends to have an air bubble above it if the cart is initially filled from the top. I turn the cart upside down to be sure the air bubble is at the outlet and is pulled out by the syringe. This usually results in a good nozzle check immediately when the carts are installed.
Enjoy easy, cheap, & great digital B&W printing.
PS: For an open forum where I hang out, join the B&W Digital Print forum at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DigitalBlackandWhiteThePrint/