Why Not Use Color Inksets?


Of course, I've tried to print B&W with color inksets, the results with older printers have been awful -- color casts, cross-overs, metamerism, faster and differential fading. Even the newest R800 and R1800 "B&W" prints I've seen have been totally unacceptable. Color inksets are simply not designed to make B&W images.

The Epson UltraChrome ("UC") inkset with its Light Black ("LK") ink introduced with the 2200 was the first color inkset to be able to making an acceptable B&W print. However, with the Epson driver, it still was mostly a color inkset that had the above problems; the LK ink was only used in the shadows. With a separate printer utility or "rip" (raster image processor) many of the problems of the 2200 UC inkset can be cured by using the Light Black ink all the way into the highlights, but the LK ink was not meant to be used in the highlights, as it is too dark. Thus using it there caused visible dots.


With the introduction of the 2400, 4800, 7800, and 9800, and the UC K3 inkset Epson has made its first printer that can make very good looking B&W prints. This is real progress for B&W printers, and I expect this solution will be used by many B&W photographers.


Still, however, the K3 system uses significant amounts of color inks in the mix. To see what a 1600 dpi scan of the K3 highlights looks like, see: http://home1.gte.net/res09aij/4800_ABW_5-10_1600scan.jpg


While most will never see these color dots, the color inks used are substantially less lightfast than the carbon-based inks. Moreover, dedicated B&W inksets, where the color pigments are blended with carbon, appear to be more lightfast than those that use pure color dots. With the blended inks, it appears as the color fades, carbon remains in the same position, whereas with pure color dots white paper is exposed. As such, the dedicated B&W, blended carbon inksets appear to fade more to carbon warm than to paper white, thus maintaining their visual density better.


The bottom line is that my initial fade test results show the MIS UT inks to be more lightfast than even the best UC K3 inks. Frankly, the visibility even if only under a loupe of the color inks simply bothers some of us who are B&W printers. As such, I will continue to evolve dedicated B&W solutions for B&W printing.


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