January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann

Variations on a Theme

Following the publication of myGray Balancerreview, and alsoCarl Schofield’sarticle onB&W Printingwith theEpson 2200 / 2100, I spent a couple of days playing with many of the possible variations of B&W and colour printing. I was curious to see which was the preferable approach when working both in B&W and colour.

This page details my subjective evaluations. I was assisted in this byChris Sanderson, a commercial film director / producer and photographer with some 30 years of professional experience.

The Paper & Inks

For these tests I only usedEpson Archival Matte(Enhanced Matte) and the optionalMatte Blackink. Why? Because this is the paper that I’ve been using the most for the past couple of years, first on theEpson 2000Pthen theEpson 5500. It performs exceptionally well with the new 2200, especially with the newMatte Blackink. This series of tests took quite some time so I’m not about to repeat them with many other papers, though I expect to do so withPremium SemiglossandPhoto Blackink eventually, and will report these results here at a future date. Please don’t ask me to test other paper / ink combinations.


There are many ways to skin the B&W cat with the 2200 / 2100. I tested 5. These were…

  1. Using the providedEpson Matte_MKprofile andNo Color Adjustment.
  2. Using no profile and withoutGray Balancercalibration. (ICM / Printer Color Management).
  3. Using my customGray Balancercalibration.(ICM / Printer Color Management).
  4. Using thePhotorealisticmethod.(ICM / Printer Color Management).
  5. Using thePhotorealisticmethod together withGray Balancer.(ICM / Printer Color Management).

As reported by Carl in hisreport on B&W printingusing thePhotorealisticmethod, using theEpson Matte_MKprofile (Method #1) is not the way to go for B&W. The tones produced are far from neutral, ranging from "slightly warm" under incandescent light to "very warm" in daylight.

Frankly, the remaining four methods are remarkably close. In fact, Epson’s rationalization that theGray Balancerisn’t needed has its basis in fact. When Method #2 or Method #4 are used prints are extremely neutral and very similar to ones produced by calibration with theGray Balancer. My judgment is that there is a delta of less than 1 between any of these methods. This means that the difference are at the limit of most people’s ability to discern. In the final analysis we found that prints made with Method #3 (theGray Balancer) were slightly, though noticeable more neutral than those made without it.

That isn’t to say thatGray Balancerisn’t needed or is of only marginal usefulness. My testing has shown that with some papers it is clearly advantageous, and even with colour printing there are advantages. But, if you can’t get your hands onGray Balancer, and you do your B&W printing withArchival Mattpaper, don’t fret. Results are very close indeed just by using Methods #2 or #4.

As for metamerism effects, Methods #2, #3, #4 and #5 were all identical, showing a slight warmth under incandescent light and almost complete neutrality under daylight.


Four different methods were used for colour prints.

  1. Using theEpson Matte_MKprofile andNo Color Adjustment.
  2. Using theEpson Matte_MKprofile andNo Color Adjustmentand my customGray Balanceradjustment.
  3. Using no profile and withoutGray Balancercalibration. (ICM / Printer Color Management).
  4. Using no profile butGray Balancercalibration. (ICM / Printer Color Management).

One would expect that the print made with the Epson-provided profile would have been best. This was not the case. While the profiles that Epson provides are very good indeed, they are generic profiles. Here’s what we saw.

Firstly, if you are usingGray Balancerbe sure to turn itoffbefore doing colour printing using profiles. TheGray Balancercalibration file in the printer driver andICC/ICMprofiles conflict with each other and produce less than optimal prints.

Using thePhotodisktest file seen above I was surprised to see that we both preferred #3 to #1. In other words, using Epson’s generic built-in profiles andICMrather than theNo Color Managementsetting and theEpson Matte_MKprofile produced more neutral whites and grays and less unrealistically warm skin tones. This was the case both when viewing prints in daylight and under incandescent lamps.

Finally, Method #4, usingGray BalancerwithPrinter Color Managementproduced the most neutral results. Not necessarily the best, but the most neutral. What we saw was that when printing in colour with theGray Balanceradjustment turned on the colour gamut wasslightlyreduced. Very slightly. So, whether you want to useGray Balancerwhen printing in colour will depend on whether or not a particular image demands the utmost neutralityorthe widest possible gamut.

Final Comments

Please realize that while the above are the results of some extensive testing, you really need to do your own tests and come to your own conclusions. No one can tell you what you will prefer or what your particular combination of equipment and techniques is going to produce.

Related Articles

Epson Photo 2200 Review

Matte Black Ink Reviewed

The Missing Windows Profile Mystery Solved

Velvet Fine Art Paper‚ A First Look

A Review and Commentary on the Missing Gray Balancer

Another Opinion on the 2200, Including Mac Issues & Ink Usage Costs

Making Beer – the Epson Download and how to use a Kodak Gray Scale

B&W Using Photorealistic Mode

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Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

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