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How to Print Black and White
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See also Modern B/W Photography

Black-and-White Prints

If I shot B/W I'd still be in the darkroom and shoot nothing but 4x5" film. Digital capture optimized for color. That said,


Adorama also runs real RC black and white paper through their printer. Choose this and your B/W shots will print as they should, without the weird color shifts and tints that happen when printing B/W on color printers. Of course you have only one choice for tone, which resides in their B/W paper.

If you want a custom tone then do that in Photoshop and print in color.

Printing to fibre-based paper from files is a very special process. You'll have to poke aorund my Labs page and see who's doing what as I update it.


Texture in B/W Prints

I work in color, and digital is fantastic for color. Color photography uses color where B/W uses texture. Thus color looks great printed at the 300 DPI limit of modern electro-optical printers.

Texture is a critical, primary element of B/W photography. Texture is only secondary in color photography. My color work often has no texture: it's about interplay among bold swatches of color.

I've never seen anything that can reproduce the quality a B/W print made optically from a large format film negative. What sets these prints apart is texture at resolutions requiring far more than the 300 DPI of electro-optical printers. If I printed B/W electronically I'd use a source with enough resolution and a printer that supported at least 600 real DPI, which film scans and inkjets can do.

If I wanted to print large format images electronically I'd use a quad-tone system like those promoted by Cone Editions or Piezography. These prints are made by replacing a color printer's ink with four or more shades of gray. Prints made this way are an art form unto themselves. I strongly suggest you investigate these if you print B/W on your computer.

Serious B/W on a Computer

Serious workers print from negatives in a darkroom, and can use Photoshop for corrections.


People use a fast scan of the image as a tracing background, and use Photoshop's painting tools to paint yellow, gray and magenta over the image.

The gray is for dodging.

Yellow and magenta are for local contrast manipulation with variable contrast paper.

These artists then load transparency film into their $99 inkjets, and sandwich this as a mask along with their negatives in their enlarger!

This is a brilliant technique. It allows all the 3-D detail from a direct optical print, and allows minute adjustment, and repeatable results.

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