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Epson 2200 / 2100
Comparing Images & Printing Techniques

Variations on a Theme

Following the publication of my Gray Balancer review, and also Carl Schofield's article on B&W Printing with the Epson 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 by Chris Sanderson, a commercial film director / producer and photographer with some 30 years of professional experience.

The Paper & Inks

For these tests I only used Epson Archival Matte (Enhanced Matte) and the optional Matte Black ink. Why? Because this is the paper that I've been using the most for the past couple of years, first on the Epson 2000P then the Epson 5500. It performs exceptionally well with the new 2200, especially with the new Matte Black ink. 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 with Premium Semigloss and Photo Black ink eventually, and will report these results here at a future date. Please don't ask me to test other paper / ink combinations.

B&W

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

  1. Using the provided Epson Matte_MK profile and No Color Adjustment.
  2. Using no profile and without Gray Balancer calibration. (ICM / Printer Color Management).
  3. Using my custom Gray Balancer calibration. (ICM / Printer Color Management).
  4. Using the Photorealistic method. (ICM / Printer Color Management).
  5. Using the Photorealistic method together with Gray Balancer. (ICM / Printer Color Management).

As reported by Carl in his report on B&W printing using the Photorealistic method, using the Epson Matte_MK profile (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 the Gray Balancer isn'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 the Gray 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 (the Gray Balancer) were slightly, though noticeable more neutral than those made without it.

That isn't to say that Gray Balancer isn'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 on Gray Balancer, and you do your B&W printing with Archival Matt paper, 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.

Colour

Four different methods were used for colour prints.

  1. Using the Epson Matte_MK profile and No Color Adjustment.
  2. Using the Epson Matte_MK profile and No Color Adjustment and my custom Gray Balancer adjustment.
  3. Using no profile and without Gray Balancer calibration. (ICM / Printer Color Management).
  4. Using no profile but Gray Balancer calibration. (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 using Gray Balancer be sure to turn it off before doing colour printing using profiles. The Gray Balancer calibration file in the printer driver and ICC/ICM profiles conflict with each other and produce less than optimal prints.

Using the Photodisk test 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 and ICM rather than the No Color Management setting and the Epson Matte_MK profile 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, using Gray Balancer with Printer Color Management produced the most neutral results. Not necessarily the best, but the most neutral. What we saw was that when printing in colour with the Gray Balancer adjustment turned on the colour gamut was slightly reduced. Very slightly. So, whether you want to use Gray Balancer when printing in colour will depend on whether or not a particular image demands the utmost neutrality or the 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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Concepts: Color, Printing, Incandescent light bulb, Gamut, Light, Color space, Color theory, Color management

Entities: printer driver, Michael Reichmann, Epson, Gray Balancer., Matte Black, Chris Sanderson, Carl Schofield, Matte, Archival Matt, Carl

Tags: Gray Balancer, Printer Color Management, Epson, profile, Gray Balancer calibration, Epson Matte_MK profile, printing, colour printing, Photorealistic method, Black ink, b&w printing, Matte Black ink, Gray Balancer review, custom gray balancer, Gray Balancer adjustment, incandescent light, No Color, Epson Archival Matte, Balancer calibration file, prints, commercial film director, widest possible gamut, Photo Black ink, warm skin tones, Archival Matt paper, optional matte, preferable approach, subjective evaluations, colour gamut, new matte, Color Adjustment, Carl Schofield, Chris Sanderson, results, neutral whites, marginal usefulness, possible variations, B&W cat, past couple, Premium Semigloss