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black and white printer test imageTest image for black and white printing

An updated and refined version of our standard monochrome test print image

Several years ago (2005) Keith created a monochrome test image, specifically aimed at improving aspects of his black and white print capabilities and to help when testing new papers.

Printers have continued to improve and Keith has produced an updated test image, based on his own testing and much valuable feedback received over the years.

The initial version of the new image is available as a full size A4 image at 300ppi (297mm x 210mm). The file will need to be unzipped and opened with the program you print from.

It works perfectly fine if printed at 360ppi - it just doesn't fill an A4 page

Download the file [zipped JPEG max. quality]

Also available in 21 step and Letter paper size

The test image

Why change an image that's been downloaded many 10's of thousands of times and is widely used?

I've deliberately kept the same image parts in the new version, since I know that a brief look at parts of them give quick feedback about many aspects of print quality.

digital black and white logoFYI: I've set up a LinkedIn group (~6800 members) for people interested in all aspects of Digital Black and White photography: Digital Black and White

The articles and reviews part of this site is entirely free, and written and maintained in my spare time. If you'd like to support it, please consider making any Amazon purchases though the links on this page. - Keith

The new image has more parts addressing fine detail, and includes detail right up to the corners and edge edge of the image, for checking borders and borderless printing.

It includes a 51 step wedge, formatted in a way that makes it easy to measure using X-rite's free ColorPort software.

There are explanations of the various features below.

detailed black and white test print

monochrome test print for testing black and white printingParts of the test image

There is a description of the original image in an article, and it remains available for download.

The photo elements of the new version are the exact same ones taken from the original.

Size

This version is a full A4 size (210mm x 297mm) if printed at 300ppi

If printed at 360ppi the diamond pattern at the corners is reduced in size.

At 360ppi, the spacing is reduced to approx. 4.2mm

corner indicatortest image size details

The corners of images are more prone to smudging, head strikes and a lowering of print quality. The diamond patterns will show this, and allow you to see if there is any scaling, borders or cropping occurring.

The file is in the Grey Gamma 2.2 colour space.

This is mainly since some monochrome print modes expect data in a Gamma 2.2 colour space. If you are using QTR correction profiles then you can apply one by converting to the QTR profile and then assigning a space such as Adobe 98, before printing (this is described in much more detail in the articles about creating such profiles).

Detail

A new detail test strip has been devised, incorporating fine detail at scales of one to seven pixels, at a range of brightnesses and contrast levels.

The highly magnified version below (from a Photoshop screen shot - hence the very fine grid) shows the fine pattern structure of the test.

fine detail section of B&W test image

The overall test pattern below shows the pattern overlaid on two grey ramps, with the plain pattern in the middle.

whole of fine detail section of test print

Ideally you should be able to see some detail in the lightest and darkest areas, certainly to within the last 10mm at either end, and hopefully even more (it may take some good lighting and magnification).

Here's a view of the light end - how good is your monitor?

fine highlight detail

How about in the shadows?

fine shadow detail

There is a clear 1 pixel wide gap between the two main photos

fine white line

Smoothness of tone

The quickest test for linearity in the test image is the bulls-eye pattern - there should be no bumps, bands or steps visible.

linearity 'bullseye' pattern

The pattern also shows up ink colour changes over the range of tones, and if looked at obliquely and potential gloss differential or bronzing issues.

The alternative gradient shows more in the very light and dark areas.

gradient targets

There is also a gradient with K=1% to K=5%, with a K=0% strip in the middle that shows up ink dot distribution, if suitably magnified.

light gradient strips

A larger ramp runs from 0% to 100%

large grey ramp with text

Measurable areas

The 51 step greyscale ramp is there to measure print linearity

The solid black bar is extended to the edge of paper and shows up marks from the paper feed system or rollers smudging ink.

51 step greyscale ramp

The use of this pattern to create QTR correction profiles is covered at length in an article about linearisation profiles for B&W print modes (such as Epson ABW)

If you only wanted to have a 21 step ramp, then you can replace this section of the image with a different ramp (the files are available in the article above) or you can download a 21 step version of the new test B&W image.

21 step greyscale ramp

There is not enough room for a ramp to work with the ColorMunki, but there is a version of the old image that incorporates a ColorMunki compatible 21 step ramp in a different article.

colormunki black and white grayscale test strip

The Photos

The Hood Canal image has important detail in the shadows. It shows up print setups where the shadows are overall printing too dark. It's relatively gloomy, but should not be a silhouette.

Hood Canal, Washington

Detail should be visible around the picnic table, whilst in the mist there is slight 'noise' visible in the image.

detail in mid-dark toneshighligt tone detail

  • BTW There is a detailed article about the creation of the Hood Canal photo - From idea to print

kiva and ruins Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

The solid black wedges at the right hand side of the test print tend to show up any over-inking or smudging, although I'd always suggest doing a nozzle check of any inkjet printer before doing the test print.

Shadow detail should be visible in many areas (the windows are at 100%)

A quick check for shadow detail is to be able to read all of my name without too much difficulty

test shows shadow detail

A tough test is seeing shadow detail behind the log.

critical shadow detail test

An example

Every 4-5 days I make sure that our large iPF8300 printer runs at least one small print. Printers need regular use, especially large ones, and printing is not our main business.

To this end I keep a roll of basic coated matte paper in the printer. It's not a paper I'd use for any actual printing (it was a sample roll that came with a printer I reviewed a while ago), so I don't have any profiles or custom settings.

This is the test print coming out of the iPF8300.

test print coming out of printer

I've printed with the basic monochrome print mode for this printer, 'Matte Coated' paper with no special settings, other than to 'save roll paper' so the printer trims the print along the edge.

The corner shows both the standard margin, and the margin you get when auto trim is enabled.

corner pattern and basic linearity check

If the print looks reasonable, I immediately go to the bulls-eye target. It's not easy to see here, but there are slight steps in the target.

I've deliberately taken this shot in our print room, on top of the printer, to give a bit of a feel for what you are looking for. This example shows slight non linearity - I've seen much much worse.

From just looking at the target I'd expect very deep shadows to be a bit crunched up, but with dark shadow opened up a little bit.

This is just what I see in the Mesa Verde test photo, where dark shadow detail (the far wall) is a tad lighter than I'd expect.

Remember to evaluate your prints under consistent lighting conditions - I've adjusted processing of this image to match what I see under good lighting. If your print is going to be displayed in dim lighting remember that our visual system tends to lose shadow detail, so even a perfect test print may look too dark.

The good news is that most people wouldn't notice the 'faults' in real world images on paper such as I've used here ;-) This particular paper and settings would work just fine for many images.

I'd take much more care if it was an expensive cotton rag based paper for exhibition work.

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I use the image when evaluating new papers - it's usually the first black and white image I print.

I've kept many of the image elements from the original, so that I can compare the new image to prints made with the old version.

I use the test print to decide if a paper needs adjustment when printed a certain way - this can come from a custom QTR linearisation profile, or a simple curve adjustment before printing. It's up to you to decide just how much extra work is worthwhile.

Please don't spend hours chasing after some illusory 'perfect' version of the test image - to my mind, there is no such thing, and you'd learn much more useful information by just using it to get a feel for how the image on your screen differs from what comes out of a printer and how that varies under different viewing conditions.

Remember that it's the print on the wall that counts, not the image on screen.

I've been asked for larger/smaller versions of the file, but before offering any more versions I thought I'd wait for some feedback on this basic new version (in 51 step and 21 step variants).

Please do let me know if you find it of use, or have any problems with it?

Article History - first published April 2014

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