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Black and white printing with the PRO-300

  |   Article, Articles and reviews, Black and white, Canon printer, Colour management, Printer articles, Printing, Test Images   |   2 Comments

Black and white printing for the PRO-300

Printing monochrome images with the Canon PRO-300

Site Notice: Like many working photographers, our work has diminished greatly in these challenging times, so I'm at home a lot. The silver lining is that I've lots of articles and reviews to write - if you've any suggestions or questions, please do let me know - Keith
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This article accompanies Keith’s detailed review of the Canon PRO-300 printer,

It expands on the section of the review covering the printing of black and white images.

In particular it looks at the B&W print mode available in the printer driver and via Canon’s new Professional Print and Layout software.

borderless-canon-pro300

Printing B&W on the PRO-300

I’m testing the PRO-300 connected to my Macs, but if you’re using a PC the results should be the same. I’ll first look at the basic methods of printing and then look in more detail about refining the process. The article has links to more detailed discussions of some processes and where I look at broader print and photography issues related to B&W,

Whilst it’s possible to print a B&W image using a normal ICC printer profile, using the specialist B&W print mode almost always produces better results. One exception to this would be strongly coloured/tinted monochrome images where the effect you are looking for is beyond what the B&W mode can offer.

The info for the PRO-300 mentions a new Matte black ink formulation  “…offering greater black density, smooth gradations and details in darker areas”. However I don’t have a PRO-10 to compare, so can only say that it works fine (as did the PRO-10 IIRC).

Printing in monochrome

I normally print directly from Photoshop. For the printer’s B&W print mode the settings are managed in the driver, so I hand off colour management. This is the ‘Printer manages colours’ setting.

ps-bw-print-setting

You may need to select driver colour matching. This is one of those things that will vary depending on computer and operating system. This is on a Mac running 10.13

color-matching

B&W printing is selected via this checkbox.

select-BW-printing

The media setting is a standard media – you can of course create your own custom media settings, which work for B&W as well as colour.

There are fine adjustments to the tone of the print available. I’ll come back to this in more detail in a bit.

bw-toning-options

It’s a pretty easy process, and my more advanced testing (below) shows that for many images you’ll need no more adjustment for many papers.

Using Canon’s Professional Print and Layout software

Canon’s software works as a standalone application, or as a plugin for Photoshop /Lightroom /Elements.

It offers a lot of custom print set-ups including multi image layout and gallery wraps, but here I’m just looking at B&W printing.

Here’s a photo of the Oregon coast showing why it’s one of my favourite drives…

[click on images to enlarge]

set-bw-print-mode

In the two tabs at the right, this is the basic settings one, where I set page size and layout. I’ve selected the paper type and size (A3).

Under the colour management section I’ve selected ‘Black and White Photo’.

Switching to the right tab (colour settings) is where I can fine tune the look of my print.

A simple switch to ‘Warm Tone’. You can fine tune this with the colour shift box below the setting. However I’d just suggest being subtle with this. For myself I get all the tonal variation I want through my paper choices – YMMV.

warm-tone

A more important setting is the ‘Strength’ option.

As you can see I’ve selected ‘Hard Tone’ – this (as I’ll show in a bit) gives the best match between the tones on my calibrated screen to the tones reproduced in the print.

use-hard-tone-setting

For myself I don’t want to start adjusting tones in the printer driver/software. That job should have been done before in my image editing workflow. The same goes for any use of sharpening, a critical element in print quality.

An example setting would be the option for darkening white areas in your print.

darken-white-areas-in-prints

I guess it could make the edge of the print stand out against the border/margin, but if I’d wanted that effect, I’d have done it before deciding to print.

If my concerns seem a little much, then consider that any adjustment you make at this stage are not saved for your image. Let’s say you need to re-print it a year later – will you know what adjustment you used in the printer settings? I certainly wouldn’t.

There are other adjustments for tonality and contrast which may be of help if you’re displaying the print in dim lighting. It’s often forgotten that a print that looks great in a well lit office, looks distinctly dark when viewed in lower levels of light, such as people’s homes.

One way of giving prints a boost for darker display environments is to add a gentle adjustment curve. The Canon software allows you to apply such curves, as well as save and load them.

The example below shows a rather strong ‘S’ curve.

strong-s-curve

This adjustment curve function has another more advanced use, in correcting print linearity.

Borderless

Borderless printing can be set for the following print sizes.

  • A3+ /A3 /A4 /LTR /Ledger /Hagaki /7*10 /12*12 /5*7 /L(3.5″*5″)
  • KG (4″x6″) /2L(5″*7″) /8″*10″ /10″*12″ /Square(127 mm) /210 *594 mm

Depending on the paper you may see a warning about margins.

fine-art-borderless

I tried a range of heavier media through the rear loading slot and they worked just fine. With borderless printing do take extra care that your paper doesn’t have excessive curl or turned up corners.

The paper is Canon Museum Etching paper, a slightly rough surface paper.

Etching-black-and-white

Changing tone

I showed the tone adjustments earlier as a creative effect. They also have a more subtle use in correcting for slight colour casts caused in B&W prints from different lighting sources.

One of the improvements I’ve noticed over the years is the steady improvement in neutrality for B&W printing, especially when using B&W print modes. However it’s still possible that some papers will show a slight colour tint (greenish or magenta) under some lighting. This can be tuned out, but how to decide on a setting?

Using the pattern print option lets you make a contact sheet of images all with subtly different tints.

Take this along and view it under your problematic lighting to help decide if any adjustment will help.

pattern-print

I’ve written some more about using this approach a while ago with my Canon iPF8300 printer

Linearity

Ideally, when doing black and white editing for print, I’d like a straight match between the tonality on my monitor and what’s reproduced in a print. I will probably have to make allowances for the differing tonal range of matte and glossy papers and maybe lighting type.

However I’d like to start from knowing that my print setup is linearly reproducing what I’m editing on screen.

As part of this process I always test new papers with my standard B&W test image. I’ve quite a few test images available (for colour too). The image (and many others) are available for free download on this site.

BW test image mk.2

I’ve slightly different versions of this image, depending on what tool I’m using to measure the step patches.

Here’s a test print via Photoshop, for use with the i1iSis spectro.

It’s important to print the test print exactly as you would a B&W photo.
The image is NOT a profiling target.

print-BW-test-image

An initial look over the prints showed no obvious non-linearity or unwanted colours. The biggest problem I come across when testing is that shadows get crunched up.

The image has various features that make this easier to spot visually. See the article about the test image for details.

In the course of testing I created rather a lot of A4 test prints…

bw-test-prints

I read the 51 step wedge with the iSis and create a data file of measurements. This gives ‘Lab’ values for each patch from 0% (paper white) to 100% (solid black) in 2% steps.  I then take this data and make use of the QTR software to create a graph of the data. There’s lots more about this in the iSis linearisation article.

Here’s the graph form printing B&W via Photoshop, on Pro-Luster paper

pro-lus-PS-print

Don’t worry about the numbers, it’s the (broad) shape of the curve I’m interested in.

It’s pretty straight until 90% where it flattens out quite a bit. That suggests that my print will lose some definition in deeper shadows.

A similar curve for Canon’s Museum Etching fine art paper.  The maximum darkness  (dmax) is lower as expected with a matte art paper, but note the similarity of the curve shape.

mus-etch-PS-print

Ok. that’s for the B&W setting via the driver and Photoshop.

What about the settings in the Canon print software? [click to enlarge]

varied-settings

I’ve marked the 50% and 90% levels.

The hard setting gives the smoothest coverage, with 0% to 50% being very good.

What to do about the slight nonlinearity?

First up, how much does it matter? The curves here are not bad and don’t show the strong kinks/flats you can get when a paper is seriously mismatched to the ink and/or media settings. I printed quite a few B&W images using the hard setting – after all, this is what you get if you use print from Photoshop.

Curves for correction

Remember that strong S curve I showed earlier. Well, it only takes a simple curve to tweak the linearity. It shouldn’t be that ‘strong’ for any setting. Here’s one that worked for the ‘Hard’ setting.

adjustment-curve

The curve can be saved as a .pcv file.

What’s inside it? It’s actually a simple text file with sets of points for R/G/B/Master channels.

Here’s the curve data for the curve shown above.

ToneCurveBlue=0,0 255,255
ToneCurveGreen=0,0 255,255
ToneCurveMaster=0,0 18,25 55,63 128,128 192,192 255,255
ToneCurveRed=0,0 255,255

I leave as an exercise to a reader somewhere to write some code that takes the QTR (or source) data and creates an linearising .pcv file for any media…

Paper differences

The curves are similar for the museum etching paper, and none of the papers I tried deviated much from this. That bodes well for using the B&W print mode for other papers.

My only issue detected with some lustre/gloss papers was a slight bronzing, visible if you get the lighting on the print just right.

bronzing

I’d emphasise that you do need to get the light just right to see it – I’ve seen far worse on many other printers in the past.

I suspect that changing gloss coat settings may alter this, but you’ll need to experiment if you find it in a paper you’re trying. Don’t forget that with any new printer you really do need to test a lot of things from scratch. Your paper choices should come -after- your printer choice.

Getting a better B&W print

My goals in testing B&W print performance is to introduce a bit more predictability and less uncertainty into my workflow. I want to be able to work on my photography and image editing and know that my printing will ‘just work’.

It may seem tedious to do much testing, but I firmly believe that a good reliable print setup benefits all of your photography.

More of my articles

See also my detailed review of the PRO-300

I do welcome comments and questions – please feel free to comment below or email me.

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Site Notice: Like many working photographers, our work has diminished greatly in these challenging times, so I'm at home a lot. The silver lining is that I've lots of articles and reviews to write - if you've any suggestions or questions, please do let me know - Keith
...Why not sign up for our (ad free) Newsletter to keep informed about new articles and subscribe to my YouTube Channel


2 Comments
  • Keith | Sep 10, 2020 at 9:20 am

    Thanks Joe – I only started doing the videos last month, so it’s good to know they are appreciated.

    Have a look at the custom media settings article http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/custom-media-for-the-pro-300/

    Hahnemuhle supply some icc profiles for the PRO-300 and some am1x files for loading with the MCT. (.ics files are of no relevance here AFAIK)

    https://www.hahnemuehle.com/en/digital-fineart/icc-profile/download-center.html

    For icc profiles (.icc) they go into the ColorSync folder in your Library folder – you use these with whatever Canon media type best matches. For the sample I just downloaded, there was a PDF document explaining usage.

    As to LR I can’t help much (I’ve never liked it) – if you install a custom media type it should be there, whilst just installing an icc profile means you need to select the same (Canon) media type in both printer dialog and the printer, and choose the ICC at print time. I put my profiles in my Library folder and they work for everything. The MCT route is more complex but simpler in the long run, since it adds a new media type (your paper) to the printer and media list.

    These are things I only put into the written articles at the moment – partly because they are complex and with written stuff I can edit for legibility and technical detail – oh and alter when software changes or I get something wrong ;-)

    As to the margins – it was my biggest gripe with the old PRO-10, so they fix it, but make you have to choose to use the fix…

  • Joe Lafferty | Sep 9, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Keith,

    just came across your YouTube channel and articles when I was researching to replace my Epson surecolor 400. A good printer. but VERY unpredictable in whether or not it would take Hahnemuller (sp?) fine art photo rag. So, long story short, I got the Canon Pro-300. Your videos and articles were great in getting me started!

    A couple of questions tho… the Hahnemmuler site has .ics profiles and when I try to import to my printer they are greyed out…
    So I added one manually. And, in Lightroom Classic (using latest version on Mac) when I pull down printer profile, it does have a smooth photo rag?

    And when I was printing, the canon printer was asking what paper I was using – so, does this over-ride the LR settings? Seems strange to have to do it twice! I’m thinking if I choose the black and white option in the print dialog it over rides the normal LR print module. But not sure what it does with the paper profile chosen? Hope that makes sense…

    I ran into the problem with margins, which is a bit of a pain as I do have small margins in most of my prints, but had to remember to disable the margins in advanced print dialog…

    keep up the great work! Your videos deserve a much wider following.

    best regards,

    Joe

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