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Colour or B & W


I have just bought a film scanner and want to make black and white prints on an epson inkjet printer. The question is, would I get better results using black and white negative film or would scanning colour slide film and converting it in photoshop be a better option? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

> Steve

I use an Epson 1280 printer and presently for black and white I convert in Photoshop- this is just an issue of economy for me since I use Velvia and Provia slide film and once the processing is done at Fuji labs, I can have the best of both worlds, that is slides and pictures, some in color, some in black and white. Once I do the conversion in Photoshop, using the channel mixer, the results are excellent. I would not go that far to say that they equal the traditional "silver" process but they do for my modest needs. I print using B&W settings on my Epson, not colour. The original black ink cartridge from Epson makes for horrid greenish black and whites if you use B&W print settings so I switched to MIS cartridges and the result is much improved. I believe there are many alternatives in terms of black ink, also quadtone kits. www.inksupply.com will provide you with a wide array of choices.

Hope this helps

> Steve

You might find the system called Piezography BW to be of interest. The manufacturer claims to be able to produce results approaching those produced using the Zone system and independent writers go a long way to supporting the claim. I have yet to try it for myself so can offer no personal advice.

Here is the web site.


There are some interesting articles worth following up especially one by George DeWolfe at:


Regards Paul Nicholson Leeds, England
Steve, In addition to my previous post, you may also want to consider posting your question/finding your answer at: http://www.usefilm.com/ (Go to the Digital Darkroom Forum). Regards, Vincent
Hi Steve,

I think you have much more flexibility if you shoot in color and convert to black and white.

Keep in mind that when you convert color to black and white in Photoshop (for instance, by using 'desaturate') Photoshop uses 60% of the green channel, plus 30% red and 10% blue. This default may not be the best way to convert a particular image. If you look at the individual channels while the file is still in RGB, you are, in effect, looking at the a color image through a red, green or blue filter. (hit command-1, command-2 and command-3 to see the three channels, then hit the tilde (~) (it's under the escape key on the upper-left of the keyboard) to see the composite again. You can do a custom blend of two or more channels to get exactly the tonal range you want. This also gives you a lot of control over which colors appear dark or light, and lets you control how dark or light different colors will be as gray tones.

If you photograph fluffy white clouds in a bright blue sky, the sky in the blue channel may look almost pure white with little or no cloud detail, while the red channel will look almost black with dramatically bright white clouds; the green channel will be in-between. By blending these together in different combinations, you can create the exact tones you want. Green leaves will be nearly white in the green channel, very dark in the red channel. Skin tones will be very pale in the red channel - often you can get a kind of fashion-photography look, with little detail in the skin by using the red channel - you can easily get the eyes, nostrils and lips floating in a nearly-featureless face. So, by blending different percentages of different channels to get your bw image, you can, control whether two different colors contrast more or less with each other as gray tones in the final image.

You can do anything you could do shooting BW with color filters, but you can do it after the fact and without the need of actually using filters. If you photographed a red flower against a background of green leaves, you could make the red petals and green leaves both dark gray tones that nearly blend together, or you could eliminate red to make lighter leaves and darker flower petals, or use mostly red to darken the leaves and brighten the petals, depending on the result you want.

Keep in mind that you often lose contrast or 'snap' when you convert a color file to BW, so you often need to tweak it.

Here's a shot I did of a model I worked with - this was shot on Provia with an RTS III and the 1.4 85mm, scanned with a Polaroid Sprintscan 4000+, and converted to BW in Photoshop:


Take care,

- Paul
For those of you who do not know it yet, there appears to be a whole new forum in the '****info.com' realm that deals with these questions: www.darkroominfo.com. As far as I know it was started somewhere earlier this year and it has not been seeing a lot posting yet...so be a pioneer and get out there! Good luck! Vincent
For those of you who do not know it yet, there appears to be a whole new forum in the '****info.com' realm that deals with these questions: www.darkroominfo.com. As far as I know it was started somewhere earlier this year and it has not been seeing a lot of posting yet...so be a pioneer and get out there! Good luck! Vincent
Generally speaking you will get better results using C-41 process films . Traditional silver B&W film doesnt often scan very well and is prone to grain aliasing , plus you cant use fancy gadgets like digital ICE [if you have it on your scanner] which removes the need for spotting . I personally use Kodak Portra B&W400 almost exclusively these days , it scans beautifully and I get excellent resulkts with nice smooth tones . Alot of people use colour print film ,which is not a bad idea , as you can then also play around in Photoshop with the effects of colour filters without actually having to use one! For ultimate results the hextone inksets give absolutely stunning prints as others have said , personally I just use the black cart when printing B&W and get very good results , if marginally grainier than using colour inks and/or duotones etc. Steve
> In regards to scanning b&w to color, what I've found is that it depends upon the image., and the film. The advantage to using a color scan is that you can more easily turn the result into a duotone.. I seem to have better luck scanning chromogenic black and white film, like Ilford, than in using traditional black and white-. There are some black and white films that are orthochromatic and some that are panchromatic, and this can make a difference depending upon how the image was shot and the "colors" in it. Generally speaking I test one image of series to see how it works. What I've found is that things like foilage maintain a better tonal range when scanned in as color.. In really large scans it is advantageous to use b&w to keep the file size down. I have not noticed significant difference in resolution, I print with the Epson 960 sand it handles both equally well.>