Print Color Pictures In Black And White – The key to good black and white printing is controlling dynamic range. Dynamic range is the range of tones from the blackest black to the whitest white in an image. In black and white photos, you want to use the full dynamic range. The problem is that when printing, printers often hit the limits of dynamic range before the eye (and camera and monitor) can stop distinguishing details. As the printer deposits ink to create its black, there will be a point where you can no longer distinguish details in black. Same with white – every printer has a point where white just becomes “white paper” and you can no longer see the ink. And if that’s not bad enough, the “black point” and “white point” will be different for each printer/paper combination!
Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this problem. Using a simple black and white test chart, you can see how your specific printer and paper handle the white and black areas of the ink, and you can edit the image to maximize the dynamic range available in your printer:
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You can use the test chart above or create your own. The important thing is that you have a document with a black to white gradient and also a grayscale swatch that gradually transitions from dark to light gradually. Whether you’re using this test chart or creating your own, you’ll need to open the info palette in Photoshop
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In the info palette, click one of the eyedropper icons and select an RGB color from the drop-down menu. Click on the other eyedropper icon and select Grayscale from the drop-down menu.
If you are creating your own test chart, there are several ways to do this. I prefer to use an 8-bit grayscale information palette to measure my gray values, simply because it works on a scale of 1 to 100, making it easier to create grayscale samples with incremental changes in value. If you look at my test chart, the first 11 gray swatches start from black and decrease in lightness by 1% in each box. When you hover over the grid and look at the value of k in the info panel, you will see that it starts at 100% black in the first grid and each grid decreases in darkness by 1%.
In the middle part of the box, I gradually reduce the darkness of each box by 5%, and in the lower part, I reduce the light by 1% again, starting from 10, down to 1. The graphic side is also included. gradient from pure black to pure white.
Hand Drawn Sketch Wineglass With Spray Of Liquid In Black Color. Isolated On White Background. Drawing For Posters, Decoration And Print. Vector Stock Vector Image & Art
The important thing is that you show gray values that gradually decrease in small increments. If you choose to create your own chart, the configuration is up to you.
Since this is a printer test chart, it doesn’t look good on the screen! The next step in this process is to print a test graphic using the same printer, paper and setup that you plan to use for your photo. After you print, you’ll see how your printer/paper combination handles these grayscale values, especially the white and black ones.
When evaluating black, you should look carefully at the upper part of the sample. Where can you see the difference in tone from one box to the next? You might think the first 3 boxes look the same, but the fourth looks lighter. Or you can go down to the second row before you see a change in tone.
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Evaluate the whites in the same way, except this time you’re looking for the point where you can see the square — the point where the printer actually starts applying a visible layer of ink, not just white paper. At any time, you can return to the screen version and hover over the swatch or tone in the gradient and see the value in the info panel. You can also use the gradient on the side to help you see how different shades of black and white will play up and see how much detail you will retain in darker and lighter tones.
Now that we can see how the printer will reproduce the black and white tones of our images, it’s time to apply this information to create the best photographic prints. Let’s say this is the photo I want to print:
And for this example, I will assume that with the printer / paper combination I can start to see the difference in the black tone at 94%, and I can start to see the white tone at 4%. Each printer and paper combination will be different, so be sure to print a test chart for each paper you use.
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The first thing I do when I open a photo I want to print in Photoshop is look at the shadow area. I just hover the cursor over the shadows, with the info panel open so I can see the areas that are darker than 94%. If you look at the image below, you can see that the shadow area my cursor is hovering over has a black value of 98% and moving the cursor over the shadow tells me that I have a few small spots in the 95-99 range that will be printed. everything in the shade was black. In this particular image, my highlights are less of a problem, but I do have some spots in the clouds and rocks that are a little lighter than the 4% that will show up in our prints. While this image looks good on the screen and looks good to my eyes, the test print shows that there are some subtle changes that need to be made before printing the image.
Previously, when evaluating grayscale, we used grayscale values (K) in the info panel – but Photoshop’s levels tool works in RGB (from 0 to 255 instead of 1 to 100). So, before we start leveling, we need to know the RGB values that are equal to the gray scale values to determine the black and white points. Since 94% is the first square where I can see a difference in dark tones, the darkest black should be set to 95%. At the white end of the spectrum, I want to keep detail in all my whites, so I don’t want any of my highlights to print below 4%. To find the RGB value in this image, you just need to hover your cursor over the box with the grayscale value you are trying to evaluate. Then look at the RGB values that should also appear in the info panel.
The image above shows that a grayscale value of 95% corresponds to an RGB value of 15. The same goes for 4% on the white edge giving an RGB value of 247.
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At this point, I’ll create a level adjustment layer (windows>adjustments>level). There is an output slider in the “level property”, where I will enter the RGB values found in the last step: 15 and 247. This will distribute all the tones of our image in these values, preventing us from losing details when printing.
Moving the eye icon next to the level layer in the layers panel will show the before and after. The difference is subtle but important. You can see the comparison below:
To our eyes, the previous version is more attractive, with increased contrast and darker blacks. But our printer cannot reproduce all these tones. Later versions will take advantage of the full – albeit more limited – dynamic range of the printer and deliver the best print.
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Whether you make your own or use this, going through the process of this test chart will help you create the best black and white prints. I personally print these test charts for each type of paper I use and keep the copyrighted prints in the paper box. When using the print lab, I print a copy of the test chart as an 8 × 10 image so that I can modify the image before sending it out for good. After doing it a few times, it’s a very quick process that will make a big difference in the quality of your black and white prints.
Thanks to Meg Faehl’s Photography Life reader for this tutorial! You can see more of Meg’s work on her website and follow her on Instagram too. This article was written as part of our guest post contest 2018. Once you’ve prepared your images, it’s just a matter of time
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