There was a time when black and white was the only way to reproduce images. From photographs to print and even the movies, black and white were all that was available. Fash forward to the present day, and we are constantly being bombarded by colour. The refined aesthetic of black and white imagery has remained a favourite among artists and photographers. However, unlike colour works, black and white printing has its own unique considerations to achieve dynamic prints. Today, we’ll explore how editing your images and the materials you use for printing can affect the final printed image.
Editing your image
Most artists will already be familiar with some form of photo editing programs, such as Photoshop or Lightroom. While these are some of the most common programs, they are by no means the only option (Canva, GIMP, etc.). For our purposes, we will reference how to edit your images with Photoshop.
Editing your images, also known as post-processing, is a fantastic way to refine your work to get exactly the look you want. However, B&W printing has some differences from colour printing, so images will need to be prepared accordingly.
Before you do anything, you’ll want to check your colour profile. We recommend using the default colour profile “Adobe RGB 1998” to achieve the most neutral results.
To check your image’s colour profile:
- Click the triangle on the bottom left of the image window
- Select ‘document profile.’
- The status bar and the ICC profile for your image will appear next to the triangle.
Next, you’ll want to remove all the colour information from your image.
- Go to Image >> Mode >> Grayscale
- A pop-up will ask if you want to discard colour information
- Click ‘Discard’
- Go to Edit >> Convert to Profile
- ‘Convert to Profile’ window will pop-up
- Use the “Destination Space” drop-down to select ‘Adobe RGB 1998’ colour profile
- Click ‘OK’
The bottom left-hand corner should now show your image with the profile: Adobe RGB 1998.
Creating a beautiful black and white image is more involved than it may first appear. Within the B&W spectrum, there are degrees of coldness and warmth. For example, sepia is on the warmer side of the range and may give images a vintage look, while pure black and white resides in the cooler spectrum and makes a fantastic choice for landscapes. Play around with the tone until you find the right balance for your particular image.
Before you print your black and white images, you’ll want to adjust their sharpness. While colours are easier to differentiate the focus of the image, it can become more complicated when using only shades of black and white. Try highlighting different features with the sharpening tool to make details stand out more. We suggest sharpening only specific areas that highlight your work rather than the entire image.
Your choice of paper can have a massive effect on how your printed B&W images will look, particularly the deepness of black. In general, matte papers won’t achieve as much depth as semi-gloss. But it is important to remember that paper choice and finish are also up to you and your personal taste.
Below we have highlighted a few of our favourite papers for making your B&W images pop.
Hahnemühle Baryta FA
This bright white cellulose paper has a soft, tactile feel that produces exquisite prints with a 3D quality depth, deep blacks and striking contrasts. Reminiscent of a traditional analogue baryta paper, it is a versatile choice ideal for printing black and white images.
Bright white with a smooth textured surface, this 100% α-cellulose paper is ideal for black and white images, displaying impressive contrasts and pictorial depth alongside the deepest blacks and brightest whites. This paper gives the look and feel of traditional silver gelatine double-weight photo paper with its pearl finish.
Ilford Gold Fibre Gloss
If you’re looking for a traditional fibre-based paper, Ilford Gold Fibre Gloss may be for you. This paper does not contain any optical brighteners, and its gloss finish delivers dynamic black and white images and seamless transitions from contrast to shadow.
Not all inks are created equal. For printing black and white images, we recommend using pigmented inks. Built to stand up to light, UV and other environmental factors, pigment-based inks won’t fade or deteriorate. We only use the highest quality HD Ultrachrome pigment-based inks at Beyond print to ensure superior results.
Print Your Black & White Artworks
As with all fine art, black and white printing combines knowledge, editing and experimentation. Modern digital tools give us the ability to play with images in new and ever-changing ways. Experimentation and practice will enable you to refine your work and create better quality prints.
Ready to start printing your black and white artworks? Order now with Beyond Print!