Every aspect of creating digital negatives is complicated and made more difficult if your screen and printer aren't calibrated. Effort spent calibrating is well worth it.
Calibrate Your Monitor
Calibrate your monitor using the Adobe Gamma Utility.
Obey the wizard in all things except one - you do not need to start by setting your monitor's brightness control to the max. The gamma utility will adjust grey values to whatever brightness setting you choose. As long as white looks white and black looks black the brightness is adequate. If you've already been through this process, ignore me.
Disable Automatic Color Correction Agents
Both your image editing software and your printer management software have features that are designed to ensure that you get acceptable images most of the time. These largely undocumented features are installed and activated by default. Unfortunately, these features also work together to prevent you from making good digital negatives!
For digital negative-making using Photoshop you
will want to change several settings in the
These settings are probably ok as is. In most cases the Dot Gain figure should remain set at 20%.
Change the Grayscale Behavior setting to RGB. This greatly increases the inkload the printer will deliver and its effective resolution.
Disabling everything in this dialog box prevents Photoshop from changing things "for your own good."
Run the Adobe Gamma Utility one more time "just to be sure."
Calibrating Your Printer
The simplest way to calibrate an Epson printer is to create and save a "Custom Mode" for the printer and use it whenever you print. You'll probably have to pick this mode every time you do any serious printing since by default the printer driver will operate the printer in "Automatic Mode." I have made several Custom Modes, some for color printing and one for alt process negatives.
Typical Black and White Custom Mode
My settings are shown in the following figure.