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
File > Color Settings menu.


RGB Setup

  1. Change sRGB to Monitor RGB
  2. If you are using Microsoft Windows products, change the Gamma setting to 2.20.
  3. Leave the White Point setting unchanged. The Adobe Gamma Utility sets this value which contains the results of your monitor calibration efforts.
  4. Ensure that the Display Using Monitor Compensation checkbox is checked.


CMYK Setup

These settings are probably ok as is. In most cases the Dot Gain figure should remain set at 20%.


Grayscale Setup

Change the Grayscale Behavior setting to RGB. This greatly increases the inkload the printer will deliver and its effective resolution.


Profile Setup

Disabling everything in this dialog box prevents Photoshop from changing things "for your own good."


Final Check

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.

In general:

  • Turn off Color Management controls - the precise color balance of your negatives is relatively unimportant.
  • You won't have a setting for Pictorico OHP film, so choose Premium Glossy Photo Paper for the Media Type. If you are using another transparency material use the setting recommended by the paper manufacturer.
  • Set the Print Quality to the highest setting available (for my printer it is 1440 dpi).
  • Set the Halftoning setting to High Quality Halftoning.
  • Uncheck the High Speed check box.
  • Click the Flip Horizontal checkbox if you don't want to have to flip your images before printing.

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