Black and white images coming out flat on laser printer

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by tom_kat, May 30, 2016.

  1. I am using a Brother Laser printer to print black and white images on "brochure paper". The printer is a Brother HL-4040CDN. The images are on the flat side. I choose "printer manages colors" because if I choose "photoshop manages colors" it's very dull no matter what I do. I'm not looking for perfection just better tonal ranges if it's even possible on this printer. My black and white laser printer at work seemed to do a better job but I can't use it for this project Any advise is much appreciated, book or video recommendations also appreciated. Thanks.
  2. PapaTango

    PapaTango I See Things

    A lot of different factors come into play here. Are your 'quality' settings set to maximum or standard--or even another setting such as 'photo'?
    Rarely have I seen two printers render an image the same way. Tweaks in contrast, brightness, or levels for the digital image are sometimes necessary to coerce the best performance from the printer and toner. Some toners are not quite what they should be either, and depending upon the printer can be too thick or have a tendency to spread a bit when fusing to the paper.
  3. I played around with the brightness and contrast but not really giving be the tonal range I need. I think the printer is just limited, it doesn't even have a "photo" setting. I bought it used and it was cheap so maybe I'll just get another one.
  4. The usual problem is that blacks are not deep enough.
  5. A laser printer is not ideal for any photograph, much less B&W. Nonetheless you can do a reasonably good job with the right printer and right settings.
    First off, you can't print a color image in B&W without some treatment. You need to go into Channel Mixer (Photoshop) and reduce the green channel, or use a B&W converson insert or Lightroom. Printing a color image in B&W will be very flat an uninteresting without this treatment.
    Secondly, I get better tonal results if I print in color rather than black only. There are deeper blacks, less banding and a warmer, more pleasant result. (I always preferred E-surface Polycontrast to Kodabromide for the same reasons). Finally you will need a good glossy or semi-gloss coated paper. I use Nekoosa 100# Glossy Text, which I buy by the case from a local distributor. The printer is low-end graphic arts quality, with four separate color imaging rolls. The scanned image is as faithful to the original print in terms of dynamics as I can manage, apart from scanning in color. The tone is actually slightly warm, similar to Polycontrast.
    The printer is calibrated using firmware procedures, and using a profile created using an Eye-One Pro spectrophotometer and 128 patch chart.
    You lose hightlights and shadow detail, but on the whole, the effect is not unpleasant. The converted digital image is a color JPG rendered by default using Lightroom, hence the slight coloration. The scanned image is actually an 8-bit B&W image.
    Digital Image, converted to B&W using Lightroom High Contrast option
    The same image, printed on a Xerox 3660 Laserjet and scanned in 8-bit B&W, using an Epson Expression 1600
  6. A photo inkjet printer is capable of much more subtle tonalities, such as a seven color Epson (which has long since dried up). My wive has one of these prints in her music studio, which has withstood sunlight for about fifteen years now without fading. Laser prints, being 100% pigment, are very resistant to fading, and so far the paper I've used has resisted yellowing, but not necessarily in sunlight.
  7. Thanks Edward, I'm going try it on the color setting. No, inkjet won't work because I'm making a book and it will end up costing too much in ink. I want to make twenty copies of the book. I will also get a copy of Lightroom. Will check back when I have everything going. Thanks again and have a good week.
  8. Printing text in process black (color) tends to make the characters thick and may lead to difficult reading in smaller sizes and possible smearing. You have the option in many drivers to print text in black ink only. However text in any color will also print black, as will reverse (white or paper) text.
  9. If I print in color won't there be a color tint?
  10. Not necessarily, just not charcoal black, more uniform and somewhat warmer. You may need to calibrate the printer to so me extent. If black-only suits you, go with it. A lot depends on the quality of the printer. I chose a Xerox "Phaser" because of their generally exceptional color at a reasonable price.
  11. Where do I start to calibrate the printer?
  12. Laser printers definitely have their place in "photo printing". They can be even superior to ink-jets in several respects. However, even the best laser unit is no match for a good ink-jet printer in terms of photographic picture quality. Tom, are you sure you want to get into the whole "calibration" deal with your laser Brother? I personally wouldn't bother BUT if I also had a dedicated ink-jet photo printer (which, no doubt would require calibration), I would also try to calibrate my color laser unit.
    If you insist, it all actually starts with learning and understanding color-management. Then you would need to purchase the necessary equipment and acquire the know-how required to calibrate your display. And only at that stage one normally would purchase the equipment and attempt to create custom color profiles for any of the printer+ink/toner+media combinations.
    Best case scenario: It takes you a lot of time and entails some considerable expenses.
    Worst case scenario: You fail to achieve adequate consistency and the result is wasted time and money with frustration on top.
    But if you're determined, who am I to tell you not to give it a shot?
  13. I've calibrated a monitor before but how do you calibrate a printer?
  14. One solution would be this:
    I've had good success with their old unit. The new device looks much more convenient, plus it's very affordable.
  15. I calibrate my printer in two ways. There is a firmware procedure embedded in the printer (Xerox 3660 Phaser) to adjust the color of each print head (CMYK). I finish up using an Eye-One Pro device by printing a grid of colors from Eye-One Match (the accompanying software) and scanning the results with the Eye-One Pro head to generate a print profile. The most accurate would be a CMYK profile, but RBG works well enough for most purposes, and works better with Lightroom (which is weak on CMYK support).
    If you print in RGB, black is always rendered as process black. If you print in CMYK mode, black is a separate channel, and gives the cleanest results when graphics and text are combined.
    It should be possible to create a profile for a black-only printer, but I don't have the tools for that. My Brother wireless printer actually does a decent job on B&W without calibration. It's a low end printer without a built-in calibration procedure.

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