For me, the digital negative started out as a challenge. My goal was to make as high a standard digital negative as possible using Piezography inks. My theory was that if looked like a traditional negative it would act like a traditional negative. Traditional negatives are continuous tone and as they become more opaque they create greater density. When multiple shades of Piezography ink are printed they are continuous tone and as they become more opaque they create greater density. Side by side, Piezography digital negatives look and act very much like traditional negatives.
Prior to Piezography digital negatives, photographers have been making digital film using a variety of methods that work on the principal that conventional color inks trap UV light depending upon how they can be manipulated in combination with a Photoshop curve and the Epson printer driver’s dithering patterns. Many of these methods have been making outstanding prints for years, but when making very fine prints there was often some limitation or some digital artifact caused by the Epson printer driver and dithering that was unwanted or had to be avoided. Often certain types of images simply could not be printed as a result of these limitations. Digital negatives made from color inks do not look like nor behave like traditional negatives.
By replacing the color inks in a printer with Piezography’s multiple shades of inks and controlling them with the Piezography created/provided QTR curves, these unwanted printer patterns are eliminated. If the user maintains the printer in peak condition, it is possible to use Piezography inks to make as perfect a negative as possible using inexpensive inkjet printers. Because I design the curves architecture for Piezography systems supported by QuadTone RIP, I could design a digital negative system that would give an excellent out-of-the-box performance to an unskilled practitioner just as it would to a highly skilled practitioner. Piezography Digital Negative is designed to allow the user to concentrate on their imaging skills rather than having to design complicated curves and methodologies.
Initially, I made a system that would produce a density range that could accommodate every type of wet process requirement. This was called Methodology 1 and the dMax of this system is nearly opaque. Methodology 3 came next and this system more closely mimicked the traditional silver negative which never really produces a film density greater than 1.80 when measured by a film densitometer. Methodology 3 is appropriate for silver, platinum / palladium, and carbon printing.
I then developed Methodology 3 further to have six QTR curves which could be selected to produce pre-linearized film with a dynamic range from film base+ fog to dMax of 1.40, 1.50, 1.60, 1.70, 1.80, and carbonprint.
Somewhere in between I even created a QTR curve that turned a positive image into a negative image and produced a perfect film for contact printing with Ilford silver fiber paper. The results were endless shadow detail and highlight detail forced upon a silver print – was wholly unnatural to silver even as it was natural to Piezography. I abandoned that. Silver printing should not look like Piezography. Silver should always be true to its nature which is to have highlights that don’t come easy and shadows which fall quickly to black. That’s what we love about silver. What we love about Piezography is that is opens up both the shadows and highlights in ways that the darkroom process technically can’t.
I chronicled my experience with the development of this system. I had been given use of Dartmouth University wet darkroom. I lived in there for more than a month. The system went through many permeations.
For the curious about my journey in all this:
- The original Piezography film system I developed for Backlit Piezography including recipes is here.
- I improved the curves of the original system for silver printing here.
- I explained how to use the system to reduce the output dynamic range of the K7 inks here.
- Then I get an idea to limit the dynamic range of the output so a user can image in full dynamic range and I tailor the curves here.
- I go all esoteric and everything and make a system that produces automatically a reversed negative perfectly suited for Ilford Fiber Base paper here.
- I decide to make a turnkey system that will improve the use of Mark Nelsons PDN here.
- I decide that instead of using PDN at all (plus I can’t get into the users group), what is needed is a more advanced turnkey system here and now Piezography Digital Film is quite satisfying without the need for bringing in complex curve making applications.
In the meantime, Sandy King adapted my system for his Carbon printing. Sandy as well as other platinum printers using digital negatives made of color inks are necessarily concerned with UV density. Sandy took the time to measure the UV density of the Piezography inks curves and this has been extremely valuable to platinum printers who have been adapting the Piezography digital film system. He found that his UV density needs were met by using the 1.60 density Piezography QTR curve. A traditional negative used for Carbon printing is ideal at 1.60.
When I was teaching in Sante Fe at Don Messec’s workshops, I was able to make film for Dick Sullivan of Bostick and Sullivan and watch him make carbon prints with my system. I literally brought an EPSON 2880 to his studio and printed out the film then and there. I made a slight improvement to the carbon curve after noticing that my “built in” film base+ fog was not necessary with carbon printing. The carbonprint Curve I produced now gives even greater density in the final print.
About three months ago, David Chow of DC Editions gave me a call and was asking about Piezography Digital Negatives for use with his high-standard platinum printing. David is one of the world’s best of the best platinum printmakers and he has an impressive list of clients depending upon his services. David explained that he had a few digital projects that he had not been able to realize as a result of digital artifacts being produced by his current digital negative system that used color inks.
At the same time – he thought it might be brilliant if he could actually proof the work before making film by printing a Piezography print. He has a couple of Epson 7800 printers and had eight available ink slots. Through our conversations it became apparent to me that if he wanted to make Piezography prints and digital film using the same system, I could convert the system to a K6 printing system and use the two additional ink positions for the film option shades 2.5 and 4.5. Then all I needed to know from David was weather the film he could make using my out of the box media curves met his standards.
David agreed to acquire the inks and cartridges and give it a go. David was going to put the system through its paces for awhile – and truly evaluate it against his current system. He wanted to provide his own unbiased observations to others as is his practice with his Art of Platinum Printing blog. Unbiased in that he had no incentive for it to be superior. Unbiased in that his standards were so high? That is a good and welcome bias. I felt I had more at risk than he did in this evaluation. Certainly, I know my standards are very high and I believe Piezography Digital Negative is the best system available. But, I had not made any film for platinum printing with it. I had only used the system to make silver prints and witnesssed its charm in carbon printing.
I’ve asked David to make some platinum prints for me of some of my Iceland work. I’m so excited to see what he can do with my system. David has said “Of all the negative systems I have tested over the years this method has created the finest looking platinum/palladium prints to date.” You can read his report on The Art of Platinum Printing blog.
So, here is how we are configuring this new system. If you are on a current system – the upgrade is simple.
A new K6 and digital negative system for silver and platinum -requiring no ink changes
If you wish to have a matte only printing system that allows you make both regular matte Piezography prints and Piezography Digital Negatives you can use an 8 ink position printer such as the EPSON R2400, R2880, R3000, 3800, 3880, 4800, 4880, 7800, 7880, 7890, 9800, 9880, 9890 printer.
In 8 and 9 ink position printers, a matte only K6 ink system is installed. The additional unused two ink channels will house the two digital negative shades (2.5 and 4.5). For the 11 ink printers, both matte and glossy and film can be produced from one printer. This system is perfect for those wishing to be able to make paper prints and digital film without having to change anything but the Piezography curve.
The normal layout for Piezography K7 printing and the new K6 digital negative ink set in X800 / X880 printers are below:
|X800 / X880||K||C||M / VM||Y||LC||LM / VLM||LK||LLK|
|Piezography K6 – Digital Negative||1||2||4||2.5||3||5||6||4.5|
The curves for this system that are currently available are:
For use with matte fine art papers
For use with Pictorico Ultra OHP only. No other film can hold the amount of ink Piezography prints.
P2M-PZDN-X800-Meth3-1_6v3.quad (best for silver and platinum)
P2M-PZDN-X800-Meth3-Carbon-v3.quad (best for carbon printing)
The instructions for use are same as for the Methodology 3 and it is detailed in the NEW Piezography Manual.
P2M-PZDN-X800-Meth3-1_6v3.quad recommended for Silver printing
P2M-PZDN-X800-Meth3-1_8v3.quad recommended for Platinum printing
P2M-PZDN-X800-Meth3-Carbon-v3.quad recommended for Carbon printing
If you wish to upgrade from earlier systems – take a look at this table that includes all of the previous Methodology 3 systems that may be in use. There is no planned K6 system for Methodology 1.
|version 1 used curve NewS9aNG2b-PictoricoUPohp||1||2.5||4.5||7||3||5||6||The original all purpose system click here for description|
|version 2 used curve 32k34-16-lin_d1_4 (through 1.8).quad||2.5||4.5||3||5||2||Methodology 3 is introduced click here for description|
|version 3 used curve PZDN-X800-Meth3-1_4 to 1_6, or PZDN-X800-Meth1||1||2||2.5||7||3||5||4.5||6||This update is a way to use both Piezography Digital Negative and the Piezography K7 printing systems together by swapping out two ink positions. click here for description|
|Below are the ink change positions you may require to move to a dual system that does not require ink swapping!|
|Piezography K6 – Digital Negative uses curves beginning with P2M-PZDN-X800-Meth3||1||2||4||2.5||3||5||6||4.5||This produces matte prints and dig negs with one ink set|
Some of the above systems include flushing kits. You’re welcome to put your own system together with the requisite inks you need. You can also flush with Piezography ink. But, we think that having a dedicated flushing system which can be used over and over again is wise.