Matte Black Ink: The Right Profile and Media Type

Printing with Matte Black and Photo Black InksIf you’re considering upgrading to the latest aqueous ink printers from Canon, Epson or HP, consider no more. Reports from the field have shown that these next-generation models print up to twice as fast and use less ink than their predecessors.

They also use additional ink channels in the printing process, which increases the color gamut. As part of these expanded ink sets, all the latest printers now include Matte Black and Photo Black channels. While HP and Canon printers can switch from Matte Black to Photo Black on the fly, Epson printers require you to purge the line to switch inks, so keep that in mind as you switch between the two if you have an Epson printer.

Because of this expanded ink set, it’s necessary to pay close attention to the profile or media type being used, and to use a matte material profile/media type with matte materials, and a satin/luster or gloss material profile/media type with gloss materials. Note: If you’re using a RIP like Onyx, you’ll choose a media profile, which will determine which black ink is used. If you’re printing through the driver, you choose a profile as well, but it’s the media type that will choose the black ink channel that will be used.

Matte Black provides an image quality advantage as it yields much better density, which works extremely well on backlits. However, Matte Black ink is not compatible with all media. If you choose the wrong profile/media type, the Matte Black ink will wipe right off, even after the print is completely dry. This is especially true with media that has a microporous inkjet coating, such as LexJet 8 Mil ImagePro Gloss.

On the other hand, using Photo Black ink on a matte material will result in lower density in the dark areas and a more washed-out look, though Photo Black ink will have better dry times and durability, regardless of the material. Photo Black is more water-resistant and is best for unlaminated outdoor applications.

On large production runs, a lot of print shops use a standard generic profile/media type like Heavy Weight Coated, which is a bond paper profile that lays down less ink. If this profile/media type is used on gloss materials, it will activate the Matte Black channel, which is largely incompatible with gloss materials and will not absorb into these types of coatings.

A good generic profile/media type for matte materials is Heavy Weight Coated. A good one for gloss materials is Glossy Photo, which, like Heavy Weight Coated, uses less ink. If you have any questions about the right profile or media type to use for the material, contact a LexJet account specialist at 800-453-9538.

Save Ink, Time, Media and Money: How to Find the Correct Color Space

It’s a common problem with files that come in from artists, photographers and agencies: Untagged images without an assigned color space. Printing untagged images will almost always produce an unusable print, wasting time, ink and material.

So, how do you find out which color space in which the file was originally captured? The first step, and the most reliable and obvious way to find out, is to go to the source of the image – the person who sent it – and find out the color space in which it was captured. Barring that, it’s actually pretty simple and this front-end step will eliminate the aforementioned printing headaches…

If a file comes in that is untagged when you initially bring it into Photoshop, you should receive a message from Photoshop that asks you what to do with the color space of the image. You should have a choice between Leave as is (don’t color manage), Assign working RGB and Assign profile:Missing profile and how to find it

If this prompt does not show up when you originally open the untagged image you will have to edit your color settings/preferences by going to Edit > Color Settings.

You will want to check all of the boxes below your color management policies, labeled Ask When Opening. The screen should look like this:How to find out the color space of an image

Then, in Photoshop you will locate Assign Profile; in CS5 it’s under Edit > Assign Profile. When the Assign Profile window comes up you can choose between a number of different color spaces.

Given a properly profiled monitor, the profile to choose is the one that looks most accurate to you. Select that one and hit OK to assign the profile tag to the image, and there you have it.

If you have any difficulties with this, or you’re having a hard time finding where to go in your version of Photoshop, feel free to give us a call at 800-453-9538.