On customizing Piezography
28 February, 2010 by
On customizing Piezography
Jon Cone


Piezography has a number of variations that make a near infinitude of possibilities when all of the ink/paper variations are considered. Piezography pigment is so finely milled that the tone of a paper has an enormous affect on the final “hue” of Piezography ink.

For example, Piezography Neutral ink does not appear “neutral” on all papers. It was designed to appear achromatic (with equal amounts of red, green, blue) to human eyes when viewed under 5000k on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag paper. The tone of Photo Rag is similar to other sheets such as Innova Photo Cotton Smooth and Alise Bright White. But when the paper beneath Piezography Neutral inks is changed to a warmer or cooler white, the neutral tone shifts warmer of cooler. This is true for all of the Piezography inks.

So in one sense, it is possible to customize one’s output through careful paper selection. Yet there are also paper brands such as Canson which has such a unique coating formulation, that the selection of a sheet has no bearing on what the tone of the ink might be. In one example, Canson Rag Photographique which is about the same tone as Hahnemuhle Photo Rag creates a chocolate brown color when printed with Piezography Selenium inks. Yet the same ink on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag creates the imitation of selenium toned fiber base print. Currently, Canson is the only paper we know displaying its own characteristic shift that is not necessarily related to paper color. It offers some interesting possibilities that we did not anticipate.

Another way to customize Piezography is through ink blending. There are four major inks choices in the K7/K6 series: Neutral, Selenium, Sepia and Warm Neutral. Piezography Special Edition ink is one of our most popular products. But, it is a blended ink. Jon Cone blended this ink to celebrate a more complex ink formulation he created that produced the triple-split-toning of the Ashes and Snow exhibition and collector’s prints for photographer Gregory Colbert.

Special Edition ink use neutral shades in the highlights, and blends portions of selenium and sepia through the mid-tones, and finally sepia in the darkest portions of the tonal scale. The recipe is a secret. The process is not.

Empty bottlesTo blend an ink only requires understanding of how the Piezography K7/K6 system uses curves. 

Curves are designed for the QuadTone RIP application to control each of the six or more print heads of the selected Epson printer. Rather than send an RGB image file that is then converted into color ink droplets by the Epson printer driver, a grayscale image is sent to the QuadTone RIP which is a unique printer driver. QTR drives each print head in a controlled way by taking data that is embedded in a QTR “Curve”. A curve is actually made up of six or more curves. Each of these six or more individual curves is responsible for controlling each of the six or more print heads. Without a lengthy explanation that would take up an entire topic by itself, and has already been covered in depth on this blog, a curve represents what percentage of image tone density is represented as a percentage of ink shade at that particular print head. As long as all of the Piezography ink shade densities in an ink set are similar to the ink shade densities in another Piezography ink set – the same curve can be used. And that is exactly how we designed Piezography inks and QTR curves. We designed the inks so that they are interchangeable.

A single QTR curve works for each of the different Piezography ink sets. This means that you can mix the different Piezography ink sets as long as you keep the same shade order. This is how we split tone the inks. One of the best examples of a split tone ink set is when Selenium inks are used to print shades 5 and higher, and Sepia is used to print shades 4 and lower. But, blending – is when literally the inks are blended together. In other words, two different inks of the same shade are poured together into a bottle and shaken. Then this ink is put into a cartridge. My Special Edition inks are a blend of Selenium and Sepia.

Blending Neutral into Sepia or Selenium is like adding neutral density and is not that effective unless a subtle shift is required. But Neutral inks can be made to be warmer or colder by blending some Sepia or Selenium into them. WarmNeutral ink can be made warmer with some Sepia. Selenium can be made more complex with some Sepia or some Warm Neutral… You can buy all of these inks in small bottles and we sell empty Nalgene bottles for your mixing, as well as 60ml syringes with 4 inch blunt needles. The best way to experiment is with a desktop printer and sets of refillable carts. You can then transpose the results to large format with less expense. You only need to make certain that you do not mix one shade of an ink with a different shade of another ink. It has to be the same shade of one ink with the same shade of another ink.

On customizing Piezography
Jon Cone
28 February, 2010
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