We bundled a kit for photographers who want to make easy, but very high-quality digital negatives for producing darkroom prints. This kit is a turnkey system that works with the Epson 2400, 2880, 4800, 7800 and 9800 printers.
The kit includes a set of Piezography ink that is compatible with film. The ink is supported by a group of Jon Cone designed QuadTone RIP curves that can be selected according to the density needs of the silver paper. Piezography Digital Film produces a negative that looks like an actual film negative.
Further, it behaves like an actual film negative. Piezography Digital Film is the only system that is based upon continuous-tone and is conceived as a replacement for conventional film negatives. Using the special curves, a photographer can create a contact negative that has a dMin of film base+ fog and and a final dMax that imitates fully exposed negative film at one of five selected end-points: 1.40, 1.50, 1.60, 1.70 or 1.80.
Jon Cone uses 1.60 for printing with Ilford Multigrade RC and Multigrade Fiber Base papers. For those who usually print with negatives of lighter or heavier density, the other curves will cover most available papers.
The process is quite easy. The inks are installed in very specific locations according to the curves. Because only five inks are used, PiezoFlush can be installed in the unused positions to keep the print heads from drying out. QuadTone RIP (a $50 shareware) is downloaded and installed. The Piezography Digital Negatives are installed. The Piezography QuadTone RIP Quick Users Guide must be read to understand how Piezography uses QTR (as it differs from normal use of QTR.)
To use the system to make negatives requires a grayscale image. An RGB image can be used, but should be converted to grayscale. Piezography curves are developed in 16bit values which will work with either 8bit or 16bit grayscales according to whether QTR is used in 8bit or 16bit mode.
The image is Inverted from a positive to a negative using Image / Adjustment / Invert command in Photoshop. Next, the image is flipped horizontally. The image is printed through QuadTone RIP (stand-alone application in Windows or as a Print command option from Mac OS.) Only a few settings are used in QTR: resolution set to 2880dpi, speed set to uni-directional, ordered dithering, and the curve is set to one of the following:
according to the density requirement of the paper or your particular negative development style. As mentioned, Jon Cone uses the 1_6 density curve for Ilford RC and fiber base paper. He uses his regular exposure time (with conventional film negatives) and uses his standard development time in Sprint Chemistry. The curves and a more thorough explanation of the process is here.
If you are just starting out with digital film and have not made conventional negatives before, the 1_6 is a good starting point. Otherwise, you can print out a small step wedge with each of the curves onto a single sheet of Pictorico film. Contact print and develop and choose the curve that produces paper white and dMax at the widest range. You can try altering the exposure time for trials if you wish. But, using suggested exposure times and development times for your enlarger’s light source will be the best base. The correct curve will be easily obvious.
The film produced is already linear. So you do not need to use Precision Digital Negative with this system. But, the Curves Calculator portion of PDN is compatible. You will have to fool PDN into letting you just use the Curves Calculation portion by filling in the requested information of the preceding steps, or simply copy and pasting. Why use PDN at all? PDN allows you to produce creative contrast curves. You can block up the shadows and highlights to look more “photographic”, or close one and not the other.
But, it is just as easy if not easier to produce a creative curve in Photoshop that you apply to the image. The beauty of Piezography Digital Film is that it already produces a linearized grayscale. That work has been done for you. Use it as is to make great prints. Then, simply respond to the print as you would in the darkroom and apply your dodging and burning in Photoshop.
You can find the system for the Epson 2400 here, the 2880 here, the Pro 4800 here, and the Pro 7800/9800 here.
We plan to offer additional printer support this Fall/Winter for the R2000, R3000, 1400, 3800, 3880, 4880, 4900, 7880, 7890, 7900, 9880, 9890 & 9900.
Andrew Overtoom’s excellent The Undead Neg has some blog postings about Piezography digital film including pictures.
Also, other Piezography digital film systems are available with dMax up to 3.0. There is a lot to read about all of these systems on the Piezography blog.
And for fully opaque film for silkscreen – you only need to replace the black ink in your Epson printer with Piezography Warm Neutral very dense shade 1 ink available here.