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11. What about printing without a computer?
Technology like PictBridge, Epson Print Image Matching (PIM), and Canon Direct Print let you send photos directly via USB from a camera to a compatible printer. Some printers also have memory card slots. Your prints will probably look okay, especially at smaller sizes, but you'll forego the controls of computer-based image editing and color management.
12. When should I use glossy paper and when matte?
Glossy papers can make colors look more vibrant and give black-and-white photos a broader apparent tonal range. The way that light reflects off a glossy surface makes blacks look blacker. Glossy papers are also good for photos that will be handled instead of displayed, since they're often more durable, though they show fingerprints.
For aesthetics, many serious printers prefer fine art papers with a matte finish; these also minimize reflections when framed. If you're using a matte paper to print b&w, you'll get the best results with a color ink set that includes a "matte black"-which you may have to swap with a "photo black" cartridge-or a custom monochrome ink set with four or more inks. The wider range of black ink densities will compensate for the loss of the reflectivity of glossy paper. (For more on b&w, see below.)
If you want to use very thick matte papers, get a printer with a straight paper path that won't damage your media.
13. Should i buy third-party inks?
Choose third-party inks for quality, not economy. Companies that produce inks for fine art purposes and b&w printing are generally reliable. It's very risky to buy an ink set just because it's cheaper than the printer manufacturer's ink. Low-buck inks, especially pigment-based ones, may clog your inkjet nozzles-and don't expect your warranty to cover that.
There's been little independent testing of the longevity of third-party inks, so it's hard to know how quickly colors will fade or shift. However, high-quality monochrome ink sets for b&w (like these seven Piezography inks, above) are made from carbon, which is quite stable, so they're likely to create long-lasting prints.
14. Which paper and ink types work well together?
Pigment-based inks are generally paired with porous papers; dye-based inks with swellable papers. The latter combination, from thermal inkjet models, takes longer to dry-handle such prints carefully when they first come out.
Look for compatibility information from the paper manufacturer. No one paper works well with all types of ink. It's best to start with the printer maker's paper and ink combinations, and then experiment with third-party materials. Make sure there's an ICC profile available for each ink/paper combination, a sign that it will work at least acceptably well. Avoid cheap cast-coated and uncoated papers, and stay away from papers with optical brighteners. As they deteriorate and the paper reverts to its natural color, your prints will yellow.
15. What do I need to make great black-and-white prints?
There are two primary printer options for b&w photographers: One is to use the Epson Stylus Photo R2400 printer, which uses three black ink cartridges at once and has one of the best b&w drivers we've seen. The other is to buy a printer with at least four ink cartridges, and use a monochrome ink set from a third party. Reputable ink vendors include MediaStreet, MIS Associates, Lyson, Luminos, and Piezography. Their products provide four to seven black inks with varying densities and color tones.
Both options produce images with broad dynamic ranges and fine tonal separation. Some HP models also make excellent b&w prints (see "$499 Printer Shootout," November 2005).
If printing high-quality black-and-white photos isn't your main priority, but you like to make monochrome prints occasionally, get a printer that has at least two black ink cartridges and lets you choose between deep black inks designed for matte or glossy paper.