Over the years, I've put many long hours into learning to produce quality black-and-white prints in the traditional darkroom. Although inkjet printers delivered great results in color, black-and-white printing often was disappointing, if not downright frustrating. I've always had an eye out for a system of inks and software that would provide the kind of control and quality I required. It was with this in mind that I began testing the Lyson Daylight Darkroom system.
The system consists of Lyson Quad inks, which include four gradations of black ink. In addition, the Daylight Darkroom system I used with an Epson Stylus Photo 2200 printer included magenta, light magenta and yellow inks, all of which were installed using individual cartridges.
To clean the printer of the previously used inks, I used the system's supplied cleaning cartridges. I had to make more than one pass of these cleaning cartridges until I finally got the new inks to fire through all seven nozzles. Once accomplished, the inks performed well.
Rather than using the Epson printer driver, the Daylight Darkroom system provides its own Print Pro software. It features an assortment of print profiles for the system, which includes a wide variety of papers. The software also biases the ink output for cool, neutral or warm tones.
I began by making 8x10 prints with the Darkroom Glossy paper using the neutral profile to see how closely it matched my image file. The initial print was slightly magenta. When I output the image using the cool setting, however, I saw the kind of tonality I was hoping for.
After creating several prints using different papers, I quickly realized that the varying whiteness of the papers was something I needed to consider when trying to achieve a distinct tonality to my prints. Once I did this, it was easier to predict my final results. If you're fairly new to inkjet printing, particularly black-and-white, experiment with papers and settings to get the look you desire from your monochrome prints.
The software interface is simple to use and provides a large preview of your image. The control panel includes settings for brightness and contrast, as well as color adjustment for the red, green and blue channels, but I suggest that you make such adjustments in Photoshop.
The Daylight Darkroom system doesn't just limit you to specific cool, neutral and warm settings for a given paper. It also features a blending option in which you can combine two different profiles at different percentages to achieve a distinct look. If you want to create your own custom profiles, the system includes Profile Creator software, which easily produces profiles with or without the use of a densitometer.
After printing images with a wide variety of paper surfaces, I was consistently pleased with how well the system retained details in the shadows and highlights. It provided subtle gradation of tones, especially with foliage illuminated by dappled light.
I suspect that photographers who are serious about their black-and-white printmaking will appreciate the level of control the Daylight Darkroom system provides, especially with its Profile Creator software. It certainly delivers the tools needed to get a very personal and satisfying result. Estimated Street Price: $475 (starter kit). Contact: Lyson, (800) 443-9508, www.daylightdarkroom.com.
1 Easily produce cool, neutral or warm black-and-white prints
2 Includes the ability to create custom profiles
3 Delivers years of fade-resistance with multiple papers