It looks like printing grayscale negatives using an inkjet printer’s all inks works well, when the tone range of the intended photographic printing process is quite short, so that we need relatively low contrast negative. We aim for a negative with enough density to print “paper white” with standard exposure (the shortest exposure to produce Dmax, the maximum black) for the printing process in use. Not all inkjet printers can lay down enough density to produce decent negatives for some long tonal range processes (salted paper, new cyanotype, palladium…). In that case it may be possible to make colorized negatives, trying to find an ink color which acts as a color filter, blocking UV-light more than gray-tone negatives can do. With printing the negative with this particular color we can use its UV blocking density to produce paper white in our photographic printing process. For more on the subject see the sidebar link RNP Array.
We can notice that two given printers can build somewhat different shades of colors from the same image file, when used without any color management. Anyway, choosing any of the acceptable blocking colors should do the job equally well.
These are our colorized step wedge files, ready to be printed on transparency. Two different printers – two different colors: The R1800 (left) and the Pro3800 (right). Although their colors are very different, they should print about the same grayscale gradation on b&w photographic paper.
A few test prints on Kodak Polycontrast II RC, made with the Epson 3800 red negatives and correction curves built by ChartThrob (you can click pictures larger):
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