Carbon on Cotton Inkjet Prints
Carbon inkjet printing (as distinct from carbon printing, a completely different technique) is a relatively new way of making photographic prints. Carbon ink is diluted with a clear base to create tones ranging from black to shades of gray. The various tones of gray are used in Epson desktop and large format printers, and replace all of the coloured inks. Matte paper is used. Natural, unbrightened papers work especially well. The resulting carbon on cotton prints are extremely lightfast. Testing suggests they will outlast traditional silver gelatin prints.
There are two main approaches: the turnkey system developed by Jon Cone, and the open source system developed by Paul Roark. I use Paul Roark's system because of its enormous flexibility, its low cost, and for the alchemy! There's something about mixing your own inks and fine tuning how they are used that reminds me of my darkroom days. For more information on this technology, visit Paul Roark's website (www.paulroark.com).
Pure carbon ink is warm. Nonetheless, depending on the paper used, it's possible to make quite neutral prints with a pure carbon inkset. Paul Roark has recently introduced a toner into his approach. The amount of toner used is very small relative to the carbon inks, but it's enough to allow for very neutral prints even on natural papers. When used with Quadtone RIP, software developed by Roy Harrington for Epson printers, carbon-based inksets can produce beautifully rich and smooth tones ranging from neutral-cool to warm.
More information on this technique is available here.
Contact me if you'd like to buy carbon on cotton versions of the photographs I'm displaying here. I use heavy weight, natural (unbrightened) matte papers. These are well suited to matting and framing under glass. Print sizes up to 16"x24" are possible depending on the image.