Making Digital Negatives

How to Convert Images to Black and White using Photoshop and print on PermaJet Digital Transfer Film for Make a Digital Negatives

Often these days our customers are using digital negatives in alternative processes to make contact prints, please read the following to show how to get you there…

When converting images to black and white, the same rules apply whether you have shot digitally or scanned your images to your computer. Each method is different with the simplest having the flattest results and the others producing a punchier image.

By learning these methods you will be able to work quickly and efficiently when deciding whether to convert your images or not.

Convert Images to Black and White – Desaturate/Greyscale
These are by far the simplest and quickest methods with just one or two clicks to convert the image instantly and automatically.
Desaturate: Go to Image – Adjustment – Desaturate, and click.
Grayscale: Go to Image – Mode – Grayscale, and click.

Both methods will instantly change your image to black and white, although it will not deliver the punchy results you can receive in more complex methods.

Convert Images to Black and White – Lab Colour

Lab colour is the mode to go into when sharpening an image (if you have got to that stage yet).
Go to Image – Mode – Lab Colour, and click it as per the diagram below.
You won’t notice a change immediately, so you must then open your channels palette. If it isn’t on your workspace already, go to Windows and click on Channels. A palette will appear where you can click the “Lightness” bar.

The image will convert to black and white but you won’t be able to save the image as you are still in Lab colour mode. Go back to Image – Mode – and click “Grayscale“. You can now save the image.

Converting Images to Black and White – Channel Mixer
Once you have the hang of Photoshop you will start to experiment with more complicated but effective methods of photo editing. Using the Channel Mixer to convert to black and white is by far the most creative and effective method available.
As per the diagram below, go to Image – Adjustments – Channel Mixer and a dialogue box will appear. Notice it has the 3 main channels, red, green and blue. You need to check the monochrome box in the bottom left of this new window. When you do so the image will change to black and white and Photoshop will automatically set the red channel to 40%, green to 40% and blue to 20%.

You can adjust the settings, but as a guideline try and keep the overall % at 100%, mixing too much will create more “noise” in your image.

The diagram below shows each colour channel at 100% respectively. You will notice that increasing the red channel gives the same effect that a red filter has when using black and white film. It will darken the sky and lighten the clouds and give a real punch to your images.

Now that you have your monochrome image you need to print it…
For a negative start by inverting it. Go to Image – Adjustments – Invert.

Often we are asked to create profiles for Permajet Digital Transfer Film; I can confirm here and now that this is not possible. Due to the translucent nature of this material, nearly all measurements devices that use light as a source for reading, reject the material as the light cannot reflect accurately back off of the material and instead shines through.

So to print accurately consider the following:

I would recommend using photo black inks and not matte black inks for this material as this will bind the ink with more efficiency and maintain the density required for a successful digital negative.
To print with any printer you can apply a profile to the print, even though it is a monochrome image. If you have an Epson printer that has the multi black options, you can trial using the Advanced Black and White Driver, which often gives a more neutral result.

When printing, ensure the media is the right way up prior to pressing print. Quickly check by moistening your thumb and forefinger, before squeezing the very corner of the sheet. Your finger will stick to the printable side.
You are now ready to print the negative and, after leaving it for 15 minutes, you can happily insert it in the negative carrier of your enlarger or use for contact printing in alternative processes. It is always a benefit to use glass inserts, or in contact printing a piece of glass, to maintain negative flatness, not forgetting to use an anti-Newton piece of glass as one of the inserts.


Digital contact sheet