I am often asked whether ConeColor matte black and Piezography matte black are the same blacks. They are not the same.

We make quite a few black inks. All have their distinctive qualities… They are also all compatible in terms of formulation – so there really is no compelling reason why you can not substitute one black for another, provided you make some modification for density or color changes. For that we produce custom ICC profiles as well as custom K7 Piezography curves.

These matte and photo blacks do not include the shades of lighter black that we offer in our Piezography and PiezoTone inks. If we count them, I produce a total of 53 different black inks.

Here is the quick run down on our matte and photo blacks.

ConeColor K2 matte black
100% pigment black – encapsulated – designed to match the Epson Matte Black for Epson 2200, 4000, 7600, 9600 printers.
60ml (2oz) …….. 125ml (4oz)…….. 250ml (8oz) …….. 500ml (16oz) …….. 1000ml (32oz)

ConeColor K2 photo black
100% pigment black – multi-encapsulated – designed to match the Epson Photo Black for Epson 2200, 4000, 7600, 9600 printers.
60ml (2oz) …….. 125ml (4oz) …….. 250ml (8oz) …….. 500ml (16oz) …….. 1000ml (32oz)

ConeColor K3 matte black
100% pigment black – encapsulated – designed to match the Epson Matte Black for Epson 2400, 2880, 3800, 3880, 4800, 4880, 4900, 7800, 7880, 9800, 9880, 9890, 9900 printers.
60ml (2oz) …….. 125ml (4oz) …….. 250ml (8oz) …….. 500ml (16oz) …….. 1000ml (32oz)

ConeColor K3 photo black
100% pigment black – multi-encapsulated – designed to match the Epson Photo Black for Epson 2400, 2880, 3800, 3880, 4800, 4880, 7800, 7880, 9800, 9880 printers.
60ml (2oz) …….. 125ml (4oz) ……..  250ml (8oz) …….. 500ml (16oz) …….. 1000ml (32oz)

ConeColor HDR photo black
100% pigment black – multi-encapsulated – with addition of encapsulated dye for dMax – designed to match the Epson Photo Black for Epson 4900, 7890, 7900, 9890, 9900.
60ml (2oz)……..125ml (4oz)…….. 250ml (8oz)…….. 500ml (16oz) …….. 1000ml (32oz)

Piezography Museum Black
100% Pure Carbon Black – non-encapsulated – for use with PiezoTone ink systems.
60ml (2oz)…….. 125ml (4oz) ……..250ml (8oz)…….. 500ml (16oz)…….. 1000ml (32oz)

Piezography Portfolio Black
Museum Black with approximate 8% of non-pigment for increased dMax.
60ml (2oz) ……..125ml (4oz) …….. 250ml (8oz)…….. 500ml (16oz)…….. 1000ml (32oz)

Piezography K7 Shade 1 (matte)
100% Pure Carbon Black – encapsulated – for use with all K7 matte printing ink systems.
60ml (2oz)……..125ml (4oz) ……..  250ml (8oz) ……..  500ml (16oz) …….. 1000ml (32oz)

Piezography MPS K7 Shade 1 (gloss/matte)
100% Pure Carbon Black – multi-encapsulated – for use with all K7 non-matte printing ink systems.
60ml (2oz) ……..125ml (4oz) ……..  250ml (8oz)…….. 500ml (16oz)……..  1000ml (32oz)

Piezography MPS K7 WN Shade 1 (very warm, very dark, gloss, matte)
100% Pure Carbon Black with addition – multi-encapsulated – with addition of encapsulated dye for dMax and warmth – for use with all K7 matte or gloss printing ink systems.
60ml (2oz)……..125ml (4oz)…….. 250ml (8oz) ……..500ml (16oz) …….. 1000ml (32oz)

Now in detail.

First the ConeColor blacks…..When we formulated ConeColor inks, I was trying to match Epson’s color gamut rather than improve it or change it. Therefore, ConeColor blacks as well as the ConeColor light blacks all have some peculiarities in order to match the Epson color space which is very peculiarly made by Epson.

Epson makes very greenish blacks. Perhaps they do this to deal with their overly strong magentas and lots of other little quirks. Normally a photo black is pigment with some added dye in order to boost the dMax. While Epson uses dye according to their MSDS sheet, we do not use dyes in ConeColor. So, ConeColor K3 PK ends up with less dMax than Epson PK. The exception to this is our new ConeColor HDR Photo Black which is as dense as the Epson PK and would make for an excellent upgrade for users with our ConeColor K3 PK.

And that brings up our new ConeColor PK for 7890, 7900, 9890, 9900 printers. It has considerable more dMax than our regular ConeColor K2 and K3 PK. It is not that Epson produces more dMax in their new PK. Rather, we found that their new print heads are a disadvantage to using the PK that we formulated for the older printers. So, we put some considerable work into a new formulation which allows us to meet Epson dMax now. This particular ink is a great upgrade to those who wish more dMax from their ConeColor K3 PK. It is backwards compatible with our existing formula and can be used in all the earlier printer models we support. I highly recommend the new PK and LK and VM for existing ConeColor customers on the legacy printers (x800, x880). This combination sharply increases both the glossiness and dMax of the ConeColor K3 Vivid ink set. It makes what is considered to be the best 3rd party solution measurably better!

Piezography blacks…We have to go back in time to the PiezoTone system which we released a decade ago. These inks are still very popular. They are true quad blacks (4 shades). They differ from the K7 inks by being more “lively” in tone. They are also non-encapsulated. That puts them into the category of other non-encapsulated USA inks as made by Image Specialists and sold by others. But, we grind smaller and I think that makes a considerable performance difference in comparison.

There are two black options in this PiezoTone family of inks. The inks are matte only. The two blacks are matte only. We produce a 100% pure carbon black we call Museum Black, and a high dMax black we call Portfolio Black. Portfolio Black must never be used as a black ink only solution or used with non-Piezography made profiles. This black needs to be under-printed with shade 2 or it will not have enough longevity. This is one of only a few inks Piezography makes that is not 100% pure pigment. It is designed to print 1 to 2 stops darker than Museum Black.

Piezography K7 shade 1 (matte black) is a 100% pure carbon pigment ink that has been ground extremely fine and each pigment particle is encapsulated. All K7 and ConeColor inks are encapsulated (you can read more about that here.) This black is used as the shade 1 black in all of our current K7 matte printing ink sets (Neutral, Sepia, Selenium, Warm Neutral, Special Edition.)

On the other hand, MPS Shade 1 black is the same as Piezography K7 shade 1 but has a significantly greater amount of encapsulation of the pigment particle to make it very glossy compatible. So it has nearly enough dMax to satisfy most customers on matte paper. But it does not have as much dMax as our Piezography K7 shade 1. Although the encapsulation is micro thin – it does take up some volume in the final dried layer, and results in about a 1/3 to 3/4 stop loss in dMax on matte papers. This is the black that we provide for customers who print non-matte with our Selenium and Warm Neutral K7 inks.

There is also a special Piezography MPS K7 WN Shade 1 black we sell for making films for alternative process and backlit. It can be made to print to nearly a 3.0 dMax. It is very, very, very dark by the inclusion of some encapsulated dye which deepens the ink without sacrificing longevity. But, the treatment makes the ink exceptionally warmer. This may be thought of carbon black that retains the carbon warmth even as it gets extremely black. It is gloss compatible, but may be useful to matte paper printmakers seeking a warm black. It would be natural to use with Sepia and Warm Neutral inks – but would add some shadow split tone if used with Neutral or Selenium inks.

We did 100 megalux i*metric testing of this new PK in comparison to the Epson PK. It results in darker blacks and greater longevity. We expect to market this ink in different formats in the near future.

What’s all mean (creatively)?

We do have a lot of customers who use our Neutral light blacks in place of the Epson light blacks in Epson Ultrachrome ink sets so that they can produce better monochromatic prints with the Epson inks. And the Piezography Gloss Overprint is superior to the Epson Gloss Optimizer – we get a lot of customers there too… But, the use of black ink substitution is probably underused considering how many we produce….

Starting with color – without doubt the best upgrade you can make to your ConeColor K2, K3 and K3 Vivid systems is by substituting the new ConeColor HDR Photo Black. It will result in greater dMax. In terms of upping your Matte Black in your Epson ink sets – use our Piezography K7 Shade 1. This also makes a superior matte black in the ConeColor K2, K3 and K3 Vivid ink sets….   You could even put it in the new ConeColor HDR set….   Need to make silkscreen or film positives and want a more opaque black?  That would be our Piezography MPS K7 WN Shade 1 black.

With Piezography – probably the most creative black we make is the new Piezography MPS K7 WN Shade 1 black which has a lot of potential in split toning with the Selenium inks, or as an added warm shadow boost for both the Warm Neutral, Sepia and Special Edition inks. Otherwise, the Portfolio Black remains as an option to K7 users who want more dMax… and willing to give up some long term longevity.