First piezography ink

I am about to venture into piezography, and now thinking about what ink set to use.

Carbon intrigues me, but I honestly don’t see it as a good beginning choice for me unless I really know that’s what I want. Carbon Neutral is probably the “safe” choice to begin, but I wonder about the other possibilities. When I look at the soft proofing profiles, the warm neutral and special edition seem to have a similar red/brown warmness to the carbon, but perhaps in different shades and different amounts. Selenium also seems to have a very subtle warmness in the mid to lighter tones. Of course, I also have to consider that the choice of ink would also depend on what kind of image I’m printing, and the paper too. I think I like the selenium. At least in the soft proof, it seems to give the image more depth and contrast without being in-your-face.

I know this is very personal, but I guess I’m wondering if any of you out there actually have a recommendation for a beginning piezographer, or if personal preferences are so significant that it’s really not feasible to recommend anything specifically.


I believe the choice of ink is a personal one and won’t even try to influence your decision. HOWEVER, from MY personal experience, you tend to go through a LOT more ink in the lighter shades (shades 4-7) than the darker shades. If you examine the IJM curves, you will see they tend to put down a lot more ink from shade 5 than most other shades. So, my advice would be to purchase a larger bottle of shade 5 and if you have the cash, also purchase larger bottles of shades 4-7. I now purchase 110ml bottles of 1-3 and 220ml bottles of shades 4-7. As always, your mileage will vary depending on the type of photography you do.
Good luck and have fun!

Thanks John,

I’ll probably order the set of 110’s for now, but my when I order individually later, I’ll get the 220’s when I know how much I’m going through.

But which one to get… which one…??? I’m leaning towards selenium, I figure I can’t go wrong with it. I just wish I lived in Vermont and could visit Jon and look at each one. I don’t think it’s worth buying his samples. If I get something and begin to wish I had a different set, I’ll create something that prints well with the set I have.


During the fall, I gave myself a project. I printed the same image using 5 different ink sets (Neutral, Warm Neutral, Selenium, Special Edition and Sel/WN) on 12 different papers (4 Glossy and 8 Matte). I made two prints of each combination. I now have two notebooks of images. One is sorted by paper and the other is sorted by ink set. And now I’ve got a 13th paper to print. Thanks goodness for the 2880! You’ll notice I didn’t print the Carbon ink set. I’ve never been much of a fan of Sepia toned prints, but love the Special Edition on some papers…go figure!

I recall reading something Fred Picker wrote about either Paul Strand or Paul Caponigro spending an entire day in the darkroom printing the same negative on a selection of different papers using different developers and different toners until he had the right combination for that particular image. Between the notebooks and soft proofing, I expect to save valuable time in the future when it comes to determining the optimal paper/ink set for a particular image.

You’d be surprised how much the same ink set can vary with different papers. Likewise you’d be surprised how difficult it can be to notice much of any difference between some papers printed with the same ink set.

My advice…
calibrate your monitor (beg, borrow or steal a good calibration tool)
Download and install the Soft Proof ICCs from this page:
Spend some time looking at some of your favorite images using Soft Proofing to see the various combinations. It shouldn’t take you too long to find a favorite combination.
Have fun and remember…it’s a money pit!


Come for a Piezography Workshop in May and you can print with all five of the ink sets on 3880s and decide that way! Plus you can get a huge head start technically. Cone Editions Workshops

Best regards,


I just wish I lived in Vermont and could visit Jon and look at each one.


Thanks for the invite, I would love to go.

Only, I have two problems. 1) I’m a highschool teacher, no time in May. 2) I’m a highschool teacher, no money! :slight_smile:

Seriously, I would go even for the food!


John, I think I’ve got the two of you sorted out here…

I do have my monitor calibrated, but it’s not an Eizo or NEC. If I upgraded the monitor then I wouldn’t be able to afford the ink. I have to save up for a measurement device in the future too for profiling.

In fact, I did just what you said, I downloaded all the profiles so I can get an idea of what each will look like. It will be fairly accurate for my eye, but I know that Jon and others would see great differences with their trained eyes. However, the profiles are good enough that I can look at the prints Brian made for me, look at them on my monitor in soft proof and see that they are close. (Admittedly, his paper doesn’t match the canned profiles IJM has, but ones from a similar papers seem to match quite well.

I think I could go for carbon, for certain types of prints. I have one shot of driftwood that looks great with the carbon curve profile. The warm tonality seems to add a unique contrast that brings out the grain in the wood very nicely. However, I really can’t see myself using carbon to any great amount. I can understand why you’d like the Special Edition. It is warm like the carbon, but not nearly so warm, and the highlights remain cooler, at least in my soft proof. I just don’t know if I can go even that far for my first ink. Considering I’'ll be using piezography2, I could get away with ordering just the 5 SE or CAR inks if I decide to be adventurous. I’m still leaning towards Selenium. I has just a hint of warmness in the midtones. It’s almost like Neutral beginning to step out of its comfort zone. I could even consider Warm Neutral, but I’m beginning to think I should either stay with Neutral for my first ink, or Selenium. According to IJM, Selenium is very close to traditional darkroom methods.