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koraks
29-Dec-2016, 04:12
Yesterday I went to the store to stock up on paper. I have mostly used Schut drawing paper for making my Van Dyke browns as in a previous trial, it seemed to offer good value at reasonable costs. It has one major drawback in my eyes: it has an irregular, somewhat coarse surface texture, which usually isn't very apparent, but it shows on close inspection. So I picked up a few papers to see if there was room for improvement, focusing on papers that meet the following criteria:
* Affordable; I don't want to worry about paper cost when printing. The papers I bought were < 5 per large sheet (55 x 71cm) or 13 per 100 sheets in A4 size (Fabriano Accademia).
* Not too thin, so I only selected papers with a weight of >180gsm (> 122lbs).
* Fine or smooth surface texture, so I left out the coarse watercolor papers.

These were the papers I came home with; I didn't buy everything that met my criteria, but went for a few papers that appealed to me based on surface texture and feel and general appearance:
1: Fabriano Accademia 200gsm; this comes in packs of 100 sheets A4, unglued.
2: Fabriano Artistico Liscia traditional white 300gsm
3: Steinbach 250gsm (no further description; it has an embossed logo in two opposing corners of the sheet and was very affordable at 1.25 for a large sheet)
4: Schut Salland 300gsm; I bought this about a year ago when I embarked upon intaglio printing
5: Arches watercolor smooth 185gsm
6: Schut Simili Japon 225gsm; also bought a year ago

The reference paper is the aforementioned Schut drawing paper, which is 160gsm and comes as A5, A4, A3 and A2 blocks, glued on one side, with a bright pink cover. I've used this paper as my standard paper over the past 18 months or so and I have made many hundreds of prints on it. Only the rough side of the paper is usable for Van Dyke, with the smooth backside giving poor dmax and issues with uneven coating. The rough front side gives good dmax, also works well with New Cyanotype and withstands both cold and hot wet processing quite well.

I proceeded to cut 10x15cm sheets, two from each paper to test each side, and I made Van Dyke brown prints from a 4x5" negative with identical chemistry, exposure settings and processing. The negative is Fomapan 100 exposed at ISO 80, developed in Pyrocat-HD 1+1+100 for 15 minutes in a Jobo drum.

The Van Dyke brown mix I used is mixed fresh from stock solutions of the constituents, which I find gives good consistency as well as flexibility in printing. The mix is as follows:
* 5 drops of ferric ammonium citrate 20% w/v solution
* 4 drops of silver nitrate 11% w/v solution
* 2 drops of tartaric acid 8% w/v solution
The solutions are added in the sequence mentioned. When the silver nitrate is added, a white precipitate forms, but this completely dissolves when the tartaric acid is mixed in.
The mixed sensitizer is close to the formula on Sandy King's website. The recipe above coats 2 4x5 prints, with a few drops remaining depending on the absorbency of the paper.

Exposure and processing were as follows:
* Sensitizer was coated onto the paper with a synthetic brush.
* The paper was left to sit for about 30 seconds and then force dried with a hair dryer.
* The exposure was made under a home-made exposure unit with Philips Actinic BL tubes. Exposure time was 3 min 20 sec.
* Immediately after exposure the print was washed in 3 consecutive changes of tap water (which is not particularly hard here nowadays) with constant agitation, until the tones just began to fade to green-yellow.
* Fixing was done in nearly exhausted film fixer at a dilution of ca. 1+8 with fixing time being brief, around 1 minute.
* The prints were washed in tap water with continuous agitation for about a minute, using 2-3 changes of water.
* Finally, the prints were force dried with a hair dryer.
Obviously, the fixing and washing is not at all archival and the prints will likely fade within a few weeks or months. The comparison shown below is of the prints about 16 hours after they have been made.

All prints were put side-by-side and photographed in one go with a digital camera under relatively diffuse light from a window (cloudy/foggy weather) with manual white balance set to 'cloudy'. In photoshop, the curves were adjusted slightly to make the prints look on my (uncalibrated!) screen close to how they look in real life. There is no absolute color accuracy in this representation and it is only possible to see differences between the papers, but not how the prints relate to an absolute standard. The prints are numbered, with the 'a' suffix indicating the smoother/finer of the surfaces and the 'b' suffix indicating the coarser surface of the same paper.

http://www.koraks.nl/galleries/zut/testing/VDBPO1612_ds_1084w.jpg

Some (subjective) notes on the various papers:
* 1: Fabriano Accademia: good dmax and retention of highlight detail. Tone is greyish-brown on the coarse side and distinctly warmer and tending a bit to green-brown on the smoother side. The coarse side has a tendency towards silvering on densely coated areas.
* 2: Fabriano Artistico: poor dmax on both sides, but good retention of highlight detail. Tone is distinctly greenish-yellow-brown on the smoother side (this is the side with the very fine mesh-structure); this side also shows silvering in densely coated areas. The coarser side has slightly poorer dmax and yields a more chocolate brown tone without the yellow-greenish tint of the other side; no silvering seen on this side. Tonal scale is very smooth, partly due to the finely textured surface.
* 3: Steinbach: very good dmax, particularly on the smoother side. Tone is purplish-red-brown on the smooth side, a bit more purple-orange-brown on the coarser side. Heavy silvering on both sides but particularly the smoother side. Coating was difficult, with the sensitizer not really being absorbed by the paper (I did not add a surfactant to the sensitizer, this may help with the coating and silvering issue). Tonal transitions are not very smooth with coarse artifacts showing and small paper fibers apparently coming loose from the paper surface during coating or processing, resulting in white specks. Highlights tend to be blown/washed out with a blotchy appearance. A challenging paper, which is a pity, as it gives a very pronounced and (I find) beautiful tone.
* 4: Schut Salland: good dmax on the coarser side, but a little less so on the smooth side. Unlike with the other papers, the difference between both sides is very pronounced, with the smooth side being very smooth indeed. Tone is orange-brown on the smooth side and a slightly cooler, deep chocolate brown on the coarser side. Good highlight detail retention with smooth tonal transitions from midtones to highlights, but the coarser side shows a little less smoothness in tonal scale in the higher midtones than the smoother side (I find this is the case in general with coarse vs. smooth surfaces). Some silvering along the extreme edges of the coated surface where the sensitizer pools a bit, but not in the image area. The smooth side appears to suffer to a minor extent from surface fibers becoming unstuck like with the Steinbach paper, but much less pronounced.
* 5: Arches watercolor/aqua: poor dmax, but good highlight detail retention. Very red tones, which tend towards orange on the smoother side and towards ruby on the coarser side. Heavily sensitized areas (along the edges) seem to partly wash off during processing (see 5b left edge), but this does not affect the image area. Smooth tonal transitions.
* 6: Schut Simili Japon: good dmax on both sides, but the coarse side is superior. Tone is red-orange-brown on the smoother side, and very neutral grey-brown on the coarser side. Highlight detail retention is quite good on the smoother side, but distinctly less so on the coarser side. Tonal transitions are smooth on the smoother side, with a more grainy look on the coarser side.
* ref: Schut drawing paper (only coarse side): good dmax, fairly good shadow detail retention. Fairly smooth tonal transitions. Quite neutral chocolate brown tone that tends ever so slightly towards green.

In conclusion, there is no clear winner. Fabriano Artistico to my surprise seems to have little potential, although I may try increasing the tartaric acid in the sensitizer to see if that improves dmax. The Steinbach paper is appealing for its good dmax, attractive (but pronounced) tone and its low cost, but I doubt if I will ever get smooth, defect-free prints from it. The Arches watercolor paper comes close to the tone of the Steinbach paper and seems to be easier to get defect-free prints from, but its dmax is suboptimal - perhaps I can figure something out to make this paper work, but it will require experimentation.

Both the Schut etching/fine art papers (Salland and Simili Japon) perform well and provide flexibility in terms of tone and surface texture by altering between both sides of these papers. The Fabriano Accademia paper seems like a good paper for test prints and it may replace the Schut drawing paper I currently use for most of my printing as it's affordable, performs reasonably well in all respects and has a bit finer surface texture than my currently used paper.

Thanks for reading all of this; I can't blame you if you didn't. I suppose I wrote most of this to structure my own thoughts and to be able to revisit this in the future as my experience drifts in new directions.

NedL
29-Dec-2016, 11:09
Thanks, that's interesting ( I actually did read it all ). Especially the tone variation comparing the coarser surface. I guess if you tone your VDBs, you'd want to repeat with toning.
I've been wondering lately why we don't often see mention of sizing with siderotypes, and it also makes me wonder if you were to choose one of these papers as your favorite -- for the paper itself, how it feels, the surface texture, etc... if you could tune the VDB to get many of these looks, maybe with slight adjustments to humidity, pH, or AFC to silver ratio.... my hunch is that the answer is mostly "no".

Just lately I'm in the middle of similar tests with salt, so there are perhaps more variables, but I'm finding that for example my test prints are weak on a particular kind of paper, there is a good chance I can improve it by changing the salt/silver ratio or the amount of citric acid..... so you could spend a lot of time tuning the process to each particular kind of paper.... That makes it hard to choose a "winner" because I'm not always comparing the best a paper can produce.

koraks
30-Dec-2016, 03:18
Ned, thanks for sharing your thoughts and for persevering through my wall of text ;)
You're right; for toned VdB's, the whole test would have to repeated for every toner used. However, at that point, image tone in my experience becomes a little less dependent on the paper used and more on the toner, so the papers are likely to shift closer to each other. There will still be differences in contrast and dmax.

The process is so sensitive to slight changes in processing parameters that it's quite easy to get a broad range of looks from a single paper. However, it's quite difficult to consistently get the same look, unless toning to completion with e.g. gold. To the parameters you listed, I would add the way the prints are dried. I find that simply hanging them up to dry slowly tends to yield warmer, more colorful tones. Force drying with a hairdryer shifts the tone to more neutral, and this is further enhanced by ironing the prints between a few layers of newsprint with a clothes iron at its highest setting. This produces a quite neutral print with good dmax. I wonder what the effect of this is on long-term stability of the print and I suspect it may actually be beneficial, as the larger particles that make up a more neutral image should be a little less susceptible to degradation. But I haven't tested this and likely never will. If a VdB needs to be permanent, I adhere to Sandy's advice of gold toning to completion.

I still find salt printing a difficult process, not in the least because it requires such insanely long-scale negatives. I tend to shy away from making such negatives as they are difficult to print with other processes. Also, salt prints seem to be much more demanding in terms of paper composition and my best salt prints (in terms of contrast and dmax) are on paper with a heavy gelatin sizing. Streaking has always been an issue with salt prints for me and this seems to be exacerbated when heavily sized papers are used. I've seen absolutely gorgeous salt prints, so I know it can be done, but the perfect salt print as of yet remains elusive to me. I've tried several things, including adding dichromate to the sensitizer (produces somewhat higher contrast and a very pronounced brick-red tone, especially in the wet print), sizing with several agents and varying the ratio of table salt to citrate.

Peter De Smidt
30-Dec-2016, 07:07
Thank you for posting your test!

koraks
30-Dec-2016, 08:44
My pleasure, Peter!

NedL
30-Dec-2016, 11:08
..... To the parameters you listed, I would add the way the prints are dried. I find that simply hanging them up to dry slowly tends to yield warmer, more colorful tones. Force drying with a hairdryer shifts the tone to more neutral, and this is further enhanced by ironing the prints between a few layers of newsprint with a clothes iron at its highest setting......

That is fascinating. I don't have very much experience with VdB, but have played a little with a variation suggested by Namias. It uses about 20% AFC, 5% AgNO3 and 5% CA. Then we found a "variation of VdB" mentioned by Sandy that used about 6% AFC, 4% AgNO3 and 3% CA. I experimented with this more VdB-like version a little and was amazed to see the color darken over a long time drying. A print that looked a little weak after drying overnight on a sheet of glass became darker after drying for 3 or 4 more days. This weaker more VdB-like version was prone to bleeding, especially if it was double-coated, so I went back to the Namias' stronger version which makes crisper looking prints. Namias' version seems to reach its final color after drying overnight. So after seeing that, it doesn't surprise me that the way a print is dried could have a large effect on the final result.

As for salt, I like making paper negatives, and they can be tuned to salt printing pretty well. I agree it can be finicky!

Jim Noel
30-Dec-2016, 11:55
"I still find salt printing a difficult process, not in the least because it requires such insanely long-scale negatives. I tend to shy away from making such negatives as they are difficult to print with other processes. Also, salt prints seem to be much more demanding in terms of paper composition and my best salt prints (in terms of contrast and dmax) are on paper with a heavy gelatin sizing. Streaking has always been an issue with salt prints for me and this seems to be exacerbated when heavily sized papers are used. I've seen absolutely gorgeous salt prints, so I know it can be done, but the perfect salt print as of yet remains elusive to me. I've tried several things, including adding dichromate to the sensitizer (produces somewhat higher contrast and a very pronounced brick-red tone, especially in the wet print), sizing with several agents and varying the ratio of table salt to citrate."
If you will research very early printing papers you will discover they were gelatin sized and of very light weight. Knowing this, my salt prints are made on the lightest weight linen paper I can find, which is a stationery. Of course the originals were made from paper negatives which display a very long scale. I make my negatives to match. If I want to prit using a different process, I make a negative to match.

koraks
30-Dec-2016, 14:15
Ned, that's interesting; I find that bleeding mostly takes place if the silver content of the sensitizer is too high. Maybe it's the ratio FAC:silver nitrate that really matters? That would seem consistent with your observations.

Jim, that's a useful suggestion. Indeed, gelatin sizing seems to be the key, at least based on my limited experience. Non-sized salt prints always come out weak whenever I try that route. I have yet to find a practical and economic way to get the sizing and sensitizing done evenly. I'm not a huge fan of soaking/floating, but that does seem like the best approach as far as I can tell. How do you size and sensitize?

NedL
30-Dec-2016, 16:08
I have no idea! So many times in alt process I read anecdotes "X causes Y" only to find it's not true or only true under certain circumstances, or that there's more to it.

I've been spending time with arrowroot sizing lately, and applying it evenly takes practice and is definitely part of the craft. Even more than with gelatin, any unevenness or streaks will show in the final salt print -- and it's easy to apply too much. But I'm seeing subtle delicate highlight detail that is really lovely... I think it is going to be worth spending a lot of time learning how to do it. The starch also absorbs the sensitizing solution quickly, making that step also more difficult to cover evenly without streaks. I have not ruled out moving to tray sensitizing, and will do it if that's what it takes ( Reilly's book uses 3.5% starch and 3.5% salt, and he says the paper must be tray-sensitized.. I've made a few that way and they have a special look that might make it worth doing. It's hard to get enough silver evenly on the heavily salted paper with a brush. ) -- but I don't want to derail your thread with salt ( I could write all day about it! ) I'm producing stacks of tests just like you are!

koraks
6-Feb-2017, 04:18
I received some questions about papers for New Cyanotype lately, so I thought I'd run a quick test with the papers I used for the Van Dyke test as well. I haven't photographed or scanned the results, but here are my findings. I did a single coat of New Cyanotype on each of the papers and each side of each paper, dried with a hairdryer, exposed it for 2 minutes under my light source and used the same reference paper as in the Van Dyke test: a 180gsm Schut drawing paper that comes in brightly colored blocks.

1. Fabriano Accademia: doesn't work well, as the yellow stain doesn't wash out within a reasonable amount of time.

2. Fabriano Artistico Liscia traditional white 300gsm: works quite well on both sides and exposes slightly faster than the reference paper. The slightly smoother and evenly textured side prints a little better and also washes cleaner than the coarser and more uneven reverse side, although the difference is small.

3. Steinbach 250gsm: very fine surface texture that has a little difficulty absorbing the sensitizer, resulting in weaker dmax than in the other papers. However, the prints are quite clean and show good separation in the highlights. The coarser side doesn't wash out as well as the smoother side, so I'd recommend using the latter. Perhaps this paper would benefit from adding a tiny fraction of surfactant to the sensitizer. Getting it to coat evenly will be the main challenge with this paper. It is also sensitive to fibers becoming unstuck from the surface, so it must be coated very gently and briefly; extended brushing will result in a grainy/fibrous surface.

4. Schut Salland 300gsm: Grainy prints in which the individual paper fibers are visible, resulting in degradation of detail. Compressed highlights with poor tonal separation on both sides of the paper. One side prints much faster than the other side.

5. Arches watercolor smooth 185gsm: the slightly coarser side prints a little faster than the reference paper and shows decent dmax and highlight detail. Washes out quite well too, although the smoother side retains a slight stain.

6. Schut Simili Japon 225gsm: irregular tiny, lighter blotches throughout the image on both sides. The smoother side gives good separation in the highlights, the coarser side doesn't.

My tentative conclusion is that the Arches watercolor paper works well on the coarser side, the Fabriano Artistico paper works well on the side with the subtle patterned side and the Steinbach paper could probably made to work quite well on the smoother side of the paper. The mentioned papers all offer a finer texture than the coarse side of the reference paper, although the smooth side of the reference paper is smoother than all of the others, although the Steinbach paper comes quite close. However, the smooth side of the Schut reference paper tends to suffer from coating irregularities and slightly degraded dmax in comparison with the coarse side, so I don't consider it ideal. The cheap Steinbach paper actually appears to work a little better.

cmug
6-Feb-2017, 15:07
Thanks to forum member ‘koraks’ I started experimenting further with paper from Schut.
Mostly I use the blue version (aquarelle 250 g/m^2 medium fine)
With new cyanotype is the omission of wetting agent an important aspect I discovered !
And use glass rod only very, very gently, or use a soft brush.

koraks
7-Feb-2017, 07:53
Indeed, only use a wetting agent if you have to. In my experience it causes more problems than it solves. I also prefer brush coating.
Glad that I could be of help!

Andrew O'Neill
7-Feb-2017, 12:42
In regards to Steinbach paper, since it has an alkaline buffer, you could try acidifying it, washing, then hanging to dry before sensitising it.

koraks
7-Feb-2017, 13:12
Andrew, assuming that the Steinbach paper you're referring to is the same I got my hands on. It's probably alkaline buffered and it consists of shorter fibers than the other papers I've tried, and the way it's glued renders it unfit for intaglio printing (tried that too). I find acidifying papers a chore and prefer to use papers that don't require it.

Andrew O'Neill
7-Feb-2017, 13:33
Yes, I also find acidifying a chore... and prefer Arches Platine or Hahnemule (a very picky paper when it comes to low humidity though!! Fumed Alumina helps.) I've got stacks of Stonehenge and a cheap in house art store brand that I need to get through. The only way to make them work is to acidify them.

koraks
7-Feb-2017, 14:34
I haven't tried Platine or Hahnemuhle yet; they're quite pricey and/or difficult to get around here, which is why I'm frequently scouting for new papers. So far I've found a few affordable ones that work quite well and look great. The added bonus is that fondling a new paper is always fun!

Jim Noel
7-Feb-2017, 16:10
Yes, I also find acidifying a chore... and prefer Arches Platine or Hahnemule (a very picky paper when it comes to low humidity though!! Fumed Alumina helps.) I've got stacks of Stonehenge and a cheap in house art store brand that I need to get through. The only way to make them work is to acidify them.

I have what's left of 2 cases of Stonehenge. I have never had to acidify it and don't understand why other see the need.