View Full Version : Troubleshooting Carbon Printing Failures

18-Jan-2016, 09:58
So far the only thing I've ended up with on my inkjet paper support is a dichromate stain. I can't see any evidence of carbon remaining on the support. I'm using 100-110 degree water so I don't think it's too hot. I assume this is because my exposure time is not long enough? I haven't built a proper UV box yet but instead use work lamp with a UV bulb. Is there some wattage to time ratio rule of thumb? Or is this complete guesswork?

I'm using tissue from Bostick & Sullivan and dichromate recipe from their PDF on the topic.

I wonder if, given the relatively low wattage I've got to work with that maybe I just need a lot longer exposure.

Jim Fitzgerald
18-Jan-2016, 10:07
Try using fixed out photographic paper. I'm not sure if the inkjet paper as a final support will work. I found it difficult to work with the B&S materials although many have had success. When I used a 450 watt Mercury vapor bulb I found my exposure time to approach an hour. Many other variables can be at play as well.

18-Jan-2016, 10:21
A single tungsten uv bulb isnt going to cut it. With a face tanner (60W worth of uv tanning fluorescents) I need exposure times between 6 (very high contrast tissue with about 8% pigment) and 30 (Sandy King's glop recipe with about 2% pigment) minutes. The UV output of a tungsten blacklight bulb is a small fraction of the output of a face tanner, so you'd be looking at exposures of multiple hours.

If the dichromate stain proves to be unclearable by a brief soak in a sulfite bath, try fixed out photo paper as Jim suggests, or if you like the additional effort, gelatin sized art paper. But fixed out photo paper is a lot easier to work with so I'd recommend that for initial attempts.

18-Jan-2016, 10:31
Thanks for the suggestions.

I've tried fixed out photo paper and was not successful keeping the tissue stuck to it. Inkjet paper gives me great adhesion right away. But I'll give the Arista paper I've got another chance.

I'm not going to go to the expense and time of building an exposure box until I can get some actual results from sunlight or other means. Exposures of multiple hours don't bother me at all so I'll probably try that first.

All I need is any kind of an image to start with and I can go from there.


18-Jan-2016, 11:20
Well, I can't argue with that much patience ;) The problem is dialing into the correct exposure (and other parameters) if you have to wait multiple hours to make an exposure. At the best of times, I only pulled 3 or 4 prints on a day and that was with more reasonable exposure times. I think the $15 I paid for my second hand face tanner was probably the best investment I ever did in alternative process photography. Nonetheless, I'd love to hear if my multiple hour guesstimate works out for you!

Jim Fitzgerald
18-Jan-2016, 12:21
Part of the problem I had when using the B&S tissue during a demo was getting it to stick as well. My feeling, at least for me was, to make my own. The B&S tissue seemed to be very thin. I pour thick tissue and it is very robust even with vigorous agitation during development. I feel that it is best to make your own materials so you can control gelatin percentage, pigment percentage and especially image tonality. This is where it all begins. As a dedicated carbon printer I feel that you need to make and understand your materials especially your own tissue. There is a lot of time dedicated to this process. Many variables. Watch my videos and the videos of others and follow our guidelines. Do you want to make prints or continue down the path of shortcuts. Get set up properly. Get the exposure unit that is recommended. A NuArc 26 1k is a great investment. It can shorten the learning curve and you will start to understand how finding a balance is so important. Just my .02 and advice nothing more. Best of luck.

18-Jan-2016, 12:54
Jim's video's have been a great help to me, as well as some of the others I have seen. I have never worked with the B&S tissue personally, but there's satisfaction to be had from making your own. If you're patient enough to wait for exposures of several hours, you'll have no trouble sitting through a tissue making session. Since especially pigment type and concentration are enormously important variables, I would definitely join Jim in recommending making your own.

18-Jan-2016, 15:44
I can afford to be patient on long exposures because I can do a bunch of other things while the print sits there, no other reason. :)

Jim, I've watched those videos and will probably watch them again several more times. Your help on this stuff is invaluable.

Although I can't justify a plate burner yet (nor do I have a place for it in my minuscule workroom) I plan to build an exposure unit into the under side of a workbench I need to build for my darkroom. I'm waiting till the weather warms up a bit.

Good advice on making tissue. I'm not quite set up for that yet but once I get the workbenches made for the darkroom I should be in a better position to play with that.

Andrew O'Neill
18-Jan-2016, 16:13
I've transfered onto inkjet papers, and although the transfer was a success, I could never completely clear the dichromate stain. Fixed out baryta papers work very well. Matte or gloss. I had issues transferring onto RC papers. Personally, I prefer acrylic mediums coated onto art paper.
In regards to exposure, I used a 300W tungsten bulb when I first got into carbon printing. Exposure was close to an hour long. The bulb was about a metre above the negative/tissue combo. I suspect you are not giving enough exposure. Give a longer time, perhaps even doubling what you have been giving, or if you get a consistent amount of sunshine, use the sun.

John Jarosz
19-Jan-2016, 16:57
If the tissue dries out too much it loses sensitivity. There is a fine line of drying the tissue enough so it won't stick to the negative vs drying it too much and losing sensitivity.

If you are worried about ruining a negative put a sheet of Saran Wrap between the negative and tissue. It's so thin the Saran Wrap will not affect sharpness.