View Full Version : Brush development

11-Mar-2005, 07:44
Has anyone tried the brush development technique? If so I would like to hear of their process and results. thanx in advance

Jorge Gasteazoro
11-Mar-2005, 08:01
I have been doing brush development for years and IMO produces the most even negatives possible outside of rotary development. For negatives 8x10 and smaller IMO it is a waste of time, any rotary development like BTZS tubes, the now new JandC tubes or Jobo will do just as well with the added convenience of being able to do more than one at the time. OTOH, for ULF negatives outside of a Jobo processor this is the best way to obtain even negatives.
Give it a try, you wont be dissapointed.

Daniel Grenier
11-Mar-2005, 12:40
What Jorge said.... minus the "waste of time" part.

I process my negs by brush development in conjunction with development by inspection (DBI) so tubes are out for me for that reason. The idea is simply to have your neg emulsion side up in a tray and "paint" your neg in an up and down motion (and/or sideways) using a 2-3" hake brush or other fine artist brush. Little pressure needs to be applied. This essentially "forces" the chemicals into the emulsion more evenly than when free flowing.

The result is that you get very even development of your neg. This is especially apparent with clear skies and such. I do my 8x10s in an 8x10 tray with 400 ml of Pyrocat and my negs turn out just fine (no streaks , blotching or scratches). It is more time consuming as you can only do one at a time but considering how much time and effort I take the get the image onto the film, another few minutes getting it out of the film is a non-issue for me.

Good luck with it.

Jay DeFehr
11-Mar-2005, 14:38
I'm with Dan except for the part about brush choice. I use cheap, 4" foam paintbrushes from Home Depot, and have never had any problems whatsoever resulting from their use. I also have a slightly different take on the actual mechanism involved. Brush agitation mechanically breaks up the boundary layer of developer solution that adheres to the surface of the film, and which prevents more effective replacement of exhausted developer solution by agitation. For this reason, I believe that brush agitation is more efficient than rotary processing, which is far less effective in breaking up the boundary layer. The difficulties associated with acheiving even development increase with film area, so where one draws the line regarding the "waste of time", depends upon the degree of success one has in acheiving defect-free negatives in a given format. I draw that line at 8x10, because I can't reliably shuffle 8x10 negs in a tray, and tubes preclude the possibility of inspection. If you want to give it a try, I suggest that you buy one of the cheap foam brushes for .49 cents at Home Depot. If you like the technique, you can decide wether or not a fine, artist's brush is an investment you're willing to make. Good luck.


11-Mar-2005, 15:07
How do the development times compare to shuffling negs? I shuffle 4 negs at a time. But this has always been done with tmax. Now I'm using a little more finicky film in regards to how easily this new film is scratched (efke pl 100) I thought i was good at shuffling until i saw the scratches on the first batch of the efke. ( no more bragging about not scratching a neg) Drum and tubes are out...I just moved to ULF and I'm shooting 8x20. I have only heard good results from thr brush technique. But there is just something about running a brush across the emulsion side that kind of makes me uneasy.

Jorge Gasteazoro
11-Mar-2005, 15:29
Development times are almost comparable to rotary development and will be faster than tray development. Efke film seems to have a softer emulsion, you are not the first one who complains about scratches when doing many sheets by tray development.
If you are planning on using brush development with Efke film then I would definitly stay away from the cheap foam brushes. A good Hake brush using the side of the bristles will not scratch your film.

A few observations, I have compared negatives done with the JandC tubes in 8x10 and those done by brush development and I have seen no difference. With the tube, the laminar flow layer is broken when the tube rotates through the empty part of the tube. Fluid mechanics would be too long to explain here, but basically the developer in contact with the film flows "slower" than the immediate molecular layer on top, thus the developer is prone to exhaustion and in some cases bromide drag. WHat we do when we shuffle sheets, rotate the film or pass a brush on top of the film is essentially breaking the laminar layer in closest contact with the film and allowing fresh developer to replace this layer.

As I said, make sure that when you brush you dont use the tips of the brush but the side and you will be fine. DO this with a gentle touch, no pressure.

Jay DeFehr
11-Mar-2005, 19:06

have you ever scratched a neg with a foam brush? I'm not suggesting that it's impossible, but I have a hard time imagining how it would happen. I have developed many, many sheets of film with cheap, foam brushes, and have never had any problem whatsoever that could be attributed to them. In fact, I've never read any report of anyone experiencing problems related to the use of foam brushes for brush development of negatives.


Jorge Gasteazoro
11-Mar-2005, 20:31
When I worked in the environmental field it never failed that there was an old timer who asked: "why do you take all those precautions, I have been doing it like this for 20 years and nothing ever happens?"

nuff said...

11-Mar-2005, 21:08
It just so happens that I have em both. I'm sure the foam brush would be more than adequate but it is hard to beat the softness of this Hake brush. Being my maiden voyage with brush development I'll opt for the Hake brush seeing I'm already nervous about this procedure. But of course I have shot about a dozen tests shots to play with this. So I'll give the foam brush a spin once I feel a little more comfortable. I'm sure I would become more proficient shuffling with some practice with these soft emulsions but I'm tending to agree with you if this eliminates the need to worry about that one golden shot that took all day to get why risk it in development. Thanks guys

Jay DeFehr
11-Mar-2005, 21:10
That's kind of what I thought. It seems to me that your making an assumption that the Hake brushes are safer, without anything of substance upon which to base that assumption. It's possible that the foam brushes are both cheaper and safer. Without a failure of one or the other, it's impossible to say which is safer, but it's clear which is cheaper.


Jorge Gasteazoro
11-Mar-2005, 21:31
Well apparently you like to argue a silly point with people who disagree with you. I could tell you why I dont think foam brushes are a good idea, but rather not waste my time. Being that I have been doing brush development way before you even knew about it and if I reacall correctly you pestered me about it, I think I know what I am talking about....I wish this forum had an ignore list...

Jay DeFehr
11-Mar-2005, 22:34
You can personalize the issue if you like, but you've failed to offer any support for your contention that Hake brushes are in any way superior to cheap, foam brushes for developing negatives. When you first suggested brush development to me, I did not pester you about it, but enthusiastically adopted the procedure, albeit without the expensive brushes that you recommended. By the way, it's REALLY funny that you echoed your own sarcasm when you wrote in a prevous post...

"When I worked in the environmental field it never failed that there was an old timer who asked: 'why do you take all those precautions, I have been doing it like this for 20 years and nothing ever happens?' "

and then...

"...I have been doing brush development way before you even knew about it and if I reacall correctly you pestered me about it, I think I know what I am talking about.."



Jorge Gasteazoro
11-Mar-2005, 22:51
Seems to me you are the one personalizing this, you want proof on a silly point. I dont think it is agood idea to use foam brushes and I have my reasons. But of course since you are now the expert nobody can disagree with you...get over it....

11-Mar-2005, 22:57
Ok just finished my first attempt at brush development. And I will say it is absolutly scratch free and beautiful even develpoment ( on the first try) Jay, you and Jorge must be great teachers. I backed of my times from tray shuffling about 10%. I need to back that off a little more. I just wish I would have tried this earlier. I mean I can't find the slightest of scratches, This is quite impressive. Thanks Guys...P.S. Why didn't you guys talk me into trying this earlier?.....lol....next negs I'll try the foam brush.

Jay DeFehr
12-Mar-2005, 00:38
Congratulations, Robert. Peace of mind is worth the effort, I think. There are few things more frustrating than losing an image to self inflicted negative defects. Even I have never been able to damage a neg by brush development. Enjoy.


Andrew O'Neill
12-Mar-2005, 08:52
Can't believe you are actually fighting over foam brushes and hake brushes. Right! Choose your weapon (foam or hake), walk ten paces...Engarde!!

Jorge Gasteazoro
12-Mar-2005, 09:30
Oh, I am not fighting bubba, couldnt care less what the "expert" wants or thinks......

Jay DeFehr
12-Mar-2005, 13:08

I'm not fighting over anything, it's just that Hake brushes are expensive, and if one needs a brush solely for developing negatives, A Hake brush offers no advantage to a cheap foam brush, that I know of, and since Jorge is reluctant to share his reasons for stating otherwise, I have to assume that there is no good reason to spend the money on a Hake brush for negative development. Jorges comments might have the effect of persuading the uninitiated to spend money unnecesarily, to buy nothing more than a false sense of security. I simply want to assure those who have not tried this technique that foam brushes are absolutely safe.


12-Mar-2005, 14:02
Now if we can get Steve Simmons to chime in on this one we can get a really, REALLY good argument going on the topic. Then if we can get a Wisner brush we can get WarEaglemtn going on it as well.

Jorge Gasteazoro
12-Mar-2005, 14:51
It would be a really, really good argument if you include the wisner brush has to be used exclusively with Pyro developers.... :)

14-Mar-2005, 09:58
Ok, I have tried both brushes. And they both produce beautiful results. As a novice to this procedure I only noticed one thing that is probably not of any consequence. When I was developing with the foam brush it felt as though the brush would chatter across the film at times. Now this could very well be my technique, I could have been putting to much pressure on the brush as I am getting a little braver with this way of developing. I did not notice any chattering with the hake brush but then again I was being a little more timid with it in the beginning. The bottom line though is they both produce excellent results. Thanks for the tip guys

Nigel Smith
14-Mar-2005, 17:56
Just to get this clear in my mind... this would be better described as "Brush Agitation" would it? From Dan's explanation, sounds like you still use enough developer to submerge the neg and use the brush to agitate the developer rather than lifting/rotating negs or rocking the tray?

14-Mar-2005, 20:36
Nigel, Yes it is agitating the developer. But the concept is , the brush moves across the film surface moving spent developer and replenishing it with new developer as you brush. Nice even development and shorter development times as compared to the shuffling method. I'm new to this but scratch free negs was my goal since I saw the scratches I put on the efke pl 100 film the first time i tried shuffling them. I haven't scratched the first neg ....yet ....with this method. I know it is kind of hard to get use to dragging a brush across the emulsion side of a negative but trust me it works like a charm. So I use a little more developer than with the shuffling method but the trade off of undamaged negs is worth it.

Nigel Smith
21-Mar-2005, 16:37
robert, thanks for the follow up.. I've learnt something :)