View Full Version : Your preferred STOP+FIX+Hypo+Wash for FB paper (for toning and drying and flatten)

gabriele turchi
21-May-2019, 07:24
Hi there
i am trying to asses the best formula for fixing and washing FB papers , especially considering the idea of toning and using a hot press to flatten the prints ...

i have been reading few different theories regarding the use for alkaline fixer vs non alkaline Fixer / water stop or acid stop / hypo wash or no hypo wash ....mainly related to the idea of toning and even using a hot press to flatten the print and even about using wetting agent if using a Print dryer (hot plate ones) ...and read about perhaps even using a hardener fixer if going to flatten hot press... ) and off course washing times would differ depending on which fixer ( seems like alkaline fixer require no stop bath ( just water ) and shorter times ?

so i would like to ask your experience/preferences about this in order to understand if the apparently easier/convenient formula : water stop- alkaline fixer (TF4 or TF5 ?)- no hypo - 30 min wash would have any downside regarding toning , hot press , drying ... or any downside at all ....

thank you !


21-May-2019, 07:35
There is no “magic formula” for all this, but here’s what I use: acid stop (either home mixed 28% glacial acetic acid or citric acid), home mixed F-24 fixer (non-hardening), hypo clear is used as part of a selenium toning process, wash for about one hour. Been working this way for 40 years and I have prints in my portfolio made that old that look as good today as the day I made them.

gabriele turchi
21-May-2019, 07:49
Thanks Alan
Certainly every successful experience is a precious testimony ,
But I must say that since the whole alkaline fixer thing (water stop - no hypo wash - 1/2 washing time) ...I got me curious about how many people embrace that and if there are foreseen downsides related to toning - hot press - hot dry etc ...
Also if TF4 or TF5 would make any difference for prints ...

Ps:off course the attractive part is the idea to skip stop bath/ hypo wash / and wash for 1/2 time (which for me could be big deal since I print late at night ...)

21-May-2019, 07:57
>28% glacial acetic acid
Is that a typo? 1-2% concentration suffices!

For me: acid stop (acetic or citric), acid rapid fix 1+4 for 1 minute, wash 30-60 minutes. If toning, wash for a few up to 10 minutes, tone, was again 30-60 minutes. Tape onto glass with gummed tape if it needs to dry perfectly flat. Archival? Dunno. Ask me again in 50 years if I or my prints are still around. I have doubts about either.

Doremus Scudder
21-May-2019, 12:22
There are several workflows using various materials to get the same results. Here's my take on the process:

Stop Bath
There are good reasons to use an acid stop bath, even when using an alkaline fixer. Not only is the development stopped quickly, but the pH of the print is changed from quite alkaline to mildly acid. This keeps acid fixing baths from degrading due to carried-over alkaline (important if you use a fixer like Ilford Hypam or Rapid Fixer). As far as I know, most alkaline and neutral fixing baths have been engineered to be used with an acid stop as well (TF-4 / TF-5). This latter according to the the designer, Ron Mowry alias PE. Water stops can and do work, but take longer. In the best case, running water should be used. If not, then the water in the "stop" tray needs to be changed quite often otherwise it will become alkaline from carried-over developer fairly quickly. I use an acetic acid stop usually (e.g., Kodak Indicator Stop), but those who object to the mild vinegar smell like citric acid stop baths (e.g., Ilfostop). Citric acid stop baths at working strength will grow bacterial slime if stored too long. It's best to use these "one session."

Fixing Baths (This will be long... there's a lot to discuss here.)
The most important things when fixing fiber-base prints are 1) to not exceed the capacity of your fixer (more later) and 2) to use two-bath fixing if you don't plan on replacing your fix with fresh every 10 prints or so. A careful read of the Ilford tech sheet for Rapid Fixer or Hypam will reveal that there are two "standards" for fixing: commercial or general-purpose and "optimum permanence." The obvious capacity numbers you first see are for general-purpose use, not optimum permanence. The capacity of a liter of fixer, at either dilution, for optimum permanence is much less than that for general-purpose. If you are interested in exhibiting and selling your prints, fixing for optimum permanence seems the only logical option to me. That means, according to Ilford and others, that you can fix 10 8x10-inch prints per liter of working solution before the dissolved silver levels in the fixer exceed the limit for optimum permanence. So, either you toss your fixer at that point or you adopt a two-bath fixing regime. With the two-bath regime, you mix two baths and give the print half the time in the first bath, half in the second. The idea is that bath one does the lion's share of the fixing and bath two remains fairly fresh. You basically keep on fixing in bath one well past the limit of dissolved silver for optimum permanence, but bath two finishes the fixing process while not really getting a lot of dissolved silver. I find I can safely fix 36 8x10 per liter of bath one (note, there's a liter of bath two being used here as well, so two liters total!). When the capacity has been reached, discard bath one, replace it with bath two and mix a new second bath. This can be repeated 5-7 cycles before both baths need replacing. Personally, I stay well under that recommendation.

There are also a couple of fixing strategies. Ilford promotes their "archival sequence" which includes "film-strength" fixer and short wash times. Here's a link to their webpage: https://www.ilfordphoto.com/ilford-optimum-permanance-wash-sequence-fb-papers/ . Basically, the idea is to fix fast (hence the strong fixer) so the fixer doesn't soak all the way into the paper, thereby making washing easier. I have problems with the Ilford method for a couple of reasons: If you use just one fixing bath, things are fairly straightforward, but, due to the reduced capacity (mentioned above), it's not very economical. With two-bath fixing, it's difficult to divide the one-minute fixing time in half and not exceed it. What about drain times? Even an 11x14 print takes 10-15 seconds to drain. Do I include that in my fixing time or not? If I don't, I may exceed the one-minute time by a substantial margin. If I go over one minute, how does that affect the washing time? I should probably wash longer in that case, but by how much? At some point (I think it's about 90 seconds), the fixer has saturated the paper base, making the whole Ilford wash sequence irrelevant. Furthermore, some maintain that papers from other manufacturers than Ilford don't work as well with this method.

For these reasons, I use the more conventional, time-tested method outlined by Kodak. I indeed use Ilford fixers, but at "paper strength," i.e., the weaker dilution. I fix in two baths for a total of 3-4 minutes (1.5-2 min. in each bath), tone, and then treat with a wash-aid for 5-10 minutes before washing for minimum 60 minutes. Yes, it uses more water than the Ilford sequence, but I find it more reliable and secure.

Sodium thiosulfate vs ammonium thiosulfate fixers: Conventional "hypo" fixers are made with sodium thiosulfate and take longer to fix papers than "rapid" fixers based on ammonium thiosulfate. Aside from the increase in fixing time, both will do the job for most papers. Conventional fixers are usually acid and come in powder form (e.g., Kodak powdered fixer). These need to be mixed long enough ahead of time to dissolve completely before use. Rapid fixers usually come in liquid concentrates. There is some concern that modern films that contain a lot of silver iodide will not be completely fixed with conventional fixers. As far as I know, this isn't a concern for papers. Times for conventional fixers are from 5-10 minutes; for rapid fixers, 1-4 minutes depending on dilution. Do follow manufacturers' recommendations here.

Testing for complete fixing and washing: The only real way to know if your regime is doing the job for you is to test. There are a couple of easy-to-make or acquire test solutions. The standard for testing for residual silver (complete fixing) is the Kodak ST-1 test. You can find the formula by searching easily. Alternatively, one can use Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner at a dilution of 1+9 to test for residual silver. A drop of either solution is put on the print, left to sit for 3-4 minutes and then rinsed off and examined for color. Anything but an almost undetectable faint yellow stain indicates inadequate fixing. The test for complete washing (residual fixer), Kodak HT-2 (Google again) works similarly. If there's more than just a faint stain, your washing is incomplete. I strongly recommend that you test your regime for both residual silver and fixer regularly, especially at first, until you are confident that it gives you the results you need. I test the last print through a batch of fixer at least every other session. The tests are easy and give real peace of mind.

Most of this is covered above, but a couple of observations. You can't get a good wash if prints are touching each other; they need to be in contact with nothing but fresh water for the duration of the wash. "Archival" washers with slots are great for this, especially if you print a lot, but using trays will work well too. Even agitating prints in trays works fine if the water is changed often enough. The key here is to test whatever method you choose as best for you for adequate washing as described above. Many "archival" washers have dead spots and not enough flow to adequately wash a print in the advertised time. I've modified all my print washers to work better...

Using a wash-aid, such as Kodak Hypo Clearing Agent or similar is indispensable for adequate washing of fiber-base prints. Kodak recommends 2-3 minutes in their wash-aid. Ilford calls for ten minutes of treatment in their wash-aid in their optimum permanence sequence. Although I use the Kodak fixing/washing method primarily, I extend my times in the wash aid to ten minutes as well. Do be aware that wash-aids have capacities; read the instructions. You can easily save a bit of money by mixing your own wash aid, especially if your water quality is good where you process. I mix my own wash aid using a Tablespoon of sodium sulfite and a pinch of sodium bisulfite per liter of water (as you can surmise, the exact proportions are not critical). This I use for 36 prints before I mix new.

I've tried to be as succinct as possible, but this is still pretty long... I spent a long time getting my mind around fixing and washing when I was just starting out, I hope this helps.


gabriele turchi
21-May-2019, 19:31
thank you so much guys
and thanks so much doremus for the detailed testimony ...

i take that TF4 and TF5 is not that popular than !

ps: doremus : do you perform the Fix and washing test when teh print is wet or dry ? if a stain appear : can it be washed out ? i tried the formulary residua hype test and when i got stains i had to trash teh print ...



21-May-2019, 21:19
i take that TF4 and TF5 is not that popular than !

They're both fine fixers and many folks use either one. Personally, though, I couldn't stand the strong ammonia smell when working with open trays in the darkroom.

Greg Y
21-May-2019, 22:09
I use diluted glacial acetic acid as a stop bath and Formulary T4 or T5 as my standards....prior to toning, & washing.

Doremus Scudder
22-May-2019, 12:07
... ps: doremus : do you perform the Fix and washing test when the print is wet or dry ? if a stain appear : can it be washed out ? i tried the Formulary residual hypo test and when i got stains i had to trash the print ...
thanks! g


Yes, I perform both the residual silver and hypo tests on wet prints, but not on the image area, just on the blank white margin of the print. I always leave 1/2 inch or more margin on my prints for trimming. After I do the test, I rinse off the tested area and put the print back in the washer for 10-15 minutes. Any stain at all gets trimmed off before the print is mounted. Usually, I have no stain when I test.

Sometime, years ago, I tested my entire workflow to failure with both tests, i.e., I pushed past fixer capacity and pulled prints early from the washer at ten-minute intervals (using test prints and some unexposed but fixed paper swatches) to find where the limits were. I then added a generous safety factor for both fixing and washing. Now I just spot check the last print through the fix every other session or so.

If you've done a residual hypo test and got significant stain, you need to wash longer/better. If you do have a print that fails the residual hypo test, you can refix in fresh fix and rewash and save the print (and any others you made in the same session!) as long as you haven't damaged the image itself with the test.

As for fixers: I use Ilford Hypam or Rapid Fixer because it is cheap and convenient for me. I tried TF-4 and didn't like the ammonia odor that much. Also, I like mildly acid or neutral fixers for film; I've had the developer re-activate in alkaline fixers and fog the film when I turned on the lights too early. Having an acid fix is good insurance against that. I haven't tried TF-5. It seems a great product and maybe I will in the future. It likely washes out easier than what I'm currently using.



Fred L
22-May-2019, 17:21
My flow from start is Formulary 130 --> citric acid stop --> TF-5 (always test prints for thorough fixing at start of session) --> holding bath --> selenium toner --> PermaWash --> archival washer --> drying screens -> flattening in Seal dry mount press

22-May-2019, 19:12
I use a heated drum dryer to dry my FB prints. Flatbed dryers work same, I dry emulsion side towards the canvas belt. I use hardening fixer. Kodak rapid fixer diluted to film strength. I then tone in Kodak rapid selenium toner at 25% (1 part toner to 3 parts water ) . I Fix with FRESH fixer for 2 minutes constantly agitating. Then a 30 second rinse in water and directly into the KRST. You don't need to do any extensive washing between fixing and toning in Selenium, if you get staining it means the print is not adequately fixed. Fixer is cheap, count your sheets, I toss after 20 8x10 inch sheets per liter or sooner.
After toning 3 to 10 minutes I rinse, then hypo clearing agent for 5 minutes, (this needs to be fresh too) . Then , and this is MY process I harden again for 5 minutes in Kodak formula F6a hardener (125 mL per liter) . I make this from dry chemicals, the Kodak F1a hardener works well to. This is for protecting the emulsion during washing and drying.
I also do Selenium followed by Kodak Blue toner (Gold) but that gets even more complicated.

I then wash very well, rinse in a tray with running water for 2 minutes, followed by washing in a huge rocking print washer for 15 to 20 minutes, followed by a pump assisted archival washer.

You don't need all the equipment, you just need to make sure your prints are washed. Avoid hot or cold water. 15 to 22 C is best for washing, a little warmer is ok but can make gelatin sticky.

People will tell you never use hardening fixer. That's not my approach. Go back to the original work done at Kodak Research Laboratory in the first half of the 20th century, hardening fixer is fine especially for prints that are being handled in multiple steps. I've never had issues toning hardened prints in over 40 years.