View Full Version : Paper Developers... Recommendations ?

Ken Lee
25-Nov-2005, 08:29
Having previously used only Dektol since the 1960's, my recent exploration of Pt/Pd opened my eyes to the world of mix-it-yourself. I now marvel at the available breadth of options, and depth of savings.

Looking at Jacks's Photographic and Chemistry Site (http://www.jackspcs.com/pdev.htm" target="Blank), one finds a large selection of formulas for paper developers.

... Any recommendations ?

Colin Graham
25-Nov-2005, 08:56
I really like ansco 130. It's warmish out of the gate but if you like a cooler tone, you can use less pot. bromide and add some benzotriazole. I use half the recommended bromide and add a few drops of a 3% bzt solution to the working mix. It 's quite a bit 'cleaner' looking than dektol, and I don't get the green cast with forte papers either. It's a little pricier than some because of the glycin but I think it's worth it. Unblinkingeye.com has the formula of Jack's doesn't.

David A. Goldfarb
25-Nov-2005, 09:10
Depending on the paper you use, you might like an amidol developer. I like Michael A. Smith's amidol, both in the version for Azo and the version for enlarging papers with J&C/Adox Exposition Graded/Efke Emaks/Cachet Expo RF/Maco Expo RF (all different brands of the same paper). For papers that are amenable to amidol, you'll get very rich blacks and the additional control of water bath development, which works particularly well with amidol. I've found that some papers, like Ilford MGIV FB and RC don't particularly benefit from amidol.

According to Anchell, older style, "soft emulsion" papers do better with amidol and will show the differences between different developer formulas better than more modern style papers.

You can find the formulas here-- www.michaelandpaula.com/mp/Azo_Formulas.html (http://www.michaelandpaula.com/mp/Azo_Formulas.html).

William Mortensen
25-Nov-2005, 09:47
Ken- You might want to tell what paper(s) you usually use. As David said in a more specific example, a developer that has its own special look on some papers will look pretty average on other papers.

25-Nov-2005, 10:07
Amidol produces the most beautiful prints of all, but it has problems (almost infinite shelf life, but degrades instantly when mixed for use, and other problens). Next best is ANSCO 130. It lasts forever even when mixed and produces beautiful slightly warm prints. I think that it's more a matter of matching paper and developer, as many of the best master printers just use Dektol and Selectol-Soft.

Ken Lee
25-Nov-2005, 10:40
Mark - You're right !

Perhaps I should ask: What is the best enlarger paper/developer combination to give slightly warm-toned images ? I am just getting back into Silver printing, and the last time I printed this way, I used papers like Agfa Brovira and DuPont Varigam, toned in Selenium.

That was then, and this is now. The color scheme I now prefer, is represented by this image (http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/gallery/roses.htm" target="_blank), the result of a set of quadtone "curves" that I created in Photoshop.

William Mortensen
25-Nov-2005, 12:16
Ken- it seems you like a fairly warm-toned image, unless my monitor is lying to me again, (it does that...) From long ago (25 years?) I remember Agfa 120 was a very nice warm toned developer; cheap and simple to put together, but sometimes slow to dissolve, (keep the temperature up for a while and keep stirring.) Nice warm tones on Brovira, too warm for my taste on Portriga-Rapid, but some loved it. (Don't know if P-R is still available.) Agfa 120 was one of the "classic" formulas, especially for mix-it-yourself types, so the formula should be around everywhere... If you're interested and can't find it, ask and I'll track it down in my old notebooks.

Ken Lee
25-Nov-2005, 13:40
Yes - I like warmer tones in the middle range, and more neutral as we approach pure black and white.

I like to get a deep range of tones, but also have a sense of warm radiance and peace pervading the whole thing - like an old pair of slippers.

Donald Qualls
25-Nov-2005, 16:16
If Dektol has floated your boat for the past 40 years, give or take, don't dismiss the option of mixing your own D-72. It's simple, cheap, and with one additional ingredient (borax) you can make D-76 as well. Those two have been standards for 70 years for a good reason...

Eric Biggerstaff
25-Nov-2005, 16:16
My favorite warm tone paper / developer combination is Ilford MGFB Warmtone and Dektol 1+2. I then selenium at 1+10 for 2 mintues. Not real fancy, but I think it is a great combination.


Henry Ambrose
25-Nov-2005, 16:23
130 and Bergger VCCB seems like a good choice for you based on the print you show and "warm radiance and peace pervading the whole thing". I love this combination. You can get 130 in kits from Photographer's Formulary.

26-Nov-2005, 01:12
Some papers respond much more to changes in development than others. If your paper is responsive, then I second the recommendations for ansco 130, and also suggest you try ansco 120 as a low contrast alternative. On fortezo, which responded like crazy to developers, i did two-tray development, with 120 first and 130 second. The range of contrasts available by varying the time in each was so great that i never used anything but grade 3 over the course of seven or eight years.

Mark suggested agfa 120 ... this is the exact same formula as ansco 120.

Which reminds me ... before taking the time to experiment with any developer, find out the formula, if it's published (or even just suspected). there's a good chance it's identical to something you've already tried. most of the developers people are using are just renamed versions of the same five or six basic formulas.

Colin Graham
26-Nov-2005, 09:27
That's good to know about the 120 and 130 2-bath, I'm going to try that. Thanks Paul.

26-Nov-2005, 15:29
oh, yeah, it's a classic working method. i think ansco used to recommend it with this exact pair. it was probably a pretty common approach before v.c. papers took over.

i used the graded paper instead of the v.c. version because i had trouble getting the v.c. to tone the way i like.

Gary L. Quay
27-Nov-2005, 09:23
An important thing to consider is your paper-developer combination. It's been mentioned above, but I thought I'd give it a little more emphisis. If you're moving away from Dektol, consider experimenting with your paper chioce as well.

This is a very exciting time for traditional photography. The Internet has brought us a much wider array of choices while the same digital technology seeks to take it away through a shrinking market. I, for one, don't want to end up with one or two surviving papers and films in a few years. With this in mind, I have begun a move away from reliance on Kodak and Ilford. Foma, Forte, JandC, Efke, ADOX, Bregger, Oriental, Maco, plus a dozen, or so, others are wonderful alternatives, and each has its own look. If you are daring, try Fomatone FB and Amidol developer. Just make sure the ventilation is working in your darkroom. If you're not so daring, Ilford MG and Ansco 130 will do just fine. Whatever you try, start with small paper, say 5X7, first to see if you like it. Spread the waelth around. Support as many wonderful companies are you can. Check out JandC, Freestyle, DigitalTruth, Photographers' Formulary, Retro Photo, and check out what they say about different papers and developers. And, most importantly, have fun doing it.

A specific suggestion: Clayton CP Powder Developer and ADOX Classic Paper from JandC. Your local water district will thank you.


Ken Lee
27-Nov-2005, 10:33
"The Internet has brought us a much wider array of choices while the same digital technology seeks to take it away through a shrinking market. "

Nicely put.

Say, wasn't there some kind of paper/developer "shoot-out" in recent years ? Were the results published somewhere ? What were the criteria ?

Larry Gebhardt
29-Nov-2005, 06:08
The Paper Shootout was published in View Camera. The author's (Bruce Barlow) favorite combo was Forte Polygrade V (Elegance) in Fine Art VersaPrint. From what I can tell VersaPrint is almost identical to ansco 130. I agree that this is a great combo, but it is not the warm tone you are looking for. I would say the closest I have seen to your web image is Ilford Warmtone in dilute LPD or ansco 130.

Matt Mengel
29-Nov-2005, 09:57
I really like 55-D. It's a nice warm dev.