View Full Version : Proofing Platinum Palladium Portraits

Bruce E. Rathbun
9-Mar-2006, 14:39
So here is the dilemma. I will be doing some portrait work that will be printed on Platinum Palladium. My main concern is how to proof the images prior to printing the final images. The negatives will be printed using the Ziatype process and will need to be rather zippy in terms of contrast. I did an initial test to see how a negative fine tuned for the Ziatype process would look on Azo and the results were rather disappointing. Overall the contrast is extremely low on Azo grade 2 developed in Ansco 130. The grade 3 is even worse. I for one have never had any use for grade 2 as the shadows seem very muddy. The negatives are processed in D-76. Maybe the answer is to use Pyro for better results. Reducing the contrast in the negative developed in D-76 does not appeal as I want to keep contrast adjustments in the final printing process to a very minimum. What is a good compromise?


Ken Osthimer
9-Mar-2006, 16:25
Hi Bruce
Your dilemma is an easy one. I have worked with the Zia process quite abit so my sugestion is to reconcider and think about the more traditional devoloping out pt/pd process. The Ziatype is very sensitive to a number of conditions, humidity and paper being at the top of the list. The process is a "surface" type meaning that it dosen't penitrate to far into the paper so paper surface is an issue. To much " tooth" and you get a splottchy image because the unexposed emulsion washes away . Humidity is really important because it's the only moisture in the process until the print is washed. You also have to be very careful when you dry the paper, if there is to much wettness the emulsion will stick to the negative and ruin it. Lastly, the zia type does not lend itself to editions easily since the images will change abit depending on how much mosture is there during the exposure.
The zippy part of your problem can be overcome with a good neg. I use Hutchings Pyro and the stain provides enough printable density over the silver density to give me a really good neg. for both silver and pt/pd. I proof all my stuff on multigrade paper with no filter (and no cold head).
Hope this helps

Bruce E. Rathbun
9-Mar-2006, 17:03
Okay Ken. I would consider using a more traditional Platinum Palladium process. So far I have had good results with the Zia. If I have a negative that is good for Platinum using the Pyro method you are telling me that proofing on multigrade is no problem correct?

9-Mar-2006, 18:10

Would like to give you better news, but in my opinion there is no way to proof on multigrade silver papers when the ultimate goal is a Pt./Pd. print. The curves of silver and Pt./Pd. are very different, and what your multigrade print may suggest as a good print will likely be way off in Pt./Pd.

I agree with Ken that you should consider switching to traditional Pt./Pd. for this type of work. Zia is a nice process but it is much easier to get good consistent work from the traditional process.

As for developer, it is possible to get good results from a developer like D76. Some very good Pt./Pd. printers I know who work in ULF use D76 and have no problem at all in getting good contrast in Pt./Pd. printing. On the other hand, I favor pyro developers such as PMK, Pyrocat-HD and Rollo Pyro for UV processes. However, pyro developers are magic bullets so you will still need to do your homework and learn to expose and develop for the exposure scale of your process.


Bruce E. Rathbun
9-Mar-2006, 18:32
Thanks for the info Sandy. I do intend on switching from the Zia process. The intent with Zia was to start the learning curve. As for Pyro I will be starting that as well. My negatives have been fine tuned for Azo with excellent results. If anything my negatives have a bit too much contrast for Azo. I fear that my existing negatives that work with Zia may not work as well with traditional Platinum Palladium. If contrast is needed with a Zia I have found no increase in overall grain. I have heard that the increase in grain does happen more with traditional Platinum Palladium. Can anyone confirm this?


John O'Connell
9-Mar-2006, 19:00
Warning: the following advice comes from someone who doesn't hold with the received dogma on Azo.

I used D-76 or Rodinal+Sodium Sulfite to develop 8x10 TMY for Ziatype, and found that a good, high contrast Zia negative printed very well on Azo grade 2. What paper are you using for Ziatype? My good experience has been with COT320, touch of tungsten solution, no additional contrast solution. Contrary to your experience with Zia, I got very grainy prints when I attempted to increase contrast.

I found that Azo grade 2 worked well as a proofing paper for Zia prints, though sometimes extensive burning was required on highlights while using Azo. I never found a good use for Azo grade 3.

I'm guessing that the Ansco 130 developing the Azo is the problem. Switch to a hydroquinone developer and tone the Azo back to a color you can live with. I had excellent success with Dektol 1:3, followed by very dilute selenium toner. I've since switched to Selectol Soft for all of my printing, but the Dektol prints are quite punchy.

Ken Osthimer
10-Mar-2006, 03:47
Bruce, I suppose that Sandy is correct about the curves. I don't use the proof for any thing else but a positive to see if the image will go any further. If the basic elements of the image don't work then the neg. gets filed. The only proofing that I know of that may come close to the pt/pd is P.O.P. As for the graininess in trad. pt/pd, I find that a drop of 2% ammonium dichromate for an 8x10 starts graining up and gets worse from there. It really pays to make good negs. in the first place. One last thing... the Ziatype process will print almost any neg. with densities that would make a decent silver print. I have printed some really old d-23 negs I made years ago and they did fine. The Zia has a nice habit of self masking, it can really fool you into thinking you have good shadow densities because you print for the highlights and the shadows just seem to do fall into place. It is very difficult to tailor a negative when this is going on .

Jorge Gasteazoro
10-Mar-2006, 04:08
WHy not just get an 8x10 scanner? It is what I did. I bought an Agfa Duoscan T1200 and I proof my negatives with it for composition, the ones I like, I print. This way you can stay with zias if it is what you wish to do. If you are doing ULF, then maybe you should read the article on Unblinkingeye about using azo as a proofing paper for pt/pd, it is in there somewhere.

10-Mar-2006, 19:56
I agree with Jorge about the scanner. You could scan your negative and proof it on screen or with a print and get a lot more information than trying to proof with another process. In my opinion proofing with any other process when the final print is a Pt/Pd. or Ziatype would be colossal waste of time. If the proofing is really going to provide much useful information the proofing process must have an exposure scale and curve similar to that of Zia or Pt./Pd. which are different by the way.

I would agree with Dan about staying with Ziatype *if* you have already obtained some level of control of the process. If not, I would recommend switching to traditional Pt./Pd. because, although it is certainly possible to get good results with Zia if you have good control of humidty and temperture, getting the same level of consistency is much, much easier with traditional Pt./Pd. However, regardless of whether you stay with Zia or switch to traditional Pt./Pd. you will need to get some control of your exposure and development to create negatives of the correct density range for the process you choose.


Bruce E. Rathbun
11-Mar-2006, 14:18
The idea of a scanner did cross my mind yet I would need an 11x17 as I will be doing 11"x14" prints. As far as the process goes so far I have had no problems with the Zia process. My only concern is working with my 11"x14" & 8x20 images. There seems to be no way to keep a tight image without using a vacuum frame. If I use a vacuum frame there would be no way to inspect the print along the way. That I could see causing major problems with consistency. At that point I may need to look at switching to traditional Pt./Pd. although I am getting consistent result with the Zia process. The negatives shot for the Zia process are ideal and have not required much if any additional contrast on the final print. So if I do stay with the Zia process is there a potential problem with consistent results using a vacuum frame as there is no way to inspect?

Jorge Gasteazoro
11-Mar-2006, 15:00
If you are willing to do away with the brush strokes then you can use a vacuum frame. What I do is make a rubylith mask and tape it around the negative, I then tape the mask to the paper, far away enough from the image so that the paper that is ruined by the tape is not present in the final print once you trim it. I have successfully registered prints this way without any problems using my vacuum frame.

Bruce E. Rathbun
11-Mar-2006, 15:21

I am not sure if I follow you. Do you use this technique for inspecting prints in a vacuum frame?

Jorge Gasteazoro
11-Mar-2006, 18:58
Do you use this technique for inspecting prints in a vacuum frame?

Yes, sometimes instead of dodging or burning I use masks and this is useful to inspect the prints.