View Full Version : Color paper processing question

Gary L. Quay
5-May-2006, 07:14
I'm about to take the plunge into processing my own color prints. I've been doing B&W for about a year, and I'm itching to make use of my extensive color backlog. First, assume that I would rather not scan and digitally print my work, even though I have about 30 years experience with computers. I have wasted a tremendous amount of K3 Ultrachrome without once getting a print out of my printer that looks like it does on the screen, even using manufacturers' paper profiles and Monaco EZ Color. Second, I'm considering a Jobo processor because of the temperature controls and because I can't seem to not scratch my LF negatives in either tray or tank processing.

Here's the question: Am I completely nuts?

Take the following into consideration when responding:

Can one successfully tray process color prints without absolute control of temperature?

Will I eventually be able to not scratch my LF negs? Or, do I just have to become a good retoucher?

Is it worth the effort?

All responses will be greatly appreciated.


Neal Wydra
5-May-2006, 07:39
Dear Gary,

Try it, you might enjoy yourself. It costs very little to try, especially if you have a dichroic head (on your enlarger that is). ;>)

5-May-2006, 07:45
Not nuts. Colour printing of good negatives is relatively easy. Some body makes room temperture RA-4 chemicals. Never used the stuff. It's more expensive and other then it's being room temperture it has no advantage.

When I started I used a drum rolled in a water bath. Literally a picnic cooler full of warm water with a fish tank heater in the bottom. Rolled by hand. Other then it's sloppy and you have to stand there spinning the drum it works just fine. I moved up to a Unicolor motorbase. The combination of not wanting to stand there and me figuring out the Jobo drums can easily hold temperture for the time needed.

1) Pre-wash with tempered water. Warms the drum and paper.

2) Dev

3) Stop

4) Blix

5) Wash.

The only temperture control I have is the picnic cooler. Inside sits the chemical bottles and a few bottles for intial wash water. I do a wash cycle in the drum then dump into a tray to tray wash.

I know some people like tray processing but I bet you'll waste enough chemicals to buy a few second hand drums.

For the negatives you can use most of the setup for film also. If you're doing 4x5 the Jobo 2551 tank and the 2509N reel will handle your film on the motorbase. If you're doing bigger film then the print drums will handle the negatives.

Keep an eye out for a Jobo colorstar 3000 or maybe the newer Colorline models. They will make life very easy.

Patrik Roseen
5-May-2006, 08:19
"Will I eventually be able to not scratch my LF negs? Or, do I just have to become a good retoucher?"

I have been very lucky so far to not scratch any of my negatives (and I started a year ago)...so this should be possible also for you. The question is 'why and where' your scratches occur?

One needs to be very careful in all steps from taking the negative out of the box, putting into the filmholder, taking it out of the holder, putting it into your 'development system', developing, rinsing and drying.

I always take the whole filmpack out of the 'bag inside the filmbox' and then pickup sheet by sheet while loading the filmholders...Otherwise there is a risk that the sheet gets scratched already before exposure.

Developing several sheets at the same time in a tray could also be risky. I develop in a combiplan-tank with a 6 sheet holder where the sheets can not touch each other nor the inside of the tank.

"...especially if you have a dichroic head (on your enlarger that is)."

Since it is possible to use a dichroic head for multigrade B&W paper (hmmm??) ...is it then possible to use Ilford multigrade filters for color prints (using a condenser enlarger head) ?

5-May-2006, 08:32
"is it then possible to use Ilford multigrade filters for color prints (using a condenser enlarger head)"

No but you can use colour printing filters. CP filters. OTOH with prices the way they are it's cheaper to buy a colour enlarger then a set of filters. Well almost.

Oren Grad
5-May-2006, 10:39
Can one successfully tray process color prints without absolute control of temperature?

You can get chemicals to process color prints in trays at room temperature, but it still helps a lot if your room temperature is stable. Controlling color balance is demanding under the best of circumstances, and it's even harder to do consistently if your temperature is drifting around. Whether that matters depends on how picky you are about a few cc of color difference between your test prints and your final prints or among your final prints. But if your inkjet color matching is driving you crazy, you may find a poorly-controlled wet process comparably bothersome.

Have you considered hiring an inkjet printing/color management expert as a consultant for a day to help you work the bugs out of your inkjet printing? In particular, that may help you to figure out whether there's some fixable problem in your profiling, or whether you've got that right and are just not comfortable making the leap between the way a monitor renders an image and the way it comes out on paper.

As far as processing color sheet film negatives, a Jobo is a terrific solution. I'd strongly recommend it.

Bruce Watson
5-May-2006, 10:44
I've done it - about 25 years ago. I had several problems. First was repeatability - I could only make one print at a time. If I made two prints back to back I still got a color shift between prints. The chemistry aged that fast. I would hope that this problem has been lessened in the intervening years.

Second, Cibachrome had interesting and I think severe reciprocity problems. That is, if you needed to dodge, that part went cyan. If you needed to burn, that part went yellow. Very touchy.

OTOH, I print digitally today, and get a good match between screen and print. It took some effort to get there however, as a controlled color workflow isn't obvious and setting one up isn't simple. What I'm saying is, if you try darkroom color printing and don't get the results you like, you can put more effort into digital and eventually get WYSIWYG. But you should use the method with which you are most comfortable.

Oren Grad
5-May-2006, 11:13
If I made two prints back to back I still got a color shift between prints. The chemistry aged that fast.

Good point - not only do you have to keep the temperature under control, you need to work out a well-controlled replenishment scheme, or your color balance will drift simply because of exhaustion and aging of the chemicals in the tray.

5-May-2006, 11:23
25 years ago was what process? Couldn't have been RA-4. Right?

I re-program my analyzer every so often. There is a relatively slight shift after about 15 8x10s. This using 250ml of developer. The shift isn't enough for the naked eye to notice. But the analyzers is accurate enough to notice it.

Al Seyle
5-May-2006, 12:22
Temperature control is essential for consistency, both of the light source (with a voltage stabilizer) and of chemistry. I would not recommend trays. A drum floating in a water bath is MUCH more consistent. Dump the developer into a cup and save half, then add fresh for the other half. Saves $$ and maintains consistency. You will need a way to keep the water temp even.

5-May-2006, 12:25

mr. quay,

you might look for a used roller transport paper processor. i'd warn against buying a hope machine. they're picky and have hundreds of clips and tensioners that never cease to shed and cause print jams.

any colex/colenta or kreonite promate tabletop would be a good choice (among others; ie; ilfolab, etc). reconditioned models can be very expensive so look for one gathering dust, possibly still wired for ep2 that you can convert to RA(not a difficult chore). i've seen some nice ones for the cost of a new jobo. i've heard of folks getting them for free if one doesn't mind picking it up. call around t'the local newspapers and labs.

and good luck,

tlt aka; darth kabibble

6-May-2006, 01:44
You will have good fun.
The jobo processors are very easy to use and colour printing (once you have the temperature under control) is maybe easier than BW.-
Let us know....

Gary L. Quay
6-May-2006, 08:06
Thank you.

Whenever I mentioned color development in my darkroom to the folks I bought my chemistry from, the answer I most often got was a variation of "It's too difficult to control" or "You don't want to do that." It's nice to hear people say otherwise.

I do keep my darkroom at 68 degrees for my B&W work, so the room-temp chemicals mentioned by a couple people may be a good idea.

I had thought of using a tank and an aquarium heater for temperature control, but I wasn't sure if the temperature drop while processing in the trays or on a motor base (someone gave me a Bessler Color roller and motor base) would be a problem, since the development would occur outsideof the temp-controlled water. This is why I like the idea of the Jobo, since the drum is in the water bath. Jobos are really expensive, though. Even on ebay. I'll have to save up for one.

I hadn't considered hiring a consultant for the inkjet color management issue. It hadn't occurred to me. For now, I would rather try the darkroom route. It appeals to me more than a computer does. I'm always championing the underdog.

I don't have color heads for my enlargers. I have a set of color correction filters made by Bessler. I never considered, until recently, that I'd be doing my own color work. But, my B&W work has improved so much since I'vebeen printing it, I thought that my color work would do likewise. We'll see.