View Full Version : Dodge and Burn Masks

Mark Whiting
3-Mar-2007, 18:19
I have been experimenting with making masks to help print some difficult negatives. I took a picture of a scene with a bright sky and a complex skyline. I scanned the negative and created a mask with my printer. I tried several different densities before I got it right. The mask made getting a good print from this negative much easier.

But, when I look closely at the masked area, it looks like it has a texture. I think I can see the inkjet pattern from the mask. I used an old HP Deskjet 940C printer. Does anybody have any practical experience using this technique? What type of film do you make the mask on? Do you put a diffusion screen between the mask and the negative? If so, what do you use for the screen? Do I have to buy a better printer?

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.


Eric Biggerstaff
3-Mar-2007, 19:48
I used D/B masking for almost every print I make anymore as I print small and it really helps me be consistent with my dodges and burns.

I am guessing you are printing in a wet darkroom with an enlarger - correct?

If so you do not want the mask and the negative to touch, if they do then you will print the mask as well as the negative. You should make a nagative carrier that has a top made from diffuse white plexiglass. Mine is made for a Saunders LPL and is very simply a piece of glass on the bottom with the diffuse plexi on top. These are hinged together with black gaffers tape. The negative is sandwiched between these and then the mask is taped to the top of the plexi, it does not have to be in perfect register to work. This would then be placed in the enlarger for printing.

There is not enough space to give you full details but I would suggest contacting Alan Ross to purchase copies of the articles he wrote for View Camera that details both the traditional and digital masking techniques. I think he sells them on a CD for $10.00 or so. You could also, I think, purchase these from View Camera magazine.

These writings will give you full details on how to do this.

Robert A. Zeichner
4-Mar-2007, 05:06
it does not have to be in perfect register to work.

I'm not sure I would agree with that. I've done a great deal of DB masking and while registration is not as critical as it would be with unsharp masking, it is somewhat critical in that many of the details you might want to alter could be rather small. As an example, one of things I like to do from time to time is brighten up small, distant tree trunks. A few well placed pencil lines on a drafting film mask will accomplish this very easily. Any mis-registration of this is obvious in the print. Same for hard edge skylines.

I designed and built a masking frame for my Beseler 45 MXII out of a thin piece of white plexi, some chip board and a few other items available at the art supply shop. I then cut masking blanks out of frosted drafting film that are the same size as the negatives. I tape a piece of masking film to the negative on a light table and do my penciling as needed (some marks stay, others indicate where to cut holes). I then separate the pieces and place the masking film on a white, self-healing cutting surface that, in turn, sits on a light table. I make my cuts and I'm done. The negative goes on one side of the masking frame and the mask on the other and they are in relatively perfect register.

I have to believe that masks made digitally and printed out would be precise enough to warrant even tighter registration than hand drawn ones. The trick would be to get white plexi thin enough to retain some of the fine details. I'm currently using material that is about 3/32" thick.

I hope this gives you some ideas.

Alan Rabe
4-Mar-2007, 10:21
For skylines or horizons I use a contour gauge from the hardware store. There are plastic ones about 15" long that work very well. They have sliding vanes that can be adjusted to handle any skyline. I usually attach a piece of mounting board to the bottom to cover the rest of the print. I would look online at places like Woodworker.com or maybe rockler.com.

Mark Whiting
4-Mar-2007, 10:23
Eric & Robert:

Thaks for the tips. Looks like I was printing the mask. I will get some white plexi and experiment. Robert, you are using 3/32" thick plexi. Eric: How thick is your plexi?

Seems like I could buy a second negative carrier and replace the top piece with a piece of plexi - less the hole for the negative of course.

Eric Biggerstaff
4-Mar-2007, 10:40
Mine is also 3/32.

It is easy to find at a local glass shop and they will cut it to the size you need. You could buy a second carrier but the other methods described will probably be less expensive. If you go the second carrier route, look for a glass carrier and then replace the glass with plexi.