View Full Version : Contact Printing Book and Paper?

Scott Squires
18-Oct-2007, 07:28
I am getting ready to start Contact Printing 8x10 and want to know if there is a book that is available that can get me through the process easier. I have never had a darkroom so I am as green as you can get. I just ordered a Contact print frame and if anyone has a good paper that they can recommend to start with that would be great. It looks like a fairly simple process and it is very exciting to start something new.



18-Oct-2007, 08:21
I doubt there is a whole book. Think of it being more a subset of enlargng. You don't need to focus the enlarger but otherwise it isn't so different.

Everything post exposure is obviously the same.

Brian Ellis
18-Oct-2007, 10:18
Contact printing is very easy. You already have the frame, the only other things you need are a light source and a timer. The light source can be any type of light, the only concerns are to place the light high enough above the frame that the printing paper is evenly lit but not so high that your exposure times become too long. I put a normal household bulb, I forget the wattage, in a flood lamp reflector from Home Depot (to help spread the light out evenly), put the reflector in a shelf clamp also from Home Depot, and attached the clamp to a shelf about 2-3 feet above the counter top. You'll just have to do some experimenting with one of the enlarging papers to find a height and a bulb wattage that works well for you with a normal negative. For a timer you can use a digital metronome purchased for about $15 at any musical instrument store. Just make sure it will beep in seconds, then count the seconds off mentally as you're making the exposure.

That's about all there is to it. After the paper and negative are sandwiched together (emulsion to emulsion, in the dark of course) place a piece of heavy mat board over the contract printing frame and turn on the light source. When you're ready to make the exposure simultaneously pull the mat off the frame and start the timer. That will give very accurate and consistent times.

You might consider buying an inexpensive used enlarger to use as a light source rather than a household bulb. That would allow you to use variable contrast papers with VC filters to adjust the contrast of your prints. You can adjust the contrast to a limited extent by using graded papers in different grades with a household bulb and/or by adding a water bath in between your developer and stop. But VC paper is more convenient, more readily available in different forms than graded paper, and allows for finer adjustments.

I don't know that there's any paper made specifically for contact printing since Kodak discontinued Azo. Michael Smith is supposed to be working on one I think but I don't believe it's hit the market yet. I also don't know of a book devoted solely to contact printing. However, if you go to Michael's web site www.michaelandpaula.com I believe, there's information there. Also, most of the information in any basic darkroom book will be relevant to contact printing, you just won't have to worry about things peculiar to enlarging such as focusing.

18-Oct-2007, 13:46
Hi Scott,

If you intent is to do contact printing on VC paper such as Ilford, make sure you have some slot for contrast filters. I did some contact printing on VC. From my experience, I would recommend put your light source af far as you can (I used almost 7 ft, bulb was in the sealing and frame was on the ground), because you want to strike frame with the lowest angle spread of the light beam. One of my colleagues told me that if source of light is too close, it would produce soft edges, which ends up as softer picture. Another plus is that it allows you to use higher wattage bulb which has higher temperature. Using ND filters is neccessary to get your times sufficient to dodge or burn. Also, you must consider what type of light you would use.

I tried first with 7.5W or 15W Incandescent light without filter and I ended up doing 2-5 sec exposures. But the color temperature was a huge factor. My prints were so muddy. Now I use 15W fluorescent bulb with ND filters (you can substitute ND filters with exposed film, I did that) and I'm getting 30-40 seconds exposure time, enough to do some dodging or burning. Filter can be close to light source which in case of 60W incandescent light, heat was a huge factor, so my ND film buckled in after 5 seconds.

On the other side, the problem with Fluorescent bulb is the inconsistency with luminance output within first minute or two. It's a drawback but at least color temperature is same during entire exposure. So, if you print just one print, you can probably accept it.

With enlarger, you don't deal with those issues. 35mm enlarger you can probably pick on Craigslist for few buks will save you all those problems.

Good luck.

Scott Squires
19-Oct-2007, 07:07
Thanks guys for the comments. I dug out my Ansel Adams "Print" book and it covers a great deal.



John Kasaian
20-Oct-2007, 20:13
My contact printing set up is very basic---a heavy piece of glass table top I got from an import shop, a piece of dense rubber mat, a cheapie darkroom timer(Kalt?) A kodak exposure transparency (sort of like a step tablet--I think Delta makes them now) a painter's lamp, some trays, a blotter book, an oc safe light (I'm still using GE Guide Lamps that are no longer available :( )---thats about it.

Don Wallace
25-Oct-2007, 08:47
Here are a couple of related questions.

1) how thick can the glass be before it is a problem? Do you use ordinary window glass or something more exotic?

2) any tips for dodging and burning? With a projected image, you can see the area you are working on. With contact printing, I find it a lot harder to figure it out in the dark!

3) does it matter how low the enlarger head is?