View Full Version : Best paper for a cold light graflarger?

Tim Meisburger
17-Feb-2009, 07:43
I recently ordered a graflarger from a camera shop in the states and expect it to arrive any day. I'm wondering what would be an appropriate paper. I assume the most appropriate would be graded paper?

I have some Ilford Multigrade IV RC delux that I bought because a shop had it. I have used that for contact prints, but it seems super fast.

At Freestyle, they have a variety of papers that look like they might be appropriate and inexpensive. Using a screen of 8x10, glossy and fibre , I come up with Slavich Bromportrait 80, Slavich Unibrom 160 FB , and Fotokemika Emaks. For resin coated paper I get Arista EDU Ultra RC, and Arista II RC, as the less expensive papers.

Apparently, fiber is better if you want to do toning, but I don't really know anything about toning, except it can create a sepia print, and make a print last longer. Fiber is also slower to dry. RC is faster to dry, and better for contact prints (?).

That's more or less the sum total of my knowledge, but I would like to learn more and plan to make a big paper order, so any advice on paper selection would be much appreciated.


17-Feb-2009, 09:00
There are lots of selection criteria for enlarging paper, the type of enlarger you have is not one of them. I suggest you use this hierarchy of choices for your selection:

1) Choose between RC and Fiber paper: RC is resin coated and is easier to process and wash and dries flat without assistance. If you are just starting to print use rc paper.

2) Choose between graded and multi-grade/VC paper: With VC/MG paper you can vary the contrast from soft to hard by using filters. You can purchase a filter set from Ilford, usually in a package deal with 25 sheets of MG paper. Graded paper requires that you buy a different box of paper for each contrast gradation. Many workers never use anything but multigrade paper. Others believe that graded paper offers a subtle qualitative differences from MG/VC paper.

3) Choose the texture of the paper: The default paper texture is glossy. There are many other textures available - mostly designed for portrait work. Keep in mind that contrast is lower with textured paper due to the reflectance pattern.

Note that there are other differences in paper, but they are not very important until you get further along in printing. Among these are papers' coldness (blue-black) vs warmness of the paper (brown-black), the internal contrast characteristics of the paper (old-school emulsions vs more contrasty modern ones) and speed (some papers develop twice as fast as others) and toning characteristics.

Other critical features in printing are assuring that you have a sharp, contrasty enlarging lens that is free of internal haze. You can check the latter by shining a penlight through the lens. Be sure you have good safelights, and fresh chemicals.

RC papers can be toned just like fiber papers. You may want to experiment with a selenium toner, and with an odorless sepia toner (sulfide sepia toner requires very strong ventilation or that it be done outside).

I suggest you start with the following:

A good multigrade RC glossy paper and a small amount of mG/vc glossy fiber paper(start with a Freestyle Arista or Ilford product)
A fresh set of contrast filters (Ilford)
A fresh set of chemicals:
Kodak Dektol/Arista Developer/Sprint Developer
Arista Odorless Stop Bath
Arista Odorless Fixer or Sprint Speed Fixer

Make sure your darkroom has decent ventilation (fan-driven), is relatively cool, and has access to reasonably cool water for developing.

David A. Goldfarb
17-Feb-2009, 09:08
The Graflarger's old tube is more favorable to graded papers, but you can add about 40CC Y to the light for better results with VC papers. Aristo will still upgrade a Graflarger to a modern V54 tube for better results with VC papers.

You'll find that there is some ramp time with the Graflarger tube, because it doesn't have a heater circuit like some more modern cold light heads. Unless you have a compensating timer with a probe, you'll get the most consistent results by letting the bulb warm up for about 15 minutes before printing, leaving it on, and then controlling exposure either buy using a shutter on the enlarging lens or using a black card under the lens to start and stop exposure, and then keep a lens cap over the lens while developing. Some enlarging lenses are a direct fit in a Copal 1 shutter. You may also find you need to put some extra baffling around the slot where you insert the negative carrier to reduce light leakage in the darkroom.

Tim Meisburger
17-Feb-2009, 17:44
Thanks Toyon and David for your thoughtful replies. From these I have gathered that at this stage of my photographic development (:rolleyes:), fiber paper has no particular advantage, and has the significant disadvantage of taking longer to dry and being less flat.

A graflarger works better with graded papers (I read somewhere that cold light is more blue or green and for that reason graded paper is better).

I can use VC paper if I add 40cc Y (David, what is 40cc Y?). I assume I just rig something up to hold a filter below the lens of the graflarger? I guess it would be pretty easy to make a wire frame to hold the filters. Should they be as close to the lens as possible?

I don't think I would bother upgrading the light in the Graflarger. I bought it because it was relatively cheap to ship from the US to Bangkok, but expect that if I upgrade, if I fall in love with printmaking as I have large format photography, then I will just get a regular enlarger.

I think I want glossy paper, and perhaps I would want a cooler tone, as I would like to try to duplicate some of the deep blacks I see in old Hollywood portraits.

So, either a set of RC graded papers (Arista II or Arista EDU); or a VC paper (Fotokemika Varycon, Adox, Kentmere, Arista EDU or Arista II) plus a set of Ilford 3x3 filters.

Does all that make sense? Any suggestions among the papers listed above? The EDU is by far the cheapest, but I can afford any of these.

Best, Tim

17-Feb-2009, 17:55
You've got it. The only thing is that RC (resin coated) can be VC (variable contrast) paper. VC is a proprietary name, so some companies call it MG (Multigrade) or other similar terms like Varycon. For RC VC paper, you could use any of the major brands. I think only Ilford makes a dedicated Coldtone rc paper however, the rest make neutral and warmtone variants. Toning rc paper in selenium toner 1:20 for a few minutes will make some papers colder in tone (Ilford as I remember) and others slightly warmish tone. It is a nice toner to experiment with. I believe the 40cc Y is a replacement lamp for the Graflarger made by the Aristogrid company. You could double check this on the web. Get a good book on printing to help you learn from (inevitable) mistakes. Darkroom printing is easy to learn, but with many nuances and variations that you can experiment with for years. In particular, you will learn how to develop your negatives to get the results you want in the darkroom.

David A. Goldfarb
17-Feb-2009, 18:16
40CC Y is a 40 unit yellow color compensating filter. You can get a gel or polyester filter or even a lighting gel in this strength and put it between the bulb and the diffuser in the Graflarger head, or you could put it under the lens for use with VC papers.

CC filters are designed to go below the lens in the image path. CP (color printing) filters are designed to go below the bulb in a condenser enlarger generally, outside the image path. You can buy multigrade filters that mount below the lens.

In practice there seems to be no harm in using filters designed to go in a filter drawer below the lens. Ctein tested this at some point and could find no optical effect from putting a CP filter under the lens.

Tim Meisburger
17-Feb-2009, 19:15
Thanks Toyon for the encouragement. I will pick up a copy of Ansel Adams book, the print, as it seems to be available at the English bookstore downtown.

Regarding paper choice, I found 3x3 and 4x4 cc40 yellow filters on the web, but I assume for the graflarger I would need 4x5? Anyway, to use filters I would have to put one under the light source, then another below the lens, which would reduce light intensity.

Perhaps it is easier just to go with graded paper. What I am looking at now is Arista II glossy, neutral to cold tone, in grades 2,3, and 4. Does that sound reasonable?


17-Feb-2009, 19:56
I'll admit that its the first time I've heard of a problem with older cold light bulbs and vc papers. However, it looks like it won't be a problem getting graded RC paper. There will be less of a contrast range available with graded than with vc papers, but there will be few times you'll want to change the contrast that much anyway.

18-Feb-2009, 09:03
If you can't find a 40ccY , you can try a #4530 Rosco 30cc lighting gel. This would be for above the negative, not below.

Tim Meisburger
18-Feb-2009, 17:42
Thanks IC. I have sent an inquiry to a place in Florida I found on Ebay to see what it would cost to mail one here. If I can get that, I can perhaps put it between the light and the diffuser and get color correction that would allow me to use filters and VC paper, which is all that is available in Thailand. Then I would just need a set of filters.

Tim Meisburger
18-Feb-2009, 18:15
Okay, I bought one. Now I have more options. The graded paper from Freestyle is relatively cheap, but the shipping to Thailand is exorbitant, so I may have to wait to buy that until my next trip to the US, this summer. Next, contrast filters...

Kevin Crisp
18-Feb-2009, 18:19
I tried long and hard to filter an old Aristo tube to work with modern VC papers and never got it to work properly. I relamped with the V54 tube and it worked great. The replacement tubes are not terribly expensive ($128 for the tube in a Beseler 23c I just relamped) and you can put them in yourself very, very carefully because they are fragile.

18-Feb-2009, 19:02
It might be cheaper to buy from here: http://www.japanexposures.com/shop/.

Tim Meisburger
18-Feb-2009, 19:45
Thanks Kevin. I already ordered the filter, so I will give it a try. I do not want to re-lamp, as I figure if I upgrade, I should just buy a more modern enlarger. The Graflarger arrived this morning, so I am anxious to give it a try. Unfortunately, I have to go out of town this weekend, so it may be a while till I get a chance.

Thanks Toyon. For some reason, stuff out of Japan is typically more expensive than buying from the US. I think it has to do with taxes. In Asia, cheapest is to buy from Taiwan or China, but I was not able to find anyone from there selling paper on the web, except wholesale. Probably because I cannot read Chinese!

18-Feb-2009, 20:37
My first year in LF I used a Graflareger on a Graphic View II. It is a clumsy arrangement, but it will allow you to get started.
I'd recommend that you forget about the filters and VC paper -- you can get bogged down in trying to get the equipment working, when you should be concentrating on making prints. Just get some graded paper and learn.

Tim Meisburger
18-Feb-2009, 22:59
Thanks Bill. Sounds like good advice, but not sure I can find any graded paper in Thailand. I'm off to Malaysia (Penang) on a quick trip tomorrow, and will look around there. Otherwise, I'll be in the US in June, and will get a big stock then.

Cheers, Tim

19-Feb-2009, 10:02
Don't forget that VC paper, used without filters, prints as a plain #2 graded paper. And you can vary the contrast by nearly a full grade by exposure/development time and developer concentration.