View Full Version : Newbie question: Big prints at home? Color prints?

26-Apr-2009, 05:10
Hello everyone. I'm new to the forum. I'm a 35 mm film user who has long been interested in LF. I hope to purchase some equipment this year.

My questions refer to home darkrooms/printing:

1. Is anyone tray developing prints as large as 20 x 24, 30 x 40? I did a forums search and saw some people "roll" larger prints, but I didn't really understand that technique.

2. If you tray develop, how do you transfer the prints from tray to tray? Do you slide them over the edge? Two people?

3. Where/how do you dry prints that big?

4. Do people send out their color negatives to be printed or is it possible to do this at home? Sorry for my ignorance, my experience is really only with B&W and some lith printing.

Thanks in advance for any responses. I'm so glad I found this website; such a wealth of information and encouragement.


Gem Singer
26-Apr-2009, 05:48
Hi David,

Most do color work digitally, nowadays. The film is developed by a commercial lab, scanned, edited in Photoshop, and printed on an inkjet printer.

If you want to do very large B&W prints in your darkroom, there are helpful hints and pictures of Ansel Adams' technique for developing large murals by rolling the exposed paper in troughs, in his book, "The Print".

26-Apr-2009, 06:00
Don Kirby in Sante Fe is printing B&W prints up to 40x60 I believe in trays of his own making.

For color work at home most people use a JOBO or other processor since RA4 generally requires very short (45 sec per bath) times for developer and bleach/fix and 95 degree temps. Lower temp RA4 processes do exist that use longer times but I haven't used them since I got my CP51. I can do up to 20x30 color in my CP51 at home. Larger goes out for digital printing on a Lightjet.

Richard Littlewood
26-Apr-2009, 09:23
David. I often do 40x30 b+w prints. It's not too difficult once you establish what to do. I use 1 tray for the whole process, tipping chemicals in and out of 3 plastic buckets (pails!). I process test strips in the buckets. Printing this big, this way is pretty physical - tipping out 4L of fluid from a big tray into a bucket uses muscles that dont get much use otherwise. I put the paper in dry, then pour over it with dev - I've found thats the easiest way to flood the surface of a large sheet from a roll, that is still wanting to curl up. Once it is wetted it stays flat, and 'stuck' to the bottom of a flat tray, so agitation is easy, and the whole tray can be steeply tilted to pour out. Once the stop is poured in the panic is over. I wash the prints in a deep sink with flowing water, turning them often, and lay them out on multiple sheets of blotters to dry after a squegee on a large sheet of glass.
The tricky bits (for me) in printing this big are cutting the paper, handling it, and placing it into the (homemade) easel. You need a big, flat bench top to unroll the paper to cut it squarely - I use a 40" metal straight edge and a Stanley knife, and I always use cotton gloves - the matt paper is especially prone to surface marking from bare hands.
Initially making big prints can be a bit off-putting - the whole process is scaled up, and prone to expensive mistakes - and spotting out is a nightmare! I think if you are serious about making 40x30's you need to make sure the enlarger used is up to it, an easel of sorts really helps although weights would do, and I dont know where you are, but Silverprint in London is where I got my trays from, and rolls of paper are not difficult to buy. Also I think all things considered the single tray is the easiest way to process a large sheet without machinery, I can do it all by myself, without help, and it's also a good way to tone a print - even a 2 part bleach and redevelop type.
I wish you all the best! (you might need it)

Gene McCluney
26-Apr-2009, 14:00
Ron Mowrey (retired Kodak engineer) does RA-4 color prints at room temperature in trays all the time. He uses Kodak RA Developer replenisher without starter and says it works just fine.

The only problem with doing extra-large color prints in trays is the need for darkness, no safelight. Yes I know there "IS" a safelight filter given for color paper, but it is so dim that it is really about the same as "no" safelight.

But, the good news is that room temperature processing is much slower than the elevated temperature used for the 45 second process, so you do have time to agitate and get uniformity.

Drew Wiley
26-Apr-2009, 14:19
Be aware of the health implications of a large open tray of color chemistry. Even if
you're not bothered at first it's still possible to get sensitized. Quite a few people get
allergic to RA4 (I'm one of them). Ilfochrome is another option (printed from chromes rather than negs) but even more hazardous in trays. A good ventilation
system is a must. But for three grand or so you might find a reconditioned RA-4
automated roller-transport processor. I personally prefer a drum processor - that way I can expose the print in the darkroom, load it in the light-tight drum, then take
it outdoors to process. So much safer! But a 30x40 drum outfit is downright rare at
this point in history; 20x24 outfits are common. In addition you need relatively precise temperature control - either a good tempering box or thermoregulator (unless you have a processor with this built-in). Tolerances are more critical than
for black-and-white development.

26-Apr-2009, 16:22
When i have to do large prints, i usually rent a darkroom in the city. They have a paper processor that can handle anything up to 50".
You may want to look into local rental darkroom spaces if they are available in your area.
They usually rent for somewhere between $8-15 per hour. Some also charge per print processed.
I choose this option not only for the convenience and economy but the chemistry fumes from the open trays really bothered me.

Another option that may or may not work is to ask a local lab that has a paper processor.
They might be willing to let you either rent a darkroom or just the processor time. In this economy, you never know!

Gene McCluney
26-Apr-2009, 16:32
When i have to do large prints, i usually rent a darkroom in the city. They have a paper processor that can handle anything up to 50".
You may want to look into local rental darkroom spaces if they are available in your area.
They usually rent for somewhere between $8-15 per hour. Some also charge per print processed.

You are so lucky to live near one of the big metroplex areas of the country. So many of us live practically in the wilderness. Fortunately, as a commercial photographer I have kept my own darkroom for all the processes, however if I were to want to find a rental darkroom the NEAREST possible location would be between 700 to 1000 miles away.

That is just not an option for many people.

As far as finding a used roller-transport processor, it is quite possible to find one that will do 20" wide paper for very little money these days. There were plenty of manufacturers and vendors for these.

Also, as far as RA-4 "fumes", if you do tray processing at room temperature, you don't get the level of fumes you get at the elevated 45 second process.

26-Apr-2009, 17:10
Your right Gene. It is a luxury to have them in the city but i also understand not being close to one.
I dont live in the city so i plan for 4-6 hours once a quarter and head in on the train for the rental.

I really wish that more rental and labs where still open and closer to everyone.
I do know a few guys who have bought processors and started rental darkrooms in the suburbs or the country.
I am so thankful that they have taken it upon themselves to help out the rest of the community.

I wish i had the space and volume to justify a small 20" processor. I do see them often on craigs list and ebay cheap!

Nathan Potter
26-Apr-2009, 20:02
I still do occasional Ilfochromes at 20 X 24 size using an original Ciba drum partly submerged in a tempered bath. I would not advise doing Ilfochrome in trays at your size unless you had a really high velocity exhaust system. I find the chemistry quite noxious. Possibly a scheme of covering the trays would help with the fume problem.

BTW the Ilfochrome chemistry and sheet of paper now will run about $50 per print per 20 X 24. I go through, on average, 3 trys for each print. But that's what you have when you are firmly planted in the dark ages! ;) ;)

Nate Potter, Austin TX.