View Full Version : applying wax to prints?

chris jordan
11-Apr-2004, 12:38
Hey guys. I've been wondering how to better protect the surface of my LF ultrachrome prints so I can display them without glass. The problem with ultrachromes is that while the inks are pigmented and last along time behind glass, the paper absorbs atmospheric pollutants at an incredible rate if it is exposed to the air. After only a couple of weeks on the wall of a bar (as a test), the paper changes from white to a terrible dark yellow. The resin surface of the paper picks up and holds smoke like glue.

So I had the idea of coating the prints with rennaisance wax; apparently this is sometimes done with B&W prints. Does anyone have any experience with this stuff? I'd love some tips on how to apply it, whether it is more difficult with large prints (40x50"), how to prevent visible whorls in the wax from where it was rubbed, how it looks when it's done (i.e., shiny or matte or whatever) and any other issues.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you can offer.



tim atherton
11-Apr-2004, 13:54
Chris - a couple of post from another list:

"Recently I visited a photographer who is quite successful selling very large LightJet prints of his work. He frames them without glass and protects their surfaces by rubbing on a layer of Renaissance Wax with a cloth. The wax appeared to me to be invisible once rubbed on. I am exploring options for glassless framing and find this one potentially very interesting. Has anyone else used this product, especially with other papers such as Epson Premium Luster? I would guess that this wax wouldn't work with cotton fine art papers, but how about canvas?

Renaissance Wax is available from Light Impressions. They say the following about it: "... it also works great for black and white photo prints on fiber-based photographic paper. It's acid-free, does not discolor material, and leaves a lustrous, moisture-proof finish...""

I couldn't find the follow up - but a few people had tried it on Epson Lustre etc and seemd to find it okay.

But this seemed more promising from the UK:

"I recently tried a test sample of Giclee Varnish that i got from a company called Breathing Color. its a water based coating that is odorless, and drys very fast (5 minutes or so). when it drys it looks like glass. sounds like it might solve your problem.

Put it on with a paint brush...

go to www.breathingcolor.com you can read about it."




PS - they can still smoke in bars down there...? :-)

Ralph Barker
11-Apr-2004, 14:33
While the wax may protect the print from absorption of moisture and chemicals, I'm not sure that it would accomplish the desired goal within an environment like a bar. To my way of thinking, smoke and nicotine are surface-attachment issues, not absorption problems. As such, the wax may simply become similarly discolored by the surface attachment, but almost impossible to clean. For that sort of environment, glass or UV plastic would provide a better protective barrier that could be easily cleaned from time to time.

Michael E. Gordon
11-Apr-2004, 23:37
Chris: you might check out the work of and inquire with Robert Parke-Harrison (http://www.parkeharrison.com/main.html). Very fascinating work, and well/uniquely presented. Recently saw an exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts. The majority of his prints are finished in wax and displayed open-air. I know some of the prints are silver gelatin. I don't know if he prints digitally.

Gary J. McCutcheon
12-Apr-2004, 01:58
I've used Rennaissance wax for several years, but only on fiber based F surface prints. It requires a great deal of careful rubbing out to almost eliminate the swirl marks. What I found it great for was waxing the rails on my wooden view cameras. On large prints it would require a bit of time. Glass is the best solution in the environment you mention. There is alway the alternative of spraying the prints with a laquer spray such as McDonalds or Sureguard. Once done you will probably have to run an active experiment in the bar. Hang a test print and see what happens. Photo on!

Joe Lipka
12-Apr-2004, 05:43
About ten years ago I used the Rennaisance Wax on my platinum/palladium prints. Applied with a cotton ball. Didn't seem to see much difference between waxed and unwaxed prints.

Carl Schofield
12-Apr-2004, 14:13
I'm using Renaissance wax on Ilford Smooth Pearl B&W prints made on an Epson 2200 with MIS UT inks. The wax creates a smooth, beautiful finish and most importantly eliminates bronzing. Here is a thread form the digitalBWprint forum: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DigitalBlackandWhiteThePrint/message/40459

chris jordan
12-Apr-2004, 23:17
Hey guys, thanks a ton-- I'm going to try some experimenting with this stuff. When I get a result (either way) I'll report back.


neil poulsen
13-Apr-2004, 01:32
I've also found that the surface of ultrachrome prints can be quite vulnerable to scratches. To protect surfaces, I purchased Lumijet ImageShield at our local pro photo store. It's intended for inkjet, art, and photo surfaces and provides scratch and UV protection.

It appears to work quite well. I know that the prints are much more resistant to scratches. Me and another person drug our thumb across a printe coated with it, and the print didn't suffer.

Contrary to what the can states, I've found that ImageShield slightly affects print appearance. It deepens the colors a bit on Ilford Smooth Gloss when printed with ultrachrome inks. I tried it on a matt two-sided surface, and the print tended to appear just slightly less deep in color.

16-Apr-2004, 01:23
Tim, I've tried that stuff but leaving brush strokes is a problem. the best way I found is to use a wire-wound rod to get a smooth print. For some larger prints I borrowed the use of a device from an artist friend. Basically you attach the wire rod in place of rollers to a print puller, attach the print to a flat surface, pool the liquid at the top and then pull the print through the rollers. Easier than trying to apply by brush or wiggle a rod around a large print