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Thread: What developer produces the deepest blacks on fiber-based paper

  1. #1
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Question What developer produces the deepest blacks on fiber-based paper

    I'm looking for a developer that will produce rich deep blacks on good fiber-base paper like Ilford Galerie.
    I don't use warm-tone papers, nor developers that might tend to that bias.

    I very much prefer liquids to powder, since I can mix only as much as I need for one printing session.

    B&H lists 39 different ones.
    I'm not about to spend time and $ testing them all, so suggestions would be appreciated.

    Also open to suggestions regarding paper (double-weight fiber).

    - Leigh
    If you believe you can, or you believe you can't... you're right.

  2. #2

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    Re: What developer produces the deepest blacks on fiber-based paper

    Amidol has a good reputation for this. Works very well with Contact Printing papers like Azo and Lodima and still very good with enlarging papers.

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    Re: What developer produces the deepest blacks on fiber-based paper

    Edwal "G". Nice thing about it, you can pour it right back into the bottle when you're through with your printing session if you want.

  4. #4

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    Re: What developer produces the deepest blacks on fiber-based paper

    Fine Art VersaPrint, available from the Formulary. An incredible developer.
    Bruce Barlow
    author of "Finely Focused" and "Exercises in Photographic Composition"
    www.brucewbarlow.com

  5. #5

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    Re: What developer produces the deepest blacks on fiber-based paper

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    I'm looking for a developer that will produce rich deep blacks on good fiber-base paper like Ilford Galerie.
    I don't use warm-tone papers, nor developers that might tend to that bias.

    I very much prefer liquids to powder, since I can mix only as much as I need for one printing session.

    B&H lists 39 different ones.
    I'm not about to spend time and $ testing them all, so suggestions would be appreciated.

    Also open to suggestions regarding paper (double-weight fiber).

    - Leigh
    Pretty much all of them. With current papers, blacks (and other properties such as contrast) are primarily characteristics of the paper, not developers. There are a lot of long outdated myths around. Dektol, Ilford Multigrade, amidol formulas, LPD etc. will get the same depth of black on Ilford Galerie.

    If you like neutral tones, long life/high capacity and liquid convenience, LPD is a popular choice. Formulary Liquidol (also sold at B&H) would be an excellent choice as well.

  6. #6
    Eric Biggerstaff
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    Re: What developer produces the deepest blacks on fiber-based paper

    Clayton P-20 is a great liquid developer.
    Eric Biggerstaff

    www.ericbiggerstaff.com

  7. #7

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    Re: What developer produces the deepest blacks on fiber-based paper

    In the late 1990s I tried a number of different developers on some (then) common papers; Kodak Elite, Polymax FineArt, and Agfa MCC. Probably a few others, too. I didn't measure dMax, but the surprising thing was how similar they were. Ansco 130 provided the most subtle tones, but not enough to matter; the cost, 3-min. developing time, and need for warmer temps (in my basement darkroom) outweighed the small difference in image quality. Formulary Amidol, same way. When I set up my darkroom again this winter, I will try again, with current papers. But I don't expect the results to change much...modern cold-tone papers just don't seem to respond to developer changes. Certainly the standard practice of toning in dilute selenium toner gives a deeper black.
    Last edited by Mark Sampson; 27-Sep-2016 at 08:18. Reason: finished thought

  8. #8
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: What developer produces the deepest blacks on fiber-based paper

    Depends on the specific paper, concentration, dev time & temp, and toning regimen afterwards. None of these papers reach real DMax without selenium or gold
    toning afterwards. It all also depends on the specific image color you want, esp if you're nitpicky about that like I am. How black "black" looks is also dependent
    upon the relation to the highlights. If you go glycin development, like Ansco 130, a slightly oxidized glycin will render a bit of warmth to the highlights which actually fools the eye into thinking the highlights are brighter than if they were more neutral white like totally fresh glycin renders. The kind of restrainer you use also has a related effect (KBr vs benzotriozole). So besides 130, I do have a favorite personal amidol tweak for Ilfobrom Galerie. You need good amidol, like from Artcraft, and not the Chinese stuff. My formula is acidic and economical, so requires a water-only stop bath, and is comprised merely of amidol, sodium sulfite, a pinch of benzotriozole, and a little citric acid to keep it from prematurely oxidizing. You can experiment with gold as well as selenium toning, or employ both. It's counterintuitive with gold, because a slightly warm developer like 130 delivers finer silver grain and actually yields the coldest images with gold toners like GP-1. Still I trend more to amidol with this particular paper cause I too want a classic neutral-cool black on it. But what I find personally disappointing with Galerie are conventional cold MQ formulas because they trend to that greenish black Dektolish color, kinda like AA's abundant Galerie prints. You'll get the D Max of course, but with something special missing, in my opinion. PQ formulas are more difficult in terms of sheer depth of black, but somebody might know of a good one.

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