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Thread: B/W printing paper surface different

  1. #1

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    B/W printing paper surface different

    Does anyone else notice that paper surfaces seem to be different in the way they absorb (or fail to absorb) retouching dyes. Dyes carefully mixed and matched to a paper used to be absorbed into the emulsion and would have the same surface quality (sheen) as the rest of the print. Now the dyes seem to just sit on top of the print surface and have a very noticeable matte surface and even a subtle but annoying discoloration. I've used Spottone and the Marshall spotting fluids. These products used to work perfectly for me for many many years on many paper emulsions. These days there are so few papers available I use Ilflord Multigrade almost exclusively and I cannot spot them to perfection as I used to. I suspect, with no reliable evidence, that the problem is some kind of surface treatment on papers. Why did Spottone used to absorb into Multigrade surfaces but does not any longer?

  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: B/W printing paper surface different

    There have always been variations in that respect - due to not only the specific brand and texture of a paper, but its age, storage conditions, humidity at the time, concentration of the dye, etc etc. It has nothing to do with "these days" per se. I seldom have an issue with any FB paper unless it's old print and the gelatin has significantly hardened. Sometimes a tiny tiny amount of wetting agent like Photoflo or Ilfosol in the working Spot Tone (now Marshall's) dye can help.

    What one does need to be especially careful about is the final sheen of MG Cooltone and MG Classic after it's dried down after spotting, You don't want water spread over an area bigger than the spotted portion itself, especially if it represents an open sky when that kind of thing is especially evident. MGWT is more forgiving. It you screw it up, simply submerge and rewash the whole print briefly to remove all the dye, squeegee and try it as normal, and start over with the spotting.

  3. #3

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    Re: B/W printing paper surface different

    I would agree with Drew that a little wetting agent can make a difference. I'll presume you use distilled water. I have a little round tray with about six semi-spherical wells in it. Several have my spotting dye mixtures, several are blank. I fill a blank one or two with water, dip my 0 spotting brush in PhotoFlo and then into a water well -- it's just enough to break the surface tension.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
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  4. #4
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: B/W printing paper surface different

    Yeah, I use those little dimpled trays too for mixing the dyes; but an ordinary toss-out clear plastic dozen egg container would work just as well

  5. #5

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    Re: B/W printing paper surface different

    Today, manufacturers apparently produce for people who are attracted to shiny objects. Other than Bergger's semi-glossy product, which is warm in both image and base (therefore not very appealing to me), the top coats on air dried fiber-base darkroom papers are all much shinier than those of their predecessors. Whereas spotting dyes might have blended in before, they can't help but stand out on current papers.

    I suppose if one only permits viewing prints made today under the extremely controlled lighting conditions necessary to avoid veiling glare from ambient illumination, spotted areas might be less noticeable.

  6. #6
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: B/W printing paper surface different

    The hardest paper for me to spot was Kodak Elite. It had an especially thick glossy overcoat for that era, and was also batch to batch inconsistent. Right now I have a small stack of old 16X20 prints set aside to spot before drymounting. If it become too much a hassle, I simply dig up the original negative and reprint it.

  7. #7

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    Re: B/W printing paper surface different

    Yes, indeed, the surfaces are shinier, at least Ilford's. I'm not a big fan of the look, but fashion of any kind is always fickle. Paul Strand often complained of manufacturers changing or discontinuing papers just when he had gotten to understand one and needed more, and that was long ago. rmckinne, if a glossy surface if your preference, you may have to live with the trend until a different surface is made.

    This may not be your interest at all, but I generally print on a semi-matte surface and then use a "varnish" Strand used. It restores the tonal range by adding just enough semi-gloss to do so It works well for my taste on Ilford. Foma has semi-gloss surface it calls matte (don't ask me), but I don't know if they have it on a paper you might use. It's available on their warm-tone paper.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  8. #8
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: B/W printing paper surface different

    One thing I always noted when approaching spotting, we never flatten or hot press the image before the spotting, only after spotting will we do this. I always thought of one is baking the emulsion which makes it harder for the spottone to absorb.

  9. #9
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: B/W printing paper surface different

    I don't mind the look of the slightly more shiny gloss per se. Heck, I'm from a real gloss background - Cibachrome. But if you need an intense black correction somewhere in your print, it can be difficult to match the exact sheen of the FB paper itself in those cases. I've experimented with all kinds of attempted cures - gum arabic, various art store acrylic glazes intermixed to simulate the same sheen. Frustrating. Fortunately, that's a fairly rare scenario in my case. One advantage of LF film is that dust spots etc come out relatively small in the print due to the lesser amount of magnification. Less dense spotting is fairly easy.

    But I'm rather nitpicky, and can spot something like Strand's "varnish" in a heartbeat. It was probably shellac. Most India Inks contain some shellac. True varnish from that era took a long time to dry. Edward Weston would mix a little gum arabic into his spotting black - again, a so-so solution.

  10. #10

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    Re: B/W printing paper surface different

    Back in the days shooting with a Leica M-2 with 35mm Mandler-designed Summicron (or 4x5 with that wonderful W.A. Dagor) - souping Tri-X in 1:1 (or sometimes Plus-X in 1:3) D-76 and printing on the never since equalled Portriga Rapid - I would uncap my little bottle of Renaissance Wax, grab a cotton ball...and go at my prints - up and down, then back and forth...with the already rich, deep tonality of the Portriga deepening further still. Oh...what bliss!

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