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Thread: Archival print processes

  1. #1
    Stephen Vaughan
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Bath, UK

    Archival print processes

    I would welcome your comments on archival printing. What techniques do you use? Processing sequence/times etc. Particularly the sequence of fix/hypo clear/wash/tone/wash.......... Thank

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Apr 2000

    Archival print processes

    I have an article that attempts to address all the issues involved in archival processing at

    My personal procedure is to utilize two baths of rapid fix (film strength) for 30 to 45 seconds each, a 5-minute wash, followed by 3 minutes in hypo clearing agent with agitation (or 10 minutes without agitation), then a 45 minute wash. At the end of my printing session, I tone, usually in selenium toner at 1+15. Sometimes I use brown toner. After toning in either selenium or brown toner, the print gets 3 minutes in hypo clearing agent, with agitation, followed by a two hour wash (I turn the prints 180 degrees halfway through the wash). (Brown-toned prints get an additional hardener bath before washing.) The length of washing time was determined for my washer by testing with Kodak HT-2.

    The wash time required will vary depending upon your water quality, water temperature, washer efficiency, etc. I have never had trouble with long wash times using fiber based papers, though some people are horrified at the length of my wash times (sometimes I go to a movie in the afternoon and the prints remain in the wash for 4 hours).

    If you wish to tone immediately after fixing, I recommend going directly from the fix to the selenium toner with no intervening baths or washes--this prevents inconsistencies in toning. If you wish to use HCL after fixing, then give a thorough wash before toning.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Nov 1998

    Archival print processes

    The usual develop and stop, then two 30-second baths in film-strength rapid fixe r (no hardener), 10 minutes in a 2.5% sodium sulfite HCA, then into the wash tan k.

    If I'm going to tone the prints immediately I let 'em sit in the wash until I' m finished printing and ready to tone; if not I give them a full hour wash.

    I give complete toning in Kodak selenium toner 1:4, then 10 minutes in HCA and the full wash.

  4. #4

    Archival print processes

    Dumb question on this one, but it is OK to go directly from fixer to selenium? Thanks Dean
    Dean Lastoria

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 1999

    Archival print processes

    Its OK to go from fixer to toner if there is no acid in your paper, else staining results. Thus, the use of an alkaline fixer is preferred (not to mention the fact that alkaline fixer is supposed to wash out more easily). Cheers, DJ.

  6. #6

    Archival print processes


    I too use a two bath, film strength fix, but I've switched from Kodak Rapid Fix to Photographer's Formulary TF-4 and I no longer use an acidic stop, just plain water. All processing is at 24C and I fix 30- 45 seconds in each bath.

    For selenium toned prints, I give a quick rinse in water, then right into selenium. Another quick rinse in water, then 5 minutes in Heico Perma Wash followed by 1 hour in an archival washer. As Ed pointed out, time in the washer will be determined by washer efficiency and water quality. Soft water requires much longer wash times. I determined my time using HT-2. Selenium can be reused and replenished as needed.

    For Brown/Sepia toned (sulfur based toners) prints. I give the same quick rinse in water, 5 min in Perma Wash, 45 min to an hour in the archival washer, then the toning bath, followed by 1 hour in the archival washer. I haven't tried using hardener in the fix as Kodak recommends, but then I don't usually use sulfur based toners. Staining could result if prints are not fully washed before placing them in a sulfur based toner.


  7. #7

    Archival print processes

    I have never had success going straight from the fix into selenium, I get stains. I use your basic Kodak Fix and have to give the prints 4 minutes in HCA before going into the selenium to avoid stains. Is Kodak Fix an acid based fix ? What would not be an acid based fix ?

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Mar 1999

    Archival print processes

    Kodak fixers F5 and F6 contain acids - I think f% contains boric and F6 contains acetic. TF3 and TF4 are alkaline fixes - I think TF4 is available pre-mixed from the formulary. The so-called "plain fix" is another (I think it appears in Ansel Adam's "The Print" - a thiosulfate and sulfite soup). Most fixers contain acid. In antiquity, fixers used hardeners to toughen the emulsion, which was very sensitive and easy to damage. Hardeners demand an acidic environment. Another reason given for acid in fixers is that the acid serves to halt development (in case a stop bath was not used or did not sufficiently halt development). Modern emulsions are reasonably tough and the hardener can often be dispensed with. Advantages cited for using alkaline fixers is that they do not bleach the image, thereby reducing dangers of overfixing and wash out of the emulsion much more easily. Cheers, DJ.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Archival print processes

    Hey...the reg. kodak fix sorta depends on whether it's the powdered form, or the liquid Kodafix that comes in one container (not rapid fix A & B)....the powdered form is just sodium thiosulfate I believe, with a hardener...the kodafix liquid is like rapid fix (ammonium thiosulfate)w/ hardener.... When I fiber print, I often use two reg. paper strength fix baths made up of Rapid Fix A (no hardener).....I go straight from the second bath into the selenium as long as there's still some fix left on the print surface, it seems to be okay, although I have had staining problems with certain brands of paper as these cases, I used to use a slight Kodalk bath prior to the toner, or I'd use a reg. "hypo" sodium thiosulfate (only) fixer for the second bath...or if all else failed, I'd just wash 'em good first, then tone, then rewash....

    I've also done the Ilford sequences as well, but after doing the HT-2 tests for my washer setup, it really didn't seem to save me that much in wash water flow, or time in the end...of course, only time will tell in the longterm (hahaha...)...but if you read the latest IPI studies, a little bit of retained hypo seems to be the new theory now....anyways, I'd mix the selenium in with permawash, then gang all the finished prints up in a deep-hypo tray ( a deep Cesco lite tray) and run a tray siphon to exchange this water out....I'd do a short pre-wash and then transfer them back one by one into a tray of fresh permawash...then finally into a vertical washer, and wash for about 45 minutes or so....I figured out flow rates for my water panel, and have the washer equipped with an aerator as cut back on the airbells that can cling to the print surface in the winter time....every 15 minutes, I rotate & shuffle the prints in their compartments as well...because I did residual fix tests all over the print surfaces & found some uneven washing patterns....(sigh)....the final prints are dried face up on nylon screens...hope this helps...

  10. #10

    Archival print processes

    So far, you have received some very sound and worthwhile comments from some knowledgeable members of our forum. This comment will not carry on in that vein. May I have some fun here? Archival processing techniques are constantly discussed, debated and argued among photographers. We all have our own variations on what constitutes the best scheme for archival processing. Sadly, none of us will be around to see if our photographic masterpieces will be tonally intact in the twenty sixth century. So, we will not know which approach is correct, or whether it even matters. So in that light, let me discuss my views on archival processing.

    Definition: Archival prints last longer than your interest in the image.

    You should archivally process your prints if:

    MoMA and the Getty ask you to exhibit your prints. The AIPAD has a reception in your honor at their annual meeting. Your ability outstrips your ego. You have received multiple NEA or Guggenheim Grants. John Sexton asks you questions. There is room in your darkroom for the fifty-gallon fixer tank. Your darkroom assistant doesn't want overtime pay for the extra washing time.

    So after a little chuckle, follow the advice given by the wonderful folks here, and your prints will last a very long time.

    Remember, photography should be fun.

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