Liquid Light

Because of the continuous exit of papers available for use with the Bromoil process, a few years ago I decided to learn a bit more about silver gelatin in the hopes that I would be able to make my own. I have done that and can make excellent straight prints, but getting the emulsion right for Bromoil will be a large hurdle.

In the meantime I decided to take a commercially available emulsion, Liquid Light, and see whether or not it would work with the process.

There are some who are able to use a brush to spread the emulsion on paper in a way that works for them, the best example in my mind is Emil Schildt. Our styles are very different and for that reason this simply does not work for me. I have developed a means of spreading emulsion evenly with consistency and wrote an article explaining the methodology, so that is the path I took in my tests.

Not having a place to start, I followed the steps that Emil laid out in his book. There are several differences in technique, most notably the use of thin ink, a different bleach, and working the ink with a sponge instead of a brush. I used the Trevor Jones bleach/tan I have always used but tried the thin Burnt Sienna #1922 ink and tried working it with a sponge. This did not work at all, so I put down the sponge and started hitting the paper with one of my brushes. To my surprise the image appeared without a problem. It was not exactly what I was looking for, but at least it was a starting point.

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The paper I had used was Strathmore Watercolor Cold Press, which I had no other use for, which is why something of a pattern can be seen in the print. I then coated several sheets of Arches Aquarelle Hot Press and tried again. As I was using thin ink, I soaked at a temperature of 90F (32C). My results were much closer to what I had wanted.

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My next attempt was to use the standard ink I have used with other papers, Senefelder’s Crayon Black 1803, but the paper did not take the ink at all, so I tried the thin equivalent, #1796, and that worked just fine.

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I then decided to lower the soaking temperature to 70F (21C) and the ink placed itself without a problem. This is interesting because soaking at room temperature and using thin ink on every other paper I have used resulted in no contrast and an inability to clear the highlights.

There are two interesting points to note. One is that following the bleach/tan part of the process the emulsion shows a definite bas-relief, which is seldom seen in commercial papers. The other point, which is quite important, is that each of the prints I made were done without a second soak. I have made prints in the past without having to go through a second soak, but those have been rare instances. It appears that this is the norm with this emulsion.

Advantages

Liquid Light offers an emulsion that inks very well, the highlights clear very easily, and a second soak may be an exception, as opposed to standard operating procedure. This means that a print will be made considerably faster, which is always a good thing.

Disadvantages

You are coating your own paper. I wonder what the results would have been if I had decided to use a brush to coat the emulsion. Learning to spread emulsion evenly does take time to get to the point where things are just right. For someone who is seriously considering the route of using liquid emulsion with Bromoil I would highly recommend that this skill be learned to gain full control of the process.

Conclusion

I am one large step away from my final goal of making my own emulsion to use with Bromoil. I can make my own emulsion and can use commercial emulsion successfully with the process, so the last part will be to put the two together. Liquid Light is not inexpensive, but its success as part of the process makes it something anyone should seriously consider.

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Ilford MG Fiber Classic

I used Ilford MG IV for many years as my paper choice for Bromoil when I was looking for a white background, as opposed to the cream color of my beloved Fomabrom Variant IV.  Kentmere Fineprint had worked well but when it went away MG IV replaced it, then it also went away, and has been replaced by MG Fiber Classic.  I had heard mixed reviews in reference to its use as a Bromoil paper so I finally purchased a pack and gave it a try.

Ilford papers have always been problematic in the respect that it seems that they do not want to be changed.  Toning MG IV paper was always a fight, though my point of comparison was Forte, which accepted toning as a natural extension of the workflow.  I found MG Fiber Classic to follow the path Ilford has always led me down, though there are ways of working with the paper.

The first thing I noticed was that the paper appeared to have more contrast than expected.  I think that I still have a box of MG IV in my freezer and if so then somewhere along the line I will make a comparison.  The test prints needed to be printed at 1/2 grade, which I felt to be a bit unusual.  I went ahead and made the test Bromoil prints at this grade instead of knocking it back a full grade as would normally be the case.

The prints bleached without a problem, which is always a relief.  After soaking for seven minutes at room temperature I began inking the paper and the ink slowly was accepted.  With some papers ink is too easily absorbed, which makes the movement of the brush more critical and open to errors, while other papers take the ink with much protest, resulting in a fight with the paper.  This paper appeared to take ink just right.

After the second soak, however, the paper did not want to release the ink.  This reminded me of a Slavich paper I had used in the past that would not allow me to remove ink following the second soak.  I did finally end up with a print that approached acceptability, but the physical struggle actually took quite a bit out of me, having had to attack the paper violently with my brush.

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To make my next print I decided to soak at a higher temperature, and selected 85F (30C).  This resulted in the inking being much closer to what I had expected, the paper taking my ink and highlights cleared with a sponge during the second soak.  I actually did not take a brush to this print and set it aside as a reference because it was close to what I wanted.  The ability to get this close with a single inking is a real advantage.

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The other test print is difficult to make successfully and showed the problems I had foreseen with the contrast in that the shadow area on the bottom right fell away and there was no recovery.  Regardless how I struck the area with the brush I could not open the area at all. The image can be printed with a grade 0 or 00, but the tonality in the door itself is just right so this print would need to be made through split grade printing.

Advantages

This paper accepts ink very well without worry that a small amount of excess ink on the brush will deposit something that will need to be worked out at a later time.

Disadvantages

The paper clings to ink for dear life, which is a real problem in shadow areas.  This paper requires an elevated soaking temperature, which means that the temperature needs to be monitored during the initial soak unless there is a means of automatically maintaining an elevated temperature.

Conclusion

With careful printing this paper is acceptable, though I can imagine that my reject pile would increase in height more quickly because of the problems found in the shadow areas.  My guess is that once one gains a familiarity with this paper the contrast and shadow issues can be worked out.  This paper is very widely available, so the bother may well be worthwhile.

Fomabrom N113

When Foma discontinued Fomabrom Variant IV 123 they suggested two papers for Bromoil as a replacement, Foma Fomatone 133 Classic VC FB Warmtone and Fomabrom N113.  I was able to obtain the former and offered it for review, but as far as I could tell the latter was not available in the United States.  I contacted Foma and they were kind enough to send me a few 5×7″ packs to test.

The paper bleached almost completely, leaving just a bit of brown in the shadow areas.  This is oftentimes not too much of a problem, as deep shadow areas are normally completely covered with ink.

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I inked the paper with Senefelder’s Crayon Black 1803 ink, which the paper accepted.  The shadow areas filled very quickly, which I am accustomed to seeing, but did so quickly to the extent that by the time the midtones began accepting ink the shadow areas were blocked up.  During the second soak the sponge removed the ink from the midtones and highlights, which was expected due to the experience I had with Foma Fomatone 133.  Re-inking did not give me acceptable results.

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For the next print I tried using Senefelder’s 1796 ink, which had offered me success with Foma Fomatone 133.  As this is a thinner ink I was very cautious during the application because it is very easy to place too much ink on the paper.  The shadow areas filled even more quickly and remained completely during the second soak.  When I re-inked those areas remained blocked and the print unworkable.

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I decided to try a final print returning to the Senefelder’s 1803 ink.  Instead of using a sponge to clear the highlights I simply allowed the print to soak, hoping to be able to clear as well as deal with the shadow areas with a brush.  This did not work and the shadow areas remained blocked with an unacceptable print.

One thing I noticed with the two latter prints was that the ink did not adhere well close to the border.  I normally test using 8×10″ paper and create at least a 1″ border, but since this was 5×7″ paper and I wanted to use as much as I could for the image I only made the border about ½”.  If the border had been wider I am guessing that I would not have noticed the inconsistency, which can be seen in the images offered here, especially the third print.

Advantages

I did make a couple of straight prints with this paper and can state that it really has a pleasant tonality.  Although I believe that it is only available in a single contrast, the straight prints I made looked quite nice.

Disadvantages

This paper is not a candidate for use with the Bromoil process.  This may be because the surface is semi-gloss.  With the exception of Imago paper (made specifically for the process), a glossy surface simply does not work with the Bromoil process.  Foma Fomatone 133 has a semi-matt surface and (with the proper ink) works just fine.  This shows that there is a difference between semi-gloss and semi-matt, unlike the non-difference between partly cloudy and partly sunny.

Conclusion

I was hoping that this would be an additional possibility for use with the Bromoil process, but in my opinion this is just not the case.

Imago Bromoil Paper

I was not going to include this paper but decided to just in case it becomes available again.  I bought all I could a while back because the shipping to the U.S. was so great.  I was told that the paper was a single run but then heard that it was available Through Firstcall.  However, that website indicates that the paper is temporarily unavailable until a month ago, so that may be it.  I decided to go ahead and review it here just in case it comes back to market.

If one were to Google conversations I have had in the past then somewhere they would come across cases where I noted that the Bromoil process does not work on RC paper and does not work on glossy paper.  With Imago Bromoil paper, the latter is no longer true.  This is a glossy paper that actually works with the process, and quite well at that.

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Following the initial soak the paper takes ink as if it was meant for it … oh yeah, it was.  Actually, with my first print I accidentally applied way too much ink in the first run across the paper, but fortunately was able to recover from that mistake.

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The ink holds in the shadow areas following the second soak and the highlights and midtones can then be filled in.  One should be careful with initially applying too much in in the shadow areas during the first inking, however.  In one print (not included in this article) I filled in those areas with too much ink and ended up with considerably too much contrast in the end.  This may just be a matter of differently exposing the paper to accommodate this possibility.

The examples show that I was able to get rather close to what I was seeking by using the standard procedure (see the About section), so this is an exceptionally easy paper to use.

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Advantages

Image Bromoil paper is the only glossy paper I have ever used that works with the Bromoil process.  This gives the paper a unique position when selecting the paper to use for a specific image.

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Workarounds

The paper is available in a single grade.  Use of a digital negative may be necessary for those negatives that do not have the proper contrast.

Disadvantages

Apparently this paper is no longer available.  If anyone knows of a source then please post it here.

David Lewis Bromoil Paper

Please read the About section for an explanation of my procedure and list of caveats.

There was a time when photographic paper was made specifically for the Bromoil process. They were very easy to use and produced wonderful prints. Things became more difficult in the 1950s when the manufacturers began supercoating the paper. This is a clear hardened gelatin layer that lies above the emulsion and protects the paper from scratches during processing. The addition of the supercoat makes the process more difficult for the Bromoil printer because it hampers the swelling of the gelatin upon which the process depends.

David Lewis Bromoil Paper is made specifically for the Bromoil process, thus no supercoating.  He describes his paper thus:

David Lewis’s Bromoil Paper is a double weight non-supercoated chlorobromide paper with a printing speed of ISO 320. The paper has a thick emulsion with a smooth matt surface and has a normal contrast (grade # 2). This chlorobromide emulsion produces incredible gradation of tone and shadow detail when developed in amidol. After bleaching the emulsion produces a coin-like relief, reminiscent of the bromoil paper from the 1930’s! It is the only photographic paper on the market today that has the coin-like swelling relief.

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I used Selectol-Soft (no Hydroquinone) to develop the paper.  David recommends 30 seconds in the stop bath as well not using quick fix, so I used two five minute baths of 10% hypo.

The paper bleached completely in eight minutes at 70F (21C).  The soak time is stated to be 15 minutes.

It was suggested that I wait 60-90 seconds before starting to ink following the initial soak, which I did, though I would recommend a slightly longer waiting time.  No big deal, the first couple of passes take little ink but within a couple of minutes the shadow areas begin to respond.

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This is a paper that loves ink.  Once the paper starts to accept ink it soaks right into the paper and has a tendency to stay during the second soak.  This offers some additional possibilities, allowing one to use a sponge to clear the highlights during the soak, then the brush to continue building contrast following the soak.  As one who likes to use a sponge during subsequent soaks, I greatly appreciated this.

Advantages

Anyone who has worked with the Bromoil process, even for just a few years, knows the difficulty in obtaining paper that works well with the process (thus the whole reason for this blog).  Pretty much all other papers are supercoated to some extend, and the only real question is how to best deal with it.  That is not an issue with this paper.

Additionally, since David Lewis created this paper for this specific use, there is not the common problem of worrying that the manufacturer will dicker with the emulsion to “make it better,” which oftentimes results in the paper being more difficult to use with Bromoil.  This is a big deal.

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Workarounds

This paper is only available in a single grade.  One might think that this forces a marriage between the contrast of the negative and the paper, but not only can one employ a different non-MQ developer to alter the contrast of the print, but another option is to use a digital negative.  Digital negatives are an important part of the darkroom these days, and I would highly recommend learning this technology.  Information about digital negatives.

 

Disadvantages

Alas, this paper is only available in the 8×10″ size.

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Conclusion

Overall, this is an excellent paper that is specifically made for the process.  Anyone who has worked with this process for a long time without the benefit of a freezer dedicated to storing paper lives with the fear that their favorite paper will go away.

Not long ago I wrote an article named Papers for the bromoil process for alternativephotography.com and today none of those papers are available in the United States.  I would be willing to bet that as long as David Lewis is around, the paper will be around, and it is nice to be able to cross that worry off the list.

Foma Fomatone 133 Classic VC FB Warmtone

Please read the About section for an explanation of my procedure and list of caveats.

Foma Fomabrom Variant IV 123 was my favorite Bromoil paper for quite some time but as we all know, pretty much everything has an expiration date, and so is the case with this paper.  Foma suggested Fomabrom 113 N (Normal grade, velvet, neutral tone) and Fomatone 133 Classic VC FB Warmtone (velvet, warm tone) as replacements for this paper.  I was not able to obtain the former, but did purchase a pack of the latter from Freestyle Photographic Supplies.

The paper bleached quickly and completely.

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Following the first soak the paper inked without much trouble.  The expected lack of contrast led to a second soak. Inking the second time removed all of the ink as soon as my brush hit the paper, with the exception of the deepest shadow areas.  I worked with a soft brush in an attempt to bring back the midtones and highlights to no avail until the paper had nearly dried out the second time, after which the paper again started to take the ink.  I worked with a harder brush to try to clear some of the shadow areas with not the success I would have liked.  Actually, the result was awful.

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For a second print I figured that I would not rely upon a second soak, as this had led to an inability to obtain the contrast I wanted, and decided to soak the print at 80F (27C) to swell the emulsion to a greater extent.  Working in this manner offers no safety net and while I did obtain a print, the inability to give it a second soak led to having to accept what had been completed without correction. As can be seen, the results were again equally awful.

My expectation at this point was that this paper was not going to work for me.  I decided to give things one more try but this time switch ink.  My thoughts were that if the ink was removed following the second soak then I would try a thin ink, which in my experience has annoyingly clung to the paper following the second soak to the extent that I have been unable to clear the highlights.  My hopes were that these two issues would offset one another.

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I decided to use Senefelder 1796 ink, which is not nearly as stiff as the 1803 version.  I also again soaked the paper at 80F (27C).  As this ink is not as stiff it is very easy to use too much ink, so my application was minimal – actually, it was more like a test to see how little ink could be applied.  This appeared to work quite well.  The initial inking exhibited the expected low contrast and blocking of the highlights.  I resoaked the paper and used a sponge to clear the print while the print was still soaking.  The highlights went away, the midtones cleared, and the shadows stayed.  Actually, I had to work the sponge into the shadow areas to get to the detail that had been blocked out.

Reinking the paper allowed me to give some detail to the highlights and further clear and give contrast to the midtones.  I had to resoak and reink the paper several times but the results were images that worked for me.  The examples here are not completed prints, but examples of my work to this point.  To really get what I need from this paper the next step will be to decide exactly what contrast offset should be used.

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The advantage of using less stiff ink is that it opens the possibilities for mixing other colors, so I experimented with adding some Senefelder Raw Sienna 1923 into the black ink with acceptable results.

The scans on these two prints appear pink but the actual color is more brown.


Advantages

The paper is acceptable for Bromoil, though it appears to need a less stiff ink than many Bromoilists might have on hand.  The paper is readily available from Freestyle in three popular sizes.

The paper is multigrade, so pretty much any negative that can be printed can be handled by this paper.

This paper has a dual use as a warm tone paper (when toned with selenium).

Disadvantages

For one giving this paper a try, using Senefelder 1803 will almost certainly offer disappointing results .   For me, the less stiff ink results in less flexibility than the very stiff ink during the inking stage.  This can be compensated by adjusting the exposure/contrast of the print and perhaps increasing the temperature of the soak.

Conclusion

Although I was sad to see the production of Variant IV 123 paper come to an end, this is an interesting paper and one that fits a slot in the paper that is available.  With the proper ink this can be a very nice option.