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.

Click for larger image
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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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Click for larger image

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.

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