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  Kentmere Fineprint had worked well but when it went away MG IV replaced it, then it also went away, and has been replaced by MG Fiber Classic.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.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image

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.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image

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.

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