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.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image

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.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image

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.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image

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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