A Few Questions About Photogravure

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by qwfwq, Nov 20, 2011.

  1. qwfwq

    qwfwq Member

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    Hi, looking to start learning this process. I've done large format photography and intaglio for years, so I am not completely new to either process, but need to sort out some issues before I buy things.

    1) Does the aquatint dust go on the plate before or after the sensitized/exposed tissue is applied to the plate? I can't find anywhere that says certainly what way is best, and also that pine rosin is sensitive to the alcohol in the developer(?), and I'm supposed to buy some brand name "PICCO" stuff. Does it matter what order it goes in? I have plenty of access to pine rosin and a nice old coffee grinder, and would prefer to use what I have.

    I would image it would be easier to work with if you could apply the gelatin first so if you mess up the exposure you don't also have to redust and melt the plate every time. Probably easier to apply it to the polished metal than to a layer of melted rosin? But, from what I understand, its the aquatint layer that actually makes the image, therefore the final etched plate would be less sharp if the aquatint was on top of a layer of gelatin (kinda like the concept of 'emulsion to emulsion' when contact printing)...or am I looking too far into this?

    ~~~~~~~~~ resist
    *********** aquatint
    =========plate

    OR

    ***********aquatint
    ~~~~~~~~ resist
    ======== plate


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    2) What would be a good source of UV light for someone who can't have a big "bank" style set up? It'd be best if I could use a cheap flood light or something...I dont mind longer exposures and the biggest I will be exposing is 4x5 to 8x10. If I ever get to the point (of insanity) where I think going bigger than that is a good idea :tongue:, I'll get a proper unit together. Just looking for something that'll work for starters.
    ------------
    3) How long in general would the exposure with said light source be? Are we talking seconds? minutes? hours? I don't expect a exact number, just something to go by.
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    4) Is there a cheaper place to buy the pot.bichromate? bostick has it, but there is a bunch of hazmat, etc. Would it be possible to buy somewhere locally? Or is it a specialty kinda thing?
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    5) Lastly, has anyone had any experience with the gelatin tissue from B/S? Just want to know if its generally of good quality (really don't want to add anything to the list of possible **** ups. :blink:)
     
  2. samcomet

    samcomet Subscriber

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    qwfwq - if you were interested in using solarplate photopolymer technology, which is non-toxic plate making, I could give you a run down of my work flow...
    cheers,
    sam
     
  3. Hexavalent

    Hexavalent Subscriber

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    The aquatint should go on the plate, which is then baked to 'set' the dust, and then finally the gelatin transfer. Alcohol will melt traditional rosin dust. Some practictioners use laser-toner powder, acrylic spray paint, or even a fine mist of acrylic floor-wax as an aquatint. A double exposure of the gelatin with both the image and a stochastic screen can also work.
    If you think that dichromate is expensive, have you looked at the price of high quality copper for etching? :wink:
     
  4. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    Is solarplate truly photogravure? No criticism Sam, I've seen some very fine prints from solarplate and like it a lot. However a recent exhibitor at the local art gallery in Springwood displayed "photogravure" prints which were made via solarplate. Another local at another local show exhibited prints of predominantly photographic origin and described them as solarplate. Both were excellent sets of prints, it's just that my understanding of photogravure was that it was a rather more virtuosic technique.
     
  5. samcomet

    samcomet Subscriber

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    G'day Ross...no criticism taken (I am far too old to take things in the negative!!!) I can only say in answer to your question that everything that I have read over the past few years has told me that photogravure, while invented by Fox-Talbot, has at its base definition, an intaglio etching process where the inked plate transfers a photographic image to a receiver paper. I have not seen the definition of the process defined by the nature of the plate (copper, polymer or otherwise) nor the means of etching (acid v.s water). In both solar plate and copper acid etched the plate is exposed by UV light. The intaglio process however seems to be part of THE definition i.e. an etched plate in negative holds ink in its valleys or etched out parts and through a half tone process transfers a full tone image to an un-sensitised piece of paper. The half tone being produced in a variety of means: dust, dot screens etc. etc. The image on a solar plate or copper acid etched plate can come from a positive film/acetate/ or other medium but for it to be called photogravure I guess it needs to be originally a photograph. At least this is what I have come to understand....that being said I am more than willing to admit ignorance in this department - please enlighten me if you will if you have another perspective. Always willing to learn!!! I've been making what I call photogravure prints via solar plates from my negs for several years now and it would be good to know that I've not been calling the process by the wrong nomenclature. Anyway Ross if you are in town next Saturday, 26th and in the vicinity of Clovelly I have an exhibition of some of may latest work opening at Gallery East 21 Burnie St. with drinks from 3 til 6 pm. These, I need to point out, are not my etched work but straight out neg to print. URL:

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum214/98203-invitation-my-exhibition-26-11-a.html

    Anyway cheers for now!
    sam
     
  6. MDR

    MDR Member

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    Please excuse my ignorance but isn't a photogravure as the name implies a gravure/Intaglio (German Tiefdruck) technique whereas solarplates have more in common with Offset printing or Lithography (Flat printing/Flachdruck)? If that's the case they are completely different techniques and their names are not interchangeable.

    Dominik
     
  7. samcomet

    samcomet Subscriber

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    G'day Dominik - To the best of my knowledge the word intaglio refers to inking a plate whereby the ink falls into pits and grooves and valleys of a plate formed by the etching process. Excess ink is then wiped away from the hills and peaks of the plate. When I use solar plates, post exposure and washout, I roll ink onto the plate and wipe off the excess leaving the ink in the ruts and valleys of the plate and then print. In the offset or lith process the plate is covered with a substance that holds dampness (water). This substance is turned into an image by projecting UV light through an acetate negative (or positive) and washed out/cleaned in places where the UV does not allow the substance to harden....in other words a thin emulsion of polymer or wax is made on the surface of a plate in negative to the image required. A damp roller rolls over the polymer to coat it with water (which does not sink into the valleys) and then ink is applied to the whole plate - but the ink does not stick to the water damped part of the plate but does stick to the valleys of the plate itself. The ink is then transferred to the paper as a positive. The difference being that the ink in intaglio etching is physically/mechanically removed from the areas not wanting to be printed. In offset or lithe it is a physical/chemical reaction the prevents the ink from adhering to the parts of the plate that are not wanted to print. This chemical reaction of ink and water not mixing is, if I remember correctly, is called hydrophilia or hydrophobia. A further part of offset process is that the ink is transferred to an intermediate sheet or receiver before being pressed onto the final paper for printing. The resultant image is reversed and must be accounted for when making the offset plate. Anyway that is what this old fading memory of mine thinks but like I said I am always prepared to learn new tricks or to be corrected !!!! Thanks for the observation and again I am well prepared to be wrong here. cheers, sam
     
  8. squinonescolon

    squinonescolon Member

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    1) The hardest things to learn in photogravure from hardest to easiest: Aquatinting, etching, printing, exposure. The aquatint can go either way. The problem is once you adhere the gelatin to the plate you have to use alcohol to remove water from the gelatin quickly so you won't get uneven drying. If you want to put the aquatint under the plate you have to use something that is not soluble by alcohol. The old fashioned way is to use asphaltum which melts at high temperatures 400-450F, creates very high resolution(equivalent to 350 dpi) and does not dissolve with alcohol. The difficulty with asphaltum is that it's greasy, so it has to be treated. Additionally if you use an under the gelatin aquatint you have the problem of peeling as it's very difficult to get the gelatin to adhere properly without specialist equipment, like a mangle to squeeze the gelatin onto the plate.
    PICCO is wonderful, it can be used under or over the gelatin, it melts at a precise low temperature (around 225F)and it can stay melted in perfect little spheres all day without evaporating or fusing with other particles, you can use it under the gelatin because is not soluble by alcohol, and the resolution is pretty much the most resolution that can be gotten from any ground.

    The easiest way to learn is to do a secondary exposure with a screen. The best screens are from Mark Nelson from http://www.precisiondigitalnegatives.com Look in the front page for his email and sent for some. They are expensive, but great. The coarse or medium density both work fine. The best book for this is http://www.amazon.com/Copper-Plate-Photogravure-Demystifying-Process/dp/0240805275 , you don't need to get anything else. All the info you need is there. There are lots of opinions as to what is better over or under, but think about this, Jon Goodman is the acknowledged master of the medium today, his work is stunning and he uses the over method.



    2) A big bank of tube uv's is fine, again some opinions on this(point vs diffuse), but I have not seen any proof either way. And you have to get or build a vacuum frame. No, there's no way around this, don't even try.

    3) My exposures are around 250 units with a light integrator. It's almost like 250 seconds, but not quite, because integrators measure light output not time. And this is the only sane way of doing this, I repeat, get an integrator, you'll thank me later. The book I mentioned earlier tells you how to test to get in the ballpark.

    4)B/S or Photographers Formulary. Don't even try to get it somewhere else, and once you decide to get it from someone, don't change suppliers. Again, trust me on this.

    5) I would use Phoenix from http://www.capefearpress.com/ instead. Better, more flexibility as far as size and the material has been around longer.

    Prepare to spend many thousands of dollars and years perfecting the process, it's frustrating, but very rewarding. I would attend a workshop from either Jon Goodman, CrownPoint Press, Cape Fear Press, Renaissance Press, or Lothar Osterburg. Learn the digital way of doing positives, the best system is Precision Digital Negative, but beware. If you use that system you have to pay royalties if you sell prints(Yes, I was shocked too)
    Good luck

    P.S. Solar plates are not photogravures, can never be. Renaissance Press teaches a system with polymer(not solar plates) that it's getting really, really close to the real thing. But for the real thing(as of this writing) there is no substitute for Copper Dustgrain Photogravure.

    P.P.S. I want to be clear about this and not sounding like an ass, but you express some concern about cost in one of your materials. You can not do photogravure on the cheap. It just isn't possible because shortcuts just cost you money. Follow the instructions, don't deviate and you'll enjoy it and create beautiful prints.
     
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  9. qwfwq

    qwfwq Member

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    squinonescolon:

    Thanks for the reply. I know what I am getting myself into, and I'm not trying to do this on the cheap, there's just a lot of people that claim they have the best product and I don't want to pay more or less if there's something that is considered to be of standard reliable quality. Cut once measure twice with the old debit card, ya know?:whistling:

    I have access to presses, lights, acids, vents, hoods, beakers, gloves, masks, burnishers and scrapers, trays, plenty of copy films and developers (would pyro be good to use for this?), a few good copper plates (to ge started with (gotta keep that scrapping hand strong!) and metal polish, etc etc... along with assistance from those who have done this before. oh and all the inks I want. Basically, a fully equipped intaglio shop and b/w darkrooms.

    Would a vertical etching tank work better for this? Most people seem to use trays so you can inspect etching, but I've always used a vertical tank for etching copper. I'll need 3+ baths...so I guess my one vertical tank won't be getting used for this...

    Is it pretty easy to tell once the aquatint goes on, the gelatin is adheard, exposed developed and all that, right before it gets etched if the plate will etched properly? Will all the highlight and shadow detail be present and what not? Basically, does the plate display the tones and details that will etch or is this one of those "well maybe, it takes experience to read it" sort of things?

    ...and I've tried solarplates, theyre ok, but I wasn't thrilled with it. Also, 11 bucks for every 5x7 exposure doesn't sound all that much cheaper to be honest. Id rather just toss the $3 worth of picco and tissue if I f*** it up. And lets be honest, copper plates are just way cooler.


    So do I just need:
    Gelatin Tissue (from Phoenix, right?)
    Pot. Bichrom (from BS)
    PICCO (from Phoenix)
    and the various other little things like ammonia, alcohol, patience, etc?

    (and of course some purty paper. Any suggestions?)


    -joe
     
  10. qwfwq

    qwfwq Member

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    also i got the "demystifying copperplate gravure" book. is that any good?


    can the sensitizing solution be stored until exhausted? I see 1 liter will sensitive one square yard or tissue. Or is it better to sensitize all of it and store it wrapped in foil in the fridge till I use it?
     
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  11. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    The label on the can said "Worms" I didn't mean to open it. Please proceed without me :smile:

    Ross
     
  12. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    The label on the can said "Worms" I didn't mean to open it. Please proceed without me :smile:

    Ross
     
  13. squinonescolon

    squinonescolon Member

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    I would stick with the trays, never tried the vertical tank, but as you say you would need at 3-4. So either way. You can tell if you're underexposed, overexposure is trickier and you really need more experience to see it, you should be able to tell gross overexposure. All bets are off until the plate hits the acid, but once you figure out all the variables it should be pretty automatic and you'll notice when you did something wrong, and what you did right away, but by that point the copper is ruined, so there you go. You also need a dedicated aquatint box. You can't mix the PICCO with any other grounds. I would buy a bag of PICCO from the distributor instead of from Cape Fear because you'll have to charge a newly cleaned box and depending on how big they are it can take quite a bit of ground. I have a large box(8'x4'x4') based on Crown Point Press box, it takes about 10 tablespoons to fully charge, which might be a quarter of a pound, and a smaller one(7'x2'x2') that charges with just 4. Every time you dust you charge with about three spoons, it would get expensive to buy by the pound. I think my bag was something like $150 and is somewhere around 50 pounds.

    Also, the tissue needs to dry in the dark at an even temperature for at least 4-6 hours. Nobody can't use the darkroom during that time for obvious reasons, I built a drying cabinet so I could regain use of the darkroom. You can make a batch and freeze, according to all reports it should last indefinitely, but I've never tried it. Or you can place in a dedicated refrigerator(it has to be dedicated, you can't have anything containing dichromate next to food, you'll get poisoned or poison someone) for a day, that I do sometimes, and never had problems.

    If you do the aquatint over the tissue you have to re-humidify the tissue for at least six hours--eight is more prudent--to 68 relative humidity for Phoenix, if you do it the aquatint under, 4-6 hours. Again the darkroom is the perfect place for this, or you can build a humidor for the plates(recomended).
    So if you're counting the hours, it takes at least two days for a plate from beginning to end when you're dealing with dustgrain aquatint, can be less if you do the screens, but I wouldn't try to cut the time until you're experienced, no need to rush things.

    Best papers are Somerset Satin with Gampi 'Chine-Colle' or Revere Silk by itself. Start with Revere, its beautiful paper. It takes experience to do Chine-Colle, or you can get your friends to do that for you. I've tried a thousand combinations, those are the papers that look the most 'photographic'.
    The "Demistifying" book is the bible now. You don't need another book for a while.

    My materials are:
    Pot. Dichromate (Not Bichromate) To make 3.5% solution
    Isopropyl Acohol
    A stable source of 112F degree water to develop
    Degreaser for the plates
    Contact tissue to mask the back of the plates
    3m Magick tape to mask near the tissue.
    Marker to create a solid mask line around the tissue (in the book) or thinned liquid asphaltum
    Large roll Ulano Masking material to create an edge around the positive
    Stouffer 21 Step wedges (at least 2) label them in black marker on the top so you know which ones you used to make exposures, they vary slightly.
    A Baume Meter that can measure from 39 Baume to 43, you can get two if you can't find one that spans that scale
    Hunt™ ROTOGRAVURE IRON 48° Baume Blue Comes in 5 gallon pails, I think about $150, season it with copper shavings.
    Alcohol meter for measuring alcohol gravity.
    Humidifier that can cover your darkroom.
    Hygrometer (measures humidity)
    Plexiglass, larger than your largest plate by a couple of inches.
    At least 2 thermometers, one glass only, to measure the ferric temperature, another one (as sturdy as possible) for the developing bath.
     
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  14. qwfwq

    qwfwq Member

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    Thanks for the advice.

    Any handling advice for the gravure tissue? just got my order today from cape fear.
     
  15. Hexavalent

    Hexavalent Subscriber

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    Bichromate = Dichromate. Only the spelling differs.
     
  16. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    I'm a beginner, but I can give a couple of points of advice here. I took a workshop a year ago with Lothar Osterburg. Hew showed us a number of different ways to achieve similar results. First, one can use traditional aquatint, or an aquatint screen. Some used one, some the other. I used the screen. I don't think the results were noticeably different. After the tissue is exposed to the film positive, the fiml is removed and and the tissue is given two quick exposures to the with the aquatint screen in contact with the tissue. It is shifted between the two exposures to make it less apparent. We used Bostick and Sullivan's gravure tissue which worked quite well. If you don't have room for a light bank, you can use metal halide bulbs. I use a 1000 watt plant light for palladium, gum, and carbon printing. Regarding dichromate, have B&S dilute it for you and then it doesn't require dichromate. You can dilute further if need be. Here in NY it can be picked up in powder form from B&H or Adorama. I moved recently and my notes are still packed away. Sorry I can't be more precise.
     
  17. squinonescolon

    squinonescolon Member

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    Ask Jennifer for the latest on processing the tissue. She's done many tests on that material.
     
  18. Cape Fear

    Cape Fear Member

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    Hi everyone,
    I just announced the Feb workshop in the workshop forum. I make most of my plates with the Picco, dusting under and not over. If your dust box is not too leaky a pound of Picco should go a long way. I will combine shipping on more than one pound, just call me.

    The plates need to be etched in flat trays, there is no better way because you need to watch what is happening. It is more fun that way too and you make very intuitive and visual decisions here. The etching is my favorite part of the process.

    I also recently did a breakdown of costs of gravure using the Phoenix Gravure small roll price with 16 oz. roofing copper and you can make an 8x10" gravure much less than you might believe. Roofing copper is a great option for beginners as well as seasoned etchers who etch small scale plates and want to keep the cost of gravure down. Check out the details here: http://www.capefearpress.com/phoenixgravurepr.html

    Artcraft chemicals is another good source for dichromate.

    As for gravure vs other photo intaglio processes, etched copper gravure is the only gravure. Many others have similar concerns about this. Please see more here: http://www.capefearpress.com/photointagliodef.html

    Thanks for the referral Steven!

    Jennifer

    attached is one of my recent gravures made with Picco:
    photogravurecopp.jpg
     
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