Brilliant White: safe for darkroom walls?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Jonathan R, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. Jonathan R

    Jonathan R Member

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    This is probably just a stupid question, but I guess it's best to be sure. I'm just about to paint the walls of my new darkroom. It occurs to me that Brilliant White contains optical brighteners. As far as I understand, these are basically fluorescent materials that absorb energy at UV wavelengths and re-emit it within the visible range of wavelengths. Since amber/red safelights are at the other end of the visible spectrum, can I safely assume that these optical brighteners are 'safe' in a darkroom?
     
  2. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Yes. However, quantum mechanics may not agree.
     
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  3. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    white walls are perfectly fine for a darkroom. the only place where you may need black paint is around the enlarger.
     
  4. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    And the light trap entrance.
     
  5. Ed Bray

    Ed Bray Member

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    What about blue walls, would safelight hitting them be reflected as unsafe light?
     
  6. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    No and why would you want blue walls in a darkroom?
     
  7. cowanw

    cowanw Member

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    They would come up as black since there would be no blue light to reflect. Red however would be a great darkroom paint, as it would reflect only safe light even if your safelight were unsafe.
    Of course this is not a perfect world and few things emitting and reflecting are precisely as they seem.
     
  8. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    The key point here is not what color the walls are, it's what color the walls reflect.

    If all of the possible sources of light in a darkroom are safe (by whatever definition of "safe" is required for the process being performed), then by definition the walls—regardless of their color—cannot reflect an unsafe color. In this case any color will do. But white is preferred to spread the "safe" light around more efficiently.

    The problems arise when one has white walls and the enlarger leaks imaging light. Or the doorframe leaks white light. Or the safelights aren't really totally safe. Then white walls only make the problem worse. In those cases black would be the ideal color, because you'd want to limit the spread of the "unsafe" light as much as possible.

    Regarding the OP's question about UV causing optical brighteners to emit light from the walls, I've never heard of this being a problem. But the guaranteed solution would, of course, be to simply add UV light to the set of "unsafe" light colors and eliminate it from the darkroom the same as regular white light. And amber/red, not being UV, should have no practical effect.

    Ken
     
  9. Ed Bray

    Ed Bray Member

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    Perhaps if your Darkroom were dual use, say a bathroom or bedroom with Blue Walls but occasionally used as a darkroom. Not everyone has the space for a seperate darkroom. The question was just something that occured to me.
     
  10. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    A good point to which I agree.
     
  11. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Subscriber

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    White is best. I painted my last darkroom white and will do so when I build out the current one. The only light present should be safe. The wall color does affect how much safelight you can use but makes it easy to bounce safelights off the walls (and ceiling.) You should test and adjust the intensity in any case. You might have to dim your safelights a bit with white walls but you'll still have more even illumination at the same level.
     
  12. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Also... Don't forget the ceiling!

    I have white walls and white ceiling. When I burn in my prints, I can tell areas that was not supposed to gain any exposure does. My enlarger, Omega D2 leaks light horizontally and UP. Obviously, reflected lights are reaching my paper on baseboard.

    I've seen some darkroom practioners create a black surround for enlarger only. That may be an option too.
     
  13. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    Interesting. All the darkrooms I've worked in (including many at Kodak) were painted flat black.
     
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  15. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Me, too - as far as darkrooms that were not my own, such as in schools. I think this was the accepted wisdom in the past, especially in darkrooms where more than one person might be working.

    However, the bottom line is that if the safelights are "safe", then the walls can be any color, so why not as light as possible. The exception is leaking enlargers, which is a separate problem that should be addressed.
     
  16. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member

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    My darkroom is red. No hi jinx.
     
  17. AgX

    AgX Member

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    White is advisable as with less means you gain an even illumination.

    Comcerning reflectect exposure light bouncing back to the paper, a shielding of the paper can be applied. The most simple form would be a black painted section behind the enlarger. Alternative one could use a black roller blind. Also mobile shieldings at other sides of the enlarger. It's a question of weighing between the "trouble" of shielding versus the lighting efficiency gained by white walls.
    Local black shieldings could also be used in provisional darkroom. Think of black card/foamboard too.

    But what about the white shirt of the Apugger?? Thought about that?


    Jonathan,
    why not look for a wall-paint without optical brighteners? Are the paint buckets all sealed today? Otherwise make a check with a UV-lamp before buying.
     
  18. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    Perfectly acceptable provided one is wearing a black tie. :smile:
     
  19. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    I have near-white walls. I also have white shelves, as it is a small space and there would be a lot of pockets of shadow without the reflection otherwise. I have a 'skirt' of blackout fabric around the carrier on one of my enlargers because it seems more prone to lateral light leakage and is closer to the wall than the other. On balance I think a neutral (white, or grey, or black) is better than a colour. Safelights can vary from red through orange to light brown, or green in a colour darkroom (though with my eyesight a dark green light is next to useless :cool: ). A neutral should be equally effective in all cases.

    A good washable surface is a good idea.
     
  20. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    The walls in my projection room are royal blue. When I had them painted, people kind of looked at me funny but, after we got the room done, people liked it.

    When the lights go out for projection, they are indistinguishable from black and reflect nearly no light. When the lights are on, they don't look like a dark cavern like black paint would have.

    Everybody else was pushing for black but we have a few other rooms that have black walls. It's actually difficult to work in an all-black room. There is no detail in the walls. That makes it difficult to gain perspective and determine where objects are in the room, relative to each other. Blue walls give enough detail that it's comfortable to work.

    In my darkroom, the walls are wood paneling. Medium brown. I figure good enough.
     
  21. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    Flat black may have been a safeguard measure if the darkroom was also used for exposure and testing of total darkness materials (duplicating, copying etc) as Kodak recommends an all black darkroom for these purposes. But for a darkroom in which safelighting is acceptable Kodak recommends flat white for the ceiling. For the walls Kodak recommends white, cream, other light colours or a colour similar to that emitted by the safelight, while flat black is recommended for the wall directly behind the enlarger (or other panels nearby), and around any light locks. These recommendations were in Kodak pub. K-13 (Photolab Design) and are still in K-4 ("How Safe is Your Safelight?") under Placement of Safelights.

    Interestingly, in darkrooms where safelighting is used Kodak actually advises against painting the darkroom black. The explanation is that safelights will appear as "pools of light" on the dark background which apparently can cause eye fatigue.
     
  22. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I did little researching on this subject:

    http://www.mufong.com.tw/Ciba/ciba_guid/optical_brighteners.pdf

    It's amazing how many different products COULD contain optical brighteners, including the very product we use to make photographs ourselves. (see page 9)

    I think the first step in this research should be to confirm if the paint OP plans to use indeed contain Optical Brighteners. If the answer is no, then there is no concern. If yes, if it will actually be sufficient to cause problems in photographic processes. My guess is no but without some firm data, we all be guessing.

    OP is really asking not about wall color, so I'd suggest he'd start there.

    My walls are pretty white. No problems in my personal darkroom. (other than reflection of light leaks from my enlargers)
     
  23. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    A lot of shared darkrooms are painted black, because it is always difficult to control what light others may spill.

    I wouldn't worry a lot about brighteners that respond to UV, unless you intend to use poorly shielded, UV light emitting light sources (and if so, why?)
     
  24. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    I use a colour anaylser as an exposure meter and moving around in front of the enlarger whilst taking readings does effect it (not much but it shows up on the readings). I've never worried about it but maybe I should buy a black t-shirt for darkroom work!
     
  25. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    The colour of the wall is the colour the walls reflect!


    Steve.
     
  26. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    Damn! Busted!!

    I knew someone was going to catch that. Could I wiggle out of it by saying that the OP was really asking about UV-induced fluorescence? Naw, that's too far of a stretch. I'm just an idiot...

    :tongue:

    Ken