Brown fingerprint stains, why?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by CLee, Jan 7, 2008.

  1. CLee

    CLee Member

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    Please no flames about bad technique, I know I need to work out some running water in my darkroom. But...

    I just spent an afternoon printing. I tried out some new paper and chemistry. Printed Fomatone(warm) mat surface using Iford VC developer and Ilford Rapid fixer, none of which I have used before. 3 min in VC developer, stop bath then into the fixer. Alot of the prints ended up with brown fingerprints on the borders, I would assume from fixer on my hands when developing.

    The question is, I never had this problem with Portriga Rapid 118 or Ilford Galerie in Dektol developer. Do you all think the problem is with the new paper or the developer. I would have no problem going back to Dektol. Also now that I have Selenium toned the prints am I SOL as far as getting rid of the stains? Is there a way to bleach them without affecting the "archival" quality of the prints? I print 16x20 with LARGE borders and frame without overmats, so any stains on the edges make the print trash.

    I guess that ended up being alot of questions...
     
  2. jgjbowen

    jgjbowen Member

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    Sorry, but I can't help you with your chemistry questions, but if they were my prints, I'd cut overmats as opposed to trashing the prints.

    Just my 2 cents
     
  3. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I had a similar problem once - either undeveloped fingerprints (white) or unfixed fingerprints (brown after toning).

    I finally traced it by comparing with my fingers! It was always my left index finger?

    I used my left hand to adjust the easel, and then to push each sheet into the deep corner of my 2-blade easel while I held the sheet down with my right hand.

    There was oil on the sliding stop in the inside corner of the easel. This got on my finger, and I then transferred it to the emulsion side of every print I made. The oil masked the paper from the developer, giving lighter spots in dark areas. In highlights and borders the masking wasn't immediatley apparent, but it prevented proper fixing so the unfixed fingerprint-shaped blob turned brown in the toner.
     
  4. John Simmons

    John Simmons Member

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    Your assumption is dead on...Brown fingerprint stains in my experience have been caused by pulling fresh paper out of the papersafe with hands that were still slightly wet with fixer from the previous print. If I am making multiple prints my first prints never seem to get this.

    I'll stop being long winded (sorry) and say there is no way I have found to get these stains out. The problem is NOT with the new paper or developer. Warmtone papers are MUCH more sensitive to this issue (in my experience) so you must be very careful about making sure the hands are dry. Having plenty of paper towel to dry my hands in the darkroom seems to have fixed this problem.

    Ole's problem has happened to me as well. This was solved by making sure that I wash my hands really really good prior to going into the darkroom.

    Regards,
    John
     
  5. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The interesting bit with my problem is that I got the oil on my finger from the easel, so it happened even when I put on clean gloves just before I took the first sheet out of the box!
     
  6. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    This is why I wear jeans that don't go out in public when I'm printing. :smile: I hate having wet hands anyway, but I always wipe before touching anything. And, yes, I also have an apron when I remember to put it on (it says APUG on it, too!).
    I also agree with the overmat idea before trashing any prints.
    And don't worry, you're not the first or last to do it. I have tongs with "dev" "stop" and "fix" in big marker letters and they only go with their tray. (That's also partly because I hate having wet hands, but I don't want to touch the chemicals anyway)
     
  7. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I got the same thing, but for a different reason -- it had nothing to do with chemicals on my fingertips.

    Paper becomes pressure sensitive when first in the developer -- when subject to pressure, the silver acts as if it was struck by light. I would get the fingerprints on 16x20 Portriga Rapid prints that corresponded to my finger position when I would tightly grip the edge of the paper to flip it over in the developing tray. (I start emulsion side down, then flipped it over withing the first 30 seconds.) The positions of the fingerprints did not correspond to any contact I had with the paper before or after the exposure under the enlarger.

    But I print with a 1/2 to 3/4 inch safe edge that was to get cut off the paper during mounting, so I did not worry about it.

    Our students sometimes get thin black lines on their prints -- then I see them with their prints in the developer and they are using SS tongs with no rubber tips to push their prints down to the bottom of the tray (emulsion up, of course.)

    Vaughn
     
  8. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    I think, but am not positive, if you have developer on your fingers when you take the print out of the fixer it will cause brown fingerprint stains.

    Jon
     
  9. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear CLee,

    Try print tongs. They should help keep your hands clean (cleaner? :>) ) while printing. Assuming the other people in your life don't love the odor of photographic chemicals as much as we do, your hands will smell better as well. I like the plastic ones with rubber tips, but you will always find somebody to swear by each type.

    Neal Wydra
     
  10. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have never had a problem since I went to tongs dedicated to each tray, so my fingers are never wet with anything. It takes a little getting used to, but I don't even think of it now. You are better off not getting your fingers in the chems anyway, so it makes for good practice all the way around.

    J
     
  11. CLee

    CLee Member

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    Tongs unfortunately won't work for me right now. I've got one of those racks that puts one tray on top of another and getting a 16x20 sheet in there with tongs could be tricky. I'll work on cleanliness and hope that fixes the problem. It just seems odd that for so many years I think I only had this problem onece or twice with my Portriga/Dektol printing and the other day with Foma/Ilford it was such a problem. I guess printing is not like riding a bike, you do forget if you don't do it for a while. I'll give it another shot in a week or two and hopefully be neater.

    I really am very strict in my style for some reason. I never crop (photo is as framed when shooting) and print with a black border. The white border of the paper is part of the photo to me, as is the non glossy surface. I want the image to seem part of the paper, I guess it goes back to my vandyke/ gum printing days. So I need nice clean borders. Tossing a 4 dollar sheet of paper may seem absurd to some of you but it's my aesthetic choice and I hope you can see it that way.
     
  12. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    According to Schaefer, "selenium is a test for residual fixer in the print; if brown stains form the print has not been adequately fixed." And he also indicates that the stains cannot be removed.
     
  13. CLee

    CLee Member

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    I should have mentioned the stains were visible when the prints were in the fixer.
     
  14. jgjbowen

    jgjbowen Member

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    CLee,

    I develop in Amidol and use nitrile gloves instead of tongs. I'm left handed, but my procedure is to put a glove on my left hand. If I'm proofing negatives, I will lay out 8 sheets of exposed paper on the enlarger baseboard in pairs of two with the emulsions facing out. I grab two sheets with my right hand and place them in the developer tray. I agitate the prints with my gloved, left hand and move them directly to the fix (no stop bath). I then rock the fix tray with my right hand for a few seconds, reset the developing timer and grab two more prints with my right hand to place in the developer tray. Once all 8 prints are in the fix, I agitate them with my gloved left hand and move them to my print washer. Then I remove the glove and toss it.
     
  15. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I've sometimes stained prints when pulling them from the developer with contaminated fingers. It's not a matter of these prints becoming pressure sensitive in the developer; the stain flows as the developer flows down the print. Warm toned papers seem particularly susceptible to this. Also, fingers contaminated with fixer while handling prints after washing has eventually caused faded fingerprints. Washing and drying hands after touching fixer has eliminated these problems.
     
  16. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Hello Jim, I have never seen any stains that flowed, so there seems to be more than one cause. From what I have seen and understood, paper loses its sensitivity to pressure before the end of the developing time, so staining that happens when removing the paper from the developer would be from a different source than pressure.

    I was in the habit of gripping the 16x10 sheets very tightly as I flip it over in the developing tray -- and this was in the days when I spent all summer (6+ months) working with my hands in the woods, and printed in the darkroom all winter...so my grip was a bit stronger than it is now.

    Vaughn
     
  17. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I use Foma Classic MG paper for lith printing and for prints that I intend to sepia then gold tone for the salmon color. I have had no problem while lith printing with this paper, but it seems to be incredibly sensitive to contamination when used with my regular developer (Ilford PQ.) The stain is never on the first print but is on subsequent prints, and shows as a diagonal band that corresponds with how the developer flows across the print when I pick it up with my fingers to drain. I believe that my fingers get contaminated when taking the first print from the fixer, which is then carried onto the next print when I pick it up out of the developer tray to drain, even if I rinse and dry my hand. If I use tongs or pick the print up in such a way that developer does not flow across the print surface it is fine. I also only notice it with the Foma paper, not with Ilford WT paper. So, dedicated tongs with this paper is the solution for me. I probably should just get back in the habit of using tongs for all printing...
     
  18. Kino

    Kino Member

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    I keep a small bucket full of water in my sink to one side of the trays. If I have to use my hands in a tray, a quick immersion and brisk rub underwater followed by a towel keeps my prints from being fingerprinted; that is when I don't use tongs.

    If you get into the habit of rinsing your hands regularly (and dumping and refilling the bucket on occasion), it keeps cross contamination down to a minimum.

    At least it works for me...
     
  19. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    I've managed to get these types of stains on my prints as well. Without fail, they have been caused by developer contaminated fingers (or whatever) going into the fix. If you catch them before the print is toned, and they are confined to the white borders of the print, they can be cleaned up with some potassium ferricyanide bleach applied to the affected area with a cotton swab or something similar. It is necessary to re-fix the print after this treatment to clear the silver halides left behind.

    There's something else to be learned from this. If there was ever any doubt about the efficacy of using an acid stop bath between developer and fixer, this is it. Any active developing agents carried over to the fixer will cause a stain. Acid stop prevents this completely.
     
  20. stillsilver

    stillsilver Member

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    I use tongs as well but I still get my fingers in the chenistry. I have lots of mechanics shop towels in my dr as they have less lint than terrycloth or paper towels. Any little thing to do less spoting!

    Mike