Fiber-Based Paper Recs

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by brofkand, Aug 1, 2009.

  1. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    My Photo II class this coming semester requires the purchase of fiber-based paper.

    I am looking for some recommendations as to which papers APUGgers have had good success with. For example, how are the Slavia papers?

    I will buy some 11x14 and 16x20 paper, so I'll be spending quite a lot of money on paper, and would love to go with lesser-priced brands where available. I'll be spending quite a bit on film (4x5 and 120) already.

    I would love to buy Ilford papers as well as Ilford films, but I can't afford it. What are the real-world differences in warmtone, coldtone, etc papers?

    Also, would it be worth it to buy graded papers (is the quality better), or VC papers? Single-weight or double-weight?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Fomabrom Variant works well for a neutral tone.

    Tom
     
  3. DarkroomDan

    DarkroomDan Subscriber

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    You will probably get a lot of recommendations in answer to your question. Here is mine.

    In 11x14 and larger I would definitely get double weight. Wet-strength really becomes important in larger sizes. It is possibly to work with the lighter paper in these sizes but, from experience, I can tell you that it isn't worth the "Ahh Shit" moment when you have a great print in the tray and you crease or tear it moving to the next tray.

    I have tried Slavich but mostly use it for the unusual lith results it gives, It is an interesting paper but, if what you need is reliable results, I'm not sure I would pick this paper.

    I used to use PolyWarmTone for several years. Unfortunately it is no longer available - it may be again but is not at this time. I really liked Agfa but, again, RIP.

    I just bought some Arista II however I haven't used it enough to come to a firm decision. My early impressions are I like it and will get more. I have maybe five other papers in my darkroom. I have used each of them enough to know when the difference each provides can be an advantage for a given image.

    I use Ilford papers for cold tone images but don't care for the way they tone. The regular hardly takes a tone and the Warm Tone goes chocolate brown way too fast.

    What papers did you use previously? What did you think of them? Much of any paper's appeal is how it fits with your vision and style for a given image. Shy of some other criteria other than fiber and price, I would strongly suggest a double weight general purpose variable contrast paper such as Arista II.

    Dan
     
  4. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    The slavich papers are very nice, I use the graded unibrom papers quite a lot. It is nice and cold and modern. A bit thin, but double weight is fine. I use grade 3 most, sometimes grade 2.

    I do use multigrade papers too, but to be honest I get most of what I need done on graded papers. I could get by on slavich alone, actually.

    I haven't tried lithing the slavich, Dan, hmm....
     
  5. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    ILFORD Galerie and Kentmere Bromide are excellent papers if you are looking at graded products.

    Tom
     
  6. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    Before, I've used Promaster and Arista II papers (both of which I believe are re-branded Ilford or Kentmere products, because they were labeled as made in UK) in VC RC, 8x11. They're all I've used, and I never got to the point where I "knew" them like I "know" how Plus-X or Tri-X work in a given situation. I don't really have anything to compare against. I do know that we'll be using Dektol to develop prints, if that makes any difference in recommendations.

    I have absolutely no experience with fiber based papers, so I am completely in the dark (pun!) as to what they mean. What does cold tone vs warm tone mean, and when are either preferable over the other?

    I've noticed I mostly use a #3 filter when I print (or no filter, which I assume is equivalent to a grade 3 as well?). So, should I just buy grade 3 papers, or should I buy VC papers? Is there any advantage to one over the other? (as in, are graded papers of a higher quality than VC papers).

    Thanks for all the suggestions so far!
     
  7. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    You might look at Kentmere and Arista II from Freestyle. Arista II is rebranded Kentmere, and I have been happy with both, and both are somewhat cheaper than Ilford. I have heard very good things about Fotokemika Varycon paper, also available at Freestyle, but it does require a red safelight, so that is going to be an issue at many or most group darkrooms. I have never tried it myself for that reason.
     
  8. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    Oh, to your more recent question. Warm tone papers have an emulsion which is of a warmer color, more of a reddish/brownish color than a neutral. Cold will be more of a bluish color. I have tended to use warm tone papers, but I would just look for a good neutral paper to start with, probably, such as the Kentmere above or Ilford.
     
  9. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    Go with the Arista (freestyle) papers. One is Fomabrom and one is Kentmere. Both are good variable contrast papers, just different. Stay away from Slavich for a Photo II class. It is a fixed grade meaning that your negatives need to be pretty consistent to print on only one grade and gets expensive if you need two. Just stick to a neutral tone paper for now. The differences between warm and neutral are pretty subtle until you tone them. If toned, the differences can be pretty substantial. I like to use exclusively neutral paper for conventional B&W printing and tone in selenium (always) and add a little sepia toning to get a if I want a warmer tone.
     
  10. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    Well, my professor recently emailed me and said I can buy a package of Ilford Fiber Base Double Wt. MG IV Paper (50 11x14 sheet) for $58.17 through a supplier the school uses under contract. Freestyle sells the same paper for something like $80.

    I realize I could buy Freestyle papers for probably around the same price, but I figure at least now I won't have to worry about 11x14 paper, until I run out.

    I really want to know how do people avoid doing test strips when paper is that expensive? Do you use RC paper, which is much cheaper to do your test strips, then do your final exposure on your good paper, or is there enough of a difference between RC and fiber paper that the exposures will be different?
     
  11. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    On test strips:

    If you are reasonably familiar with a set of negatives you can make a guess. e.g. you have already made a good print at 8 seconds, but you see the next negative is slightly denser and would probably work well with a 1/4 stop more exposure at 9.5 seconds.

    Test strips can be useful in certain situations (say if you aren't too sure about the tone of a blue sky area in the print), but at other times can be a hindrance, for example, you have image with a lot of varying detail and looking at only one part of the negative might mean you ignore another important areas of the photograph.

    Tom
     
  12. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

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    No, you need to make test strips with the same paper. You also need to take the dry down effect into account.
    BTW, it's test strips, not sheets. You just need to pick the correct part of the image. Something with the full tonal scale.
     
  13. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    So I suppose i could surrender a few sheets to the cause and make 14 1" wide test strips for a sheet.

    I understand how to make test strips. It took me quite a bit of practice to be able to choose the region of the negative that has the full tonal scale, but once I was able to spot it my "signal to noise" ratio as they say has gone to maybe 3 sheets of bad prints to one perfect one, assuming a properly exposed and developed negative.
     
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  15. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

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    One inch wide is a bit narrow IMHO. Anyway, in order to choose the best part of the frame a proper contact is important for those of us who can't eyeball the negative.

    EDIT: I almost forgot it! In case you don't know about it, the minimum time for maximum black should be your starting point for test strips. You only need to do this once for a specific film you've developed and specific print size.
     
  16. BenZucker

    BenZucker Member

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    I feel like if your really trying to get a good print there is no way around blasting through a few sheets (on the low end) of paper to get there. You cant buy a box of 50 sheets of paper and expect to make 50 final prints. If I were you I would get a multi-grade paper, this way you can print the standard way you were describing by using one contrast filter, but you can also have more control over your prints by split filtering (with split filtering you make two exposures on the paper, first on with a 5 filter, to print in the blacks, and then an exposure using a 0/1 filter to print in the highlights) The control this gives you is really amazing. An other thing to take into consideration with fiber paper is dry down, what this means is when the paper is wet the image will appear brighter (especially in the highlights), 10-20% in my experiences, so to get the best evaluation of the print/test is to squeegee it when evaluating it, there will still be some dry down, but this gets you much closer to what the dry print will look like. Hope this helps.
     
  17. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    The issue is I simply can't afford to make 10+ prints of a photograph before I get the one for the critique. Maybe if I were being paid for the photograph, but as it is I am paying $85 just for the privilege of taking the class and using their Dektol. I have to pay for everything relating to film, paper, mat board, etc. Not to mention tuition.

    When I'm paying $60 for 50 sheets of paper, I can't afford to only get 5 or 6 good prints from the pack. How can I save paper but still get good prints? I'm certain a lot of it has to do with having good negatives from the start. I have learned that a good negative can produce an excellent print in less than 5 sheets many times, while a negative that is "off" may never produce a good print (at least in my current capacity).
     
  18. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    prints

    if you want to be able to print well then stick with one film and developer...it will give you the feedback that you need....I can usually make a print in 5 or less sheets but I KNOW what I'm looking for as have been printing for over 30 years....my best advice is to use full sheets of paper...the day I went from strips to using a full sheet I began to make the best prints ever....so you might save a few sheets but hey it's up to you....buy a copy of Bruce Barnbaums darkroom book and read it!! this process is a learning curve so do not expect to do it in one day...
    Best, Peter
     
  19. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    I think that around 25 to 40 good prints from the 50 sheets would be a very good result, and if you're fairly new at printing you should even accept 10 or 15 good prints as a rather good result. It comes down to your skill at interpreting the test strips. If you master that early on, then you'll maximise the number of good prints. It also helps if many of the negs have similar exposure.
     
  20. Larry.Manuel

    Larry.Manuel Member

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    When I'm working towards a good 16x20 print, I use gradually larger and larger pieces as test strips. I might start out with 1x2" [and single exposure of the whole piece - or equivalent area if a true strip] always in the most critical place - like a person's eyes if a portrait. I can't imagine any way to make a good final print without gradually, slowly honing in on the absolute best I can do. Bit-by-bit, I refine my exposure and contrast. Once I'm up to 4x4" pieces with a single exposure, I'm pretty sure that I have everything right. Sometimes, I'll make an 8x10 of the most critical area before using the final 16x20 paper. That 8x10 helps confirm the overall feel of the exposure and contrast.

    I agree with the advice in that I could likely make a better print if I were to make full size ones and gradually work towards the best I could do. My suggestions are for an economical compromise that works for me. So it all depends on how good is "good".

    The key for me is to decide which part of the print is critical. It's very difficult for me [successfully/economically] to be chasing two or three areas - trying to optimize all at once.
     
  21. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    I can definitely respect your position, Peter. I have been using Plus-X and D-76 for a while now and I know how it works. I'm now starting to move into Ilford and Rodinal waters, before uncharted. When I worked with D-76 I didn't worry if I accidentally overcooked my film for 30-45 seconds or if my temperature was off by a few degrees, or whatever, because I knew how my film would react and what to do when that happened.

    Now I guess I've been reading too much because I'm using the Arista EDU Ultra film (ghastly stuff so far, at least to me) in Rodinal. I'll probably go back to what I know, especially when I'm working with paper that is so much more expensive. I don't really have the luxury of printing 15 "alignment sheets" anymore.
     
  22. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Determining the optimal exposure should take no more than one test strip. That much is pretty easy. Whenever I get a new box of paper I cut up one sheet into strips for this purpose.

    If it were me, and if I were on a tight budget, I'd forget the MG/VC paper and learn how to get the right CI in your negs so that you can use graded paper. Bear in mind that you can do some minor tweaks to the CI of your neg with selenium, intensifier, or farmer's reducer on your neg. You must not let those things become a crutch, but they are there if you need them and almost every photographer uses them at some point!

    If you do use VC/MG paper, bear in mind that the contrast filters do affect the exposure time. Thus if you need to do contrast adjustments, you'll need to test exposure and contrast in tandem, if you want to place your white and blacks precisely. The filters will have recommended exposure adjustments on the box, and I find that those are good starting points but not always correct. So... it still pays to know how to control your CI via optimal exposure and development.

    If you really want to get the most out of VC/MG paper then you should try split grade printing, that is the state of the art as far as I am concerned. It is the analogue equivalent of the levels/curves adjustments that have become de rigueur in digital printing. It's not as hard as you might think- there are helpers that your darkroom may have, and even if not, basically all you do is pick your two filters and make a matrix of exposures in which you vary the ratio of the exposures. As long as you have the overall exposure about right, you'll get the answer in one or two sheets and you'll have the optimal black and white points determined for your 'real' prints. The problem with split grade is that it will inevitably go through a fair amount of paper before you get the hang of it.
     
  23. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    If you're using all Ilford materials, you can get away with doing some testing on RC then move to the fiber. However as consistant as Ilford is, there are variations in emulsion batches, and the paper surface is rather different. So I don't think you'll really save much. I make my initial prints on RC when I'm printing on Ilford, then switch to fiber for "keepers". I use the RC prints to show around and stick on the wall for a few days to decide what really should be a keeper. But in that process I've made the best print I can on the RC. It does cut down some on tests on the fiber, but doesn't eliminate them.

    For large prints, little 1 inch test strips really don't make it. If you want to go that route, use 4x5 or 5x7 test sheets at least. But I'm with Peter, full sheet tests are best, especially for 8x10 and smaller.

    But the best way to conserve paper is to hone your process so your negatives are right, then do the tests for minimum time to max black, and dry-down. Once you get all that nailed, test strips won't be very useful, and you'll be making making one or two full size prints to figure out any burning/dodging to get to your final print, and there's no getting around that anyway.

    As for paper choice, if you can get Ilford that cheaply, go for it. For learning, the consistancy will pay you dividends in the long run.
     
  24. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I have been using Oriental Seagull for neutral and cold tone prints and Adox Vario Classic toned to make a warm print. The Oriental goes quite cold in a dilute selenium bath and the Vario warms nicely in Fotospeed's ST20 variable sepia toner. Both provide a good savings over Ilford. If you don't want to do the toning then I would stick with Ilford Warmtone as there is not much of a savings over the Adox warmtone.
     
  25. Don Wallace

    Don Wallace Member

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    I have found that testing on RC paper and then switching to FB doesn't really work, even if it is the same brand.

    I don't quite get what you are after. You say you are taking a course in printing with fibre-based paper, yet you want to buy 11x14 and 16x20 paper. In my opinion, if you are learning, you should be using no more than 8x10. The larger papers are for final prints, once you have established all of the tonal relationships and the printing strategy (dodging, etc.).

    Although the best test prints include the entire image, some prints can have areas that are problematic or absolutely key to the image, and it does seem a waste to use a full sheet to work them out. I often cut sheets not into strips but into small shapes to test particular areas. For example, let's say the face is the most important part of a photo and I need to test it, but I also want to see the overall effect. I cut a chunk for the face, tape it to the easel, and tape another chunk in a "control" area to see the effect on the values there. It is tedious, but I am pretty frugal (ok, I am cheap) when it comes to paper.

    One thing that I have found extremely useful and which has saved me a lot of paper while testing is f-stop printing. Ralph Lambrecht has a really good chapter on it in his book "Way Beyond Monochrome."
     
  26. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    The thing that eats up paper for me is getting the contrast just right, along with the exposure time. Look into split grade printing and it will save you both paper and time. Combined with f-stop printing you should be able to reduce your wasted time and materials significantly. I would recommend Ilford FB Multigrade to start with as it is a very good paper. That way when things don't work, you can be pretty sure the problems aren't the paper.