Is it easy to make your own Ilfochrome prints?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by Prime, Sep 14, 2002.

  1. Prime

    Prime Member

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    I'd like to make my own Ilfochrome prints from 4x5 transparencies. Is this easy, or should I leave it to the lab? I can make B&W prints from negatives, but I don't have a ton of experience in the darkroom.

    Are there preferred chemicals, techniques, books, or other things that I should know?

    Thanks.
     
  2. b.e.wilson

    b.e.wilson Member

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    No, it really isn't easy.

    Chemicals: You must use Ilford chemicals. They make two sets, the P30 chems for home use (the three chemicals self-neutralize so you can dump them down the drain) and the P3 set for pro use (you must neutralize the chems before disposal). Both chems are the most expensive chem kits out there (about $40 for a 2L kit, enough to process about two dozen 8x10's).

    Technique: Since the Ilfochrome paper has all the dyes pre-made in the emulsion (and processing bleaches out the areas that must be light) it is of necessity high-contrast paper. If you are trying to print modern reversal film (Velvia, Provia F, E100) the result is a very high-contrast print. The normal way of handling this is to make a contrast-reducing mask using some B&W film for each slide you print. It's a total pain to do, and requires mush experience to get the mask exposure right to match the contrast of the slide.

    Equipment: Of course an enlarger is needed, and one with a color head (with three dichroic color filters) is the eaisest to work with, though I'm told a good CC filter set from Kodak is usable. The process also requires very strict time and temperature control, so most of us use a Jobo processing bath and drums. The bath holds the chemicals at a fixed temp (30 C) and the light-tight tube that holds the exposed paper will be rotated in the bath to keep the developing and fixing steps also at 30 C. You can do the process with out a processor, but you must still manage to control the temperature. If you don't mind a warm room, you can heat the entire room to 24 C and increase processing trimes. The pamphlet that comes with the chemistry shows the times for both 24 and 30 C.

    Colors: The current Ilfochrome chem/paper has a problem that I don't think the older chems/paper had: serious color crossover. I find that often it's very difficult to print a scene with white clouds in a blue sky. Because of color crossover, if you want a blue sky you'll get purple clouds. If you want white clouds you need a slate-colored sky. This isn't something you can fix by adjusting the color filters in the enlarger head, it's built into the process. If you are printing a scene with a set of colors that does not cross over, then printing is a lot easier.

    But truth be told, when Ilfochrome works, it works magnificently. It just takes a lot more time and effort to get a good print than the other reversal paper process. It's also the most archival process (about 200 years according to Wilhelm Research). All the best Ilfochromes I've seen were done on a lightjet printer, where a color profile that included methods of negating crossover was used, and those prints are just grand!

    The other process is the Kodak R3/R3000 reversal process. It's more like the chemistry of the RA4 process, only with a reversal step. It's also very archival (175 years) and much easier to print.

    The trouble with R3 (pro) and R3000 (home) is that R3000 isn't sold in the US anymore. You can still get hold of R3 chems, but in large batches (12.5 or 25 gal kits). I use R3 now, and the only difference between them is that R3 needs a reversal exposure in the middle of processing (dismount the drum, lower a bright fluorescent light inside for a minute, then remount the drum and carry on), and that the R3 chem is replentishable, so you use much less chemistry per print than the R3000 chem. Very efficient, provided you can organize long-term storage of Color Developer component B, the only component that is air sensitive and not boxed properly already (the air-sensitive first dev comes in a cubitainer and keeps very well; I put my color dev B into baby food jars and sealed them with wax for storage, each jar goes into one gallon of working solution).

    R3 is very easy to print, very realistic, and I find that in an evening in the darkroom I can turn out half a dozen good R3 prints, where I could only make maybe one or two good Ilfochromes. (When I say make a prinit, I mean to figure out all the filter settings and time needed to print a particular slide well). I use the Fuji Type-35 paper, which I find to be a very nice match for the characteristics of Fuji reversal films. I presume the Kodak Radiance III paper will provide a similar match to Kodak pro reversal films, but I haven't tested them yet.

    For more information about color chems and processes, please refer to my personal page on them: http://chem.dynu.com/photo/chemistries.asp and http://chem.dynu.com/photo/colordkrm.asp
     
  3. Prime

    Prime Member

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    Wow. That is very comprehensive. Thank you very much!
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Bear in mind that the lab you use, unless they specialize in Ilfochrome or you pay for custom printing, isn't likely to be using contrast masking either. It's wonderful when it's done right, but it's not easy.

    I was just getting interested in trying R-printing as R-3000 and its various analogues (Tetenal and others make similar kits, which are available in Europe) became unavailable in the U.S. I occasionally send transparencies to dr5 (www.dr5.com), which is mostly known for B&W reversal processing, but also makes excellent R-prints using the R-3 process on Fuji Type 35.

    I like R-prints for smaller enlargements and contact prints from large format negatives. For bigger enlargements, I'll spring for a drum scan and LightJet print from West Coast Imaging.
     
  5. Prime

    Prime Member

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    David,

    Thanks for the info. I checked out the dr5 site. Their services, in my opinion, are very expensive. For those prices, I would expect top-notch customer-service, and processing/enlargements that were near flawless. If that's what they provide, then I certainly would consider sending things to them. Is that what they provide?
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Absolutely. Proprietor David Wood is a fine printer and processor and all around decent fellow who is really dedicated to what he does. He's probably one of a handful of people in the country who offers custom B&W negative development by inspection as a regular service. If he thinks there is more than one way to make a print, he'll sometimes print variations for you at no additional charge. If you are in New York, drop by the lab to see his B&W transparencies on the lightbox, which are wonderful, and he's happy to chat about film and processing when he's not too busy. If I had any need for B&W transparencies, I would definitely use dr5.

    Same goes for West Coast Imaging, if you choose the digital route. If you say "match the slide, but give me 5 CC more magenta," that's what you get. Friendly personal service, and reasonable prices for excellent custom work.
     
  7. Prime

    Prime Member

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    I'm always happy to learn about labs that people trust because most of the ones where I live are, in my opinion, a big joke. I won't share the stories. Do you know of any others like those two?
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    A&I in L.A. is a fine lab. I use their E-6/K-14 mailers frequently. They also do nice C-41 machine prints--pro quality at half the cost of New York pro labs, but if you use the mailers you obviously have to wait for them. www.aandi.com.

    My favorite local New York lab for all around work that I send out is Modernage. I don't know that they have a decent webpage yet, but you can get their phone number from www.modernage.com and request a price schedule which lists all their services. They're very comprehensive, friendly, and do very consistent work.

    When I was a grad student, I used to earn some extra cash by shooting actors' headshots, and the best lab for headshot repros in New York is Kenneth Taranto.
     
  9. Prime

    Prime Member

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    That's helpful. Thanks, David.

    I'm familiar with A&I and Modernage, but I hadn't heard of Kenneth Taranto.

    A couple of years ago I sent two rolls of 35mm E6 to A&I, using the mailers that B&H sold. The slide boxes that came back became sticky after I removed the packaging, and the slides themselves were very dusty. I was surprised that I would encounter those types of things with such a well-respected lab. I haven't used A&I since. I wish that you would send me some of the good luck that you appear to have with labs.
     
  10. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I haven't had the dust problem with A&I, though I've had it with other labs. I have had film go missing that I've sent there, but that's most likely the Post Office. Now I send film to them in batches, combining mailers in a box or small padded envelope, and haven't had a problem since.

    I don't have such luck with every lab. I just don't recommend or talk much about the ones that don't work out.
     
  11. steve

    steve Member

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    I will differ with some of the above information. I have been doing Ilfochrome printing since 1988, and have made conservatively over 1500 16x20 prints, both for myself and others - including prints for museums.

    Normal contrast paper (CPS1.K), in quite contrasty and about 10% of the transparencies will print without a contrast mask. The low contrast paper (CF1.K) is a marked improvement and will print about 25% of the transparencies without a contrast mask. While CF1.K is a "professional paper" it can be processed in P-3 chemicals with the following slight modifications.

    The P-3 chemicals will cause an increase in color crossover problems, however, I have found that adding 10ml of DEZ additive to the 2 liters of developer helps. Also, increasing the processing temperature (of all chemicals) from the recommended 85 F to 88 F helps. Strict temperature control is imperative for all three chemicals as temperature variations seem to exacerbate color crossover. I use a roller transport processor, and let it warm up and temperature stabilize for at least 45 minutes prior to making any prints.

    Fresh chemicals are also a great help. With the roller transport machine, I keep careful track of the amount of paper going throught the machine. A 2 liter P-3 kit is supposed to be able to process 32 8x10 prints. In reality, after you hit about 22, the prints will start to show an increase in red, so that by the time you reach number 32, there is about a 10CC increase in red. You will also find that the developer needs to be "seasoned." The first two 8x10 prints will look somewhat different than the remainder. This can be either a slight color difference or exposure difference.

    When working, I try to do only 2-3 16x20's at one time. The rest of the printing consists of test prints. I run test prints at the beginning, final prints in the middle of the run, and more test prints at the end with the knowledge that at the end of the run they are starting to look too red.

    You also cannot judge the color of a wet print. The prints must be totally dry on the front and BACK. Yes, a wet back will make a huge difference. The prints will look magenta when wet and if you have a wet area on the back it will look magenta on the front. I know, it's polyester based material, non-permiable, etc., just look at a wet print and a totally dry print, and compare the dry print to a print that is dry on the front and wet on the back - you can see the difference.

    The material is also very, very sensitive to color correction changes. I use a Beseler Minolta additive color head with a huge correction range and I can see changes as small as 1 number - and often wish I could correct in increments as small as 10ths. I do not find it nearly as sensitive to exposure changes where you often have to make at least 1/2 stop changes to see a difference.

    I also disagree that contrast masks are difficult to make. With a little practice, you learn the density of what a mask should look like. If it is too dense all it really does is increase your exposure time. What you are looking for is a low-contrast negative that looks like it would need to be printed on grade 5 black and white paper. That is , totally transparent in the shadows, and gradually building density towards the highlights. Highlight areas should be thin enough that when it is registered with the transparency you can see the highlight detail.

    I use FP-4 for the masking film in 4x5 size for transparencies up to 6x7. For 4x5 transparencies you would have to use 5x7 film as you need a way to attach the transparency to the mask. I develop the film in ID-11 1:1 for 5 minutes. If the mask looks too dense, I just make another mask with reduced exposure time.

    If you had access to a densitometer, you could measure the density range and max density of shadow areas with detail and build a data set where you could predict the correct exposure for the mask. But, you'll have to believe me when I tell you that masks can easily be made without benefit of a densitometer.

    Actually, the hardest part of making the mask is registering it with the transparency. If you have a registration pin-punch the whole problem is much easier - but, with some transparencies (35mm, and those with small frame line areas) a pin-punch would not work. I just use an 8x loupe and my eyes. When the film is registered, I use 3M #235 graphic arts tape to fix the edge of the transparency to the mask. The tape looks like regular frosted "Scotch tape," but it is not as it does not dry out and can be removed without leaving adhesive "goo" on the film. This is true even after 10-12 years of adhesion to a transparency.

    Lastly, an alternative to Ilfochrome is the Fujichrome R-3 process that makes really good looking prints in R-3 chemicals.
     
  12. Prime

    Prime Member

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    Many thanks, steve. That's a big help.
     
  13. David Vickery

    David Vickery Member

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    I used to know a guy in michigan who made his own color prints in his darkroom. He just had a series of deep tanks and a temp. control bath around those with a common heating element that he could move around.
    It was a pretty simple set up.
    Have you ever seen Christopher Burkett's work? This summer I saw a large collection of his large prints in a gallery in Austin. I could not believe how beautiful his prints were. They were at least a good as the dye transfer prints that I remember seeing a few years ago. He uses 8x10 equipment and does all of his own printing on Ilfochrome.
     
  14. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I know next to nothing about Ilfochrome printing

    I just demo'd and trained a guy on an LVT (digital film burner) so that he and the company he works for can have greater control over their Ilfochrome process.

    From what he was telling me it is only as easy as the tran's you start with. So they wanted to tweak their film prior to printing (plus they do a lot of computer generated output).

    I hope you do it and have great success!!
     
  15. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    Is there a significant difference visually between an Ilfochrome print and a lightjet print from a transparency? Does the lightjet print from, say, Velvia look more like a color negative print or more like a cibachrome?

    dgh
     
  16. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I printed on the predecesor to Ilfrochrome some years ago and unless they have found a way to extend the contrast range of color transparency materials and also the printing paper the process from a photographic methodology is limited. The limitation most apparent is it's inability to convey a full contrast range of the original photographed scene. I am not a fan of digital process for a variety of reasons and I don't advocate it's usage. However the tools in Photoshop may allow one to achieve the desired result in less laborious fashion.

    I found, in my experience, that the quality of the print using Cibachrome material could be absolutely stunning. However the process invariably involved manipulation of the trans contrast range through the use of unsharp contrast reduction masks. As I read about current users experience with the materials, I find that invariably those methods are still employed. Christopher Burkett, in my understanding, is one of those using masking quite extensively.
     
  17. JohnArs

    JohnArs Subscriber

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    Hi

    It is very easy to print Ilfochrome in my case I use it since 4-5 years.
    I use a NOVA Quad prossesor and a laborlamp from Jobo ( maxilux ) wich can also be used for color paper. But don't but the maxilux not directly against the paper!
    Works great!
     
  18. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    But how does it compare to Lightjet?

    dgh