My first carbon print

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by donbga, Aug 29, 2004.

  1. donbga

    donbga Member

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    I just finished my very first carbon print using Bostick and Sullivan black carbon tissue transferred onto Ilford MG paper.

    I made mistakes but on the whole it was a sucessful first print. I had some smearing from pulling the tissue a little too aggresively and perhaps too early. The print is a little dark looking somewhat muddy but my exposure was a pure swag. I used a negative that I had printed before as a ziatype so I know the negative is capapble of making a good print.

    I sensitized the tissue with a 2% solution of potassium dichromate and perhaps a litlle more contrast could be used.

    The print has a nice releif, with raised features in the darker tones. I'm sure the print may dry down too dark and I gave the print a alkaline development using some dishwashing detergent to lighten the tones. I also touched the print surface and had some smear but there was not frilling which was my biggest concern.

    After dinner I'll make another print with the same negative, I've sensitized 4 pieces of tissues so my goal is to use them all this evening.

    All things considered I'm very pleased, this could be addictive. When the prints dry I'll make a scan and post them for you all to see.

    Don Bryant
     
  2. Mateo

    Mateo Subscriber

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    Congradulations. This is my project for next weekend. Are you going to post results in the gallery?
     
  3. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Congratulations! How difficult was it? I tried making my own carbon tissue and it was a disaster, so I have been waiting to hear from peoples experience with the new B&S tissue. How much was it?
     
  4. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Yes as soon as the prints dry thoroughly. I screwed up my first one by trying to squeegie the surface. Stupid mistake. The image surface is so delicate and caused some scratches. I'm not upset though as it is a learning experience.

    Don
     
  5. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Keep us informed. Carbon is a beautiful process. I'd like to try it sometime, and not having to make the tissue would lower the threshold a bit.
     
  6. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Jorge,

    There are lots of problems to deal with, but basically it is an easy process.

    The first problem is that the tissue substrate is a plastic product, Melinex I think and it curls like crazy. Sensitizing the tissue is a pain due to the curl. It curls into cylinder. And since I'm only doing 4x5 negs the small pieces probably accentuate the curling.

    One mistake that I made was squeeging of the tissue after sensitizing. The bichromate solution wasn't removed evenly and it shows on the print surface. I just finished my second print and it shows up as streaks in the print, in the sky area of course.

    The second problem in with this negative is I need a more contrasty tissue. So when I sensitise the next batch I'll go from 2 to 4% concentration. The print looks muddy. And I didn't reverse the negative on the second print. the second exposure was better though but a little too light. Right now I'm waiting for water to chill down to 55F to process the third print. The first step after exposure is to mate the tissue to the SG paper for the transfer. This is done for 20 seconds in a 55-60 water bath.

    I need to be more patient during the developement phase, getting the tissue to release cleanly will take practice. I still have striations in the transfer from removing the tissue prematurely, even though this time I developed for about 20 minutes.

    The rubylith I'm using leaks UV and causes a light fog around the border of the image. This can be rubbed of but at the expense of having a scalloped image border. The print transfer is very delicate and it is easy to wash of gelatin during the clearing.

    As for the cost Kevin sent me a free sample. Since Sept 17th will be my last day at work due to a layoff I'm not sure when I'll purchase more tissue, I'm guessing its about $80 for 3 sqft. It's in the B&S online catalog.

    All things considered I'm pretty pleased. I've seen some of Sandy King's carbon prints using the B&S tissue and his own and a good carbon is a beautiful thing. Worth mastering. And screw those guys that call their inkjet prints carbon pigment prints. I make quadtones and I like them but there is no comparison in my book.

    I'll keep giving updates until I run out of tissue.

    Don
     
  7. Mateo

    Mateo Subscriber

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    Hey Jorge,

    I asked Kevin for a sample and he sent me a whole sheet (36"x36"). They have the price list on the BS website now.
     
  8. Christian Olivet

    Christian Olivet Member

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    Don, thanks for sharing your experience. I have been having carbon in my mind for a long time. Its cool to hear that you had an acceptable result on your first shot. I would like to try it myself but I know that once I do it, I will get hooked in the process never to leave it again. I know I will struggle, but nothing good comes without it.

    I would love to see you post the image on this forum. You said it looks a little bit muddy and that's ok for a first try. You said a carbon print is beautiful. I have no doubt according to all I have read about it, but could you be more specific about the prints you have seen from Sandy King. What is it about it that is amazing? Is it the shadow separation, the color of the pigment, the texture of it, the paper, etc. I need to see a print in person or at least on the web and I will be on my way!

    Thanks,
    Chris
     
  9. sanking

    sanking Member

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    One of the things that is most interesting about the carbon process is that there is no single look. Prints can be of any color imaginable, on very smooth or very rough textured papers, have a lot of relief or little or no relief, and have a matte surface with a slight sheen or a very smooth shiny surface. The one thing that makes them different from most other alternative processes is that if on smooth surfaces they can be as sharp and have as much Dmax as silver gelatin prints.

    The major issue with carbon printing is that it is hard to be productive with the process if you have to make your own tissue, and even if you can buy the tissue ready made as is now the case there are still many chances for failure in every step of the process. I have been printing in carbon for a very long time but still feel very elated every time I make a really nice once print. I could perhaps compare it to pt./pd. printing by noting that it generally takes me two or three tests in pt./pd. before I get a first nice print, but after the first really good one the failure rate is very low for subsequent prints. Carbon is different in that even after I get the exposure and contrast down for a first good print the failure rate for subsequent prints is about two out of every three prints, or even worse on the bad days.

    Sandy
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 30, 2004
  10. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Hey Don, thank you for the reply. I will give Kevin a shout and ask him to send me a sheet, even if I have to pay for it.

    BTW, as you know I have no expereince, but I was thinking on your sensitizing problem, why not put the tissue in a tube filled with the dichromate? Seems this way you wont have to mess with it too much.
     
  11. Christian Olivet

    Christian Olivet Member

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    Thanks Sandy for your input. I have gone through your book on Carbon Printing and through the three of the most popular books on alternative processes.
    Even though I am very new in monochrome photography I already feel desire to explore other printing processes. So far I have printed all of my negatives on Azo. It took me quite a bit to get beautiful prints on it but that was just because I was so new to it. I feel that I will continue to make contact prints on Azo for a long time, or at least for as long as the paper is available, but I don't want to limit myself to just that as I feel many of my photographs could look better if printed on watercolor paper. That alone for me is a big aesthetic improvement over the shiny stuff of traditional B&W papers. Also like you said the fact that you can make tissue with any imaginable color is something you just can not have with other processes.
    Since I will continue to use Azo, the fact of productivity is not an issue for me. What I want to do is print those special negatives that mean a lot to me in carbon hoping that they will look absolutly gorgeous in tonal scale, that they will be sharp (I mean sharp enough) and the will look somewhat organic or earthy. I hope I am correct in assuming I can achieve all of that with Carbon.
    I still would love to see a carbon print in my hands so if anyone feels generous enough to send me a print that has some kind of damage or blemish or whatever for me to see I would greatly appreciate it. Of course I will pay shipping both ways.

    Thanks again

    Christian
     
  12. nze

    nze Member

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    Christian O.

    I may be make a mistake . But if you live in France and closed to Paris the better is to visit the SFP they have some Demachy and puyo Haefstangel ( 140 years old print)carbon print And more. You will see what kind of result you could obtain. Another way is to contact Pierre Stringa (member of Helios) who made is own carbon tissue and quite stunning "clair-obscur" printlink to his technical page
     
  13. Christian Olivet

    Christian Olivet Member

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    Nze, I wished I lived in Paris but I live in Hawaii which is extremely far from France.
    I appreciate that you shared the link of Pierre Stringa. I have not seen his website before. Even though I can not read French the pictures are very clear and the process quite evident. I looks simple but I know that dealing with soft gelatine is no easy task.

    I am very shortly going to get some tissue from Bostick and Sullivan and give carbon printing a try. I will use 4x5 negatives to practice. When I get confident I will print the 8x10 ones.

    Wish me luck!

    Christian
     
  14. nze

    nze Member

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    Hi Christian

    Sorry , your name sounds so french that I think htat you live in France.
    I use the B&S , the Stringa and my own tissue to make some carbon print. It is a really easy process but need a lot of care even if you have all the good thing ( paper and so on).

    good luck
     
  15. J Vee

    J Vee Member

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    Increasing Contrast for Carbon Print

    If you need more contrast, decrease the sensitizer concentration, not increase it. J Vee


    The second problem in with this negative is I need a more contrasty tissue. So when I sensitise the next batch I'll go from 2 to 4% concentration. The print looks muddy.
     
  16. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Dichromate conecentration

    J.,

    Yes you are correct I had my contrast concepts with dichromate backwards. I'll probably drop down to a .5% concentration. Also I'll give the transfer paper a much longer soak in cool water.

    If I had a lot of tissue I would be printing step wedges instead of images but since I'm doing this by the seat of my pants I wanted to have a bit of fun. With the next batch I'll get serious.

    I do think it's a bit ironic that we may have difficulty finding silver gelatin paper now that carbon tissue has been once again produced commercially. Sullivan has an up hill climb though now that SG paper may become scarce(r).

    Don
     
  17. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Don,

    If you go to the subscriber's section of View Camera magazine you will find some additional information about how to match dichromate strength to negative density range specific for the Sullivan tissue. I plotted some curves for my article on carbon printing that was published in the Jan/Feb issue but they were omitted from the print publication. There was some difference in contrast between the various B&S tissues that I tested but the generic information should be useful.

    Of course, to obtain the same results you will have to follow my conditions not only in terms of sensitizer strength but also as regards length of sensitizing, method of agitation, type of squeegeeing used after sensitizing, method of drying, and length of time between drying and exposing of the tissue. For good results you really need to be consistent with technique.

    Sandy
     
  18. sanking

    sanking Member

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    It would probably be better to wait until Don has made 10-20 really high quality carbon prints for him to explain that statement. But by then I suspect he will have changed his mind.

    But I will offer a couple of thoughts. Carbon printing is easy in the sense that you do not need to understand quantum physics. And it is easy in the sense that no extraordinary feats of endurance are required. I once ran a marathon in 2:32 and used to run 10k races regularly in around 32 minutes. But doing those things was not easy, in fact they were gut wrenching hard, even though I had trained well to do them By comparison to understanding quantum physics and running marathons, learning to make carbon prints requires a lot less intelligence, training and endurance, and the actual making of a print is not nearly as hard. So I guess making carbon prints is easy in the sense that you don't need to be either exceptionally brilliant or exceptionally fit, and when everything comes to together and you make a nice print one might say, wow, that was really easy?

    Sandy
     
  19. donbga

    donbga Member

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    The physical part of the process is pretty straight forward, the most difficult it seems for me is getting the tissue to transfer cleanly and getting the tissue substrate to release cleanly. Apparently I need to give the receiver paper much longer soaks to better swell the gelatin. As soon as I get a chance I'll get the dry mount press out, flatten the prints and post them in the Technical gallery. They aren't pretty, but the next set should be better. Hopefully I'll print another round this weekend. I learned a lot from my first pass as one normally does when learning a new process.

    Of course if I were making my own tissue things would be much more complicated. Learning to do carbon with pre-made tissue eliminates a lot of head aches, however now that I've had a taste of carbon printing I'm inspired to make my own tissue.

    Don
     
  20. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Thanks Sandy, I'll check that information out now.

    Don
     
  21. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Sandy,

    I never meant that making a high quality carbon print is going to be a cake walk, rather with pre-made tissue the physical actions one performs isn't that demanding procedurally. Quoting from your chapter in Barnier's book on page 89, "...the carbon process is a rather straightforward operation that, once learned, offers a range of possibilities not available with any other photographic system."; this seems to be the essence of my initial experience.

    However after reading your extended article found on the View Camera web site there are some procedural differences when compared to the instructions provided by Bostick & Sullivan.

    First is the method of sensitizing the tissue. In your extended notes for tray sensitization you specify using only water for the dichromate solution. The B&S instructions specify acetone or isopropyl alcohol to be used for 50% of the solution volume. In contrast you recommend using a spirit sensitizer for brush sensitizing. Personally I would rather not use a spirit based method of sensitization.

    Second, your article has much more specific details about what dilution of dichromate to use for various negative DRs. Specifically you wrote, 'In working with the B&S carbon tissues it will be found that the practical effective range of a postassium dichromate sensitizer varies from a low of about 1% up to a high of around 3%.' However in your curve illustrations you show plots for dichromate solutions that range from .25% to 2%. I'm not sure what practical conclusions to make of that. In other words can .25% really be used with the B&S tissue or is 1% the bottom limit? Or are you simply making the point that a .25% dichromate dilution will produce an incredibly slow tissue? The B&S instructions specify a .5% dilution for a 'silver style' negative. Whatever the real limitation may be I'll measure the DR of my negative to see if I can practically make a decent print with it. Unfortunately it is a pyro (PMK) stained negative and I don't have a UV densitometer to measure the effective DR.

    Third, it is interesting to note from your article that the ES of the printing process is determined by the combination of tissue/sensitizer. I can understand that, but isn't the final contrast of the print also influenced by the receiver paper (at least to a small degree).

    Fourth, the B&S instructions suggest that the tissue and transfer paper be mated for about 10 minutes before development begins, you on the other hand specify 30 minutes. Perhaps you touched on this in the publically published version in View Camera, unfortunately my copy isn't handy so I can't compare. What effect does the RH and ambient temperature have on the transfer?

    Fifth, its not clear to me from reading the B&S instructions and your extended article what is the proper lenght of time for presoaking the receiver paper. In your chapter 'Monochrome Carbon', for Barnier's "Coming Into Focus" you suggest a 15 minute cool water presoak. In fact the B&S instructions don't specify a time. Unfortuantely I presoaked for perhaps 1 or 2 minutes. Vaughn Hutchins suggests a cool water pre-soak for as long as 6 hours, that seems a little nonsensical and extreme.

    Sandy, I hope you don't mind all of the questions, I'm hoping others will benefit from this discussion too.

    Thanks,

    Don
     
  22. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Don,


    For starters I would suggest that most discrepancies or differences you see in procedures, either between me and other carbon workers, and even just with myself, are due to the fact that there are multiple ways of working carbon and many of them are equally effecient. In other orders there are many ways to obtain the same end. Also, bear in mind that the materials themselves vary a lot and one set of tissue or final support may require working procedures that are quite different from another. And the materials, especially tissue, changes with age.

    But to the specifics.

    “after reading your extended article found on the View Camera web site there are some procedural differences when compared to the instructions provided by Bostick & Sullivan.

    First is the method of sensitizing the tissue. In your extended notes for tray sensitization you specify using only water for the dichromate solution. The B&S instructions specify acetone or isopropyl alcohol to be used for 50% of the solution volume. In contrast you recommend using a spirit sensitizer for brush sensitizing. Personally I would rather not use a spirit based method of sensitization.”

    In my opinion tray sensitizing gives more consistent results than spirit sensitizing. I use both methods but for critical work I always tray sensitize using just a plain dichromate solution. Dick has developed his own method of sensitizing and I am sure it works well but I don’t use it quite simply because there is no doubt in my mind but that tray sensitizing is the better procedure.

    “Second, your article has much more specific details about what dilution of dichromate to use for various negative DRs. Specifically you wrote, 'In working with the B&S carbon tissues it will be found that the practical effective range of a potassium dichromate sensitizer varies from a low of about 1% up to a high of around 3%.' However in your curve illustrations you show plots for dichromate solutions that range from .25% to 2%. I'm not sure what practical conclusions to make of that. In other words can .25% really be used with the B&S tissue or is 1% the bottom limit? Or are you simply making the point that a .25% dichromate dilution will produce an incredibly slow tissue? The B&S instructions specify a .5% dilution for a 'silver style' negative. Whatever the real limitation may be I'll measure the DR of my negative to see if I can practically make a decent print with it. Unfortunately it is a pyro (PMK) stained negative and I don't have a UV densitometer to measure the effective DR.”

    I consider 1 – 3 % dichromate solutions to be the practical limit. Speed drops off very rapidly below 1%, and above 3% the exposure scale of the tissue becomes longer than necessary. At 3% it is already close to log 3.0 and who prints with negatives of that density range? So the practical limits for me are determined by speed at 1% and ES at 3%. However, dilutions weaker than 1% do work and it is in theory possible to print a negative made for silver printing with a 1/4% or 1/2% solution.

    “Third, it is interesting to note from your article that the ES of the printing process is determined by the combination of tissue/sensitizer. I can understand that, but isn't the final contrast of the print also influenced by the receiver paper (at least to a small degree).”

    The exposure scale of the print does not vary very much with papers. But the look of carbon prints varies a lot according to the nature of the final support. Smooth papers give more sharpness and Dmax, while images on textured papers have less detail and the Dmax is lower. The differences can be very dramatic.

    “Fourth, the B&S instructions suggest that the tissue and transfer paper be mated for about 10 minutes before development begins, you on the other hand specify 30 minutes. Perhaps you touched on this in the public ally published version in View Camera, unfortunately my copy isn't handy so I can't compare. What effect does the RH and ambient temperature have on the transfer?”

    You may be able to get away with a ten minute mating of the tissue and support paper, but 30 minutes is safer in my experience. High RH and ambient temperature will result in a darker image. But it is complicated to work carbon at all when the temperature is over 75º F or the relative humidity is over 80%. In general the longer the tissue and support stay mated the more they will stick together, which will reduce the possibility of frilling during hot water development. But keeping the sandwich together for a very long time, say 1-2 hours, will result in a print that is visibly much darker than if the sandwich is kept togther only 30 minutes. This is caused by what we call the continuing effect.

    “Fifth, its not clear to me from reading the B&S instructions and your extended article what is the proper length of time for presoaking the receiver paper.”

    There is no one single proper time. Soak time has to be adapted to the specific paper and to the temperature of the soak water. If you keep the soak water at 65º F or below you can soak most papers all day and they will not absorb too much water. On the other hand, if the water is over 70º F the paper may absorb too much water with a soak of just a minute or two. As a general rule I recommend keeping the water at 65º F or lower. At this temperature a soak of two minutes is enough for fixed out photographic papers whereas a sized watercolor paper may need five minutes or so. The main problem is that if the paper absorbs too much water it will not stick well to the tissue and there will be a risk of frilling during development.

    Hope this is useful.

    Sandy
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 2, 2004
  23. donbga

    donbga Member

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    I've now uploaded a scaned print from my first carbon session in the technical gallery.

    Don Bryant