Paper and developer recommendation for first timer?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Xia_Ke, Jan 6, 2008.

  1. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    I'll finally be able to start doing some printing soon but, I'm not sure where to begin when it comes to paper and developer combos. I know I would eventually like to print FB glossies but, have read FB paper may not be the best to learn with. Also not sure if I should start with graded paper or VC. I order from Adorama, B&H, and Freestyle so open to pretty much anything available from these 3. I shoot mostly nature/landscape shots and not looking for heavy contrast or soft prints. I'm leaning towards 8x10's mostly and some 11x14's. I think I would be mostly in the 2 or 3 grade range, at least from my reading anyway. I would like to experiment with toning as well though that may be best saved for later. Thanks in advance for your help :smile:

    Aaron
     
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  2. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    FB is generally more expensive, but otherwise there is nothing wrong with learning on FB. RC is easier to work with, that is; it fixes faster, washes faster, dries flat, so it's a good candidate for learning with.
    As for VC or graded, it's perhaps a toss up. I think it's easier to learn the effects of different paper grades with VC than graded, and you only need one paper, rather than two or three. OTH, you need to have a set of filters, or an enlarger with built-in filtration (usually a color head).
    For brands, it's hard to go wrong with Ilford MG IV (a VC paper) and Dektol, they are easy to get, most camera shops that still stock darkroom stuff carry those. Although, since you are working in a temporary darkroom, a liquid concentrate developer like Ilford, Sprint, or Liquidol might be easier than mixing a stock solution from powder (Dektol). Shops that stock stuff for schools usually have Sprint, and it's available from the mail order outfits, Liquidol may be available only from Phtographer's Formulary - they are the ones that make it.
    Freestyle's house brand paper is a good alternative as it's less expensive, but they source it from different companies from time to time, so Arista paper this year may not be the same as Arista next year or the year after.
     
  3. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    One suggestion:

    Fiber Base; Oriental grades 2 & 3 Glossy
    Ethol LPD Powder Paper Developer

    There are a great many combinations, keep it simple and stick to one until you have mastered it. Get these at Freestyle Photographic.

    http://www.freestylephoto.biz/e_main.php
     
  4. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    bdial, thanks for all of your help, here and in my darkroom thread :smile: I had been thinking about going with Dektol as it seemed to be, from reading anyway, the standard developer with tons of info on it. I don't mind mixing powders at all and could just pick up a few 1 gallon packets to mix as I go. I had looked at MG IV as well but, like you said I would need to get filters and also, the Ilford line, though I'm sure worth every penny, seemed to be at the higher end of the price spectrum. From looking through the Freestyle catalog and doing subsequent searching here, was thinking maybe Kentmere Kentona. A 100 sheet box is about $10 less than for the MG IV but, is only available in the one grade.

    Curt, thank you for the suggestion. I don't think I've read up much on either of those yet. I will definitely give them a look see. Thanks! :D
     
  5. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    something to think about with regard to graded papers vs multi grade (i only use graded papers myself , just to be clear).

    If your negatives are not consistent the multigrade papers may be more helpful, you can "tweak" the developer with graded papers, but i would not suggest you start there as you are just beginning.

    If your negatives are consistent, then you need to use a graded paper that matches the light source and negative. Makes life much easier in the long run.

    I would also second Curt's suggestion about LPD, it has great tray life, and with varies ratios can produce different tones.

    As a beginner, stick with one combination until you really have a sense of what is happening, that includes film .

    There is no magic bullet, just lots of work, filling the learning bin which means practice practice practice.
     
  6. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Thanks Ann :smile: I am getting pretty consistent with my negatives now. I would say I get about 95% of my shots where I want them exposure/contrast wise. I've been processing my own film for almost 5 months and have done about 60 rolls now. Judging from my negative scans, I don't think I will need to do too much adjusting contrast wise which is why I was leaning towards grade 2 or 3 paper. Again though, this is just from my reading :sad: As for practicing, that is my favorite part. My girlfriend has already been forewarned that the bathroom will be my second home...LOL
     
  7. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    I'd recommend starting with RC paper. It's slightly easier (wash times are a lot shorter and it's easier to handle). Once you get comfortable (which won't take that long) you can easily give fibre paper a try with only some minor changes to your processing procedures.

    The two developers I recommend to beginners are Kodak Dektol and Ilford Bromophen. They are pretty similar to each other and quite commonly available (especially Dektol). I prefer Bromophen because I do all of my darkroom measurements in metric and Kodak doesn't believe in metric, at least in Canada. (No, a 3.78-litre package is not metric. :smile: )

    Ilford Multigrade developer is convenient to use, too. It comes as a liquid instead of a powder, but as a result its shelf life is less (at least until you mix Dektol or Bromophen, they will last for years - once mixed, if in full bottles they will keep about six months). If you think you will be doing a lot of development during your learning, the shelf life is probably not a big issue. In use, Multigrade is very much like Bromophen.
     
  8. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Thanks Jim :smile: I plan on spending plenty of time developing while learning so I'm not worried about shelf life. That reminds me, I need to stock up on coffee for some all nighters...LOL I'm thinking if it's only a minor step up from RC paper, I might as well start with FB as then I can just buy a bigger box of it to save on $$$ rather than buying separate smaller boxes of RC and FB. I'll take a look into the Bromophen. Thanks again for the recommendations :smile:
     
  9. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    You're welcome. :smile: Don't be shy about the RC though. Even if you print exclusively on FB for your permanent work, you'll want RC for your contact sheets.

    MG IV RC and fibre-based are so close together in how they work that I make my work prints on RC, and then print on FB. I rarely need to change my exposure when I change paper types, although development is longer.
     
  10. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Thank Jim for reminding me about work prints and contact sheets. Hadn't even thought of that :sad: I'll have to see what I have for $$$ to play with after getting my darkroom equipment and get some RC as well.
     
  11. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    To keep everything simple, I'd definitely recommend a neutral tone variable contrast RC paper with a liquid developer. Variable contrast paper is quite good, gives you more freedom with some advanced techniques (split grade printing/burning), allows you to salvage those outlying negatives that need low or high grades and keeps your paper inventory to a minimum. Except for special circumstances where a VC equlivilent is not available, I can't imagine printing without the flexibility of VC paper. RC is just easier to get good results quickly. RC prints are said to degrade more quickly, but that is really not all that important when learning...you'll find that your early prints are not nearly as good as they are after a year or so...and then you'll want to reprint them anyway!

    The Kentmere papers are very reasonably priced (especially the Arista/Freestyle branded version) and very good. When you are learning, it is really important that you aren't worried about wasting paper. When you start, you are going to be filling the wastebasket much faster than you can imagine (I have to empty mine all the time). If you are afraid to experiment because of the cost of paper, you will not learn as quickly.

    The developer is really not nearly as critical as the paper. I use Neutol WA and Edwal (?) Ultrablack. I've used Dektol and that is a great developer too, but less convenient for the occational printer.

    Honestly, there are really no "bad" papers or developers out there. Many people will have their own favorites. I think the most important is to choose one and stick with it for at least a year.
     
  12. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I agree with Jim regarding RC. I use it for all my work prints, contacts, and anything I show around casually. One of the really nice things about RC is that it doesn't turn into a potato chip when it dries, and thus, it produces a result that's much easier to be proud of without resorting to some sort of mounting.

    Ann's right, if your negs are consistant, a grade 2 or 3 paper may be all you need. Many would argue that if your negs are exposed/developed correctly, a grade 2 or 3 is all you need. I can't argue with the value of keeping it simple.

    I've come to really enjoy the flexibilty of VC paper though. All my learning was on graded FB, and I adopted VC (and RC) papers a bit reluctantly.

    Barry
     
  13. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    There is one other good reason to learn how to use variable contrast paper. I would expect that if the silver photographic market continues to contract, graded paper may be a casualty. The market for it has been fairly small since variable contrast papers became mainstream.

    I have to admit that I have never used graded paper. I do have a couple of packages of Galerie for some as-yet-unconducted experiments...
     
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  15. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    So many choices and so many opinions/favorites. It's all rather mind blowing :sad: I almost feel like I should have a hat full of different papers and another full of different developers, then just pick one out of each and stick with it...LOL

    If I go the VC route, do all enlargers allow for filters or do I need to look for this specifically when shopping?
     
  16. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    I started with Ilford MG RC and Ilford Multigrade Developer (liquid). Seemed like a good place to start to me. I'm moving shortly and will have access to a real darkroom. That's when I'm going to branch out a bit into FB and lith...
     
  17. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Keep it simple. One type paper, one paper developer. Recommendations about Ethol LPD are very sound. I am not as certain about recommendations for one type paper for proof sheets and another for printing, though. A proper proof sheet, exposed for minimum exposure for maximum black through clear film on your negs gives you important information not only about about your film exposure and development but also your basic print exposure times as well. My two cents.

    John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA
     
  18. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    You're lucky you don't have at least a hundred replies by now, each recommending a different combination :tongue:

    I do most of my printing on Ilford MG fiber and RC, for me, they are quite consistant with each other, so proofing on RC and doing final prints on fiber works. I wouldn't recommend doing it that way mixing brands or types though.

    Many, if not most enlargers have some sort of arrangement for slide in filters above the negative, with the possible exception of some with color heads, in which case it's irrelevant anyway. If you somehow end up with one that doesn't, then Ilford MG filters are available that go below the lens and come with a holder that fits onto the lens mount. I would stick to enlargers by Omega, Beseler, Durst, or perhaps Saunders/LPL, although I'm leaving out many other good candidates, and I'm not listing them in any particular order. Of those, Omega and Beseler are the easiest to find on this side of the pond, Beseler 23C's practically fall out of the sky.
    Durst never sold their products here on a consistent basis, thus aren't as common, but they are generally excellent, and would be my first choice for doing MF in a temporary darkroom.

    Keep an eye on Craigs list or do a wanted ad there, and an enlarger will probably fall in your direction. eBay is a possibility too, but you'll likely do better with Craigs list, the apug classifieds are a good source too. Look at ebay completed auctions to get an idea of pricing, but factor in shipping. On ebay watch in particular for items that require local pick up, there aren't so many of those here in the Northeast, but they occur. Shipping on enlargers is steep, because they require pretty large boxes, and the baseboards are always heavy. The local pickup required auctions eliminate most of the competition however, so the prices are much lower and you don't contend with shipping costs.

    barry
     
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  19. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Everyone's two cents are GREATLY appreciated! My photography wouldn't be anywhere near where it is today if it wasn't for all the cents collected online :D Not saying it's any good now but, it has come a LONG way over the past year...LOL

    Barry, you're not kidding about the 23C's! I see those everywhere. Those and Omega D2's. Part of me wants to look at 4x5 enlargers as well as I would like to eventually go LF but, not sure I have the size for one right now. I imagine a 4x5 enlarger would be pretty large :confused:
     
  20. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Aaron:

    All of the suggestions here make sense. The differences are more differences of style and personal preference than differences of necessity.

    If you are the type of person who likes to start out with a material that is more demanding, but leads to subtly better results once mastered, you should consider starting out with graded FB paper.

    I wouldn't start there, myself.

    I'd use easily obtained, widely available RC papers that are Variable Contrast, such as Ilford MGIV RC. I'd use Dektol, or something similar from Ilford. If I needed to save money at first, I'd print more 5x7 or 5x8 at first, rather than 8x10 (a paper cutter is a great money saver).

    For the cost of either a set of VC filters or a dichroic head (on ebay or craigslist) the extra flexibility you gain from VC is really useful when you are starting out.

    Matt
     
  21. hywel

    hywel Member

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    My twopeneth would be to get the cheapest box of 250 sheets of 8x10 VC RC paper you can find. Doesn't matter which. Doesn't matter what you develop it in.

    Big and cheap because if you are just starting half of those sheets are going to be in the trash before you've even bothered to rinse them: there are that many stupid mistakes you can make in a darkroom, and you are going to make them all.

    Big and cheap so that you have no qualms about just trying it again a little bit darker or lighter or dodged here or what if I just back off the contrast a little? Like most things in life practice and experience and failures are needed to learn and to improve.

    8x10 because it's just easier to print than 5x7. At small sizes burning and dodging, two techniques that you'll need to master, become just so delicate and difficult.

    RC because it is quick. A lot quicker. So much quicker. And there's next to no washing. First experiences in the darkroom shouldn't be about washing.

    VC because there's a reason most people use it most of the time. You are are going to be mighty upset if you buy a box of Grade 2 only to find that all your negs print nicely at Grade 3. Or, worse, that you are happy with Grade 2 never having known how much better they'd look at Grade 3.

    Once you've got through that first box of 250 just start trying other papers. Packs of 25. What you think you'll like first. I think, reading your post, you fancy Graded Glossy FB, so try it, you'll never be happy until you do, but try some VC as well, and some matt. Perhaps you'll hate them, perhaps you'll discover that what you thought you'd like isn't what you like.

    I did.

    And most importantly I discovered that I just love the darkroom so don't worry about it overly, jump in, get going and have some fun.

    Hywel
     
  22. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    Aaron,

    Keeping it simple is good advice but you must first sample the available products before choosing your favorite.

    I found it easier to choose a paper after trying a few with standard type developers/toners for comparative reasons regarding surface texture and tone, as well as contrast - Dmax and paper base color (some variation of white). I now play with home brew developers for more interesting results.

    I've used graded, VC, RC and FB and settled on VC/FB (my favorite graded papers were discontinued). The characteristics of RC do not compare well to FB, one is plastic and one is real paper, for that reason I personally don't find any use for RC paper, especially now that there are other ways of proofing negs.. That's my $0.02 worth.

    Regards,
    Paul
     
  23. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    I am not sure why so many people have problems with fiber paper curling. My fiber prints all lie very flat. I wash in an archival washer then dry face up on a fiberglass screen and when the prints are dry I lightly press them in a warm dry mount press. It isn't problematic at all. I wonder if perhaps there is a humidity factor working against some. I monitor the humidity in my Oregon basement and keep it 50% or so. My drymount press is only 11x14 so for 16x20 paper I press prints flat under a quarter inch sheet of glass with some evenly distributed weight on top and leave it for a day or two and the prints come out very flat.
    Dennis
     
  24. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    Quick dry = major curling; slow dry = less curling (less stress).

    My FB prints end up flatter than RC prints when heated (stress relieved) in a dry mount press.
     
  25. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    Paper and developer recommendation for first timer?

    To keep things simple, start with Ilford MGIV RC and Kodak Dektol 1:2.

    These are not my personal preferences but the combination is easy to work with for a beginner.
     
  26. ignatiu5

    ignatiu5 Subscriber

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    Aaron,

    Lots of good advice here, and I'll add mine only because I have a darkroom setup similar to your proposed one (single bathroom apartment, equipment shuttled in and out between printing sessions) and because I too started printing at home within the last year and thus am also a newbie. Buy a big box of commonly used/easily available RC VC paper so that when you have more questions, there's a greater chance that others have experience in said materials. Ditto for a liquid paper developer concentrate. There's a reason why Ilford products have been mentioned multiple times in this thread; they'll be perfect for your purposes. RC for reasons of economy and ease of washing and drying. In the beginning, you'll want to print lots, screw up LOTS, and experiment lots, and FB is a pretty expensive way to learn, even using test strips. In an apartment with cats, fur, and likely limited space, I doubt whether setting up drying screens and the like for FB is a good idea. RC is so much easier in this regard and I think that making the printing process easy at the front end is smart. I suggest VC (and the requisite multicontrast filters) because although your negatives might print perfectly well on grade 2 paper, some might look better (or just different) at grade 3.5 or 00 and you'll never know unless you have the option.

    Your negatives aren't going anywhere; there will be plenty of time later to go back to them and use your newly-gleaned knowledge to create FB prints from them.