Smoother paper for cyanotype?

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Donald Qualls, Jun 19, 2005.

  1. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    I've been making cyanotypes (Formulary's "Traditional Cyanotype" kit) on the cheapest fiber-reinforced watercolor paper I could find in a suitable size for low waste -- my budget won't stand paying a couple dollars a sheet for the paper to support this very economical process. Overall I've been pleased (though I've noted that the latest prints, after 10 months away, have a problem with the pigment washing off during development, which I'm working on), but when making small prints (my current largest format is 9x12 cm), I find the details from the negatives are obscured by the rather large, aggressive cold press texture of the paper.

    What I'd like is to find a non-alkaline, fiber reinforced watercolor paper with a smoother surface, perhaps along the lines of sketch paper or even laser printer stock, that's within my budget. Non-alkaline, because alkaline conditions cause permanent fading of cyanotype. Fiber reinforced so I won't wind up with a mass of wrinkles after developing and drying the print (even if I can sensitize it and keep it flat enough to go into the printing frame). And if I can't afford it, it's no good to me.

    Any suggestions? Ideally, it should also be a brand that won't require purchase from a big-city art supply store, since I live in a community of about a quarter million people over a 35 mile area, and the nearest larger cities are an hour's drive (twelve dollars worth of gasoline, near enough, for the round trip -- very limited opportunities at this time).

    Alternately, a method of drying cyanotypes made on non-reinforced papers would let me use the hot-pressed papers I've seen (which aren't reinforced, apparently intended to be mounted before painting, as we did when I was in high school), or even sketch papers and similar non-watercolor stocks...
     
  2. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Arches Platine! About $4.70 per sheet at Daniel Smith. You will love it.

    Don Bryant
     
  3. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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  4. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Canson sketch pad. Costs about $20 for a 100 sheet block, use the back side of the paper for cyanotype and van Dyke. The front is too "hard".
     
  5. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Okay, the Canson sketch pad is close to my budget range (nice if it came in small increments, but I can live with $20). I've never found a local source for Platine (even in Seattle, when I lived there), and I don't want to pay that kind of money in any case (though I presume those are pretty large sheets); certainly not without examining the paper! Yes, I know, everyone says it works well for almost all alt processes -- but it doesn't fit my budget at all well; for that kind of money I could buy foam-core, which will stay nice and flat and has an almost-glossy surface.

    Ole, is the Canson fiber reinforced, or otherwise treated so it dries reasonably flat after getting wet? Or am I worrying too much about that (envisioning the mess that results if ordinary notebook or writing paper gets wet)?
     
  6. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Donald, I've had no problems with it at all, even when tea-toning for a couple of hours (OK, I fell asleep. Anyone would with a cat on his lap).

    I can send you a sample?
     
  7. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    I know this thread is old, but I just got some stunning results from Strathmore Bristol paper the Formulary traditional cyanotype chemistry, double coated. This is a very smooth surfaced paper that produces great details and tonal range and holds up well to washing without getting rough afterwards. I have no idea what the pH is for certain, but I found one reference to it being around 6.x. I can send you an example print that I did the other day (4x5) and a few sheets if you want to try it out.

    - Randy
     
  8. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    I've just found the Strathmore Bristol as well -- in fact, after buying a pad of it, I also found it listed as good for VDB and cyanotype in Jan Arnow's Handbook of Alternative Processes.
     
  9. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    That's good to hear! I was concerned at first because I hadn't seen anyone else using it, but I really like the results and I didn't want to pay $40 for a block of Arches hot press. Thanks for the note - I'll have to give it a shot with VDB as well.

    - Randy
     
  10. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Although it is not the only paper I use, I commonly print VDB, cyanotype, salt and platinum/palladium prints on 100%cotton stationery. It clears beautifully, and rather quickly.

    It is fragile, but if handled carefully does an excellent job. Usual cost is about $8 for a box of 50 sheets.
     
  11. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    FYI, I just got an email from Sam Wang stating that the new paper is not the same as the old stuff - I must have gotten some of the old because this stuff is great. Sam told me that the newer is just about worthless for any type of alt process work so I'm headed back to the shop where this came from to get the rest. They were low on stock and if it changed, I want to stock up.

    - Randy
     
  12. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    How does it do as far as tonal range and details? The big draw for me on the Bristol is the great range of values and the sharpness of the print. I mean it's like night and day from my other papers.

    - Randy
     
  13. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    If the papers do not give me the tonal range I like I stop using it immediately. People who view these prints agree about the long tonal range.
     
  14. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    Agreed! I've gone through various papers looking for something like this so I've got lots of paper for other purposes laying around. Sometimes I think I need to take up watercolor just to put this stuff to better use. Thanks for the tip - I'll give it a shot.

    - Randy
     
  15. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    This is in reference to the Strathmore Bristol?! I just bought mine, from stock at the local Hobby Lobby, about two weeks ago. Their stock level was very low (I got the 9x12 inch in a pad), only a couple pads on the shelf; it's probably a slowish mover for them... :surprised:
     
  16. Jersey Vic

    Jersey Vic Member

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  17. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    Yes, unfortunately it is. I posted a questions about using Strathmore Bristol paper with cyanotypes on the alt-process list and Sam responded with that info about the new batches. My shop was low as well, and they are not exactly the main place for art supplies it seems, so I figured that what I got was old, because this stuff is superb. I've accidentaly deleted his response (doh!) but it should appear somewhere on the alt-process-l archive site (http://www.usask.ca/lists/alt-photo-process/).

    - Randy
     
  18. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Argh. Find something good, and it's gone.

    I guess I'm going to have to find a real paper store in the Greensboro/Winston-Salem area and get some of the Cranes 90# cover Buggy's been using.
     
  19. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

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    I've gone over this in another thread here but I'll repeat the main points. The important things you have to think about, Donald, are the rag content (perhaps you meant this when you said "fiber reinforced") and the sizing. Any mostly rag paper will hold up well in wet processes. Think about what happened the last time you washed a dollar bill (100% rag) in your pants pocket as opposed when the same thing happened to a sheet of note paper.

    Surfaces of art papers are rather vaguely catagorized by the roughness or "tooth" they present to the artist. I suspect what you are calling cold pressed is actually what a painter would call rough or at lest soft pressed. True cold press is more like sketching pad texture - meant for pencil. Mold-made paper is dried in a large pile between felt pads. Cold press is dried in conatct with metal, Hot press is dried in contact with a hot plate, like a ferrotype plate once used to get glossy prints.

    Sizing is what is added to a paper to give it "snap" and to control absorption. Heavily sized paper is meant for ink. Unsized or waterleaf paper is very, very absorbant and is most useful for certain intaglio printmaking, embossing and some types of brush work. Intaglio printmakers (etchers, engravers, woodblock artists, etc.) use all the various papers and adjust their methods to the surface and sizing of the paper.

    Stonehenge paper is very nice - a bit softer than most cold press paper and very sturdy. Lenox is also very nice to work with, as is Domestic etch. Rives BFK is my all time favorite for etching but many people like Arches Cover or the lighter Copperplate, a bit harder paper. Fabriano Artistico is another really nice paper. It comes in bright white and in cold press or soft press.

    Many of the watercolor papers, in cold press and hot press (somewhat hard and very smooth) can be had in blocks, glued on all four sides with a small place to insert a knife when you wish to separate the top sheet. This way the paper will not buckle at all when coating. Blocks can also be had in smaller sizes. The price range you indicated will get you darn near anything but very specialized papers.

    A great source of paper is Dick Blick. They deliver and ship very quickly. Phone ordering will allow you to make sure that what you want is in stock.
     
  20. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Whitey, all this is great information (and I did read it on the other thread, also).

    Unfortunately, it doesn't resolve my main issue with buying paper remotely: I have to buy a bunch of it to dilute the shipping cost, and then if I don't like it or it doesn't work for the process I'm working on, I've got a bunch of waste that's too rough and stiff to make good toilet paper.

    BTW, the "fiber reinforced" I was talking about (wherever that was) is something that's done for cheap padded watercolor papers so they don't have to be mounted before painting -- there's a layer of fiberglass mesh embedded in the paper to control swell and shrinkage and keep the paper from curling as it dries. When I learned watercolor in high school (in 1977 or 1978), we had to wet the paper and then tape it to a board with water-activated brown paper tape, and let it dry, before we could paint -- which is kind of limiting if you want to do watercolor sketching in the field. The fiberglass reinforced paper doesn't require that.

    I recall hearing about paper in blocks when I was in high school, but haven't ever used it; not sure I've seen it.

    My problem is coming down to this: I'm a photographer. I didn't think I'd need to become a paper expert to be able to make 19th century process prints. And I'm very reluctant to buy a bunch of paper that a) I can't handle before buying, and b) I don't know for certain will work for what I need (lots of papers, seemingly those with buffering or the wrong kind of sizing, develop a brown fog when coated with silver nitrate bearing solutions like salt print or VDB).

    Just the Dick Blick home page you linked is depressing -- there are 20+ different kinds of paper on there, and I'm not even sure what kind I want, much less how to tell, over the web, if the paper I select will fog when I try to coat it.

    As for "cold" vs. "hot" press -- I'm just repeating what's on the cover sheet of the pad...
     
  21. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

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    Point made... and an apology on my part may be necessary, and not just for my pedantic approach to the question. I just found that Fabriano, in it's infinite wisdom, has made a watercolor paper that is using the "Artistico" name along with "Aquarello" on the cover of the pad. It is decidedly rough and they are calling it cold press. Perhaps the old-time learning that I'm working on is now a victim to a more modern use of the terminology. Perhaps they speak now only of the temperature of the final roller- not of the face finish of the paper. The old Artistico that I used so happily was a much smoother paper.

    I recall the fiber-reinforced paper you're thinking of now. Never used it and I thought it had gone away as a bad idea. Shows how much I know.

    I may be able to help you in the shipping part, however. I'll send a PM
     
  22. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    The "marketing geniuses" have found the watercolor paper, apparently. That might explain why I've been buying paper with the same name as types that are reported to work well, but what I get at Hobby Lobby doesn't (Canson Montval being a prime example). The stuff in pads is *not the same* as the loose sheet paper of the same name. Blocks, maybe, but not the comb- or spiral-bound pads...