UltraStable - Permanent, Non Fading Color Photographs . . Color-Carbon Par Excellence

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by holmburgers, May 10, 2011.

  1. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    I've had the good fortune of acquiring some UltraStable pigment tissues recently, and moreover, the opportunity to communicate with the inventor/creator of the system, Charles Berger. http://charlesberger.com/

    In a nutshell, this was the last commercially made color carbon process, ceasing production in 1999. It was a CMYK color scheme and the tissues came pre-sensitized.

    I recall reading somewhere that the pigments were adopted or inspired by the automotive paint industry. I hope that this can be elaborated upon. They are by all accounts incredibly permanent.

    As you can see from the swatches, the pigment sheets are very pure and deep in color, but they reveal more typical "process colors" as they thin.

    To test the tissues, I cut two slivers and exposed one to UV light and the other went straight to my faucet for a solubility test. Sure enough, hot tap water dissolved the pigment away and confirmed that the sheets have not fogged/hardened. The exposed sliver did what you would expect, and did not dissolve.

    As for emulsion batches; the cyan sheets are from 410, magenta from M523 and yellow from Y334. Unfortunately I'm missing the key sheets.

    I'm excited to learn more about this process, and will be posting links and articles as I find them. Charles has offered to post the original price list and working instructions for the process on his website, in addition to providing a reading list. He has so far recommended Le Vocabulaire Technique de la Photographie (Marval, Paris, 2008), a French book with a comprehensive write-up.

    A couple of points that I'm most curious about are as follows: Was there a UltraStable brand receiving paper, and if not, what was the recommended receiver, and/or the means for its preparation? What is the sensitizer? (I don't know if this can be disclosed, but there is no stain that I can observe, and the keeping qualities greatly exceed a typical dichromate sensitizer) Also, sensitometric data and recommendations for masking would be interesting to know.

    I look forward to learning more about this amazing printing technique!
     

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  2. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Absolutely amazing digging young man, I used this process with his tissue in the 90's , this is definately worth you following.

    Bob
     
  3. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    the receiving material was melimex
     
  4. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Great to hear from you Bob,

    What can you say about working with the process? I could ask a hundred questions, but perhaps it'd be best if you could just wax poetic about your experience with it.

    Clear melinex or was there an opaque backing?
     
  5. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    roses are red , violets are blue, I love the process so should you.

    opaque
    some workers image in reverse and then transfer to art paper after all the layers are down.

     
  6. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I have a large roll of the receiver sheet here. It is still made last I looked on the internet. The roll I have is opaque base virtually identical to the Ciba/Ilfochrome support.

    The colors like this are often created from either natural pigments or from metallized dyes which are complexes of dyes and metal salts. Either way, some of these can be quite toxic as for example the yellow once used Cadmium Yellow as the coloring pigment. The raw "glop" can still be purchased. The last I handled these was at the Formulary where they had a stock of them for making colored carbon transfers in workshops. They are still sold, according to what I have been told, but by whom I do not know.

    PE
     
  7. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Bob, that was lovely, though not exactly what I had in mind.... :joyful: Were you using analog or digital separations at that point in the 90's? How long would it take to make a print in this manner? What separation would supply the key? How were the results? How much did you charge? Where do babies come from?

    PE, I'd be curious to know where to get such pigments today, but I'm pretty certain PF doesn't have them anymore. Though I wouldn't know because I emailed them along time ago asking this and they never responded. Luis Nadeau lists some DuPont pigments in his book, I don't know if those are still available.

    I suppose the melinex support is ideal because a) polyester is completely archival and b) the smooth surface would make for excellent adhesion of the wet carbon glop?
     
  8. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Ron
    the tissue I purchased from Mr Berger was pre sensitized, we used the tissue straight out of the box to exposure,
    I am interested in what you think about this.
    In fact I talked to Sandy King and I am interested in both your thoughts on how to produce the tissue so that you do not have to sensitize at time of exposure.
    I was hoping to get you both together on this topic in the near future as Ultra Stable is very high on my bucket list.

    Chris.. I will leave this thread for awhile as I am in one of the most busiest periods right now at work and cannot give this thread much attention, but I did send Mr Berger an email requesting some info,,, who knows maybe he will reply.
    I will be back in the loop in a week or two , keep digging as much as you can as this is an amazing process.

     
  9. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Will do Bob, and I suspect we'll see Mssr. Berger in due time.
     
  10. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Bob;

    When I saw the pigments at the Formulary, Sandy King was standing next to me along with Bud. They described that these were pigments used in making up the carbon Glop and as such were stable mixtures. They were about the consistency of paint and came in 6 colors plus black. Bud had partially full 1 L bottles (not for sale) that had apparently been used in one of Sandy's workshops which had just finished that week.

    A book on color photography, by Leadly and Stegmeyer, describes this and several other color processes akin to Dye Transfer.

    A google search for Ultra Stable will show you a company in California that makes the reflective support. I have a roll about 4 ft x 25 ft. Mark Osterman and I have been using it as a support for our various print experiments. I took a short roll of it over to his home about 2 weeks or so ago for him to make some prints on.

    PE
     
  11. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Is this the stuff you're referring to PE? http://www.inkjetart.com/canvas.html It's not CA, but Utah. It says "UltraStable is a Trademark of UltraStable Color Systems, Inc", so it is the same stuff.

    I had no idea this was available. I wonder if it's identical stuff with new marketing, or has it been optimized for inkjet printing? Very interesting.
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    great find H

    sorry for showing my ignorance :smile:
    what is the difference between this sort of "ultrastable" process
    and the dye transfer process, both seem to be uber-stable ..

    - john
     
  13. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Thanks J!

    Well, it seems that nothing is more stable than a carbon print because it is actually pigment trapped inside the gelatin. You can think of it like making a photograph with painter's pigments, and these substances can be incredibly stable. Vermeer's paintings haven't faded for 350 years!

    Dyes on the other hand aren't as stable, and will fade overtime. Dye-transfer prints do have excellent dark storage properties, but their light-fastness just isn't as great. Acid dyes, which are used in dye-transfer, are quite stable compared to, say, basic dyes, which are quite fugitive in short amounts of time (yet more brilliant!). So it depends on the specific dye being utilized, and tradeoffs are made between hue, light-fastness and their imbibition properties.

    I'm no expert, but I think you could hang an UltraStable print outside, facing the sun and it wouldn't appreciably fade in your lifetime. (this could be a bit of an exaggeration... I'm taking poetic license. :wink: . . but maybe not)
     
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  15. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    thanks for the insights H -

    my uncle used to make dye transfers back in the 60s ..
    and has some in his home that have been on the wall since they were made ..
    they get outdoor light, over head light &C since it was made ( 40+ years ago ) ...
    and they looks like they were made ... last night ...
    i was always told that dye transfer was the most long lasting of all the color processes ...
    it is good to know there are others that are as ( if not more ) stable -

    john
     
  16. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    That's great for me to hear as well, about the DT prints. I guess it's a case where "less stable" is still pretty damn stable.

    Here's some quantitative info from http://www.wilhelm-research.com/pdf/HW_Book_03_of_20_HiRes_v1a.pdf page 4,

    "Even though all types of color prints are subject to light fading, grouping every type of color print together and stating simply that "all colors fade" ignores the very large differences in dye stability among currently available products. Some materials are much more stable than others. As shown by UltraStable Permanent Color prints and Polaroid Permanent-Color prints, it is possible to make color prints with high-stability color pigments that, in a practical sense, do not fade at all: that is, under normal conditions of display, the prints will probably retain excellent quality color images for five hundred years or more."

    Charles Berger developed the Polaroid Permanent Color Print process as well, which I believe has nothing to do with dye-diffusion like most polaroid materials, but is basically the same as UltraStable(?). I'd be interested to know the differences.
     
  17. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    The data from Wilhelm must be considered from many aspects. He uses 500 FC for fading in most cases just like Fuji, but Kodak uses 100 FC, which is the level measured in most homes as an average of 10,000 or so tests run world wide. This level difference represents reciprocity in fading which is just as real as speed or contrast reciprocity.

    Also, note that the figure of faded transparencies in a Florida airport are not shown in color but it states that they have faded substantially. Do we take that on faith or can we see the original color shot of that display....

    Do not take everything from Wilhelm at face value, there are many points of view on this subject. Not least of which, I might mention, relate to air pollution effects and Ozone / UV radiation levels.

    Bottom line is that we will not know for sure for about 200 years.

    PE
     
  18. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Well, all things being equal, can't we assess with some certainty in what order these different processes will fade? That is, we can't say how long it'll last, but we can certainly say that (a) will outlast (b).
     
  19. Photo Engineer

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    Not really. We have no evidence that the plastic support used for UltraStable will hold up. Millions of $$ went into the R&D to solve the RC problems. I have no idea regarding the stability of the UltraStable. An accelerated test is often not accurate due to oxygen penetration and other effects that are related to the "reciprocity" that I mentioned earlier.

    PE
     
  20. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    Taking a patent or writing a book like PE guarantees your presence for next 200 years.
    But trying to print ultrastable print when you are not a artist for next 200 years could turn them to toilet paper.
     
  21. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    will add my .02 in here. The late Gordon Chapple was an excellent color carbon printer. He was using the CMYK system and I have some of his color tissue, Melinex, Pin registration equipment etc. I have been working in monochrome carbon for a few years now and will venture into color at some point. I will follow with interest.
     
  22. Photo Engineer

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    I have had discussions with Henry Wilhelm (on and off since his original talk and recently in 2006 for 3 hours) and I find that there is a LOT of disagreement on this issue of image stability.

    PE
     
  23. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Your 2 cents is most appreciated. Do you know if he made these tissues himself? It'd be really interesting to compare the hue of these against the UltraStable sheets. I hope you can get around to doing color soon.

    As per melinex, it is interesting to think that we invented these materials within the last 60 years (+/-) and therefore how can we really know if they'll last. Hopefully though... because I just bought a 1000' of polyester film sleeving.

    PE, I get the feeling that you and Henry Wilhelm don't agree on some things ? ? Also, when talking about longevity, you're mainly questioning the support, not the carbon colors themselves, right?

    To me, the idea of using a high quality artist's paper is the most fool proof in terms of longevity. This, we know about.

    When transferring the carbon layers to the UltraStable receiving film, does it adhere to the pure melinex, and the opaque backing is on the other (base) side? Or is there an opaque subbing layer on the carbon/"emulsion" side?
     
  24. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    Interesting thread. Last week i posted an article on DPUG that i wrote for the current issue of AG ( The international journal of photographic art and practice) that highlights the use of Ultrastable for Pigment Transfer prints that you might find interesting, you can view it here http://www.dpug.org/forums/f29/multi-layer-print-past-present-future-2452/
    Permaprint was a studio that probably used the most Ultrastable back in the 90's and I was fortunate enough to interview one of the printers who did most of Sarah Moon's pigment prints in the article. It would be good to hear whether Charles would start making some more as he I believe he would have a good number of people interested in purchasing some stock, me included. BTW how much did those packs cost you?
     
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  25. CMB

    CMB Member

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    Whew, I am glad to see all the interest in Ultrastable (where were you guys when we were making the stuff?) To begin:

    1. Color Print Stability: Dyes and pigments have varying degrees of "stability" but in general, the dyes used to make color photographs (Dye-Transfer, chromogenic , Ilfochrome etc ) change (stain, lighten, darken, and/or etc) upon exposure to light. Some will even deteriorate (eg: Kodak's type C) when kept in the dark because the chemicals used to process the print remain in the photomaterials and continue to be reactive to their environment. A print made by the dye-transfer process by comparison, in which the processing chemicals are removed (Ilfochrome too), is essentially dark-stable. However, the final image is formed by dyes that will show changes in density, color and color balance when exposed to light. Not recognizing the important difference between dark keeping and light-stability was the basis for the myth that dye-transfer prints didn't fade.

    Pigment assembly processes such as carbon and carbro use color pigments that are typically highly light stable. Ultrastable films used pigments that were developed for the automotive industry (no cadmium here) which required bright, non-fading paints for their cars. Which means that the ultimate measure of the display life of a color print made using highly-light stable pigments is not light-fastness (500+ years according to Wilhelm), but rather the physical integrity of the print. As has been pointed out, 500 years is a long time and it is difficult to fast forward time for testing purposes. Adhesion, cohesion, cracking - not to mention fungal and bacterial growth- are among the types of problems most likely to determine the actual (very) long term display life limits of these kinds of color print materials.


    2. Ultrastable Pigment Films (CMYK)-- were made by coating a layer of pigmented gelatin containing a diazo-type sensitizer on a dimensionally stable base. It was a non-toxic, pre-sensitized, pin-registered version of the process Ducos duHauron used to make the first color print in 1869. Ultrastable pigment transfer prints were made on a variety of bases, including PET "Melinex", fine-art watercolor and hand-made papers. The color print films were designed to be used with high-resolution (300dpi and up) or random-dot separation negatives. The process is still in use today, with fine art photographers/printers such as Tod Gangler and John Bentley using the last of the materials along with freshly made (by themselves) films. The current Sarah Moon show at Fahey-Klein in Los Angeles, featuring color carbon's printed by Tod Gangler, is a fine example of the possibilities of the Ultrastable process.

    In a few days, I'll post a PDF of the UltraStable lab manual for those who may find it to be of interest.

    Charles Berger
     
  26. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    Thanks for posting Charles, I went to visit Adam Lowe in Madrid last year which the article features, who I am sure you can remember from the past. Is it possible for you to start making more Ultrastable if the demand was there?
     
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