Unsharp masks

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by olleorama, Sep 16, 2011.

  1. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    How many here does it? How big negatives do you guys bother doing the masks with? What film do you use and what do you use in between the neg and the mask?

    Is it possible to do one with color negs and what film do you use for that?

    Thankful for answers!
     
  2. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I mask up to 12x20 and use an ortho litho film. I have registration equipment for 35mm on up.

    I don't always mask, but typically when I do I'm quite happy with the results.

    BW film only.
     
  3. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    What do you use in between the negative and the lith film to make it unsharp? Do you do it with 35mm???
     
  4. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I do it, but mostly with color. There is a much more limited amount of contrast control available with color materials than there is with b/w ones, and it helps quite a bit. I have done it up to 4x5. It is really the way to print color well, IMHO. It is just as great of a tool with b/w, but seldom as necessary, as there are a million other ways to manipulate b/w prints to get what you want.

    The bigger the film, the easier it is IME. The hardest part is registration. That's why the less you have to blow something up (i.e. the larger the film), the easier it is to make it look good.

    You can also do masks right on the paper. Aside from having it's "regular" uses, it is one of the main tricks used by Jerry Uelsmann and other composite photo printers.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 17, 2011
  5. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    Can you explain in detail how you do it, and what materials you use for color? How do you do it on paper`??
     
  6. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

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    There's a very good writeup of the process in Ctein's book Post Exposure, which is a free PDF download on his website. Well recommended. Another write up is in Barry Thornton's book (I forget the name, the 2nd book...), using slightly different materials and method. Both would be suitable for color, Ctein's is written for color expressly. Agreed with 2F that it's really the best way to print color. I haven't made masks yet but plan to do so soon, probably this winter when there's less stuff to shoot and more time for darkroom work.
     
  7. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    I have a book in Swedish with some notes on how to do it in B&W, but it's pretty vague. I'll look up cteins book, I have it on my harddrive somewhere.
     
  8. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    I;ve heard of contrast masks -- especially with regard to making prints from color slides -- but, never heard of "unsharp mask"....:confused:
     
  9. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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  10. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Contact-printed contrast masks, and most other types of masks, are purposefully made slightly unsharp to make for smoother transitions and easier registration. Though the term being used to describe masks in general is due to people coming up with Photoshop instead of a darkroom. I always heard them called "silver masks." But then again, I think you must know that already, and what you said was maybe just your way of pointing this out to the OP.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 17, 2011
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    An unsharp mask is designed to improve edge definition. The mask is made by using thin mylar or acetate sheets between the original and the masking film, and then the original and the mask are printed in register. The effect can be controlled by adjusting the distance between the original and the masking film, the exposure, and the contrast of the mask.
     
  12. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    Ctein recommends tmax100. I think I would prefer working with efke ortho lith film, because I then would be ale to work under safelights. What developer would you recommend for lith film to get it as soft as it needs to be?
     
  13. ghostcount

    ghostcount Member

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    I use Dektol.
     
  14. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I always used FP4. It has a very neutral base.
     
  15. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

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    Barry Thornton recommends ortho lith also, thats what i would try first, personally.
     
  16. akaa

    akaa Subscriber

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    You use this for your color masks? What registration system are you using for 35mm? Radeka/Homemade/other?
     
  17. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    With ortho film? I'll try that when the efke ortho lith film arrives.
     
  18. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    There are different types of masks you can make depending on what you are trying to accomplish. For some types a litho ortho film is helpful because you want a very steep, short scale film. For pure edge effect enhancement a fine grained general purpose film like TMAX 100 works well. You can use other general purpose films too. It just depends on the format (in my opinion). Once you're at 4x5 or larger you can use virtually any general purpose medium speed film to make an unsharp mask. However I also sometimes make special masks for 35mm, and in this case I prefer to use the finest grained film possible depending on the contrast I want. Same goes for developer. For large format Dektol is fine. For small format I am currently using dilute Perceptol (same as Microdol).
     
  19. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    For color contrast control masks I use FP4+ in TMax RS developer. Gives a nice neutral colored mask. I use a pin register system from Alistair Inglis. I use the same film and developer for the few unsharp masks I have made for black and white negatives too, just because I had the approximate process worked out.

    I also use 4x5 film for both 4x5 and 120 masks. I have never made a mask for 35mm, so I don't know how well it works. If I were to do so I would cut the film down to save money.
     
  20. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    Thanks everybody for chipping in. I'm always amazed by the knowledge and experience here.

    But I cannot for my life understand how you can handle the sheet film and making masks in complete darkness, without pin registration systems. I will try with the ortho film and some 6x7 color negs and see how it works.
     
  21. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    The thing about masking is it involves quite a bit of plain old trial and error (and practice, of course). Not only handling the film in the dark etc, but then figuring out the right exposure and development, and how to visually judge the mask. There aren't a lot of definitive measurements you can make at the outset that tell you how long to expose the mask, how long to develop it, what developer dilution to use, how dense the mask should be etc. It takes experience. So don't be discouraged if the first attempts are all over the place. Keep working on it. Along the way, just by doing it, you'll probably figure out little ways of making things easier and solving problems.
     
  22. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    Thanks for the encouragement.
     
  23. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    Making the mask in the dark is easy, it's getting it aligned when you want to use it that's hard without a registration system.
     
  24. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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