Van Dyke Brown prints with too much flat blacks...

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Fulvio, Oct 6, 2005.

  1. Fulvio

    Fulvio Member

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    Hi,

    after having found the way to do an almost perfect cyanotype (blueprint is ok - I'm going to experiment with toning now), I also started making VDB prints.

    I'm using PDN system to calibrate my R2400 Epson printer and my UV exposure unit. I use Canson transparencies as negatives. Well... after many test prints, I have now a satisfactory color table scale... The problem is the pure black. It is not deep, no matter for how long I set the exposure. To make easier for you to understand, put on your monitor a 0,0,0 RGB square near a 40,40,40 gray block. The brownish black in my finished prints is even lighter...

    I normally expose my VDB for 6'. Have tried different papers. I always expose papers when they're bone dry (I dry them with an hairdryer at cool setting)

    What it could be? Developing perhaps?

    I develop my prints this way

    1) 90" bath in water acidified with winegar (ph <7)
    2) 30" in 3% sodium iposolphyte fixer
    3) 30" in water acidified with acetic acid (stop bath)
    4) 90" in 1% sodium sulphyte (hypo-clearing bath)
    5) wash for 25'

    prolonged or reduced fixing bath won't accomplish better results...

    I don't think there's something wrong in the PDN digital calibrated negative... Even with a Stouffer exposure scale or a paper exposed without any negative on it the black will remain the same.

    I'm going literally nuts...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 6, 2005
  2. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    Have you tried double coating the paper?
     
  3. Fulvio

    Fulvio Member

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    sorry, forgot to mention: I always double coat the paper
     
  4. Fulvio

    Fulvio Member

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    This is the recipe I'm using:

    A) Ferric ammonium citrate (III) 30%
    B) Tartaric acid 5%
    C) Silver nitrate 12%

    mixed B --> A, then added C to A+B
     
  5. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    Gotta check the strength of your chemicals then. Good luck!
     
  6. Fulvio

    Fulvio Member

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    What do you mean?

    Is there any VDB intensifier? e.g. potassium dichromate?
     
  7. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Gold toning is a good way to strengthen blacks, as well as making the print tone more neutral.
     
  8. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    okay... Ive done a fair share of VDB printing.
    no matter what Ive personally done true black will never be true black. I always get deep dark chocolate brown as the deepest shadow... although its partly why I love the printing method.
    Ive toned in Gold, selenium, platinum, and palladium. each having a very discernably different look and feel. all of which I liked (except the selenium it just never seemed to work). The platinum really seemed to have the nicest shadow areas in the prints I did.
    now one thing I did find was that I got the nicest shadows on thinner paper.... the thicker paper seemed to not have as strong the the darkness in the shadows.
     
  9. sanking

    sanking Member

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    The three things that come quickest to my mind are.

    1. Wrong paper. Many papers are not capable to giving good Dmax with the iron processes. Soaking for a few seconds in a weak acid bath before coating helps with some papers.

    2. Sensitizer. You may have mixed it wrong, or some of the chemicals may be bad.

    3. Humidity. Vandyke, like other iron processes, gives better Dmax in high humidity workding conditions than in low humidity conditions.

    Any of these things could be the problem, but I suspect most #1.

    Sandy
     
  10. Fulvio

    Fulvio Member

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    Kodak Selenium Toner contains sodium thyosulfphite... It is a fixer and tends to lighten the print. If you soak an overexposed print in a selenium bath diluted 1:40-1:60 the result can be pleasant. Normally the bath doesn't take longer than 15-20". I'm unconfortable with selenium because of its toxicity. I prefer to use strong toxic stuff unless is strictly necessary to the process itself.


    I was thinking about the same... But that won't explain why the Arches Platine is reccomanded while it should be 300gsm, a relatively heavy paper!

    Anyone obtained more success sizing the paper with gelatin or cornstarch?
     
  11. Fulvio

    Fulvio Member

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    Do I have to dry the paper before coating? If not, won't the coat dilute with water residuals on the paper?

    I've used Fabriano Artistico 300gsm and Schoelleshammer paper. The Schoelleshammer is wonderful with Cyanotypes so I thought it might worked well also on VDB prints.

    I have 10 sheets of Arches Platine which I still have to try. I don't really want to waste it in testing... But maybe I'll give it a try tomorrow.
    Do you think it will be necessary to recalibrate the PDN negative?
    On cyanotypes I didn't notice a great difference by switching papers (both Arches Aquarelle and Schoelleshammer gave the same results; with others I didn't like the "pure black" blue tones at any exposure time, so I discarded them)

    I've heard this... I live in a fairly humid place. But I always dry the coated papers until they're "bone dry", before exposing them. Also, while they're under the UV exposure unit, they're under the glass pressure and a little heat (very, very little, the UV case is fan-ventilated) produces when the lamps and ballasts are on.

    How I can improve the humidity rating (which percentage?) in these conditions? Also, I print in the same room where I keep raw chemicals (in a locked closet) and other stuff which might suffer from high humidity rates.

    I tried once to expose cyanotypes which weren't bone dry (they were almost dry, but not 100%). The result were horrible. Now I get excellent results with cyanotypes, but I don't pass them under the UV unit until the paper is dry as new.

    Thanks for your suggestions
     
  12. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've tried several papers (weel - most of the papers I could find locally). My best results have been using the back side of a Canson sketch paper - the front side doesn't work at all. Single coating only, the shadows are still as good as they get. No sizing either. I've gold toned on occasion.

    Selenium toner (Kodak's KRST) contains ammonium thiosulfate, which is what bleaches the prints. It's far cheaper (and less toxic) to use a 1/20 concentration of commercial rapid fixer as a bleach. That's 1+19 from paper fixing dilution!

    Arches Platine is sort of a "general recommendation", since it's made for alt. printing. I don't think it's necessarily the best for all processes.
     
  13. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    fulvio, Ive toned prints in Kodak Selenium and berg selenium toner at everything from dilutions of 1:30 (very short times) to upwards of 1:500 (obviously for longer times) even after "over printing" for the bleach down of it I still never liked the results... it seemed to remove something aesthetically from the print.... hard/impossible for me to describe in words... but I just could never enjoy it.
    just wanted to share my findings with you.

    good luck with experimenting.
     
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  15. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    And the paper should be dry...

    Cyanotype and VDB are very different processes, and what gives good results with one doesn't necessarily work with the other.

    Have you tried toning your cyanotypes with tea? That can give deeper, more neutral blacks (in acidic tea - add citric acid) or brown tones (alkaline tea)
     
  16. Fulvio

    Fulvio Member

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    Thanks Ole,

    While I will try to find out the Canson, I've decided to start using the Arches Platine anyway, at least for more friendlier Cyanotypes. The paper appears to have two sides.. Which one is best suitable for fine prints?

    As for the tea toner, I tried once, when I wasn't using PDN, I didn't have good negatives and neither a UV exposure. I will try again soon. I've also ordered 1kg of tannic acid. I'd like to tone my cyanotypes blue/black... I heard that the only way to do this is to use nitric acid which is extremely dangerous to handle (and in fact I won't).

    Another thing I'm trying to do is to bleach the cyanotype to a blue-yellow (or green) split tone. I've made some good experiment with sodium carbonate and ultra-overexposed prints, but I can't still get consistant results as I do with standard blue cyanotypes. Emil Schildt (Gandolfi on APUG) seems to master very well this tecnique.
     
  17. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Fulvio, my tea-toned cyanotypes went blue-black with pinkish highlights without additional chemicals. Just put the (wet) print in strong tea (Lipton's yellow)!

    But: My tap water is slightly on the acidic side, so if yours in neutral or alkaline add a pinch of citric acid to lower the pH. Nitric acid is overkill - you want a pH around 6 to 6.5, not 2!

    I think one of my tea-toned prints might be in my gallery on www.alternativephotography.com - look under "Scandinavian Artists".
     
  18. Fulvio

    Fulvio Member

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    I want to try a first bleaching bath and then a bath in tannic acid (which is a component of tea). I've the recipe somewhere... When I early tried a tea toning (don't remember the brand, sorry) the shadows darkened and the highlights became pink-rose-red. However putting the print in tea causes paper staining, which one might like or not like. The coffee does a similar job: black shadows, brown midtones and highlights... but also makes the paper beige...

    When I'll get that tannic acid I'll let you know how it works. I've heard that gallic acid works too.

    I see a cyanotype, which appears to be slightly bleached, with pink highlights. Nice indeed, but that's not what I'm looking for.

    PS - when is good to tone the cyanotype? Just after development in water? Or after oxidizing the print with some hydrogen peroxide diluted in the last bath? Or only when the paper is dry and a couple of days are passed so the print is fully oxidized?
     
  19. donbga

    donbga Member

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    1) Use 2 citric acid baths to clear instead of vinegar
    2) Use an alkaline fixer, I don't know what iposolphyte fixer is
    3) Eliminate step 3
    4) Step 4 is probably okay.
    5) Step 5 is okay.

    The maxium density I have ever gotten for VDB is 1.32 log density. My DMAX looks very dark. Gold or palladium toning doesn't seem to increase DMAX for me.

    Don Bryant
     
  20. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    iposolphyte = sodium hyposulfite = sodium thiosulfate. That's easy :smile:

    Stick to weak sodium thiosulfate solution for fixing. Do not use ammonium thiosulfate - it will bleach the print.

    I do wash - fix - wash. But as I said my tap water is slightly acidic, YMMV.


    As for toning cyanotypes, it doesn't really matter when you do it. The end result is the same. If toning isn't carried too far, and you're a bit lucky with the paper, the paper base won't get noticeably stained.
     
  21. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I am not familar with the Schoelleschammer paper, but Fabriano Artistico does not develop a lot of Dmax with Pt./Pd. and Kallitype (and I suspect the same would be true of VDB) unless you do a pre-soak with a dilute acid solution (for example, 1% or 2% citric or oxalic acid). You allow this to dry of course before coating it with the sensitizing solution.

    If you live in a humid climate humidity should not be an issue. I live in a relaively humid climate (it is usually over 55% RH in my house) and have never found any need for extra humidification.

    Sandy

     
  22. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    I found this to hold very true with VDB. Ive printed some on Fabriano Artistico in VDB and never really liked it as much as when I print on Cranes Cover (platinotype). Cranes is more delicate when wet for sure... the Artistico was alot more sturdy... but I was just more pleased with the Cranes paper. Plus, when ordered directly from Cranes and cut down, its cheaper.
    I havent done any Pd printing on the Artistico (I think I have one sheet left) but I take sandys advice to heart and will likely not bother to use the chems on it.
     
  23. Fulvio

    Fulvio Member

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    I will try that. I don't have citric acid at the moment... Can I use some winegar or squeeze a couple of lemons? Otherwise I have plenty of acetic acid.

    As for the Arches Platine, which side is best suitable for printing?

    best,
    Fulvio
     
  24. sanking

    sanking Member

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    My best advice on this is that any dilute acid solution will counter the calcium carbonate, which is most likely the culprit causing the low Dmax.

    Just run it through the acidic solution and hang to dry.

    You should get decent results with the Arches' Platine with no acid soak.

    Sandy
     
  25. Fulvio

    Fulvio Member

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    Perhaps I forgot to mention that my VDB prints are very light when wet... After 24-48hrs drying and aging they become darker until maximum dmax achievable is reached. I guess this happens because the chemistry needs oxidizing to darken, like with cyanotypes... Although in cyanotype developing I use a final wash in hydrogen peroxide to accelerate the oxidation of the print. With VDB prints the hydrogen preoxide is useless as far as I can see...

    Today I made a couple of tests with acidified clearing baths and had paper sheets presoaked in acid solutions. With cyanotypes I noticed a very, very subtle increase of density: but I believe that I couldn't do more. The only variation I'm interested to try now is adding a drop or two of potassium dichromate... With VDB I still can't judge because, as said before, they're still too light and have to wait until monday.
     
  26. sanking

    sanking Member

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    The darkening you see with vandyke is due to dry down. As the paper dries this results in a higher concentration of silver metal in any given surface area than when wet. The mechanism is very different that what you see with cyanotype.

    If one assumes that your chemistry is ok and that your papers are good vandyke papers, I would have to suspect that the reason for the lack of Dmax you are seeing is a negative density range that does not match the very long exposure scale of vandyke. Low Dmax would be expected if you print with negatives that are too low in contrast because the highlights print in before the shadows have received enough exposure to print deeply. I would say that this expereience is the rule rather than the exception with beginning vandyke printers because very few people start with negatives that have anything like the density range needed, whichis on the order of log 2.20 or even higher. This is much higher even that what we need when printing straight palladium, and is about the same as needed for albumen, POP and salted paper.

    Sandy