Vandyke brown question

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by jmarkov, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. jmarkov

    jmarkov Member

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    Hi,
    I've been trying to make some vdb prints during the last couple of weeks. I develop the print in 1% tartaric acid solution. After about 1 minute black spots appear on the edges and start to grow in the fully exposed parts, but occasionally they go into the picture. After fixing the black is washed away forming a light spots.
    I can't seem to find what may cause this. Tried it whit whit different papers, developing with tap water or tartaric acid solution, one or two layers of vdb solution and the result is more or less the same.
    I'm attaching some pictures. The first one is just before the border becomes black, and the second one is a minute later with a black border.
    Hope someone can help.
    Thanks.
     

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  2. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    why are you developing the print in tartaric acid, running water is the usually method, with a "light fix" after that?
     
  3. jmarkov

    jmarkov Member

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    I add tartaric acid because I read somewhere that hard water is not good for development. I tried developing in plain running water though and the results are the same.
     
  4. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    What paper are you using?
    Is it buffered?
    Is your sensitizer mixed with distilled water?
    What is the pH of your water?
    These are among the questions which need to be answered before an educated analysis of your problem can take place.
     
  5. jmarkov

    jmarkov Member

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    I tried with some unknown aquarelle paper, canson montval, arches aquarelle and inkjet paper. I don't really know if it is buffered. I haven't measured the pH of the water, but as it leaves white spots when a drop dries on glass I guess it is alkaline (that's why I add the tartaric acid). The sensitizer is mixed with distilled water and filtered. The brush is used only with this sensitizer.
    I will check the wather pH tomorrow.
     
  6. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

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    How does the print look after fixing? Could you post a picture of a finished print?
     
  7. jmarkov

    jmarkov Member

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    I can't take new pictures right now, so that's what I have. The first one is made in the beginning of fixing and the second one is made just before completely dryed. That's the same print as in the firs post. The third one is way overexposed, with wrong negative and not sensitized well, but the result is clearly seen, so I upload it. Usually the result is a lot better than that.
    I fix the prints in 5% sodium thiosulfate for 2 minutes, then wash, clear in 2% sodium sulfate for 2 - 3 minutes, then wash again. That's when the black starts to be washed out and becomes neutral gray or white.
    Hope someone can give me a clue.
     

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  8. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

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    I suspect that something might be wrong with your sensitizer. Were the chemicals fresh? Did the silver nitrate look nice and white? Did any precipitate form when you added the silver nitrate solution to the mix? Could you by any chance have made a mistake when weighing the chemicals?
    Did you use the standard formula, namely 9g/1.5g/3.8g per 100ml?
     
  9. jmarkov

    jmarkov Member

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    Yes, this is the formula.
    The silver nitrate looks fine, the solution was clear, the ferric ammonium citrate works just fine for cyanotypes. Both were opened about a month earlier. Precipitate formed with the last few drops of AgNO3. I filtered it after a couple of days. I am not shure for the tartaric acid because I bought it opened.
    I'll try new sensitizer soon, but it may be hard to find AgNO3 again.
    Thanks for the help.
     
  10. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    I used to do VDB and my results were all over the place. To the point where I gave up and started doing Pt/Pd printing, which is so much easier and predictable. Looking back I was all over the place with my paper choices. There are few papers that work well anymore. Buxton from Ruscombe Mills is designed for iron bases processes. I used to be able to get in in NYC, but it's not available lately. I ordered direct from France. pricey You can get that here:

    http://www.ruscombepaper.com/index1.html

    Then there's COT 320 from Bergger here:http://www.bergger.com/us/special.html

    And then there's Weston Diploma. I dealt via e-mail with john Zokowski
    E-Mail: jzokowski@comcast.net Good guy and ask for a few samples.

    Have you tried palladium printing? I gotta say Bro, Pt/Pd is way easier and trouble free. And when you add up the wasted chemistry paper and fixer and so forth, it's not that much more expensive. But get the right paper. Good luck. Doug Schwab, Brooklyn, NY
     
  11. paulie

    paulie Member

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    if this is your first attempts then i would just say keep practising , experiment with sizing, papers ,toners, etc

    use a quality brush and double coat, allow each coat to settle into the paper and then hairdyer , then re coat. you dont have to force dry but i do and see no difference in quality to natural dryed. except the paper can be a little slower on exposure.

    test your fixing routine i find 4% hypo for 5 mins to clear the print.

    everyone says that vdbrown is easy, it isnt if you want great prints.

    a good steady paper for vdb is fabriano hotpress 300gsm, with 2 coats of 3% gel size, also arrowroot size gives a slightly more nuetral colour tone

    stick with it, print good contrasty slightly overexposed negs, and if you want a more photographic look learn how to carbon transfer print :0)

    paul
     
  12. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

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    Sorry, but my experience is different. Personally, I find vandyke brown very consistent and predictable.
    I took it up just as a cheap means of seeing for myself what alternative processes were about, thinking that I'd soon be switching to a more "aristocratic" one. Well, I now cannot find any good reason to give it up. It works so well and looks so nice that I can't find any justification to move on to a more expensive process.
     
  13. paulie

    paulie Member

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    so important vlad siad it twice, i agree once you have a good routine and know the limits of the process you find that certain negs just look fantastic , so gentle and tonal, i just wish i had more robust negs in my collection so i could print more often to the quality i require
     
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  15. jmarkov

    jmarkov Member

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    Thank you all for the help. I'll try more papers, new sensitizer and varying the fixer time and concentration.
    As for the Pt/Pd printing I may try it at some point, but it is too expensive to start experimenting with it without any previous experience.
     
  16. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I find it very easy to do with stonehenge and arches platine (which you can't get right now). I got the stuff to do it from bostick&sullivan. It's just one bottle of chemical sensitizer that I brush on in two coats, and I'm good to go. I suspect having the right paper is the most important aspect. I have experimented on other paper that is buffered with blotchy results.
     
  17. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    I'm curious Vlad, what paper do you use, and are there any special things you do, out of the ordinary, not in the books that you might want to share? The few good prints I've gotten with VDB I really liked. I see paulie says he double coats. I remember I tried that, and I always sized with hardened gel. It may have been my paper choices. I was good at salted paper printing and the other kind of Kallitype with the Rochelle salts. But for some reason, VDB, kicked my butt.
     
  18. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

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    Right now I'm using Fabriano Academia. It doesn't seem to require any extra sizing. In fact, I tried once to size it with 3% gelatin, thinking that I might see at least a slight improvement in sharpness and/or gloss, and I got an image that looked exactly as usual. There was no difference. So I decided not to bother with sizing anymore.

    I double coat by brush. Not only do I find the brush method easier, but I also like the brush strokes to show at the edges. I found the glass rod technique too finicky and often got uneven coating with it, so I now avoid it and use the brush exclusively. When I coated with the glass rod I didn't need two coatings. One was enough. But with the brush the second coating improves D-max and evenness significantly.

    I don't do anything special. I have no special tricks. My only trick is to keep everything constant. As long as I use the same paper, the same amount of sensitizer, the same coating technique, the same processing procedure, the same drying method, the same drying time, the same distance between the UV lamp and the contact printing frame, and I use fresh chemicals, I find I can make as many identical prints as I wish.
    My workflow is as follows:

    - Use about 1.5 ml of sensitizer for an 8x10" print if I want to cover it completely, or 0.7 ml if I want the image to fade into brush strokes toward the edges.
    - Wet the brush, then shake it a few times and wipe it with a paper towel.
    - Pour all the sensitizer in the middle of the paper and start brushing it quickly in all directions. Keep brushing until all sensitizer has been thoroughly absorbed into the paper, but not longer.
    - Let the paper dry naturally for half an hour. No fan, no heat.
    - Apply the second coating.
    - Let the paper dry naturally for one hour.
    - Make the exposure.
    - Wash the print in distilled water with some citric acid for three minutes, twice.
    - Add one tablespoon of sodium thiosulfate pentahydrate in a liter of water. Fix for five minutes.
    - Rinse for a couple of minutes, while preparing a 1+200 dilution of selenium toner (5 ml per liter).
    - Tone until there's a visible (albeit very slight) darkening of the color. This usually takes from three to five minutes. Be careful not to tone any further, because the print will start lightening to an ugly orange.
    - Rinse the print for a couple of minutes, while preparing a 2% (give or take) solution of sodium sulfite.
    - Wash the print in the sulfite solution for five minutes.
    - Wash in tap water for half an hour.
    - Hang to dry.

    As you can see, there's no special trick. I don't do anything that's not in the books. I just found a method that worked for me and stuck with it.

    Notes:
    - The dry-down effect is unbelievably strong. If the print looks great wet, it's guaranteed to be far too dark when dry. I try to aim for a lighter than normal print. I don't know if this is a characteristic of the process, or of the paper I'm using. It may be just the paper.
    - Selenium toner changes the color of the print from a reddish brown to a dark chocolate brown and also improves D-max slightly. The effect is strong and beautiful after the print has dried, though it's quite subtle when the print is wet.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 29, 2011
  19. paulie

    paulie Member

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    my process is allmost the same as vlad, except i give the exposed paper a 2 min wash in a weak p dichromate bath, some say not to do this , but hey it works for me.

    vdb is without doubt harder to master than many other processes, partly due to everyone saying its such a easy process.

    ive deffinatly put in as much time to vdb as carbon transfer to get the results that i was happy with, stick with it and dont get mad get even.;0)
     
  20. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    How weak a dichromate solution and does it pick up the contrast?? Evan Clarke
     
  21. paulie

    paulie Member

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    i vary the ammount of p dichro for each print, lets say 50 drops of 6% dichro in 400ml of water, approx

    2 min wash in the dichro water and then a 3 min wash in plain water, try making a test strip and cutting it into two, one goes in the dichro and the other just water.

    yo will see if you like the effect,

    i used to add it directly to the sensitiser but had problems with consitancy and clearing,i now only use this technique when im doing a combined cyanotype and vdb, helps to slow down the vdb so the cyanotype can get enough exposure
     
  22. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    Thanks, Vlad for being so forthcoming. I'm wrestling with carbon right now, but I definitely will try VDB again. Personally I don't consider Pt/Pd a more sophisticated method of printing. I like that there's no fixer, and the image is very stable. it just gets a bit darker when dry. I can make a test on Monday, my finished print on Friday, and everything works like 90% of the time. Sadly the number of paper choices regarding paper is becoming more and more limited. I was surprised how easy that process is after working in just about every other alt process first. My first print went in a group show and I still have it. This has been a great thread. And thanks jmarkov for starting it.
     
  23. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

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    The funny thing is that your experience with vandyke mirrors mine with cyanotypes. Everybody says how easy it is to make cyanotypes, how simple the process is, how it's the perfect choice for getting into alternative processes, and so on, but I could never make a decent one. I found the process capricious and uncontrollable. So I understand very well how you feel when everybody says it's easy but you just can't seem to make it. :D

    I don't think Pt/Pd is sophisticated, just frustratingly expensive. What I do like about it is not necessarily the lack of a fixing step, because fixer is cheap and easy to mix (and besides, you may not need any fixer, but you need a developer), but the contrast control. I'd like to be able to use negatives of various contrast indices, which I can't with vandyke. That's the only thing that might persuade me to take up kallitypes. But that will have to wait because in the meantime I've discovered the carbon transfer. :D
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2011
  24. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    Thanks! I'll try it this weekend..Evan


     
  25. dodphotography

    dodphotography Subscriber

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    I'm having a hard time myself... I am using a 16 CFL (1/2 normal, 1/2 black light) unit that I use for collodion. My first time making Van Dykes I set up and exposed for 18 minutes... now I am an idiot and didn't test strip. When washed and fixed, then washed again the print was very very light and seems to be fading away. I will scan later, the print is washing now. I'm thinking maybe a coffee tone can help bring some detail back, is my logic wrong?
     
  26. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    How many watts are the UV units? I ask because with my 1000W unit it takes about 30 minutes to expose to full dmax.