What do the grades mean?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by brofkand, Aug 19, 2008.

  1. brofkand

    brofkand Member

    Messages:
    514
    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2008
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I ordered a box of the Arista RC Plus 5x7 pearl paper. This is my first paper I've ever used.

    I noticed it is a Grade 3 paper. What does that mean? Can someone give me a rundown of what the different grades mean, and which filter I should use. I have a set of the Ilford filters as well to go in my enlarger.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    18,095
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You should do some reading. Have a look at Ilfords website and these articles on B&W printing.

    You have bought a fixed Grade of paper, grade 2 isconsidered to be Normal, and you're negatives should ideally print on this grade. You have Grade 3 which will give slightly more contrasty results.

    Multigrade papers are different you control the Grade by changing the filtration, softer Grades 0 &1 with more Yellow, harder Grades 3,4, 5 etc with more Magenta.

    Ian
     
  3. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,348
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2006
    Location:
    Humboldt Co.
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Grades mean that the Ilford filters (or any others) will not affect the paper in any way except as a neutral density filter. The contrast is "locked" in. A grade 2 is usually "normal" grade (like variable contrast paper without any filter used). Grade 3 will give you a little more contrast -- and luckily, a good paper to begin with. But next time get a variable contrast paper if you want to use the filters.

    Exactly how much contrast a graded paper can give you depends on the brand. Often they are in Grades 1 to 4. One rarely uses Grade 1...but if one has a negative that is very high in contrast, it might print well (or if you want to print a normal contrast neg to make a low contrast print). Grade 2 would be for negs of average contrast. Grades 3 and 4 is for negs of low contrast -- or average negs that you want to make a print of high contrast.

    Vaughn
     
  4. brofkand

    brofkand Member

    Messages:
    514
    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2008
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have a pack of RC VC paper in 8x10 glossy as well, but it's only 25 sheets. I intend to hold off on that until I get my darkroom procedures down-pat because it's the paper I am going to use for my portfolio.

    I will read those articles. Thanks!
     
  5. fschifano

    fschifano Member

    Messages:
    3,216
    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Location:
    Valley Strea
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You'll need a heck of a lot more than 25 sheets to even start building a portfolio. Save your pennies, and get a 250sheet box. Then start practicing. Think I'm joking? No.
     
  6. brofkand

    brofkand Member

    Messages:
    514
    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2008
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am not talking about a full portfolio. I am talking about a 10-sample portfolio I have to have for my photo major at school.

    When I begin work on "my" portfolio, I will most certainly buy a much larger pack of paper :-D
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,045
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    10 samples - probably about 100 sheets, unless you have very consistent negatives, and lots of printing experience.

    The upside is that it is a lot of fun using up those 100 sheets!

    Matt
     
  8. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,483
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    "Grade" is an attempt to quantify the light intensity range to which the paper will respond.

    ISO grade is simple to figure out as it is 100 times the log of the luminous range of sensitivity.

    In simple terms your Grade 3 may be like ISO-R 90 which will show about six grays with the standard 21 step wedge. (.15 x 6 x 100 =90)
     
  9. hywel

    hywel Member

    Messages:
    76
    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2006
    Location:
    Malaysia
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Grades are a measure of how much contrast there will be in the print. The more contrast the more pure black and pure white there will be with just a few greys in the middle. The less contrast there is then the more of the picture is just shades of grey with, perhaps, nothing truly pure black or white. Lots of contrast is known as Hard, less contrast is known as Soft. In number terms Hard/Contrasty is Grade 5, Soft/low contrast is Grade 0.

    In the old days all paper came in a specific grade. You could buy grade 1 or grade 4 or, as you have a box of, grade 3. Nowadays most paper is Multidgrade, that is it can be made to behave like any grade between Grade 0 and Grade 5 by using the correct filter. (Filters don't have any effect on Fixed Grade Paper).

    There are two reasons for having different grades. On one hand some people prefer to have contrasty prints, some prefer soft prints. So obviously they would print on different grades.

    Then there are the different negatives. Depending on the light when you took the picture and how you processed your negatives some negatives will be contrasty, some less so. If you wish to have the final prints look the same then you need to print the contrasty negative on a less contrasty/softer/lower grade paper and the less contrasty negative on a harder/higher grade number paper.

    Some people (Ansel Adams for example) was very meticulous about adjusting his exposures and developing times for each and every picture he took (on sheet film) so that it would print just perfectly on Grade 2 paper. With roll film and changing light this just doesn't work so well so you'll always have some variations in your negatives, and hence the need for different grades of paper to make consistent looking prints. Hence the popularity of Multigrade paper, where you can get all those grades in just one box.

    The best way to get a feel for the different grades is to use some of your Multigrade paper and print a picture at different grades. Do one at the same time for Grades 1, 2 and 3 and at double that time for Grade 4 (always double the time for Grades 4 and 5, don't ask me why). You'll see the change. There's no way to explain it in a way you'll understand it in words.

    That all said my first 100 sheets of paper were all fixed grade, grade 2 in my case, and practicing on that taught me an awful lot about burning and dodging, so get going on your Grade 3 and see what you can produce and then open up the Multigrade and see how much easier it is with different Grades available. Unfortunately I am sort of with everyone else in thinking that you are going to need more paper, testing and trialling and investigating the variations being the key to understanding the differences and learning how to deal with them. And when learning about Grades perhaps cut the 8x10 paper in half to make it go further.

    Most of all have fun, and good luck,

    Hywel
     
  10. brofkand

    brofkand Member

    Messages:
    514
    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2008
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks everyone for the hints. SO, VC paper is what I want to use the filters. I tend to like contrasty images (especially in B&W), so my grade 3 paper may have a use yet. I have 2 boxes of 100 sheets 5x7 in pearl finish. Glad to know it wasn't for naught.
     
  11. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,901
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2005
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    For those interested, grade 2 is a paper with a mid scale straight line slope of about 2.5 and the other grades fall on either side. FWIW.

    PE
     
  12. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,192
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2005
    Location:
    Los Alamos,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    A couple of minor notes. First, modern negatives are often processed to somewhat lower contrast, and grade 3 paper often works well with them. Second, paper grades are not uniform from one manufacturer to another. One maker's grade 3 may have either more or less contrast than another's. Think of the numbers as showing relative contrast, with higher numbers being more contrasty and lower numbers being less. A good part of getting your darkroom skills honed is being able to decide what grade of paper to print on - what contrast is right. To do that, you will need to print many pictures on more than one grade. Variable contrast (VC) papers are very good (and economical) for that, but you will need to get filters if your enlarger doesn't have a dichroic head.
     
  13. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,901
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2005
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Nworth;

    Way back in the 40s, I learned from many photo books that enlarged prints required a grade 3 paper to achieve a grade 2 print due to enlarger flare. When I went to Kodak I questioned this and they verified it to me and then had me "prove" this hypothesis.

    So, a contact paper of grade 2 is not an enlarger grade 2 in terms of result. This is a general case of 2 = 3 for contact vs enlarged. Flare counts. But a strict grade 2 with no flare is about 2.5 in mid scale tones.

    Modern and old negatives (back to the 60s) were processed in developers that yielded a negative contrast of about 0.6 for professional products and about 0.65 - 0.7 for consumer products. Again, due to flare in cheaper lenses.

    PE
     
  14. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,494
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Location:
    Bath, OH 442
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    Check where you buy your supplies. This time of year, back to school, Ilford and I think Kodak offer a 25 sheet pack of VCRC 8x10 paper with two rolls of film for the price of the paper. The vendors want to get you to try film and paper. It should cut your costs and help to make you feel comfortable experimenting. Experimenting, trial and error, is how you learn to make better prints.

    Enjoy,
    John Powers
     
  15. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,483
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Interesting to learn of the one-grade drop with the old non-coated enlarger lenses. The topic of "vintage enlarger lenses" occasionally comes up on these forums and the concept is usually 'poo pooed' as not producing any effect that would be desirable. I like to keep an open mind, and if photographers from that era were projection printing with non-coated lenses, that certainly would be an influential element in their tonal reproduction path.
     
  16. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,052
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2005
    Location:
    Cheshire UK
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Dear Brofkand,

    PM me your home address and I will send you a MULTIGRADE printing manual. This should explain everything and save you some dollars.

    Simon ILFORD photo / HARMAN technology Limited :