How do you print lith?
Do you print straight proofs before going lith? I mean prints not contact proofs. I'm basically interested in enlargements, as I don't do LF at the moment.
Do you use test strips? Do you use straight test strips?
I've done about 150 lith prints, including botches, work prints, and would consider a few of them as final. So far I usually print straight proofs / work prints, choose the promising ones, and then do lith prints. While printing liths I do not use any strips. I either get nice image, some different interpretation or just information on what would be better exposure.
At time I'm considering economy in both time and paper use. Perhaps I'm somewhat wasteful on paper or I'm just on that part of learning curve which needs burning through tons of paper. What are your thougths?
If I'm using a paper I've never tried before, I'll do a straight print on that to get a sense of how fast or slow the paper is under the enlarger, but otherwise I rarely do straight black and white prints before going on to lith prints. I've found that I have a pretty good eye for what will make a good lith print, so I don't usually bother with the intermediate step. I also never bother with test strips, except in the few cases where a paper or image is giving me real problems and I need to see a variety of exposure times on one paper. That being said, if I can't get an image I like (or see the potential of getting better) within the first 3-5 prints, I usually put that neg away and try something else. On the otherhand, once I get a lith print the way I like it, I try to make as many as I can (at least 5) and consider them both final prints and/or possibilities for further toning trials.
I'm with Rachelle there. Being too clinical, as far as I am concerned, takes the fun away from doing lith work. I like the frequent surprises and some of the intangibles. I usually do a long exposure by eye-balling the neg and if I like the result, I do a few prints. Then I cut the exposure in half and, as the developer exhausts, it will give a different look. Repeatability is an issue sometimes but that's the nature of lith, which one has to accept. No test strips for me...but I never do that even for conventional printing.
I do a test strip with no enlarger filtration on an area of highlight, and develop in standard Multigrade dev to find a base exposure that will give me the amount of highlight definition I'm aiming for.
Lith starting point, with a full sheet of paper always, is based on the "normal" exposure. I used to start 3 stops over with Fotospeed LD20 and Fomatone paper, but started using Moersch Easylith recently and I find 4 stops over base exposure gives a better starting point on the same paper.
This is in contrast to my conventional printing technique. I find split grade a more natural way of working, but it's a minimum of two test strips and two sheets before I've got a starting point normally.
I do pretty much exactly what Rachelle does. I find lith to be reasonably easy to get a good print in 1-3 sheets. It is really difficult to evaluate the print in the developer without the whole print in front of you.
I find that I waste far fewer sheets of paper by doing a straight test strip and then estimating the exposure time for the lith print. I know what look I'm going for so from the test strip I can decide on whether to expose the lith print 2 stops over or 4 stops, or anywhere in between.
If that's being too clinical, well, then I'm a clinician. One of the nice things about lith printing is not only all of the variables involved in the chemistry/paper but also in the methods used to arrive at the final print. There is no right or wrong way. Just the way that works best for you.
I am just doing it like this: starting with a 90 second expoosure (which I have worked out from earlier experiences as a good ballpark starting point), fstop 8 and most of the time I do one negative only in a session.
When I've gotten the size of the print that I want down, say a 17x23 cm on 18x24 paper, there are two variables I work with, the exposure time (longer or shorter) and the temperature, and then I just snatch it when it looks good. Eyeballs and brains and simple as possible.
I started out doing test strips but I found out that it was a waste of my time, especially as I do detailed notes of exposure time, developer temp, developing time and paper and whatever extra I need to know to do another print in the same style. The dilution always stays the same.
A second source of flash exposure is invaluable for controlling contrast when lith printing.
Yes! On bleach and redevelop, too!
If you can find a good rc paper that liths, it's a game changer. Faster development, faster fix and wash. I do bunches of lith test prints this way, in 5X7's, usually print a few to play around with toning. If there's an aha moment, then maybe set up later for bigger printing and test strips and temperature control and what not.