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On the RC - FB fence

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by , 01-15-2011 at 10:40 AM (1126 Views)
I have a darkroom capable of producing 16x20s now. I've really enjoyed the results but the process is more difficult and less fun. This can be even more so with Fiber base paper. It's harder to get in the speed easel, more ornery in the trays, takes forever to wash. It makes something more difficult even more difficult. However I do like how it looks and I know it's viewed as "more serious" than RC. Oh, and let's not forget the post drying curl and I have yet to get a dry mount press to correct that. RC is pretty much the polar opposite. My problem is I'm going to start printing pieces that I intend to offer for sale or have in exhibits. Would printing RC inhibit me in these arenas? To clients, galleries, etc care? I don't know. I think with time and practice I could get more used to fiber. I'm also putting off a bit of enjoyment of the process for the reward of awesomer final products, so I don't think switching to more fiber work would hurt all that much, it just makes printing slooooow.

This has come to a bit of a head now because instead of just buying what ever is cheap on ebay I'm considering ponying up for some unexpired paper that I can achieve more consistent results with.


  1. jnanian's Avatar
    a lot of galleries and collectors care ... they would rather have something that is known to have archival properties
    than a RC print. i say this, knowing even that Digital C Prints ( light jet ) which are one of the few non-ink ways
    of getting a color image printed, are on something like RC paper .. maybe not exactly the same but close ...
    color papers are said to last about 75 years ....
    i think if you like printing on rc you should and maybe make a fiber back up once in a while.
    after a while you might like printing fiber as much or better than rc. but do what YOU want ...
    some say that RC papers if processed correctly are as archival as fiber prints, who knows if they are or not ..

    i know what you mean about ease of use.
    i have printed on fiber for 25-30 years. during that time for about a year
    i printed pr photos day after day after day for almost a year for a portrait photographer.
    fiber prints once in a while for commissioned work .. but for bread/butter it was all rc.
    these days have started printing on rc paper and enjoying it ( making prints for family mostly )
    and i have been wondering why after all these years i didn't do it more often

  2. TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
    I realize that fiber paper is more work than RC, but when I had the chance to switch to fiber, I did and never looked back. The end result was so far superior in my eye that I wondered why I started with RC to begin with. I know why - everyone was telling me "learn to print with RC". There are a couple of things you can do to help deal with the fiber paper issues you've got. First, get rid of the speed easel, and get a proper 4-blade. Second, get good drying screens - you can make them easily enough out of fiberglass window screen material if you are handy. Your fiber paper will still curl, especially if you dry it quickly. Dry the prints face down, so that they will resist the natural urge to curl. To flatten them, just get two pieces of 1/2" plywood cut to the biggest size you print, plus an inch or two in each dimension. Seal the plywood with a good urethane varnish so it's nice and smooth and water resistant. Put the prints you want to flatten between the plywood sheets, then stack some books on top. Let sit overnight, and you're good to go. Failing that, for smaller prints (11x14 and smaller), a clean, lint-free cotton T-shirt and a household iron work wonders. Put the print inside the T-shirt, set the iron on high, and iron away. Just keep the iron moving and don't let it sit in one spot for too long so it doesn't scorch the print (thus the t-shirt).
  3. Laurent's Avatar
    I started FB printing two weeks ago, and I agree it's more work. BUT the result is so much better (I compared prints of the same neg, printed the same day, in the same fresh developer) that I might give up on RC in a while...

    At the moment I don't think I'll do because I have to be ready for a show in less than two months and have 40+ prints to produce, but as soon as I have a chance to reorganize this darkroom I'll sure do more FB than RC...
  4. jmxphoto's Avatar
    Thanks for everyone's feedback! I did a run of 8 FB prints yesterday and they all had the same problem. Paper curl in the development tray made for odd lines at the sides. Turns out you need to start with at least 4L/1gal (maybe more) of developer with 16x20 fiber and I started with 3L. It's discouraging because it took so long to turn out garbage. I'm still on the fence though I don't know how much longer I can be. I'm running low on 16x20 paper.

    @TheFlyingCamera I'd love a 4 blade 16x20 easel, but the speed easel was all I could afford at the time. I have decent drying screens like you've described. I've also hung them back to back with ok results. Still, they're not flat when they're done. Might have to try the press. For 11x14 and smaller prints I use what I call a ghetto press. It's a FB print dryer and I sandwich the prints between ferrotyping plates to keep any nasties off them. It works probably about as well as ironing in a T shirt.

    There is a good reason to learn on RC, namely that it takes about half as long to churn out a print. This makes it possible to learn more quickly. There's not a whole ton of learning to be done while a print sits in chemicals for 10min so why not duck that down to 5? Also RC doesn't eat chems like fiber. That stuff soaks up developer like a sponge! So if you're making "learning" prints why go through more chems than you have to and spend more time than necessary?
  5. jmxphoto's Avatar
    Well, for anyone that cares, I'm off the fence for the time being. Money shortages are pushing for RC. I still have some fiber paper laying around, and I'll probably continue to mess with it. In the short term I'm planning on buying a bit of RC paper, hopefully I'll sell something and be able to afford a nice 50 sheet box of Kentmere Fineprint VC. I'm in a bit of a mad dash for cash to keep the film thing rolling and RC looks like it'll get me there the fastest.



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