I do my contacts with the negs in Printfile brand sleeves and don't have a problem with sufficient sharpness for the purpose. The key is to use a decent (and clean) piece of glass to hold them down. I have glass from a frame and just press the edges outside the paper as it exposes. I never had good results using the contact printers we had in school. The foam backing never really allowed good pressure, I'd guess.
If I were doing a contact print as a final print, I wouldn't use the sleeves.
Timing wise, I have the enlarger set so it's just outside the size I need, with an empty neg carrier in it and focused. I use a #2 contrast filter, f8 and 8 seconds. If I've underexposed the roll, sometimes I'll go to f11.
I develop my paper by time, not appearance. It's easier to be consistent that way. For RC, I use 1 minute and for fiber I use 2 minutes (I'm using Ilford paper and developer, so it could be different for different brands - read the info sheets on what you're using).
Hi, if your sleeves are clear, there shouldn't be any problem printing contact proofs with the negs in them.
Hi again Jon, I did just check the package and it does state that they are for use in contact printing. I will try all the great suggestions and see what happens. (In the meantime, I did find the Printfile brand in a shop here, so I can always give that a try if anything...). Thanks again all!
Anyway, if you do the contact prints using a #2 filter, then you get some idea what filter you need for your projection print (more or less contrast), so it's helpful. Also, if contact prints are excessively flat, then maybe increase your film development time. If too dark, maybe increase your film exposure time (in-camera). Contact prints can be very helpful from one end to the other.
To see what different filmstocks do, take a sections of unexposed film (developed & fixed so you see "base fog") of different types, lay them up for contact printing, then do a step test (t, 2t, 3t, 4t,...) and you'll notice that some filmstocks get to maximum black faster than others.
But you are right, different papers will respond differently and a survey of those you use would prove helpful.
I know this sounds like a lot of dicking around for just contact prints, but this sort of craftwork pays back enormously when it comes to acheiving repeatability and reliability in exposure, film development, and of course, the whole point, the final printing.
I'm in the middle of this, too.
Is it possible the negatives are overexposed or on the dense side? I find the Printfile sleeves fine for contacting as long as the negs are a 'normal' density. However, if the negs are on the heavy side, they seem to look a bit difused when contatcted through the bag, especially 35mm which is on a thicker base. Also, the edge of the frame and the rebate tends to bleed a bit. If so, I will usually re-contact those ones out the sleeves.
The negatives look really nice and I think that they fall into the 'normal' density category. I compared the negs I developed to those I had developed some time ago before I started doing it myself, and there is a I couldn't find too much of a difference. I think that they are ok but to be sure I will try one set of negs outside of their sheet and see what happens.
Yes, I specifically have a Patterson contact printer that has a piece of 'non-glare' glass and a piece of foam. I placed the paper emulsion side up, and negs emulsion side down and then you have to press a lock thingy and it squishes everything in there pretty tight. I decided to go this route instead of just a piece of glass because I read about the importance of this sandwich, that should give sharp contact prints. Just for comparison, I phoned the photo shop that previously did my development and from which I bought these supplies. They use the same printer and negative sleeves when printing. Their stuff looks great.
I wondered why i was getting blurry contact prints once then I realised the paper was the wrong way up. Long exposure times too :D