Have any of you found you are making smaller test strips in view of the increasing cost of paper. Although I evaluate more negs through scanning before printing them, I still find I am making smaller test strips in the darkroom, being conscious of the cost of paper these days.
If I want a test strip I'll use a Kodak projection print scale on 5x7 paper.
More typically though I find exposure and contrast with my Beseler PM2L color analyzer and start at whatever print size I am after, mostly 11x14.
That analyzer, once I "got it" and once I get to know where any particular paper's B&W points are, can provide exposure and contrast settings that get me very close to the "right" base exposure on the first try.
At that point I want to see the whole thing to make sure there are no hidden issues I could not see with a loupe.
I minimize paper use with the analyzer.
Use a paper cutter.
I use test strips, but if I am going to make a large print once I am close I will use a full sheet. A full sheet is necessary to see if dodging and burning are necessary.
The rising cost of paper has not changed my methods.
I've always cut strips of paper for test strips - about 5 or 6 per sheet. I've gotten fairly good at finding a stripe of the print where I can have light and dark areas all along it. Works for me. My practices haven't changed with prices, but I'm pickier about what images I print to begin with, I think. Though I have less time to print these days anyhow. I'd guess I'm spending less on photography now than I was 3 years ago.
I find test strips too small are not that useful.
I usually use one no smaller than 4x6 and test an important part of the image. Once that's right, I do a full print and go from there. Often, I do Kodak projection scale "thing" as my first test print to get my bearing.
I make test strips on a full sheet of 8x10" paper, and then go on and print my usual 9x12" or 9x9" on 11x14 paper. It's good enough, and about 1/2 the cost of a sheet of 11x14". Since I work with Ilford papers they are consistent enough from box to box that it works out very well that way. Sometimes, if I'm unsure about the test strip, I'll make a full exposure on another 8x10 before I move to the bigger size. This doesn't work as well for 16x20", but every little bit helps. I'm reaching the threshold of not being able to afford Ilford paper, however, even the regular Multigrade, which is very sad to me. Everything I do circulates around making negatives that print well on that paper. It'll be a real change to switch to something less expensive, and of lesser quality and consistency.
Most of what I print on right now is 8x10 and most of what I shoot is 35mm so a couple of years ago I started cutting the 8x10 down to 7x10 for a perfect (almost) fit. Doing this I of course end up with a box of 1x10" test strips and I never used them all. I used to just tear up a piece of paper if I needed to do a test. I guess I save a few sheets a box this way although it wasn't really my intent. I think I make more test strips now than I used to. I have noticed that. Back in the day I never made test strips, I just eenie meenied the exposure and contrast.
Yes paper is getting expensive unfortunately. At least it is still available. The way I look at it though is I have the best equipment of my life, the most knowledge I have ever had, am probably printing better than I ever have and it is a lot cheaper than me going through the computer even though I know how to do that too. You just can't beat a silver print. There is nothing else like it.
I cut 11x14 sheets down to 2 7x10's and 2 1x7's, so I wind up with way more little strips of 1x7 paper than I could ever use.
So no, the rising cost of paper is not causing me to use smaller test strips.
I don't use test strips except for large prints from roll paper – then I'll cut a couple before cutting an entire sheet to place across areas of critical exposure. But by that time I have already printed sizes ranging from 8x10 to 20x24 and have a pretty good idea of a negative's printing regime for the same paper/enlarger. I use full sheets for normal prints beginning with the general exposure test print, the practice being that I need to evaluate exposure in context with the entire print. Cutting test strips for normal sheet sizes has always been a wasteful, time consuming, sometimes frustrating, false economy for me.