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  1. #1
    Rudeofus's Avatar
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    Ilfochrome processing for the home/photoclub amateur

    For some years I have shot color slide film almost exclusively because I loved the colors and it was (for me) much easier to scan than negative film. Needless to say that sooner or later I began researching ways of printing some of my favorite slides directly to paper.

    Ilfochrome and internegatives were the two choices left for this, and since I did not want to fiddle with internegatives I focused on Ilfochrome, maybe also because most related forum posts rated Ilfochrome as top of the crop with breath taking colors and longevity measured in centuries, not years. Well; i can at least confirm the breath taking colors now.

    Fortunately and thanks to the digital "revolution" dark room equipment has become available in the used market at very affordable prices, so I could use things like density measurement devices, temperature controlled drum processors and color enlargers which would have been completely out of my reach just a decade ago.

    After a short (and ongoing) foray into B&W dark room printing it was time to figure out how to apply my recently acquired B&W dark room skills towards Ilfochrome printing. While there were several resources and postings available online about how to make this process work, there were quite a few questions left unanswered for me:
    • Where do you get the raw materials from ?
    • How to you do test strips without wasting excessive amounts of paper and chemistry ?
    • How do you accurately cut Ilfochrome paper to size ?
    • How do you practice the routines without wasting a fortune on paper and chemistry ?
    • How do you determine initial processing parameters ?
    • Which slides can I print without a contrast mask ?
    • How do I achieve color balance ?


    Sources of Ilfochrome Material
    First of all, one must know that there are two Ilfords on the market right now which operate in related fields but are otherwise mostly unrelated.

    The first one, and probably the one more known to most dark room printers, is ILFORD PHOTO, the company now mostly focused on black and white film and paper and is also prominently represented here on APUG by Simon R Galley. The other Ilford, and the one responsible for Ilfords color products, is Ilford Imaging, a company notorious for ignoring email inquiries and generally very unhelpful to the amateur community.

    Fortunately they do provide a list of distributors on their web page. These distributors may not ship directly to non professional end customers, but they at least answer questions about who actually does carry the Ilford Imaging materials and is also willing to supply these materials to people like me. In my case, I was supplied with a few addresses of local suppliers, one of which was even willing to order the material for me.

    So what is available and what will you need for initial experiments?

    First of all: the chemistry. It probably doesn't really matter which kit you get, it mostly matters that you get this kit shipped to you or your dark room location. I have read multiple reports that these kits are not shipped abroad or anywhere at all by some listed retailers. The kit I was finally able to get was KIT30.2 of the P30 chemistry, which is interesting since the Ilford imaging web page doesn't even mention this kit at all (not even under discontinued products), but it's listed on several distributors inventory lists as available. Mixing instructions for this P30 kit are very different from the P3 instructions, so be careful which one you get before you follow online instructions.

    Second: the paper. There used to be a range of different papers but again, one has to take what one gets. Chances are you'll get the CLM.1K paper, ideally in 20x25cm sheets which is the smallest size available. The data sheet for the paper lists both CLM.1K and CPS.1K as suitable for analog printing, the CPS has more contrast.

    Important Little Facts and Mythes about the Ilfochrome Process
    Here are a few important things I learned from other Ilfochrome related postings or from other members here who answered my questions here in this forum.

    The main challenge of the Ilfochrome process seems to be to dial in optimal process parameters and from then on try to reproduce them as accurately as humanly possible. The main goal of this is to exclude all possible variation from the process so that the absolutely only thing which changes your color balance is if you modify the filter setting on the color head of your enlarger.

    If you look at the (very brief) instruction manual which comes with the chemistry kit, you'll see a very rough description of the process, like dev times: 3 minutes @ 24°C, 2-3 minutes @ 30°C. This indicates that the process works well at all these temperatures but the results may turn out quite different if you change the process temperature from 24°C to 30°C. Consistent processing also includes fully repeatable washing cycle after the dev step and using a completely dry drum before paper is inserted.

    Another important thing I learned was that one can judge the results only after thoroughly washing the paper and fully drying it. Colors do change a bit while the paper dries and you do not want to optimize color filtering for a state which inevitably changes once the paper is dry.

    Allow me a few quick paragraphs about the often stated high contrast of Ilfochrome. If you look at the data sheet for CLM.1K paper, you will see that this paper maps a density range of 2 from the slide into a density range of 2 on the paper, which means it does not change the contrast of the input media. The reason so many complaints about its contrast are made is that slide film is capable of more contrast than Ilfochrome paper can accept. If one remembers the zone system, the whole point of it is mapping the whole range of input contrast onto the negative and then putting the whole range of the negative onto paper without loss of information. Pushing and pulling is used to control the contrast of the negative, and paper with different or variable gradations is available to control output contrast. With slide film and Ilfochrome we often don't have these options: slides are supposed to look good in the projector, so we can't mess with contrast all that much. And the paper itself has fixed contrast, so no help from there either.

    The good news is this: while good slide material can have huge contrast, mine never did, since I always tried to scan them and my scanner couldn't make use of 3 logE density range anyway, much less could I use it when creating JPEGs from my scans. So instinctively I shot pics with reduced contrast range all the time, using flash to brighten up shadows, polarizer filters to bring down the sky and generally avoided sceneries with too high contrast. This may have turned my slide portfolio into dull images which will never win prizes and won't be shown even in regional free news papers, but when it comes to Ilfochrome printing my slides absolutely rock, since I don't need contrast masks or anything.

    In case you worry about the contrast range of your favorite slides: Ilfochrome paper has about the same contrast as low gradation B&W paper. If you want to see whether a slide would print well with Ilfochrome, just enlarge it to a B&W paper at gradation 0 or so and see whether it shows detail in all areas. The tones will be, of course, reversed but that doesn't matter for this experiment. If you have a density meter, you don't even need to waste B&W paper on this.


    Conserving Paper and Chemistry
    If you see the prices for Ilfochrome chemistry and paper you will quickly understand why this is an important topic. Chemistry prices are even more important to the casual user since you will most likely run the chemistry one shot. Required quantities are more dependent on paper drum size than on paper area inside the drum, which means you'll waste a disproportional amount of soup on the first few test strips.

    The good news is, that once the process is dialed in you rarely need further test strips, assuming you keep everything else in your process consistent. But do note that different paper batches may need different filtration, so be prepared for future test cycles before you fully control the process.

    Try to find out how little chemistry you can use in your paper drum. Try this with B&W paper and chemistry because it really doesn't depend on the process which amount of liquid is required to cover your print material. Note that if your drum does not stand perfectly straight you will need more soup than calculated from pure geometric view. When I did my first experiments with B&W paper in the drum I observed the following outcomes with increasing quantity of chemistry: At 40 ml the paper only showed my finger prints in faded black, while nothing of the image was visible. At 60 ml the image was clearly visible, but I had white streaks towards the center of the image. Only at 80 ml the image came out fine. These numbers may be way off for your particular paper drum, so I really encourage you to do the test yourselves. B&W paper and chemistry are cheap, much cheaper than ruining a nice Ilfochrome with too little chemistry and also cheaper than wasting lots of chemistry that wouldn't be necessary.

    Then try to find out how small a test strip can be. Since you will use the chemistry single shot at least for you first experiments, it is more economical to run one large test strip which covers many variations in exposure and/or filtering than multiple runs of tiny test strips. It depends on the drum which sizes of test strip you can process.

    Getting the Right Sizes of Ilfochrome Paper
    The Ilfochrome process was (also) used by a few dedicated amateurs in the past but is now almost exclusively in the hands of a few remaining pro labs. These labs have dialed in processes, have custom equipment to support the procedures, and for whatever reason they don't seem to need paper smaller than 20x25cm. As a result, 20x25cm paper was the smallest I could order, which may be a nice format, but is definitely unsuitable for test strips or the first dozen or so experimental prints.

    First I tried to figure out which strip sizes would actually fit in my print drum. Take a ruler and card board to cut test strips and see how well they fit. While the length of the strip can be chosen freely, it's width must be correct to the millimeter, otherwise it would either not fit or fall out during processing. The sheet needs to run close to the talk wall or it won't be covered by the chemistry in the center.

    So how do you turn 20x25 cm sheets into smaller sheets in full darkness? Since I know of no machine which would do this for me, I had to construct something for myself. Here is what I did: I took some wooden board, about 30x30x2 cm, and attached a small board (30x4x2cm) to one of its sides, so that it would only stick out on the top side. Think of this side view: |________________________________

    The point of this is that you can lay a sheet onto the board and shove it against the rim so it is in a well defined location in this direction. I then had a glazier cut a few glass plates with very precise width. I would lay such a glass plate onto the Ilfochrome sheet and have a precise guide for a Stanley knife. This allowed me to cut the sheet to size without seeing anything in the dark. I recommend you draw out a cutting plan for your sheet before you have the glass plates made. Since my paper drum can hold a sheet 12.7 cm wide and little over 10 cm high, I was able to cut the 20x25cm sheets (which are 8x10" sheets, i.e. 20.3x25.4cm) into 4 sheets of 10.1x12.7cm. I also cut one sheet into 3 sheets of 6.7x12.7cm, 4 sheets of 4.9x6.7 and 4 sheets of 4.9x6cm, if I remember correctly. I could do all this with the following glass plate sizes: 4.9x15cm, 6.7x15cm, 10.1x15cm and 12.7x25cm. Note that Ilfochrome paper is very hard to cut, so make sure you have a sharp knife.
    Trying to be the best of whatever I am, even if what I am is no good.

  2. #11
    Rudeofus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by richard1500 View Post
    - last time I made Ilfochrome it was difficult to wash as I needed to wash them several times before getting the bad smell out of them, how can I avoid this?
    With all the cost and time consumption of Ilfochrome process, water and washing are the least of my concerns. I water them like B&W RC prints and did not notice any particular smell, but maybe my nose isn't very sensitive.
    Quote Originally Posted by richard1500 View Post
    - Getting this Ilfochorme prints dry was a trouble. What should I do to get them dry fast and for them to end up really flat?
    I used a paper dryer normally used for B&W RC paper and it worked well. Paper came out flat but needed a little bit of post drying after leaving the paper dryer.
    Quote Originally Posted by richard1500 View Post
    - I use a gas mask in my darkroom, but this chemicals smell too bad. Is that normal?
    I use a rotating tank processor so the chemistry is always contained somewhere, this may make a huge difference.
    Quote Originally Posted by richard1500 View Post
    - Whitout the water bath that it says I have to give after the second bath, as my Processor has only three baths will I be able to make the prints?
    I have no experience with leaving out individual steps but would suggest following the recipes to the letter. Is there a chance you can do the fixing step outside of your processor? The fixing step appears to be the least critical step in the Ilfochrome process chain.

    Given all your experiences with bad smell and wearing a gas mask, a tank processor could be a better choice for you.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: Supposedly, Ilford has announced the imminent discontinuation of Ilfochrome paper, so all those of you who would like to try the process, now is the time to do it or forget it. As I wrote in this thread:

    Here's what I plan on doing:
    • Paper can be stored in the freezer for many years according to what I have found in relevant forum postings. So I will stock what I plan on using over the next few years so I can continue to print my favorite slides.
    • Chemistry is more short lived according to these same postings but should last for 1-2 years, at least after heavy color corrections.
    • Chemistry will be either available after that or I will look into home brewing. There are a few threads here on APUG which describe recipes and refer to further info: here and here.
    Trying to be the best of whatever I am, even if what I am is no good.

  3. #12
    Roger Cole's Avatar
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    EDIT: Oops, I see the last poster beat me to the link.

    Apparently it's discontinued. I thought they had government contracts for a few more years but apparently not.

    Utter and total bummer, even worse than the end of Kodachrome. I liked Kodachrome but E6 materials are very good. Too bad there's now no really good way to print them. (Yes you can scan and output as inkjet. I said no "really good" way.)

    And EDIT II: Internegatives! Why didn't I remember internegatives! I know PE and others have mentioned making pretty good ones on Portra 160. Given the price of Ilfochrome that may prove to be cheaper if not as easy and still give pretty good results. So maybe there is hope for printing those Kodachrome slides I shot, and all the E6 I've shot since then, in a conventional darkroom (without reversal processing RA4 - PE mentioned displaying a print from that, but others have said it's not great, particularly with Fuji which ironically is the paper readily available) after all.
    Last edited by Roger Cole; 10-30-2011 at 08:52 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  4. #13
    Mike Wilde's Avatar
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    I have chosen to go the interneg route. I have enough different chemistry processes going, between b&w, c-41, ra-4 and E-6 botles filling shelves above the sink.

    I do have an almost full 100 sheet 8x10 box of early 90's Kodak Radiance paper that was gifted to me in the last year. I intend to turn to it when I find more time to print precious slide images.
    It was designed to use process R-3, which at first I knew nothing about. I figured it needed to work like e-6. I have mixed a first developer that PE graciously helped to work out, to allow me to reversal process this in a tray in the dark after exposure, rinse it, optically flash it, and then feed it as though a normal ra-4 print into my roller processor. The up side at the start with this off board tray work is that you can tell from the low contrast black and white revesed image on the print at optical reexposure if you got the exposure right, before sending a dud futher along for more steps.

    Ron has advised me on how to reversal rocess regular ra-4 paper, but it has not worked out well for me in experiments to date. On the other hand, the first run of the Radiance paper with the box recommened filtration virtually matched the Macbeth test image I printed on it the first time I exposed it.

    I have also been buying up interneg and dupe film 35mm bulk 100ft loads for $5 a can at old camera shows.
    Most of it is quite slow, and hence has not shifted out of workable spec with the right filtration. I calibrate it's parameters in a Bowens Illumitran slide dupe or a Polaroid bench type 4x5 or 35mm copy camera. The e-6 dupe film I plan to use to improve the exposure and contrast of slides that will otherwise need contrast reduction masks.

    Contrast reduction masks I have made in the past, and it is a toss up between pre/post flashing the dupe slide or making the contrast reduction or unsharp mask.

    As to working with small quantities of expensive colour chemistry in print tubes, I have found in the past that if you need 40mL of fresh solution per print, then save up the solution for the first few prints. What you really need is likely 120mL of wet solution, with at least 40mL of fresh solution as a part of that mix.

    I would store the intermediate solution in labelled plastic mugs that would hang with thier bottoms in the water tempering bath that the bottles also used, so that they would be at temp and ready to be replenished and poured back into the tube to help the new solution spread evenly over the whole print surface.
    my real name, imagine that.

  5. #14
    Rudeofus's Avatar
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    Roger & Mike,

    yes, I am aware of inter negatives and RA4 as alternative to Ilfochrome, and it is most certainly something I should look at when I finally run out of Ilfochrome materials. The challenge I see with this is finding a negative film which doesn't have too much character of its own. I'm especially concerned about the color palette of Portra and Ektar, and Fuji will most likely quit C41 long before they quit E6.
    Trying to be the best of whatever I am, even if what I am is no good.

  6. #15
    Roger Cole's Avatar
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    Porta should work and I think Kodak recommends Portra 160 as a replacement for interneg film. I'd think Ektar would be too contrasty even aside from contrast issues.

    I would love to do some more Ilfochrome if a) it weren't so expensive and b) I thought I would be able to get it for several years going forward. Sigh.

  7. #16

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    Rudeofus, You seem to have lots of Ilfochrome knowledge, so I will post here...

    I am getting back into darkroom photography after nearly 30 years out of it (I now have teenage daughters who are interested in photogtaphy and I want them to know more than cell-phone snaps uploaded to facebook). I'm rather apalled and saddened at the state of the suppliers whom I used to rely on for so much in the way of papers, chemistry, and process machinery. Still, I'm perusing eBay daily as I remember one item, technique or other, and that's how my old Cibachrome experience got me here (I started with the old "Discovery Kit" with 20 sheets of 4x5 and the P12. (???) process)

    Well, in addition to buying a 5L P3 (or is it P30?) chemistry kit and a bunch of paper, I bought a big roll of 35mm Micrographic film. I know it says it is extremely slow at ASA/ISO=1. I can manage that.

    What I need to find out is how to process it. It says to use P5 chemistry. I have inquired at every place I could find on the Internet (Including Ilford Imaging) who had any content whatsoever about selling the film as to the availability of the P5 chemistry, to no avail.

    Can I run the Micrographic CMM.F4 in P3 or P30 chemistry if I cannot get P5?

    Thanks in advance for any help...I'm new to the forums here, and while I have quite a bit of darkroom experience, it's pretty stale and things have changed a lot since the 1980s, so be gentle on me, my friends...

  8. #17
    michaelbsc's Avatar
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    As Roger said "if you could get it going forward."

    Unfortunately you can't find it because it's gone. Out of production. Living in the land of Kodachrome.

    And it breaks my heart. Kodachrome/Ilfochrome was part of what drew me back to the darkroom after the kid was raised.

    I'm just praying I don't have to raise my own chickens to make albumen prints one day.
    Michael Batchelor
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    www.industrialinformatics.com

    The camera catches light. The photographer catches life.

  9. #18
    Rudeofus's Avatar
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    Yes, technically Ilfochrome is dead, its manufacturer announced its discontinuance and stated that after one final batch run in 2013 it will be over and done with. I have in the mean time stacked up on paper and will order more chemistry in 2013, which will hopefully keep me going until I learn to home brew it.

    The big problem with Kodachrome was its complex development process, and when Dwayne's announced its final run that was it. Ilfochrome on the other side is quite easy to home process, so as long as frozen paper stays useful one can do Ilfochrome. If Steven Frizza made K14 work in his lab, I will go and home brew Ilfochrome bleach in my kitchen once I run out of kit chems.

    To tintruder: sorry, I have no knowledge about P5 or microfilm. The Ilford website mentions it here, so I would guess some Ilford retailer in your country would be able to supply you with the chemistry. Looking at the description of the P5 chems, they look very similar to P3, in the worst case you could get some "interesting" colors ...
    Trying to be the best of whatever I am, even if what I am is no good.

  10. #19
    Stephen Frizza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by richard1500 View Post
    Hello, I have a Durst 3 bath Roller Processor, and I intend to work with it to make Ilfochrome prints. My questions are this:

    - last time I made Ilfochrome it was difficult to wash as I needed to wash them several times before getting the bad smell out of them, how can I avoid this?
    - Getting this Ilfochorme prints dry was a trouble. What should I do to get them dry fast and for them to end up really flat?
    - I use a gas mask in my darkroom, but this chemicals smell too bad. Is that normal?
    - Whitout the water bath that it says I have to give after the second bath, as my Processor has only three baths will I be able to make the prints?

    Thank you:-)
    A great solution to drying problems with ilfochrome that pro labs use is the addition of Epsom salts (magensium sulphate) in the final wash, this heavy water causes the surface of the print to dry with a better gloss.
    "Its my profession to hijack time" ~ Stephen Frizza.

  11. #20
    Stephen Frizza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rudeofus View Post
    Yes, technically Ilfochrome is dead, its manufacturer announced its discontinuance and stated that after one final batch run in 2013 it will be over and done with. I have in the mean time stacked up on paper and will order more chemistry in 2013, which will hopefully keep me going until I learn to home brew it.

    The big problem with Kodachrome was its complex development process, and when Dwayne's announced its final run that was it. Ilfochrome on the other side is quite easy to home process, so as long as frozen paper stays useful one can do Ilfochrome. If Steven Frizza made K14 work in his lab, I will go and home brew Ilfochrome bleach in my kitchen once I run out of kit chems.

    To tintruder: sorry, I have no knowledge about P5 or microfilm. The Ilford website mentions it here, so I would guess some Ilford retailer in your country would be able to supply you with the chemistry. Looking at the description of the P5 chems, they look very similar to P3, in the worst case you could get some "interesting" colors ...
    As the owner of one of the last Ilfochrome labs on earth I can confirm that Ilfochrome is a far simpler process than Kodachrome and it would be very viable and easy to make the chemistry from scratch. Ilfochrome as long as the chemistry is kept in stringent control is a very very very simple process.

    The huge hurdle for it will be getting fresh material to expose....
    "Its my profession to hijack time" ~ Stephen Frizza.

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