Hi all,

I'm pretty new to this printing thing and I'm having trouble with poor local contrast in the highlights. I have great contrast in the shadows though. I'm doing split-grade printing using a colour head on Ilford MGIV and Kentmere Fineprint VC.

What I'm doing is this:
a) find magenta exposure to get max-black somewhere
b) find yellow exposure (additional to (a)) that gives detail in whites that I care about

The problem is basically that the shadows are composed mostly of the high-contrast layers of the paper and the highlights are composed mostly of the low-contrast layers. The net effect is all-shoulder and therefore pretty flat-looking because the highlights just don't have that bite. If I combine the two exposures into one (by doing partial settings on the colour head), I get an identical result as expected - it doesn't matter if the blue and green light arrive concurrently or not.

I find that to get the contrast I want, I'm burning in the highlights with magenta (blue) rather than letting the yellow (green) exposure take care of them. Net result is I can have a flat-looking print that's about the right overall tone, or a more contrasty print that's too dark.

Is this a fundamental problem with multigrade paper? Do I need to switch to graded paper to solve it? I'm finding that I have (for a given film) a pretty constant ratio of magenta:yellow exposures on the enlarger so I could probably get away with using only a couple of grades.

Or am I doing something wrong? If I could get better results with my current materials, that would be preferable.