Lith Printing - Pre-rinsing to remove incorporated developers from paper?

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grainyvision

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So I've recently gotten into lith printing and after a few failed papers, I heard about the paper test and decided to do it on every paper I own. The test of course is just putting concentrated lith part B onto the paper and seeing what happens. Black means phenidone or other super additive developers with HQ, yellow or pink apparently just means extra HQ, and no stain means no incorporated developers. I did this, and as expected every RC paper I have fails this test with flying colors (er, blacks). I also tried developing some RC paper and the result was already awful. Blacks develop in several seconds, super blotchy and unevenly developed. I also had some FB papers that failed the test too of course, but RC failed with the most speed.

Anyway, I figured those incorporated developers (and potentially other things like stabilizers) must be capable of being removed from the paper.. so, I redid all of the paper tests by first putting the test strip of paper in water for 30s for RC, 1-2 minutes for FB. Then remove, blot dry, and test again. Every single paper passed the test afterwards, most with no stains, some with very light yellow or pink stains. I then put a few of these to the test using Arista Lith mixed ~1:20 with maybe 50ml of old brown added to 1L of developer.

So, I would expose the paper, then rinse, then develop etc. With this I got really strong colors on every paper, but it was super slow to develop, I'm talking 20 minute development times and the blacks still aren't complete. I of course tried changing exposure etc, but it seemed like Arista Lith is just super slow. I also got prints that had tons of color, but very little of the lith grain that I wanted. Next day I mixed the lith the same way, had the same problems so I upped the concentration of developer to around 1:10. This was still pretty slow for most papers, but at least within the 15 minute sanity threshold, typically around 5-9 minutes depending on paper.

During this batch I also tried out some RC paper with the pre-rinse for the heck of it, and the results did look really lithy, but I wasn't able to get good blacks after 15 minutes, so it seems like RC paper is much slower than FB with this. The colors and grain also were not near as strong. Interestingly, Ilford Warmtone RC lacks the "exploding blacks in fixer" property that the FB version has, but otherwise looks similar but with significantly less color and quite a bit less grain.

And to show what I mean, here is what some under developed Ilford Cooltone RC came out looking like:

2018-09-25-0001.jpg


Anyway, I say that to just ask if anyone has done this before. I did quite a bit of searching for people pre-treating paper like this (especially RC since no modern RC emulsions work for lithing) and found absolutely nothing. The only recommendations I saw for pre-rinse was to make the paper develop more evenly. I'm curious of if this really is a way to make emulsions that would otherwise not work, potentially work.. of course, there's still some problems with this with "non-lithable" papers. For RC paper especially the emulsion would scratch off using rubber tongs after 5 minutes in developer. I ended up have to use a gloved hand to prevent damage. For some FB papers there was the mottling or snowball type effect from other problems with the emulsion.

Since I'm potentially removing HQ that might otherwise be present in the paper, should I also increase lith part A to increase the HQ content of the developer to make things a bit faster (and for some emulsions, prevent peppering) ? Is there anything else I'm rinsing out of the paper that could affect stability of the print or other properties beyond development time?
 

MattKing

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The reactions you are seeing aren't in relation to incorporated developers per se, but rather the trimming components used to fine tune emulsion speed and contrast to ensure batch to batch consistency.
 
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I have had this same ‘long developing time’ phenomenon with the Arista A & B. Tried the stronger dilutions but not much luck. My next approach is to try heating the Lith developer.
 
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There are more variables responsible for a paper lithing or not than just incorporated developers. Agfa MCP is rich in phenidone, but does Lith very nicely. The test you describe only gives an indication of lithability, but no definitive answer.

When you pre-wash the paper, you also remove sensitisers and surfactants from the emulsion, which do affect development, final contrast & lithability.

If you’re unhappy with your dev times, you can increase the developer temperature to 30C or even further if you like, that should help to shorten dev times.

Why do you want to pre-wash, have you tried 2-pass Lith instead?
 
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grainyvision

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I guess pre-wash should be avoided then unless the paper is otherwise unlithable anyway, such as modern RC papers.

What is the best way to heat the developer and keep it a constant temp? I have a sous vide setup for C-41 film processing, but with the minimum amount of water for the sous vide it would overflow into the tray. I'm also concerned about fumes. My darkroom has only a little bit of ventilation. Does lith developer get pretty heavy in the air when heated? My biggest concern is the potential release of formaldehyde

I plan on trying 2-pass lith as well (waiting on bleach to come in from freestyle) but my understanding is that they don't really have the same results, similar but not the same. Also doing that doesn't give me immediate feedback since with my limits on space I'd need to expose, develop/fix, dry, and then wait until a separate time and then bleach and redevelop. It's a lot more time consuming out of a process that already consumes a ton of time compared to standard darkroom printing.
 
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My biggest concern is the potential release of formaldehyde

I am using Moersch Lith developers which are formaldehyde free. I do not know whether it would be a good idea to heat a developer containing formaldehyde.I am using a heating plate made by Kaiser for that application, which works more or less. In theory, there is a thermostat, but that does not help too much. I have a thermometer in the developer and switch the plate on and off as required.

2-pass lith: it takes more steps, yes, and I have to say I admire your patience. I use the Moersch developers essentially at 1+1+20, which is the minimum dilution recommended, and that gives me "normal" dev times of 3-5 minutes. Colourful prints can be achieved using Moersch Omega lith or toning, so I do not mind that too much. If I want grainy prints, I have to exhaust the developer first with other prints, but that is a different story.

RC papers: That is difficult. I have a big stack of Agfa MCP and Cachet Lith RC, but these are out of production and probably very difficult to locate in the US. If I remember correctly, Kodak Polymax should lith, but I have never tried. Maybe some other member can confirm.
 
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For RC paper especially the emulsion would scratch off using rubber tongs after 5 minutes in developer. I ended up have to use a gloved hand to prevent damage

Maybe a side note worth mentioning: If you heat the developer to accelerate lith effect, you soften the emulsion. What you mention, that you can scratch the emulsion easily off the base after only 5 minutes, should not happen at normal processing temperatures. If you heat the developer, this will worsen.

The RC papers (Adox, Agfa, Maco/Cachet) I have used have been able to stand 20+ mins in processing solution (dev, stop, fix, bleach, toner, intermediate wash, final rinse) without any negative effect. The only shortcoming which I have noticed is that some liquid penetrated from the border into the base for a few mm, but that evaporated during drying (but comes back immediately when putting the prints back into water).
 

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I never had much success by pre-washing lith prints so I came back to my old papers.

To avoid formaldehyde, I stopped using Arista developer and switched to Moersch Easylith. Not the cheapest but great stuff.

To heat the developer tray, I just bought an electric heating pad to put beneath and it should arrive soon. To be tested in the coming weeks.
 

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What is the best way to heat the developer and keep it a constant temp?

I usually do lith prints on 8x10 paper in an 8x10ish tray and I put that tray onto a few film can lids in a bigger tray with warm tap water. Mine doesn't stay at a constant temp, but it stays well enough if I change the water as it cools. And I use Moersch easy lith.
 

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To start with, I applaud your efforts here - you never know if something will work until you try it. That said, it may be a whole lot of work to achieve a look you could get if you bought lithable papers to begin with. Have you used any? You mentioned you just got into lith printing, but you haven't mentioned using any known lithable paper. Maybe that would be a good place to start, just to establish a baseline for the experiments. Also, what papers are you using? Have you only tried the Arista lith developer? You may have better luck with Moersch lith developers and the additives that he has available for use with them. Like you, my darkroom has little to no ventilation (save when I open the door), so the Moersch developers are much nicer to use in the enclosed space than other lith developers.

I believe all papers will have some colour to them if you pull them out underdeveloped. What makes a lith print a lith print is only partially the colours (but there are plenty of lith prints out there that are virtually colour-free or have a very subtle colour), but really it's all about the blacks - lith prints are by nature underdeveloped, but we rely on the developer formulation to get the blacks where we want to them to be. If you have the former but not the latter, you may have to reconsider your aversion to 2nd-pass lith, or a two-bath lith process. There's a guy (sorry, can't remember his name at the moment) on the lith printing group on Facebook that uses a 2-bath set up for his lith prints that produces beautiful blacks, but he's using known lithable papers to do this.

I also develop my lith prints in hot developer (30C or higher) but I don't have a heating pad to keep the temperature constant. I do do 2 things to keep the temperature from cooling off too fast though. First, when I mix the developer, I only do it with half the water (at the temp I want). Then, right before I'm ready to start developing, I'll add the other half that is freshly heated to the tray. Also, I do as @winger does and put my developer tray in another, slightly larger tray of hotter water (about 1/3 full). I usually develop in 9.5x12 trays and use 11x14 trays for the hot water bath. The water bath is especially useful in the winter when the ambient air temp is a lot cooler (I don't like having the heater on too high in an enclosed space with chemicals and little ventilation).
 
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grainyvision

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I did try some true lithable papers. I had some neat looks with Foma 132 and Ilford warmtone FB. A friend on here also ended up sending me some discontinued RC paper that works really great (fast, colorful, and gritty) but being discontinued, not sure where I'll ever find more of it. I also have some seagull paper, though I haven't tried it yet. It seems that Ilford papers in general are very slow to develop (with the famous exception of warmtone FB, which explodes in fix) and never gritty like the look I'm going for. I ended up getting some LD20 and a 1lb of sodium sulfite as well. LD20 didn't really make any difference in times or look that I could tell. The sodium sulfite made it so that Ilford Art 300 could be used (stopped the pepper fog), but as with all other ilford papers it's super slow to develop, though I'm not sure how I feel about it's texture with the lith look, and lith imparts very little color in my testing of it.

I got over my aversion to redevelopment and got some seriously satisfying results out of my testing. A lot of really cool dual tone type stuff, though I never got a lot of grit in second development with the exception of the Foma 132.. though it also got really contrasty in an ugly way. Wondering if flashing the paper might help that a bit. Either way I will definitely be doing more redev, but it's a huge pain since I have to do it in batches... it means a long turnaround for finding out if my exposure is correct etc. I really love how much control you get with it though. I found I like the partial bleach method the most, where I bleach just barely into the midtones. I found this works better overall on most papers, but it's harder to predict since there are so many variables going into it. The acugrade paper I was given gets a bit more gritty (hard to tell since I did first dev as lith too) and takes on strange orange highlights, green/gray midtones, and warm blacks. Ilford MGIV RC actually produced one of the most interesting results when I did partial bleach. It was initially pretty neutral (despite dev in ilford warmtone dev) but after redev took on beautiful golden yellow highlights while the blacks and shadows had a cool to very dark purple tone. It's a very subtle effect but the amount of depth it can add to a print is amazing. It got no additional grit or grain though, so doesn't really look like a lith print.

I have a sous vide setup for C-41/E-6 development, and with the help of a very long and wide (but shallow) container I can actually fit an 8x10 tray into it with the sous vide. Definitely not a perfect setup, but usable if I want to experiment with it. The biggest problem is good god is it bulky in my small space. Also, heat transfer of course isn't perfect. The tray will stay around 10F lower than the temp set on the sous vide.. not a huge problem, but means I need to make it even more humid in my darkroom if I want it really hot. Because of my darkroom ventilation issue, I think it'd only be ideal for when I can use it with a fan and with the door open, such as for faster redevelopment.

edit: also, while I have people here. Anyone tried Promaster papers with lith? I can't find any good sources of it online, but it seems like it's really popular in physical store fronts where they sell stuff for photography students. I think I'm going to pick some up tomorrow since I also need some more boring paper for contact sheets.
 

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I've chatted with the OP about lith on a couple platforms, but tossing in some practical ideas here for the group -

I'm more into lith for the strange way it renders contrast than (necessarily) for color; though I do have some older cad papers that can really bring the color. So 2nd pass has never been that successful for me, any moreso than toning - it doesn't "mess with reality" enough for me. (2nd-passing a lith print in lith developer can be very cool though). So not a big 2nd pass expert, other than "know how much highlights will survive, and overprint if needed".

For temp. control, I use those tempered-glass "salton" buffet heaters from eBay. I have two on a common dimmer, so for large trays I use two, for smaller just one. I put a wet towel on them at the start of the session. The top is really dense tempered glass, so it takes some getting used to (turn the heat down and it's a slow ramp due to the heat-holding ability of the glass) but I'm able to maintain constant temps in the 34-38° range. I cut some thin particle board sheets and painted them, and keep the trays covered - this is a huge deal for steadying your temps, and limiting oxygen to the developer. I just sort of peek every minute or two until it's really "showtime". You can also cover your tray with the next-size-up tray.

A 3AAA LED penlight with a couple layers of rubylith glued to the lens with black silicone - that's my #1 lith accessory by a mile. Couldn't print without it. You can really see what's happening with the blacks.

I've had good luck retaining color by using weak fix as a first fixing bath, and then letting the prints sit in a holding tray of water, and then doing a 2nd bath of fresh rapid fix.

You know, after an acid stop and a quick rinse, you can turn the room lights on and inspect the print before fixing - the developer has been deactivated, so a few minutes won't affect density. This can be severely depressing though - there are few things more gorgeous and delicate than a lith print that hasn't been fixed yet, and room light really lets you see the colors. It can be startling. I'm still wondering about this - I've tried TF4 and TF5; wondering about super-weak fixing for an extended time, followed by extended wash. So far, the best of the delicate color gets killed pretty fast. And selenium or farmer's - they "work", but they tend to change the lith colors to a more "standard" color. For me, the best lith print, when you want those particular colors - aren't toned, or are barely toned in weak toner. (I do test each print for adequate fixing and washing).

Not all devs are created equal - powdered developers, while a cheap way to get a gallon of stock - they really suck at fine shadow detail, in my experience. Murky shadows and infectious dev. is far less detailed - quality developer like Arista Premium or LD20, you can watch almost individual grains emerge, and have huge control of how open and detailed fine shadow elements are, like the grain of wood or stone. The powders are just kind of sad in that regard.

Agfa MCC papers are really great in lith, but MAN, uneven dev. blotches (lighter highlights in big blobs) are infuriating. Pre-soaking the exposed paper in warm water has 100% cured this for me, and I treat every print that way now - I've seen no issues as far as activators being gone.

After a couple prints, a pinch of SS can prevent spotting, but it will slow development and weaken blacks if overdone. I often treat lith developer as one-shot for expensive paper - it does really give you more consistency.

I have a water filter in the kitchen, and using filtered water for my developer has prevented a lot of weird spotting issues (our water is pretty rusty, the tub is orange if not cleaned every week or two).

Anyway, lith is so strange and versatile that I assume we all have some oddball workflow ideas - I'm after some specific things with lith that may not interest other printers, my web site is a good example - I'm really into messing with the reality and drama of the scene vs. editorial reality.
 
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Wow! Do you really run your Lith developer at 100F? Do you use a warmer for stop/fix/hypoclear/wash/ as well? I have wondered for years what those warmers were called and thought they would work great for a number darkroom related pursuits.

BTW found this at B&H. Haven’t had a chance to test yet but it is very bright. Uses 3 AAAA batteries. That’s right 4A’s. They are tiny.
Streamlight LED Stylus Flashlight (Red LED, Black)
 
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mooseontheloose

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Wow! Do you really run your Lith developer at 100F? Do you use a warmer for stop/fix/hypoclear/wash/ as well? I have wondered for years what those warmers were called and thought they would work great for a number darkroom related pursuits.

BTW found this at B&H. Haven’t had a chance to test yet but it is very bright. Uses 3 AAAA batteries. That’s right 4A’s. They are tiny.
Streamlight LED Stylus Flashlight (Red LED, Black)

I highly recommend RH Designs handheld safelight - it hangs around your neck, you can use it with one hand, and the batteries last forever and can be replaced easily. I got it for lith but I use it for everything in the darkroom. It's honestly the best thing I ever bought for darkroom printing.
 
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I cut some thin particle board sheets and painted them, and keep the trays covered - this is a huge deal for steadying your temps, and limiting oxygen to the developer. I just sort of peek every minute or two until it's really "showtime". You can also cover your tray with the next-size-up tray.

In my experience, constant agitation is needed to avoid blotches and achieve even development in the whole print. I have found tray covers to be more hindering than anything else.
 
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Agfa MCC papers are really great in lith, but MAN, uneven dev. blotches (lighter highlights in big blobs) are infuriating. Pre-soaking the exposed paper in warm water has 100% cured this for me, and I treat every print that way now - I've seen no issues as far as activators being gone.

I have no problems at all in Moersch Easylith @30C, with constant agitation throughout the entire development.

powdered developers

I was not aware of any lith developer being sold as powders? Can you post a link or some Information, please?
 
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grainyvision

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I highly recommend RH Designs handheld safelight - it hangs around your neck, you can use it with one hand, and the batteries last forever and can be replaced easily. I got it for lith but I use it for everything in the darkroom. It's honestly the best thing I ever bought for darkroom printing.

I bought one of those red LED flashlights meant for starwatching and such so that it doesn't mess up your night vision a few months before setting up a darkroom. Wanted to try flashing some paper (normal development not lith) and every light source was too harsh (even light switch on and off fast as I could) so I decided I'd try abusing my red safelight as a more controllable flash source. It didn't work, even when held 2 inches away for over a minute. Absolutely no effect at all. It originally had glow in the dark rubber as a grip that I had to put black tape over, but other than that it's just a simple 3AAA light source with 3 LEDs. Super bright, though impossible to judge color with of course.
 

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I have no problems at all in Moersch Easylith @30C, with constant agitation throughout the entire development.
I was not aware of any lith developer being sold as powders? Can you post a link or some Information, please?

Freestyle sells a version of Arista as a powder; and Ultrafine sells one as well. Freestyle says their powder is a different formulation than the "premium" liquid; they both make a gallon of A and B.
 

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I bought one of those red LED flashlights meant for starwatching and such so that it doesn't mess up your night vision a few months before setting up a darkroom. Wanted to try flashing some paper (normal development not lith) and every light source was too harsh (even light switch on and off fast as I could) so I decided I'd try abusing my red safelight as a more controllable flash source. It didn't work, even when held 2 inches away for over a minute. Absolutely no effect at all. It originally had glow in the dark rubber as a grip that I had to put black tape over, but other than that it's just a simple 3AAA light source with 3 LEDs. Super bright, though impossible to judge color with of course.

For flashing, I pull the neg and hold a scrap of Duralar (matte drafting acetate-mylar stuff that comes in pads) - it east about 2 stops of light, but with lith exposure I find you need much more flash. I'll do a test by masking off a strip of the print during the main exposure and then flashing the rest of the sheet like a test strip. That way I can develop the print to where i want it as see how the flash works at that exposure. I may have flashing times of 2-6 seconds, but I'll also but a sheet of ND.3 lighting gel with the mylar if I want to dodge or burn the flash.

I've never had luck with penlight flashing and found it hard to repeat - these days I use a masking carrier so I can make very specific flash or fog masks as needed, the control is remarkable.
 

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Are you using older paper or fresh stuff? Tim Rudmans last list said that only older batches of thse papers were good for lith but if the newest stuff works I'd like to try it.

Old and expired; some people on the lith group had success with the newer emulsion, but as I recall they say it's now changed to where it doesn't work.

Oddly enough, many folks there report that the current Arista Matte Fiber paper liths very well, with a look similar to the old Agfa - beige/yellow tones in lith.
 
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