Marking negatives: best archival pens for writing on 4x5 film

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by pchaps, May 15, 2018.

  1. pchaps

    pchaps Subscriber

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    86316C13-9013-49F5-AFDD-0EEF43E84986.jpeg

    In times past, photographers often wrote on the film edge to identify the shot and provide a reference for cataloging the film. This is still required for some forms of historic HABS preservation photography, which I still do in Texas with large format film. In choosing pens, Schaf Photo helped me — thank you.

    The two best permanent archival pens for writing on film base in my experience are the following:
    1. STAEDTLER pigment liner (I like the 0.3mm for writing on edge of 4x5, but the 0.1mm and 0.5mm are also usable). Good density. Despite their claim that the pen is still usable if uncapped for 18 hrs., I found that it wasuseful for one day of labeling, then lost much density/flow.

    2. FABER-CASTELL PITT artist pen. I like the “S” nib size for 4x5. Keeps flowing for several jobs. I always retrace my writing to get more density. Not perfect, but due to the convenience of the one being usable for a longer time, I have returned to this pen as my favorite.

    Remember that black ink in a negative will print and scan as white. Therefore, write slowly and if needed, immediately go over each letter and number that you write to make the writing blacker.

    I only use the black ink. Only write on the film base, not emulsion. These inks, when dry, are waterproof. If you make a mistake, wipe it off immediately and gently with a damp soft cloth. To not damage the film base. Once dry, a white plastic eraser such as Staedtler or Faber-Castell can be used.

    PS: do NOT use a Sharpie it is not archival.

    Happy labeling!

    Paul
    Paul Chaplo MFA, AIA-Assoc.
    HABS Photography
    Dallas, TX
     
  2. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    good luck with that paul
    since i started submitting habs work 1991
    i've never marked a negative
    ( with one of those pens .. )
    backs of ( pigment / IJ ) prints, yes
    FB pritns with a pencil, thumb tabbed envelopes
    and PMC's with a pencil too ..
     
  3. OP
    OP
    pchaps

    pchaps Subscriber

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    It’s fun to do just for retro look. For people doing MF personal work with smaller format such as 2x3 negs, I would use the 0.1mm pen. You could write the date, an inventory number, or location! You could even sign the negative!

    One of the things that is cool about labeling a neg is that is easy to correlate the scan and print to the film original.

    I just like writing on the film margin!
     
  4. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Subscriber

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    Sometimes my slides require very small notes in the black rebate area; this is done with a UNI POSCA white (0.7mm) marker. This marker is useful for masking transparencies then drawing on crop marks which will be visible to the scanner.

    Not much use for black writing, though a Micador permanent artist marker (1mm) is available.

    My experience is that very fine points are too frail for practical use; some markers feature a press-feed system which will gradually dull the point from its very fine profile to something that becomes wholly inappropriate for marking in confined areas.
     
  5. OP
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    pchaps

    pchaps Subscriber

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    Garyh,

    I regularly label batches of 4x5 negs with the 0.3mm of the above pens as part of my work. For example, my current assignment required that I label 48 negatives! 0.3mm seems ideal the rebate area on 4x5. At first, the nib on the Faber Castell seems more vulnerable, but I’m using it in my second job and it’s performing as new.

    For those needing the 0.1mm, I did some testing and would use the STAEDLER for that minute tip size.

    Personally, I never mark crop marks on film. YMMV.

    PS: I just got a new Epson scanner! Excited!

    Paul Chaplo

     
  6. mmerig

    mmerig Member

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    I use a #00 Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph pen with black India ink.
     
  7. Bob Eskridge

    Bob Eskridge Subscriber

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    I have been using a Uni-ball which is advertised as being pigment based. The tip (.7mm) is too large but the pens are available from Walmart. Thanks for the post.
     
  8. guangong

    guangong Subscriber

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    Very informative thread. Where else would this info be available.However, I write all info on glassine sleeves for everything from 16 mm miniature to 4x5. Good to know that there are alternatives.
     
  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I used to write info on the edge of every 120 negative that I sent into the lab for enlarging - to ensure that if the negative got separated from the envelope, I would have no trouble reuniting it with the correct roll and job file.
    Wedding negatives can look very similar to each other :smile:.
    I used to use pens that were described as "technical pens" - they were found in the drafting supplies area.
     
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