Starting out in Alt Proc: Best strategies for buying paper to coat?

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Kino

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Have one each of the Photographer's Formulary Cyanotype (orig) and Van Dyke kits on shelf that I have had for at least 20 years. I figure they should still be good, as they are sealed and have been kept cool and dry.

To simplify things a bit, I plan on shooting relatively inexpensive Arista EDU 100 5x7 negatives and directly UV contact printing these onto hand coated paper. Enlarged/other types of manipulated negatives will wait until I feel reasonably confident I can manage the process and produce acceptable results.

To the point: I tend to over buy materials for new ventures and am sick of warehousing stuff that winds up never getting used, so I am asking for advice on how to proceed in a rational manner.

Can anyone suggest a type of paper that can be used for both above processes and the most economical way to purchase said paper?

What are some general tips and observations (or answers to questions I didn't ask) that experienced Alt Process Printers can give?

Thanks.
 

awty

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Hahnemüle and Bergger make specific papers commonly used for this purpose all ready to use out of the box.
There are others, but I haven't used them.
Common art paper will work, but you may need to treat the paper and treatment will vary.
I mix my own chemistry, only several ingredients needed.
Half the fun is experimenting.
 

jeffreyg

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I would call Bostick and Sullivan for suggestions. Often you can contact the paper company and get samples usually just a few sheets at no cost.
 
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I started with Canson XL cold press as it was readily available (Wal-mart!) and inexpensive. It's not a high end paper by any means and you may occasionally encounter a weird surface/coating defect but, in my case, not often enough to ditch the paper altogether. Be wary of surface contamination from the environment: a stray fleck of some random dust or salt can mar the print during coating.

It has a mild alkaline buffer which can interfere with processes that prefer acidic conditions: primarily cyanotype, but also silver processes to some extent. Citric or tartaric acid are often included in the sensitizer formulas, some portion of which will be neutralized by the paper.

For cyanotypes I'll acidify the paper prior to coating by immersing the paper in a tray of weak citric acid solution. You'll see small gas bubbles emanating from the paper during this step. The downside of this technique is that it inevitably introduces some curl into the paper upon drying, so I'll sensitize (brush, rod, or immersion) while the paper is still somewhat wet.

For silver nitrate derived prints I immerse the paper into a sizing mixture of gelatin, salts (chlorides etc), and acid and let the paper dry completely, flatten, then finally apply the silver nitrate. Silver prints are much more sensitive to coating techniques but the immersion sizing step makes it much more predictable.

Whatever paper you choose to start with you can branch out to other varieties once you're confident in the basics of the process. Glossy photo papers actually handle 'new' style cyanotypes quite well.

Edit: adding an unadjusted scan of a classic cyanotype on Canson XL. FP4 4x5 contact print.

canson_cyano_fp4_45.jpg
 
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fgorga

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As a beginner, you will probably want to start with a paper made specifically for alt process printing.

The major choices are Arches Platine (which comes in two weights (145 and 310 gsm), Bergger Cot (which also comes in two weights 160 and 310 gsm), Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag (300 gsm) and Revere Platinum (320 gsm). All of these are available from B&H.

The Arches and Hahnemuhle are about the same price and most expensive. The Bergger & Revere are roughly two-thirds the price of the others.

For small prints, the two lighter weight papers will save you some money and be perfectly fine. They will curl a bit, but flatten easily again.

These papers generally come in 11x15 inch sheets; some also come in other sizes as well. All are also available in 22x30 inch sheets. The 11x15 sheets are probably the best deal for beginners. The large sheets are more flexible in terms of cutting custom sizes. For 5x7 negatives, I would just cut the 11x15 sheets in half. You generally want large margins with alt process prints.

Which one to use? Completely personal preference... pick one and try it!

Once you have a good handle on the processes, you can (if you want) branch out to other papers, most of which will need to be pre-treated with acid in order to remove the carbonate buffer present in most art papers. This is a complication to avoid as a beginner. Also, avoid student/hobbyist grade papers available at the craft store chains. A few of these will work for alt process, but many won't. Using this type of paper is, in my experience, the biggest source of frustration for alt process beginners.

As for other hints... if you are completely new to alt process, I would consider taking a cyanotype workshop. All of the mechanics of making cyanotypes are transferable to other processes. A workshop will shorten your learning curve considerably.

Lastly, kits are a good way to get started, but buying bulk chemicals and mixing your own solutions is not difficult and saves lots of money. You will need a small electronic balance to go this route.
 

koraks

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The major choices are Arches Platine (which comes in two weights (145 and 310 gsm), Bergger Cot (which also comes in two weights 160 and 310 gsm), Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag (300 gsm) and Revere Platinum (320 gsm)

These are safe bets / 'proven technology'. Fabriano Artistico is a generally favorably-priced paper and also works for both cyanotype and Van Dyke.

Classic cyanotype is a forgiving process in terms of paper choice. It'll work fine on many papers.
Van Dyke is a little more stringent especially if you want good dmax.

adding an unadjusted scan of a classic cyanotype on Canson XL.

Canson has some nice allround papers that are really affordable and will work OK for these processes.

Have one each of the Photographer's Formulary Cyanotype (orig) and Van Dyke kits on shelf that I have had for at least 20 years. I figure they should still be good

Depends...if the kits come as solutions instead of powders, then they're by no means guaranteed to be still good. In fact, I'd be surprised if they are. If they are sold in powder-form, they should be fine.

As several others mentioned, it makes sense to purchase the raw chemistry instead of kits. If only because it cuts down on redundancy. Van Dyke and cyanotype both use ferric ammonium citrate,
so you only have to buy it once to do both processes. It's also increasingly being used as a sensitizer in (yet experimental) pigment processes employing plant-derived proteins. Cyanotype also uses potassium ferricyanide, which can can be put to use in silver halide bleaches or iron blue toner. The silver nitrate used in Van Dyke can be used for Kallitypes (which really are only subtly different from VdB) as well as salted paper prints, and can be used in a range of other photographic applications, including DIY silver gelatin emulsions.

Etc. etc. - you quite quickly end up realizing that keeping a selection of common chemicals at hand opens up doorways to vast opportunities for experimentation. It'll also be far more cost-effective than relying on kits.
 

BrianShaw

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On other concern that has been alluded to but not yet discussed: What do you want your final product to look like? Paper surface , as well as the other technical aspects, has an impact on the final product appearance. Cold press paper has been mentioned. Hot press is another option. Cold press is more matte than hot press so apparent (or real) resolution will be different. Both surfaces, as I remember from years ago, tend to accept the chemistry slightly differently. I like both surfaces depending on the subject. It's been years since I've alt printed but paper is the one thing that I never hesitated to "overbuy". Sometimes I'd find a paper I like and then have challenges getting more of it so started buying lots and then finding other uses for it if it wasn't working out.
 

koraks

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Both surfaces, as I remember from years ago, tend to accept the chemistry slightly differently.

In general, hot pressed or heavily calendared papers will be less absorbent. However, sizing also plays a substantial role in absorbency, so cold-pressed and even NOT papers can also exhibit very limited absorbency.

It's been years since I've alt printed but paper is the one thing that I never hesitated to "overbuy".

It's one of the perks of alt. process printing - all these papers just begging to be tried! It's like another universe opening up!
 

BrianShaw

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... which brings up another factor that tends to complicate the discussion: sizing. There are many options for sizing and these options sometimes work good on one paper and not another... and may also be differently effective for different alt processes.

Alt process is complicated because there are so many interacting factors.
 
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That's strange; my earlier response didn't show up!

Anyway, thanks for all the paper suggestions and tips on surfaces/sizing; much appreciated.

The kits appear to be powder form from their weight, but will remain shrink wrapped until I get all the needed supplies to start. I have a puddle pusher and some other odds and ends coming from Photographer's Formulary.

I hesitate to overbuy because I built what I thought would be a sufficiently large darkroom/work area that is now crammed with stuff.

I need to stop that!
 

nmp

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You can also "underbuy" paper - as they are notorious to change from batch to batch, sheet to sheet and pad to pad. You think you might have figured out the process on a few sheets or a pad of a paper, then you get a whole bunch more to do your project. Surprise! Manufacturer has changed something in the mean time without telling and now the new stash does not work at all like the what was tested. So if a paper gives a good preliminary result, make sure to order a good supply before investing too much time and effort that will last your whole project including fine tuning of the process.

:Niranjan.
 
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... which brings up another factor that tends to complicate the discussion: sizing. There are many options for sizing and these options sometimes work good on one paper and not another... and may also be differently effective for different alt processes.

Alt process is complicated because there are so many interacting factors.

Indeed. Once you introduce organic compounds & acids things get interesting.

Cuprotype + Turmeric extract

2raccs.jpg
 

koraks

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That's strange; my earlier response didn't show up!

Hey, that's odd. I'm watching this thread and there's no post from you since you opened it and the one I'm quoting now. I can also see there's no post that was inadvertently deleted or anything, unless it was done in such a way that it doesn't leave a trace.

I have a puddle pusher and some other odds and ends coming from Photographer's Formulary.

That's useful, although for cyanotype and Van Dyke, I strongly prefer a brush. It's more straightforward and less messy, IMO.
 
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Kino

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OK, 20 years *might* have been a bit long to store the kit but I still think it will work.

The ferric ammonium citrate was rock-hard, but I over bagged it with 4 ziplock bags and pulverized it with a 2 lb sledge hammer. After 10 minutes in a magnetic stirrer, it all seems to have gone into suspension.

Everything else was fine and still granular.

We will see...
 

BrianShaw

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It’s worth a try. What’s the worst that can happen? Can’t wait for your report and results. I have raw chemicals for alt processes that’s even older than that!
 
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Kino

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It’s worth a try. What’s the worst that can happen? Can’t wait for your report and results. I have raw chemicals for alt processes that’s even older than that!

Going to pop over to Michael's tomorrow to find some paper. Will post results when it all comes together...

Now where did I put that printing frame?
 

BrianShaw

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Regarding paper sizing, in the past I used laundry spray starch as a quick and easy sizing. It’s not as good as gelatin (or probably other sizing) but it works reasonably well and preshrinks the paper if it has shrinking tendency. I assume that the starch product is still available but have no personal knowledge as I stopped wearing starched white sorts a long long time ago.
 
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Kino

Kino

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Regarding paper sizing, in the past I used laundry spray starch as a quick and easy sizing. It’s not as good as gelatin (or probably other sizing) but it works reasonably well and preshrinks the paper if it has shrinking tendency. I assume that the starch product is still available but have no personal knowledge as I stopped wearing starched white sorts a long long time ago.

Going to try arrowroot first, as it came with the kit, but that's a good tip. I am never one to snub a shortcut!

Busy day, ran all over creation and gathered up the best materials I could find locally.

Got some Canson XL cold press paper (it was the only name brand mentioned above), sheet glass to refresh my printing frames, and found Alum, Gelatin, Arrowroot, Xantham Gum and Citric Acid at a "Amish" bulk food Store. While not all of the supplies apply to Cyanotype, I keep seeing them mentioned in alternative printing processes and they were much cheaper than ordering from a photo chem store, so I grabbed a sample to keep on hand.

Boiled and bottled the Arrowroot sizing (messy stuff) and cut the glass for my printing frames this afternoon.

I have quite the oddball assortment of printing frames that I have collected over the years. Glad I kept them...

Still need to fabricate a light-tight drying box for coated paper.

Hope to start coating paper soon...

PF 1.jpg
PF3.jpg
PF4.jpg
 
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Many papers contain buffer chemicals. I have generally better results with less expensive smooth mixed media & sketch papers than water color papers. Hahnemuhle's Sumi E and natural lines, bamboo, hemp, Fabriano 1264, Bienfang mixed media, Lennox 100. For water color papers I'm exploring: NY Central, Royal Watercolor Society, Canson Moulin du Roy, Hahnemuhle WC, Two Rivers, and Twin Rocker. And trying others including those listed above. I prefer using diluted PVA for sizing when needed. A tiny amount of tween helps in some papers. And full strength vinegar for cyanotype first wash which creates a longer scale. Slightly acidic wash for VD can help. Rougher WC paper works better for gum. I haven't settled on any specific paper and/or variables.
 
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You can't have too many contact printing frames!

I've never made any Van Dyke prints, or at least not since the 90s, but if you want to make cyanotypes on pretty much any paper then acidifying the paper is the trick. I've never used anything but Sulfamic Acid but you can use whatever acid you have. Acidifying the paper will allow you to get actual highlight details and a fuller range of tones. It also lets the coated paper keep. I've used coated paper months later, though I wouldn't really recommend it.
 
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Kino

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You can't have too many contact printing frames!

I've never made any Van Dyke prints, or at least not since the 90s, but if you want to make cyanotypes on pretty much any paper then acidifying the paper is the trick. I've never used anything but Sulfamic Acid but you can use whatever acid you have. Acidifying the paper will allow you to get actual highlight details and a fuller range of tones. It also lets the coated paper keep. I've used coated paper months later, though I wouldn't really recommend it.

OK, I have some really cheap "art" paper I want to fool around with and some citric acid.

Any sort of random amount to start with when I soak this material?

Say a 8x10 tray half full of distilled water to start with...
 
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Kino

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No luck today. I don't know if it is the old chemistry, the uneven cloud cover, the paper or my negatives. Probably a combination of the old chemistry and not enough UV. When I mixed the A&B solutions, there was a murky residue in the bottom of the cup.

I need to build an LED box and order fresh chemicals.

Tried coating the two papers in the below photos; had no faith in the cheap, dollar store paper, but wanted to try it anyway.

Surprisingly, it probably would have worked out if I had got a good exposure on the paper. I put an Brownie negative in the contact frame with the "Crown Jewelz" Sketch Pad Paper, and the borders came out fairly even, but clearly not enough through the negative at 35 minutes.

cy3.jpg
cy1.jpg


I grabbed the paper out of the water as the image floated off and took the above picture, but the image washed out completely in 5 minutes.

The Canson XL is practically blank because the negative covered the entire paper surface; only a few details managed to register and those pretty much disappeared with washing.

cy6.jpg
cy2.jpg


The Crown Jewelz is on the left, the Canson XL is in the middle and on the right. The rightmost bit of paper was a scrap I coated and stuck push pins through as a test strip for 10 minutes. As I said, the clouds are blowing through with pockets of bright sunlight occasionally; the test sheet was in full sunlight.

I kept checking exposures on the Canson, but it never seemed to increase beyond the density above, so I threw caution to the wind and processed them both.

BTW, all were splashed with Hydrogen Peroxide after washing.

All in all, not a success, but now I at least have a notion of what it takes to coat the paper and expose it.

Edit: the paper I used...

cy4.jpg
 
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koraks

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Yeah, more light. You'll get there.
Winter is an unfortunate season to try this with sunlight. A proper exposure unit will make things far easier.
And Cyanotype is a slow process by all accounts.
 
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