Creating Digital Negatives For Van Dyke Brown Printing


How I make my Image Stack for Digital Negatives…

Green Negative for UV blocking.

Green Negative for UV blocking.

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

Easy Digital Negatives is another remarkable book by Peter Mrhar

This post is about how I create my Digital Negatives for printing in Van Dyke Brown.  Before I get into the meat of the subject I need to tell you that I am a follower of Peter Mrhar’s gradient maps for creating my negatives rather than using curves.  The maps will allow you to create a much more controlled negative without the issues normally seen in curves like wild spikes and twists which can really mess up your image.  Peter has written a book on the subject called Easy Digital Negatives which can be purchased on Amazon for a small fee.  The entire book leads up to the last chapter where he gives you an automated script that plugs into Photoshop that will create the gradient map.   Read the entire book first to understand how to develop a exposure test strip and a 245 step print that his script need in order to build the map.  

The basic recipe that Peter gives is:

  1. Create a exposure test strip to get the correct exposure under your UV lights for perfectly exposed dark tones (black/Brown).  You do this with a piece of sensitized paper with a strip of un printed negative material covering 1/2 of the paper.  You then place a total UV blocking material leaving 1 inch of uncovered space, and expose for 1 min.  Then move the UV blocking material to uncover another inch of open paper/film for another min.  Repeat this procedure for about 10 min to create your test chart.   Annotate each exposure with pencil on the paper prior to developing to know what the exposure time was for each movement of the blocking material.  Process and completely dry.  Where the darkest tone that was under the unprinted negative material matches the darkest tone next to it on the paper only side you get your max exposure time.  This then becomes your base exposure for the paper/emulsion comes from.  You will need to do any paper treatments to your paper first like acid washing or applying Fumed Alumina.
  2. Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

    Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

    Now print your 256 step chart that Peter provides on a piece of paper treated the same as in step 1, with a UV blocking color which you will learn about below.  Process and dry.  Scan the resulting image according to Peter’s instructions and feed it to his script in Photoshop and it will pop out a Gradient Map for you to place in your image stack (example below).   

That is all there is to it to create your gradient map (his script will also create a curve if you so desire).

Ok, lets talk about how you put together your file to create your digital negative once your have your gradient map in hand! Below is a copy of my adjustment layers in my digital negative file.

Image Stack in Photoshop for Digital Negative

Image Stack in Photoshop for Digital Negative

Starting at the bottom and working up, take a look at each layer:

  1. Background, default layer in every PS file.
  2. White Background, if you select this the non image area of your negative will print black (green) and leave the emulsion unexposed and white.
  3. Transparent Background, basically the same as layer 2.  I have this here so that I can select it and be able to read my text layer above on the negative.
  4. Black Background, if you select this layer then you will get a negative with the non image area printing white which will force expose the paper black.
  5. 256 step tablet.  You can select this layer to print a test chart.
  6. Picture Goes Here.  Place your image to be printed above this layer.
  7. Picture, REMEMBER even though we are printing a B&W image it MUST be in RGB mode because we are going to print the negative in COLOR to have a UV blocking layer on the top of the stack!
  8. Text layer  with data to be printed on the paper but separated from the image.  This is the bottom of a grouped set of layers that are all selected by simply selecting the group name, read on…
  9. Gradient Map for Lana Paper, acid washed and exposed for 2.5 min.  This is the meat of the layer stack.  This one layer will correct your MID TONES while the 2.5min exposure will correct for the dark tones.  This layer is what make your negative work.
  10. Lana paper group name.  Select this and the next 2 will automatically be selected. I have expanded them so that you can see them here for explanation.
  11. Group of 3 layers for Stonehenge papers with the same basic steps as 8, 9 & 10 with the only difference being a GRADIENT MAP created for Stonehenge paper rather than Lana paper!  you can have groups for each of your papers used in the stack and simply check the boxes you need for the paper you are going to print on!
  12. Invert, you MUST click on this prior to printing the create your negative image, switching your blacks & whites.
  13. Red UV blocking color, click to choose, be careful to not select both Red and Green.
  14. Green UV blocking color, click to choose, be careful not to select both Green and Red.

RULES:

  • Select ONE and ONLY ONE gradient map group or your picture will not print properly!!
  • Select ONE and ONLY ONE color UV blocking color or you picture will not print properly!! 

Let’s talk a little about the UV blocking colors.  It seem a little strange to use a COLOR layer when printing B&W but you need to realize that some colors are better than B&W for controlling your UV exposures!  I have 2 color layers included in my image stack but there can be many others depending upon your printer, ink set and choice in negative film.  For my system (Epson 7900 24 inch printer using the Image Print V9 RIP) I have found that the Green layer works much better.  I am going to show you the difference below between using a B&W negative vs. the GREEN negative.  Pay close attention to the density of the grasses next to the sky in both prints. 

First using a B&W negative with the same gradient map…

B&W negative

B&W negative

As you can see the density of the negative especially in the grasses looks great, but when you look at the output print you can see that the grasses all turn white at the horizon and get lost!

Bent Tree, B&W Negative

Bent Tree, B&W Negative

Now let’s take a look at the negative with the GREEN UV blocking layer…

Green Negative for UV blocking.

Green Negative for UV blocking.

The first thing that you should notice is that the density of both the sky and the grass seems much less dense but when you look at the output print the difference is amazing!

Bent Tree, VDB, w/ green negative

Bent Tree, VDB, w/ green negative

The grasses are now full of texture and you do not loose any detail at the horizon.  The exposure on both images are the same thus you have the same amount of dark areas of shade and in the tree, but the mid tones now are full of greater details.  This was simply achieved by adding the color UV blocking layer.

As I talk about these technical details they may seem simple, but it did take a while for me to master them in all of their glory.  The image used as an example for you is not yet to my liking.  The sky is a little too dark and the shadows are too black.  I have just this week created a new negative with corrections for those specific areas and will be printing this image again tomorrow!

Nothing comes easy with alternative printing. Our printing lives are full of trial and error, but once we master the basics of the digital negative the trial and error period will drop down considerably.   

You can download a copy of my PSD negative stack files both here in my download link on the bottom of the right hand menu and on Facebook in the Van Dyke Brown Printing group or in the Digital Negatives for Contact Printing group.  There is a download file button on the top of each group page that will take you to these files.

I hope that this has been helpful for you. If you have any questions on this process please leave a comment here or join the FB groups above and you will find a great group of people on each group who can and will assist you in your process!

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Using Fumed Alumina To Fix Paper Issues in Van Dyke Brown


An Easy & Cost Effective Way To Fix Paper Issues!

Stormy Seas, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Stormy Seas, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, 720nm Infrared

Testing Fumed Alumina…

Van Dyke Brown emulsion is basically on the acidic side of things chemically and as a result of this I have been forced to wash most of my papers with a acid bath. This caused a increase in my process by 2 days. So I am testing Fumed Alumina which is acidic unlike Fumed Silica which is neutral. I decided to go with the Alumina test first and will do a followup post down the line with the Fumed Silica.

Bent Tree, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Bent Tree, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, IR400 120 Film

Initial results were quite pleasing with both Revere Platinum and Lana Aquarelle papers. I got a MAJOR increase in Dmax with both the Lana and Revere papers, but upon completion of my final wash the Revere was VERY EASY to damage with finger smudges until it dried. The Revere had a tendency for the Alumina to easily rub off the Alumina while wet whereas the Lana was strongly attached.

Anderson Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Anderson Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

The Alumina did fix ALL of the spotting issues that I had when using the Revere Platinum paper but the fact that it will rub off when wet causes some concern but it is easily overcome with careful handling.

Magnolia, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Magnolia, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

The Process:

  1. Dry roll on the Fumed Alumina in 2 directions and rap the paper edge on the table to remove the excess.  Make sure that you use a good mask to filter out this dust as it might irritate your lungs.  DO NOT OVER COAT or you will get streaks when you coat the emulsion.  The rolling step only takes about 30 seconds! You will need to put about 1 TSP of the Alumina into a small paint tray then pre load a small (3″) HARD foam roller with it.
  2. Coat as normal after you roll on the Alumina. You will need about 12 extra drops of VDB emulsion due to it absorbing more. My basic quantity of VDB emulsion for a 8×12 sheet of paper coated with Alumina is 48 Drops of emulsion and 2 drops of Tween 20 at 25% (you will need to dilute the Tween from 50%) solution.  For this post I brushed on the emulsion.  In the past I would normally use a glass rod for coating but the Alumina creates a very rough surface and I was afraid of damaging the paper.
  3. Dry and Expose. Here you will find that the addition of the Alumina will DECREASE your exposure about 1.5 stops!
  4. 1st water bath with distilled water and a pinch of citric acid, 2 min.  This bath will remove any extra ferric ammonium citrate which will cause a yellow paper stain. This bath will darken the print.  Do not worry as the FIX will balance contrasts and bring out the highlights!
  5. Fresh water bath to remove citric acid. 2 min. If you are Gold Toning, this step is VERY important as any Citric Acid will destroy the toner bath!  
  6.  Gold toning bath 2 to 5 min to taste.  The toning process requires CONSTANT AGITATION! After 2 or 3 prints toned add 5ml/print of Gold Chloride to bring the bath back up to strength. This  toning bath will further darken the print.  Do not worry as the FIX will balance contrasts and bring out the highlights!
  7. Fix for 2 min with Sodium Thiosulfate for 2 min. 30g/L. I do not believe that any further time will help the process.
  8. Final moving fresh water bath for 30 min.
  9. Air dry,  I spread out old towels on a table top and place the print on it for about 10 min to absorb most of the water thru the back of the print.  I will then hang the prints to dry by a corner.  
  10. Use a  heat press to flatten your prints at 170deg for 20 seconds. The heat press step is to make the paper flat again.
  11. Hand rub in SOFT custom wax coating for protection then heat to force the wax to be absorbed into the paper fiber with a hair drier (more about this in a future post).
Dinghy, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Dinghy, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

All in all this was a VERY easy fix to the acid washing step  and only added about 30 seconds to roll on the Alumina. The Fumed Alumina can be purchased at Bostick & Sullivan for $15/500g which will do about 100 sheets of 8×12 paper.

2 Dinghys, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

2 Dinghys, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

The increase in Dmax with the Fumed Alumina is amazing and the resulting images are stunning.

Please let me know what you think of this post and with suggestions for future posts!

Gold Toning Van Dyke Brown Prints


Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on  Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP  paper

“Oak Reflections in Infrared” Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP paper

Who knew Gold would be so cool?

After experimenting quite a bit with washing my un coated Lana paper with a 2.5% wash of Citric acid and distilled water and discovering that ALL of my paper issues fell away that the Dmax of my paper/print would so radically improve!  Though I do have to admit that pre washing the paper adds 2 entire days to my workflow and is a LOT of work.  I recently ordered some Fumed Alumina powder from Bostick & Sullivan as an alternative to acid washing.  B&S says of Fumed Lumina:

A small quantity of fumed Alumina is rolled on to a piece of paper with a dry high density foam paint roller. It spreads evenly on to the paper leaving a velvety surface to the touch. The paper can then be coated with a platinum/palladium solution, dried, exposed and developed in the standard method. It is suspected that the Alumina can be used for other hand coated photographic processes like cyanotype, van dyke, Kallitype, and similar processes. It has already been tested with great success with albumen prints. The coating acts as a sizing enhancer and appears to protect the emulsion from alkali buffers. Contrast increases but appears largely to be due to enhancement of the blacks. 

Anderson Mill, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on  Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP  paper

Anderson Mill, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP paper

So, this then is the great experiment of March!  I will report back on the measured effect as it applies to my process in the next post!

Now, onto the reason for this posting, Gold Toning of Van Dyke Brown prints! Now that I am getting consistent prints from my acid washed Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP  and Stonehenge papers I wanted to explore increasing the Dmax further by Gold toning.  Rather than mixing my own gold toning solution (basically I am very lazy) I decided to purchase Bostick & Sullivans Gold Toning liquid solution.   This is simply 2 bottles of a chemicals, solution A is 2% Ammonium Thiocyanate and solution B is .2% Gold Chloride.  You mix 50ml each of A and B  with enough distilled water to make 500ml of working gold toner.  Easy peasy, no powders to measure and mix.  B&S says that you can replenish the solution by adding 5ml of the Gold Chloride for each 8×10 print you tone.  I do this in the toning bath but when finished I am thinking that I need to throw it away and treat it more like a 1 shot toner.  Since the cost of the Gold Toning kit is so reasonable from B&S ($45) and will make such a large amount of working toning bath 10 bottles of 500ml working bath I am inclined to do so. 

Magnolia Blossom, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on  Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP  paper

Magnolia Blossom, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP paper

The reason for this is simple.  It has to do with the processing sequence:

  1. Expose your coated paper.
  2. 1st water bath with 2000ml of distilled water and 1 tsp of Citric Acid for 2 min to remove excess sensitizer (yellow Stain) from the paper and to help prevent emulsion wash off.
  3. Gold toning bath, watching for toning in the mid tones and highlights to indicate finish.
  4. 2nd water bath with 2000ml of distilled water and 1tsp of Citric Acid.
  5. Fix.
  6. Rinse in tap water for 30 min.
Stormy Seas on the dock, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on  Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP  paper

Stormy Seas on the dock, Gold Toned Van Dyke Brown Prints on Lana Aquarelle 140lb HP paper

The issue for me with replenishment of the gold toner solution is that even the TINIEST amount of citric acid will destroy the toning solution.   So this means that between step 1 and 2 I have to insert:

    1b. Plain tap water bath for 1 min to remove Citric Acid.

Since the Citric Acid will destroy the gold toner and that there is very little chance for me to remove most of it prior to toning then there is the very likely chance that it will be ruined even with a plain water bath prior to toning!

The acid problem with the gold toner is the only real issue to its use.  I really do not want to have to put the print into my print washer for 5 min to clear all of the acid so a 1 shot toning bath for about 3 images seem a good trade off to me.  Time will tell!

I hope that you have been paying attention to the images spaced through out the post.  All of them have gone thru the gold going process and with the exception to the last one I did not add any more Good Chloride to the bath.  Because of this you can notice that with the exception of the 1st and last print each print after the 1st look more brown as we progress down the line! With the last one I added 25ml of the gold to bring the bath back up to strength and you can see the difference.  You can tell that it is run down by how long it takes for the toning process to complete to the point where you like the results.   I have been told by friends online that I could have taken the toning process a bit further.  The thing about gold toning is that the gold replaces all of the silver in the print which shifts the print colors from dark brown to a very platinum looking black.  You can even get a bluish tint in the dark tones of your print!  

I think that the toning process is VERY worth while and highly recommend that you give it a try.

The next post should be on using the Fumed Alumina as an agent to overcome a non-acidic paper coating as well as increasing the prints Dmax!

 

Van Dyke Brown Paper Experiments…


Fixing Paper Problems For Van Dyke Brown Printing

 

Van Dyke Brown, Dinghys, Rising Stonehenge Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Dinghys, Rising Stonehenge Paper

VDB, Revere Platinum Paper & Spots

VDB, Revere Platinum Paper & Spots

In my recent printing of the 1840 Van Dyke Brown prints, I have experienced a lot of dark spots on my prints.  I ordered several types of papers to try to see if it was a paper problem… I have been using Revere Platinum paper which is easy to coat (provided you use Tween 20 in the emulsion) and gives great tonality but seems to ALWAYS have dark spots all through the print!

Look closely at the image to the right. You will notice dark spots (look above the light) that go completely through the paper!  This has been driving me nuts and nothing that I did to try and fix the issue ever helped.

I ordered several new papers plus tried several others that I had on hand:

  • Arches Platine (on hand) I have issues coating this paper even with Tween added to the mixture.  It tends to sit on the surface with no absorption into the fibers which causes it to wash off instantly in in the first water bath in long stringy tendrils of emulsion.  Very little is left on the paper so it has a light chalky appearance.  This paper just does not work for me in Van Dyke Brown.  I keep hearing online about how much other Van Dyke Brown printers like this paper but I just do not see it…
  • Cot 320 (on hand) This paper is a little better than the Arches paper in that it holds the emulsion a little better but is still washes off the surface in the 1st water bath!  It is usable for Van Dyke Brown printing though…  It has been recently suggested to me that I soak this paper in a 10% citric acid bath, wash it and dry it in order to get better surface adhesion and a higher Dmax.  I will try this in a week or two.
  • Heavy Kozo 90 gsm (on hand) Bostick & Sullivan states that this paper will work great with Van Dyke Brown.  The paper is made from 50% kozo and 50% abaca. Kozo is the inner bark of mulberry tree seedlings, producing a naturally white paper fiber which is very strong and long lasting. The paper looks very promising and fun to work with especially the ultra thin version that I chose to NOT work  with due to it being extremely thin and the requirement of special tools to handle it.  I have seen videos of artists using it which is why I decided to purchase a few sheets to experiment with.  But I have not had time to work with it yet.  So look for a post specific to this wonderous paper in the future!
  • Revere Platinum (on hand).  This paper coats wonderfully with the addition of Tween and the emulsion does NOT wash off in the first water bath!  It gives wonderful deep tones and color.  The only (MAJOR ISSUE) problem with it is that it gets white and brown spots all over the paper that goes completely through the paper from front to back.  These spots can totally ruin the print…  I have tried everything that I can think of to fix this issue as I really like the paper but I am at a total loss.
  • Rising Stonehenge (new)  This paper coats great with Tween and does not wash off.  There are no spots and the adjustment curve matches the one for Revere!  It is a thinner paper and seems easy to damage during coating.  It takes less emulsion to coat the same size as the other papers.  I did find that the emulsion migrates from the coated areas to the white around the edges.  I have no idea as to why but I think that if I lower the number of drops that I use for coating that it might take care of the problem.  It generates a fantastic deep brown warm tone across the image and I love the final prints on it. This paper is readily available on Amazon as well as many other locations.
  • Lana Aquarelle (new) All that I can say about this paper is WOW!  It coats and prints the Van Dyke Brown images with amazing density and tone.  It coats easily with Tween and is a heavy paper with not spotting or migration issues.  This is going to be my main paper as long as I can get it.  So far the only place that I have found it is at Bostic & Sullivan. The curves for the Revere paper work perfectly with the Lana!

 

Lana Aquarelle Paper Notes

Lets first talk about the Lana Aquarelle paper.  This paper is simply amazing!  It coats very well with both the brush and a glass rod as long as you add a little Tween at 25%

For a 8×12 print:

  • Using a glass coating rod for a 8×12 print it takes 36 drops of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.
  • Using a Synthetic Sable brush it takes 72 doors of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.

Once coated, I let it AIR DRY for 30 min then expose in a 12 bulb UV box in a vacuum frame for 2 to 4 min depending on the paper and negative.  Usually the base exposure time is 3 min.

Van Dyke Brown, Berry Mill, Lana Aquarelle Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Berry Mill, Lana Aquarelle Paper brush coated

As I said the results from this paper is a nice warm print with great density in the black areas and the edges.

I coated four pieces of paper yesterday, two with a glass coating rod and two with a synthetic Sable brush.  Both methods worked very well and gave nice even coatings. The image above was a applied with the Sable brush  and the one below was coated with a glass rod.

Van Dyke Brown, Lana Aquarelle Paper Glass coated

Van Dyke Brown, Lana Aquarelle Paper Glass coated

Notice in the image above if the lone dinghy  that there are NO spots at all.  The paper was clean on the front and back and gave a nice density in the dark areas!  This paper is very heavy and after coating it will want to curl a little but will flatten in about 5 min. Let it dry for the full 30 min in the air and do not use a hair drier.

 

Rising Stonehenge Paper

For a 8×12 print:

  • Using a glass coating rod for a 8×12 print it takes 26 drops of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.
  • Using a Synthetic Sable brush it takes 65 doors of VDB and 2 drops of Tween 25%.

 

Rising Stonehenge Paper is another good paper for the Van Dyke Brown process.  It is a MUCH lighter weight paper than the Lana paper but it really does not cost any less!  You can find it on Amazon which means free shipping.  The shipping charges from B&S are going to kill me, with the average cost for paper being around $20 per order!  This is what makes Amazon so great, but they just don’t carry all of the papers that I like to keep on hand…

Van Dyke Brown, The Old Truck, Rising Stonehenge Paper

Van Dyke Brown, The Old Truck, Rising Stonehenge Paper

So far, my work with Rising Stonehenge has been very good.  It coats evenly and the emulsion soaks into the paper fibers nicely. The print is very dense and nice dark areas.   The paper is quite thin and I discovered that the surface is easily damaged during coating.  Since the surface requires much less VDB emulsion I will reduce it the next time I coat (I used 36 drops of VDB and 2 drops of Tween for this test coating) and the surface damage will likely go away due to the glass rod not going across the paper surface  more than 4 times ( for 36 drops the coating rod required 8 trips across the paper surface) thus reducing working the papers surface too much and causing damage.  

One small problem with the paper that I discovered was that the emulsion has a tendency to migrate from the coated areas to the uncoated areas giving a grey shadow around the image.  If you look closely you can see actual small spots of it surrounding the coating.  This is really no big deal but I am unsure as to why this is happening.  

I will continue to use this paper because it generates VERY WARM BROWN in the print and I just love the look of it!

Now, it has been suggested that I soak or pre coat the paper with an acid bath of 10% citric acid for a 1 or 2 min, then wash the paper and allow it to dry before coating.  I am told that this will vastly increase the papers Dmax!  I am going to test this next time I print!

 The image at the top of this post was also printed on Rising Stonehenge paper!

 Bergger Cot 320 Paper

 The Cot 320 paper is a very nice, smooth paper.  I love the look and feel of it.  BUT, for Van Dyke Brown it has a problem in that it will not readily absorb the VDB emulsion into the paper fibers.  Even with Tween added to the emulsion, it is not enough.  What happens is that in the first water bath after exposure the majority of the emulsion washes off in thick tendrils of brown goo.  Unlike the Arches paper, enough is left on the paper to still make for a good (not great) image.  

Van Dyke Brown, Das Boots, Cot 320 Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Das Boots, Cot 320 Paper

There is enough promise from this paper that I am going to experiment further with this paper by washing the paper with an acidic solution of citric acid and distilled water, brushing it on and letting it soak in for a few seconds then washing the paper again with distilled water.  Once it dries and I will flatten it in a low temp heat press and coat the VDB on it.  I think that this will break down the surface coatings enough for it to accept the emulsion better and increase the papers Dmax.

Van Dyke Brown, Stormy Sky, Cot 320 Paper

Van Dyke Brown, Stormy Sky, Cot 320 Paper

I will report on this more in the future.  

OK that is all for this post. I am not going to report on the Arches and Revere papers as I have discussed them in the previous two posts.

I hope that you got something out of the info here!  Let me know…

 

Van Dyke Brown Printing, 1842


A new (read OLD) way of printing!

8x12" Van Dyke Brown Print

8×12″ Van Dyke Brown Print

Alternative Printing from History!

Van Dyke Brown is an early photographic printing process. The process was so named due to the similarity of the print color to that of a brown oil paint named for Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck.

The Vandyke brown print is based on the first iron-silver process, the argentotype, invented in 1842 by the English astronomer, Sir John Herschel. Both processes utilize the action of light on ferric salts and their chemistry is very similar. The Vandyke process gets its name from its similarity in color to the deep brown pigment used by the Flemish painter Van Dyck. Vandyke brown prints are very simple and economical to make, with the sensitizer consisting of three readily available chemicals. Clearing is carried out in water and fixing is done in a weak solution of hypo.

Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

Van Dyke Brown Step Wedge Calibration Chart for 3 Min Exposure

As you can see, this is a very early way of printing developed a long time before our current Silver Salt paper process.  The images are a deep brown instead of the normal black and white that we are used to seeing.  They are somewhat easy to create provided that you have done your homework and created the proper calibration images to create a calibration Gradient Map or Curve to apply to your negatives which adjust them for loss of mid tones in the printing process.

This is strictly a CONTACT PRINTING technique that requires a true negative that is placed on top of paper that YOU as the artist coat yourself with the Van Dyke Brown emulsion that you mix from simple chemistry!   The coating process is done with a special brush that requires a very light touch or a glass coating rod that you use to push a line of liquid emulsion across the paper.

B&W Negative for Van Dyke Brown Print exposure calculated for 3 Min.

B&W Negative for Van Dyke Brown Print exposure calculated for 3 Min with the calibration applied.

The liquid emulsion is measured by the number of drops from a glass eye dropper into a small glass then with a drop of two of a wetting agent like Tween 20 to help the coating process.  The paper/emulsion is allowed to dry then the negative which was created using my Epson 7900 printing on transparency material is placed on top of the coated paper.  This sandwich is then placed in a printing box filled with 12 Fluorescent Black Light tubes which then expose the paper with UV light.  The exposure for the current paper I am using (Revere Platinum) has been calibrated to 3 or 4 min based upon the test chart above.

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 2 stops.

Van Dyke Brown Print, Over Exposed by 1.5 stops.

This process is a POP process in which the image after being exposed can be seen on the paper once removed from the UV box.  It is orange and yellow in color.  It is placed in 2 consecutive distilled water baths that remove the yellow and darken the orange.  Then it is placed in the fixer solution (Sodium thiosulfate) for 2 min.  When the image is placed in the fix, it IMMEDIATELY changes from orange to a very dark brown and white picture. Finally the print is placed in a live water wash for 30 min then dried!  

This is a simple process that creates beautiful images that will leave you breathless as you view them!  I am going to further develop and learn the process over the next month or two before I start on mastering the Platinum/Palladium printing process as well!

Look forward to many more posts on the processes as I master them!