Contact Print -- white boarder? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi: OK, currently I use an enlarger as a light source and zap the 4x5 negs under a glass plate. It works fine if I want to have the neg in black with that "I'm artsy" edge of the negative showing. But for some things I want a nice contact print on 5x7 paper floating in a sea of white. Can't find really any books that don't treat contact printing beyond "well, some people like it, but lets move on to enlarging".

Anyhow, I tried masking a 4x5 square of paper onto glass and spray-painting the glass black, but no mater how careful the edges bleed. I got one of those nicely cut transparency holders and used it as a mask, but couldn't get the oomph on the negative. Now I'm thinking about using velum with black on it figuring it may also defuse and get rid of that one dust particle that I can NEVER get rid of.

Any hints before I give up on it -- I really like a little contact print that gets better the close you look at it -- kind of magic... Dean

-- Dean Lastoria (, August 10, 2000


Kodak made an "automasking print frame", I believe it was called. Check e-bay - they are offered from time to time. I think that would produce the contacts with white borders you want.

-- Alec (, August 10, 2000.

I'm not sure I understood you exactly, but am I right in thinking that you lay the mask on the glass (while the neg/paper sandwich is down below the glass) or you spray paint the glass? There will be some diffusion from that set up through the thickness of the glass. Have you tried making a mask you can put the negative into? In other words, going from the easel or baseboard surface up, you should have paper, negative, mask, glass. I basically exposed an 8x10 sheet of paper thoroughly and deeveloped it and cut the 4x5 (well, slightly smaller) hole into it. Then I sandwich the negative between a freesh unexposed sheet and this sheet and put the whole sandwich under the glass. Good luck. DJ

-- N Dhananjay (, August 10, 2000.

Older contact printing frames had 4 masking bands to do exactly what you are wanting to do. Check eBay, Lens&Repro, etc. There must be thousands of them around.

-- Bill Mitchell (, August 10, 2000.

Hi: Sorry, wasn't clear on the sandwiching: Board, foam, paper, negative, mask (paper or paint on the down side of the glass) and then the glass.

If I put a paper/card mask between the neg and the glass, the neg pillows up in the middle (buckles?).

If only I could get a mask that was as thin as red cellophane but I could cut it or something -- not that good with a knife. I dunno?

I'll check out a contact printer, but the last thing I need is more equipment (not that I don't love equipment mind you) just tough to justify. Thanks Dean

-- Dean Lastoria (, August 10, 2000.

I made a mask out of 8x10 rubylith (can get at a graphics arts supply store) that fit exactly around a 4x5 piece of film. I use a vacuum easle with glass on top. I simply put the mask down over the 8x10 paper, popped the negative in the hole, covered with glass and turned the vacuum on. You can probably do with a contact frame also. Gives you nice, even white borders. You still have the "artsy" film edge, but you can cover that with the overmat anyway.

The nice thing about the white borders is that you have a visual if anything starts going wrong with the print (not fixed properly, environmental contamination, etc.)

-- Richard Coda (, August 10, 2000.

All thougths of racism aside, :-) perhaps you could try aluminum tape, aka slide-masking tape. It is available in many widths, thin (so your neg shouldn't buckle) and completely lightproof. In addition, it cuts easily with knife or razor blade. With that, a piece of glass and a little dexterity you should be able to make any size or shape of mask you. Hope this helps. ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, August 11, 2000.

I too went the rubylith route. I chose to cut the mask 1mm smaller on all four sides which give me a sharp, white boarder. I carefully position the negative on the mask, (which is adheared to my glass plate) on a light table with tape, and then proceed to make a "normal contact" . This allows for better control of the highlights, seeing if the skys and other "white" areas separate from the white of the paper. I found with a black boarder, I was having a hard time judging the overall exposure. My prints were coming out always on the dark side, the exact opposite of my taste in prints.

-- William Levitt (, August 11, 2000.

I have done the exactly th same thing as William (see message directly above). In addition I have found using Scotch brand clear removable tape is sifficient to hold the neg/mask combo, and when you need to take apart it is less difficult to seperate etc... Use the tape on the fog part of the neg and ont he mask... you'll never know it weas there.


-- Steve Nieslony (, August 11, 2000.

Goldenrod lith paper will also block out and has advantage of thinness and rulings.

-- David Stein (, August 11, 2000.

Thanks for all your ideas. Just when I figured I'd tried everything -- graphics materials -- My high school graphics teacher would be ashamed of me. I'll be busy masking and printing this weekend. Dean

-- Dean Lastoria (, August 11, 2000.

If you have any trouble finding any of these materials, you could just have a frame and matting store cut a 5x7 (actually about 4 1/2 by 6 1/2) window in some plain old mat board large enough to cover your paper and then some. Put the negative and paper under the glass and the mat board on top of the glass. That's what I did and it works fine though you have to be careful when positioning the mat board over the negative. I'm not familiar with rubylith but if it's somewhat transparent it might be easier to position over the negative than the mat board.

-- Brian Ellis (, August 15, 2000.

I am not at all sure whether this answer will be of any use for you, but I have one suggestion:

If you really like contact prints - which I do - then normal gelatine silver paper does not carry you all the way. In this case you may consider taking up alternative processes with longer tonal scales and much more richness in the midtones: with these, you may get nearly the whole tonal spectre of the negativ printed down (as platinum and palladium both have become quite expensive since some time, kallitypes or argyrotypes are a process to consider). But this is a whole new area; you will probably also need other negatives. Obviously, I have no idea how much you know about these things already; if you want more information, please mail me privately.


-- Lukas Werth (, August 16, 2000.

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