Printing 4X5 B&W : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm in the midst of cleaning up my old basement darkroom so that I can start printing again.

I have two 4X5 enlargers with Besseler 45A colorheads, which I used for color printing. I've never printed B&W with variable contrast paper, which I would like to try doing now. According to the 45A instructions, these heads will offer considerable variation in contrast in B&W VC printing. Any comments or opinions regarding the 45A?

Also, exploring the options for VC papers, I find there are many types out there, and I don't have a clue as to which I should buy!

All I want is a VC, fiber-based, double-weight, glossy paper that will allow me to practice printing. A "workman-like" paper. If I do anything better than terrible then I can start exploring the more exotic (and expensive) papers.

Thank you, Barrie Smith, Missoula, Montana

-- Barrie E. Smith (, December 05, 2000


Greetings Barrie,

I can't comment on the 45A color head, but I think it functions a bit differently than "conventional" heads. Rather than using subtractive colors (cyan, yellow & magenta) it uses primary colors (red, green blue) and it uses a pulsed light, at least that's what someone told me.

A good general purpose VC FB paper is Ilford's MGIV. With a C/Y/M color head you would increase magenta filtration to increase paper contrast and increase yellow filtration to decrease contrast. The same thing can be accomplished with primary colors, but I'm not sure which one to use - I'm quite ignorant when it comes to color mixing! The easiest way to test any paper is by printing a density step wedge (available from Stouffer, Kodak and others) with different units of filtration.


-- Pete Caluori (, December 05, 2000.

"All I want is a VC, fiber-based, double-weight, glossy paper that will allow me to practice printing. A "workman-like" paper. If I do anything better than terrible then I can start exploring the more exotic (and expensive) papers." sells a single-weight VC Fiber paper that is quite good for just 13$/100 sheets of 8x10. They also have inexpensive double weight fiber papers.

-- Erik Ryberg (, December 05, 2000.

Let,s see,

Magenta increases contrast and that's red+blue

Yellow decreases contrast, that's red + green

Therefore, increase blue relative to green to increase contrast, increase green relative to blue to decrease contrast. Red doesn't matter, the paper isn't sensitive to red. Does this sound right?

Ilford MG-IV is a nice paper in both the RC and FB versions. Definitely a reasonable place to start.

-- mike rosenlof (, December 05, 2000.


VC paper has two sensitivities: the hard contrast part of the emulsion is sensitive to blue light, the soft contrast part to green light. Therefore, you should be able to use different combinations of primary blue and green (i.e. blue through cyan to green) and get the contrast spread you need. Yellow won't do any good except to make the image easier for you to see and focus (which you can do on the "white" setting). I don't use VC much, but I'm sure someone out there can give you some starting points for your light source. Regards, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, December 06, 2000.

Barrie, consider starting out with RC paper instead of FB, especially if its your first time printing. RC processes quicker and you don't have the washing times that you have for FB. As a result, you will be able to experiment with quicker results instead of having to put up with the (sometimes long) processes associated with FB printing. Once you get the hang of it, you could switch to FB if you wanted.

Ilford MG IV is a great paper. I used to use agfa paper but it didn't appear to have the range that Ilford has.

-- (, December 06, 2000.

barrie-- i think you'e gotten some good advice on using the color head for the vc printing. so i won't delve into that.

i would second the opinion above that you might want to work in rc until you get comfortable with the process. then move to fiber. that will help you work on the actual process without having to be anal or worried about the archival issues with fiber. (yes, they are there too with rc... but not in the same way.)

the ilford mg iv is a nice paper in both rc and fiber that you could work with in rc and then move to fiber without much change in the response of the papers (though you'll see an increased range in tones and deeper blacks).

i would also consider the agfa mg classic as a fiber paper. it is a little warmer in the base (the ilford is pretty cool) and is nicer for more subjects. i prefer warmer papers though, so take that with a grain of salt.


-- michael (, December 06, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ