RC vs. Fiber based papers

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Are resin-coated papers really less permanent and effective than fiber based papers? I am trying to make a set of prints to give as a present and want them to lastů What are the pros and cons of each paper?

-- Clare Vierbuchen (vierbuc@aol.com), October 11, 2001


Clare, Once again the can of worms is opened!! Which paper do you currently use? IMHO the best advice is to try printing with both and see what paper you get on best with. As far as archival permanence is concerned, many will rant on about the longevity of a fibre print, but they do need to be processed with a high degree of attention to detail with regards washing etc. Personally, I feel that a well processed and selenium or gold toned RC print is every bit as good!! RC is certainly easier and quicker to use than fibre papers and dries flat without having to dry mount. As long as the matting materials are archivally stable then I would use RC. I agree that fibre has a better tactile quality, but once behind glass this advantage is lost. Approximately 95% of my printing is done with RC paper simply because I prefer the final print on this type as opposed to fibre based paper. Try both and see for yourself. Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), October 11, 2001.

I don't know what you mean by "effective," but there can no longer be any doubt that resin-coated papers are less permanent than fiber based papers. Your specific question, however, does not contain sufficient information to formulate an answer. You "...want them [the set of prints] to last..." For how long and under what exact storage and/or display conditions? Given proper processing of each paper type, one or both might meet your print life expectancy needs.

-- Sal Santamaura (bc_hill@qwestinternet.net), October 11, 2001.

To find out about RC paper search GOOGLE for information. You'll find writings by Ctein and others on the problems. Here are two messageboard links.




-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), October 11, 2001.

there really isnt any contest between the archival life of RC vs fiber-base papers. rc is viable for 60 years or so, whereas a properly processed fiber-base print is archival for over 500 years. the primary difference is that the emulsion is embedded in the grain of a fiber base paper, while the emulsion sits on top of a plastic coating on an rc paper. this not only affects archival qualities, but also the tonality of the finished print. a fiber-base print typically will yeild a much deeper tone than an rc print. good rc papers do exhibit a nice range of gray tones, however, and because of that, they make very good proof prints. no art museum or archival collections that i know of will accept RC prints. one last little item is the quality of the paper itself - a good DW fiber-base paper simply feels more substantial and has a much more loveable surface characteristic than RC papers.

-- jnorman (jnorman@teleport.com), October 11, 2001.

Lovable? What are you doing, using it as a blanket at night??? (just a joke here...)but I agree with you on the longevity issue...however, no museum or archive would allow you to handle an "artifact", whether textual or 3-dimensional, without gloves on to keep your skin oils off the item...that would be the #1 killer for anything. The other thing about institutions is, that although none would consider an RC print to be a longterm file print, just about every museum, archive and research library in this country at least, uses RC paper for their work prints, access prints, patron requests etc. . Usually an institution will have the capability to make a fiber print, but the majority of the work is done on RC. In alot of places, the film files are treated as the master file, but in an art museum (where the print becomes the artifact) this is not the case...nor in a project like the HABS/HAER stuff Mr. Norman does...but then it's a dual thing there, film & fiber based prints. The film is all polyseter based sheet film, which in itself is LE rated (the base) at 500+ yrs. (like microfilm)...everything's tested for residual fix etc, so when they say "archival", they mean it...

I think the answer to your question, Clare is to define how long you need them to last. A FB print will last longer if processed & stored properly, in most cases it's also much more durable under adverse display conditions, because untoned RC prints are more susceptible to atmospheric pollutants than FB prints seem to be. If they are going to be handled alot, and if you are going to assemble them & mount them in unsafe albums, drymounting etc...then it's kind of a tossup really. If you do wind up using RC, you might want to go with a non-developer incorporated paper from a major manufacturer, not some old-style rc paper. Using strong dilutions of selenium toner, or sulfide toners like brown, Viradon, Polytoner, sepia etc. will help protect the print from pollutants.

Another thing is to remember that nothing lasts forever, the approach a museum or archive would have would be in putting the photo/negatives away in a safe spot, and using duplicate copies for everything. If you want it to last, you can't use it. So my approach is sorta to look beyond the tactile qualities of a paper, focus (no pun) on keeping the film safe and choose the most durable paper for your needs....since I'm talking theory here let me say: Opinions expressed in this message may not represent the policy of my agency. Good luck.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), October 11, 2001.


I gather from your question and the stated intent of the portfolio of prints as a gift that you might be looking for a simple approach with existing materials and equipment (no archival print washer, no dry-mount press, etc.).

In this case I would suggest that RC paper will process and wash easliy and with proper after-treatment will probably endure the ravages of time in your friend's hands without causing you embarrassment.

I suggest that after develop, stop bath and brief fixing in Rapid Fix diluted to film strength (usually 1+4) that you rinse each print for 2 minutes and then place it in a washing-aid or fixer remover. After the washaid give the prints a good wash individually so that they don't bind together in a clump and then place each print into a solution of Agfa Sistan for a minute or two.

Agfa Sistan will prevent deterioration of the image by curtailing migration into the titanium-oxide that brightens the RC print base.

If, on the other hand, you are equipped to handle FB prints then that should be the chosen path for the aesthetics of the artefact itself as much as anything. FB can also benefit from Sistan although I prefer to achieve similar ends with selenium toning.


-- Walter Glover (walterg@netaus.net.au), October 11, 2001.

Simply put, fiber based prints have been around 2 to 3 times as long as RC, and fiber based prints have proven that, properly processed, they can last a very long time.

RC hasn't been around long enough to prove, empirically, that they'll last as long as fiber.

200 years from now we'll know the answer, if anybody then cares.

Yet our very negatives are on plastic!

For serious gift photos, FB is my personal preference, properly dry mounted. Yet I don't object to RC for work or personal prints.

-- Charlie Strack (charlie_strack@sti.com), October 11, 2001.

If there is a question about which paper is better, then print on both. Then you will learn why printing on fb is so much better. The main objection some people have about fb is that you have to wash them for so long. Baloney. 2 minutes in a film strength rapid fixer, 2 mins in a wash aid such as kodak hypo clear, and let sit in a tray of water with some agitation, and then dry by hanging by the corners and you will have beautiful prints worthy of giving as a gift. RC sucks. That's why most printers print on fb. It is definately the better material. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), October 13, 2001.

Given the continual failure of RC papers every time the makers say "we FINALLY have all the problems fixed", I would go with fibre. As to which are more 'effective', I am not sure what you mean. Both look beautiful when a good printer creates an image on them. Check out David Vestals past articles on print washing methods in Photo Techniques. A 'soak & dump' method works well and is a lot less expensive than an 'archival' washer. Just as long as your prints look good. Print a good image, mat & mount for clean presentation using Bainbridge Alpharag Artcare boards and frame it well & either material will look good. But, going with fibre will help get rid of the nagging doubts that still come with RC prints. Kind of like buying a used car...

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), October 13, 2001.

James, How long have you been printing on fibre? Sounds to me like your prints are not being archivally processed!! May look good now......but for how long?? RC sucks? Maybe my correctly processed RCs will outlast your fibre?? Only time will tell!!

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), October 14, 2001.

Anyone just tuning in, this is an "auto-thread." All you have to do is ask a particular question with two words in close proximity (like fiber and RC, for example) and a computer generates all of the above and at the very end you are just where you would have been if you'd read the old prototype threads. I'm sure it works with "Schneider vs. Rodenstock," anything having to do with "pyro" and if you've got a really fast chip try it with Xtol.

-- Kevin Crisp (KRCrisp@aol.com), October 14, 2001.

Paul, Ilford has verified their archival process( 2 min fix in fresh film strength rapid fix, 2 mins in hypo clearing agent, 20 minute wash) sequence through exhautive testing. I have been printing for enough years to know that Ilford or Kodak wouldn't put it in writing if it wasn't a good method. I have prints in full sunlight 3 or 4 hours a day behind glass that have been hanging for years with no deterioration whatsoever. Edward Weston had a very limited supply of water in his darkroom. He didn't have an archival washer wasting water. He used trays of water which were changed after so many prints were put through them. Neither do many printers who don't have access to large amounts of water. No my system has proved out as far as I'm concerned. Your RC will last a long time givebn adequate care and adequate storage conditions. But I have RC prints that were washed for an hour or more that have silvered out sitting in a dark closet. So I say RC is no where near as good as fibre base paper. Just look at any gallery you want to pick and see how many accept RC prints. I have seen way too many "archivally" processed RC prints that last a few years and then silver out. Ctein has written about it exhaustively too. Sorry, case closed. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), October 15, 2001.

James, Afraid the case is still slightly ajar! Washing RC prints for an hour isn't going to make them archival. With RC too much wahing is detrimental to the print. One of the advantages of RC is its short wash times, the plastic prevents fixer entering the paper support. Too long a wash and the print can suffer from cockling, where the plastic and paper starts to separate.Maybe this has been the problem you encountered? I've seen plenty of crappy RC prints (that have been processed incorrectly)that won't last and plenty of crappy fibre prints too (covered in stains and not flat)that won't last. The point I'm trying to make is that you can't simply dismiss something just because its the "in" thing to do! If RC wasn't any good then why is it still being made? Everything has its place! I use fibre paper, but still prefer using RC for lots of my work. I too have RC prints that both myself and my customers have had hanging in all sorts of locations.....TO MY KNOWLEDGE NONE OF THEM HAS LET ME DOWN. Photography is full of snobbery, dismissing RC paper is just another example of it! Whether you like it or not RC is here to stay....customer demand will ensure that. I appreciate that Ctein may have concluded that RC is crap ( haven't read any of his stuff) but I'm a great believer in trying things out for myself rather than taking one persons word as gospel. And remember, all your negatives will probably be on plastic anyhow, so you want to hope that it does last!! Regards

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), October 16, 2001.

Not to pour oil on troubled waters but my understanding of Ctein's conclusions was as follows. I don't think he was saying the plastic is problematic. Resin coated paper uses titanium dioxide as part of the white paper subbing layer instead of barium oxide which is used in fiber based paper. He concluded that the titanium oxide layer was at war with the plastic base, and exposure to light hastened the battle. Keeping a print under glass seems to exacerbate the problem. As stated in a previous post, selenium toning and treatment with Sistan seems to help the problem. As for how they look, heck, whatever looks good to you is the only criterion that can be used. Was it Weston who said he didn't care if the print was made on a bathmat as long as it was a good print? Cheers, DJ.

-- N Dhananjay (ndhanu@umich.edu), October 16, 2001.

FWIW, Wilhelm talks a bit about this in his book, and in talking about polyester based print materials, such as the Melinex based Cibachrome Classic paper--which is an opaque type polyester base---he says that if the manufacturers were to make a b&w RC paper on this base material (without the brighteners) that this would outlast any other type of b&w print. Apparently, polyester is incredibly stable, supposedly moreso than 100% cotton in dark storage, and it is the most resistant to atmospheric damage as well. This is why ESTAR based, or polyester based sheet films are used in institutions, or in the HABS work as well...coupled with toning the image to protect the emulsion, makes it very longlasting...and this also the reason why Mylar D enclosures are preferred as well.

Here are some links for info about RC papers. The biggest problems I've ever encountered with RC papers have been with them being attacked by pollutants from their surroundings. In some sorta unscientifc ringarounds we've done, the toned images have lasted alright, while an untoned control print will crap out relatively fast. Different papers are affected differently as well, in fact the one paper that Wilhelm recommended in his 1993 book, has performed the worst as far as I can tell. I'm going to tack a link on to a page studying peroxide attacks on RC prints, that's exactly what I'm referring to...what we've seen--using the same materials & processor--is close to this example.

I'm not intending for this to be a "rc v.s. fiber thread", but for some uses fiber based paper is impractical, and I don't believe that every person out there looking at this forum is interested in making "master prints" all the time... Here are the links:

These are from the Abbey Newsletter:

http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byorg/abbey/an/an21/an21-4/an21-405.htm l

http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byorg/abbey/an/an12/an12-5/an12-507.htm l

These are from the ConsDistlist off CoOL:





This from the IAQ group dealing with indoor air pollution:


Oh, and lastly I should add: Opinions expressed in this message may not represent the policy of my agency.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), October 16, 2001.

Here's another good one for you all...this is from the NEDCC's online tutorial "Preservation 101", and this part deals with photos. This is a good overview of the terminology, ANSI specs, and practices used in dealing with long term archiving.


This is a good page to keep handy if you're interested in storage materials as well.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), October 16, 2001.

Geez, must be having a bad night down here...these links are all....well, look all this stuff came off of three major conservation sites. One is the massive, Conservation OnLine. Besides having tons of other useful info, there's a pretty longrunning listgroup off there called the ConsDistList. If you do searches on that, you'll find a variety of researchers & conservators answering questions there....The NEDCC documetns are great, and the "Preservation 101" tutorial can be accessed through the homepage easily. Lastly, Abbey Publications is another paper conservation group, and Douglas Nishimura of the Image Permanence Institute wrote an article called "How Stable Are Photos on RC Paper" for the Abbey Newsletter, Vol. 21, Number 4. Nov.1997. You can get to Abbey through CoOL. Douglas Nishimura, and others have alot of posts on the Distlist as well. These other ones that dealt with developer incorporated papers, residual thiosulfate levels, toning for protection etc. The IAQ group is another good site, but that may be too museum oriented for some. I was just trying to save you all some legwork....

-- DK thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), October 16, 2001.

Here's another answer;

I went through my stored prints over the weekend looking for some prints to put up at an exhibit this week. I found that a lot more of the RC prints made on Ilford RC paper in the time period 1991 to 1997 are getting brown spots. I stopped using RC paper all together in 1997.

All of the fiber prints from 1956 to the present are doing fine!

-- Gene Crumpler (hassieguy@at.net), October 17, 2001.

The point I'm trying to make is that you can't simply dismiss something just because its the "in" thing to do!

Sure you can.

If RC wasn't any good then why is it still being made?

No one is saying it "isn't AMY good", just that it currently is not in the same league as far as expected life as properly processed fibre prints.

Everything has its place!

And there is a place for everything.

I use fibre paper, but still prefer using RC for lots of my work.

How nice.

I too have RC prints that both myself and my customers have had hanging in all sorts of locations.....TO MY KNOWLEDGE NONE OF THEM HAS LET ME DOWN.

Maybe your knowledge isn't comprehensive. Maybe your recognition of print failure isn't what it could be. Maybe you are a photographic anomaly.

Photography is full of snobbery, dismissing RC paper is just another example of it!

So is wine tasting, but still some wines just don't cut it. Demonstrated cases of RC failure in too many circumstances have nothing to do with snobbery.

Whether you like it or not RC is here to stay....customer demand will ensure that.

And your point here is???

I appreciate that Ctein may have concluded that RC is crap ( haven't read any of his stuff)

Might help a bit if you would read his writing before sounding too stupid on this one. It never hurts to know what one is commenting on.

but I'm a great believer in trying things out for myself rather than taking one persons word as gospel.

When you do try it out, be sure to use rigorous scientific principles as your research progresses.

And remember, all your negatives will probably be on plastic anyhow, so you want to hope that it does last!! Regards

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), October 16, 2001.

What type of plastic are you referring to? A lot goes by the name and differing grades have vastly different life expectancies.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), October 17, 2001.

OK - Now were talking, WINE, RC and Fiber Paper! It is the best combination! I think the staining would be more beautiful on the fiber and of course the feel of a Great Wine on a Fine Fiber Paper is hard to beat. But the RC would wash up much better after the Party.

All joking aside... I am new to fiber (the last few years) and there is no doubt that it is the BEST. But I just can't stand to throw out 20 hand made Fine Fiber Prints onto a Board Room Table for discussion, and have the Damn pigs dump Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, on them and then finger them to death. I feel that because of the "Fiber Only" Mistique we have created the impression that they are difficult to print(this is NOT true) however, I think we all can agree that they do require more time. And for me time is Money! And if I only have a 2 or 3 hours to make up 20 prints for a meeting, then the choice has been made for me. But I DO like Fiber more and more each day. I just wish I knew all there is to know about all the Mystery, but then I miss the fun of learning.

Clare, try Fiber you will like it. My Doctor says it's good for the Diet, and none of get enough fiber.... ;-)


-- R. L. McDonald (rmacsteam@aol.com), October 17, 2001.

Hey Dan, chill out!!!! Surely the whole point of a forum is to discuss and debate? I'm perfectly entitled to my opinion as you are to yours, so what's the problem? I'm just telling it as I see it, sure I don't test my materials in a scientific manner...I USE MY TIME TO TAKE PHOTOS, NOT TO TEST!! If something works for me, I'll use it. If the same doesn't suit you, then who gives a ****!! Do what suits you, I'm not that interested. As for customer demands......the customer controls demand!! If the customer don't want it then it ain't going to last that long!! We're seeing it as we speak, Kodak withdrawing black and white films, Polaroid up against the wall.WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE!!

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), October 17, 2001.

Paul, Clare doesn't have customers, at least not in the context of this thread. The question asked about "...a set of prints to give as a present..." My first posting pointed out that additional information is required before a useful answer can be provided.

Dan seems to get upset when he reads postings which either imply or state outright that the life expectancy of properly processed RC and fiber are or can be equivalent with current materials. Such postings are nonsense. Scientific inquiry is necessary to reach reasonable conslusions. If someone is not disposed to personally perform relevant research, then reputable scientific sources should be consulted for reliable life expectancy data.

RC prints may be useful in certain commercial situations. They may even be adequate for Clare's purposes. We won't know until the question is expanded to tell us storage and/or display conditions and required print life. However, there is not one iota of doubt that properly processed fiber prints will outlast those made on any RC material available from its inception through today. To state otherwise simply ignores reality.

-- Sal Santamaura (santamaura@earthlink.net), October 17, 2001.

Dear All, the fibre vs RC debate will always rage on! And I will happily continue using both for as long as I get the same results as at present. If some contributors get upset by my opinion, then maybe they need to rethink the reason why they bother to contribute to this forum, they are after all offering THEIR opinion! I do not dispute the scientific fact that it has been proven that fibre paper will last for many years, I AM NOT OFFERING SCIENTIFIC FACT, JUST MY OPINION ON THE BENEFITS OF RC!! This is an informal forum not a lecture theatre!! what I object to is people who belittle those who do not practice the same methods as themselves. My opinions may not be scientifically correct, but I am still entitled to them! I am not too proud to learn from this forum but I am not under the illusion that my photos desrve to survive for 500 years either. I seem to be a minority in as much as I favour RC paper!! So what!! I'm happy, some people like my work and some buy it!! But who knows, maybe I'll start a new craze....printing on bath mats!! love and peace Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), October 17, 2001.

Hey Paul, don't take it so hard....I don't read any of this thread as an attack upon you at all. The whole argument (if this is one) is sorta pointless in a way because each paper has it's place, and I don't think anyone is disputing that, just as I'm not going to say that one is better than the other. That 500 year mark is not 500 years hanging in a gallery, coffee shop or someone's living room. It's 500 years in a cold or cool storage vault in the dark, maybe being handled by a gloved curator or archivist twice a year....so don't sweat it. The majority of what I do both at work & on my own is on RC papers & it's fine with me, all I say is just understand your materials & choose accordingly. I, for one, don't believe that every print I make is a work of art, and should therefore last forever...negs are another story though...but then that's just me...the "commercial hack" Oh:

Opinions expressed in this message may not represent the policy of my agency.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), October 18, 2001.

Paul, take a pil or something. The question simply asked which paper people preferred and why. It also asked about RC's vs FB longevity. Fact: RC doesn't last as long as FB. Period. There is too much evidence. Fact: Most fine art prints are made on FB paper. It is a nicer more expressive paper for fine art interpretation. That is why most all fine art prints are made on FB paper. Period. Nothing here diminishes RC's uses as a good printing medium if you need 20 copies for a board meeting or other bussiness presentation. But the question asked which paper each of us would recommend for printing images as gifts. Seeing as RC has had a reputation for deteriorating and FB has not, then it is obvious which should be the choice in this instance. I'm glad you find RC paper suits your needs. Many amayeurs print on RC. But have a look at professional black and white fine art prints and that answers the question. Period.

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), October 20, 2001.

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