A Creepy Effect for Darkroom Printing
Continuing on this week with more creative tips for your Halloween images, Kris Phimsoutham explains one for those of you who are still printing via traditional methods in a hands-on darkroom, instead of by digital printing.
There are several "painting" techniques that can be used in B&W darkroom printing that might be fun to use on your Fall and Halloween images. They are paint splash, splatter, and drop techniques using darkroom printing chemistry in place of paints. These techniques can be used in darkroom or daylight printing operations such as Photograms & Solargrams. The techniques can be done on their own, or can also be combined with background imagery. In any case, these techniques are fun to do and the results can add a feeling of horror to an otherwise static print.
Quick rundown of the process:
1. Expose your image by your preferred method, i.e. enlarge, photogram or solargram.
2. Partially fix or develop the print.
3. Apply techniques, using brushes, sponge or toothbrush
4. Once happy with the results, fully develop, fix, rinse and dry as usual. I recommend fiber-based paper for using with these techniques, because you will have at least twice as long, before the print becomes stabilized, to have fun and be creative with the techniques as you would with RC paper. Your solutions dilution is another factor that will shorten or prolong the time that you will have to apply the techniques. Typically, you'll have anywhere from several minutes to about five minutes to mess with your print.
What you will need:
1. A full set up of wet darkroom chemistry (+ some extra): 2 trays of developer solution (first tray dilutes to 10% of its normal strength, second tray dilutes to its normal strength), 1 tray of stop bath, 2 trays of fixer (dilute in the same manner as mentioned in the developer), 1 tray of fixer remover (if printing with fiber-based paper), and a large tray of your rinsing bath.
2. Cheap paint brushes of different bristle styles, foam brushes/sponges and old toothbrushes.
3. Disposible rubber or latex hand gloves and safty glasses/goggles.
4. And, lastly, a well ventilated print processing area, darkroom or daylight. To begin, decide the exposure method. Then set up your wet print processing area accordingly. Though the darkroom is an ideal printing environment, daylight print processing is possible as long as the ambient lights intensity is not excessive, i.e. outside of a building.
1. Make an exposure and then put the print in the first fixer bath, agitate it lightly for about 5 seconds and leave it in the tray for about 15 seconds. Agitate it for another 5 seconds. You should keep track of time, so you'll know the remaining time for the print to be in the second bath of fixer once you've finished applying the techniques. The total fixing time from both fixer baths should not exceed the time that is recommended by your chosen fixer, typically around 5 minutes for fiber-based paper.
2. Take the print out of the solution and let the fixer drip from the print until it stops. Keep track of the time.
3. Place the print on a flat surface and over the sink area. I use a 1/8" sheet of plexiglass that is 1 size bigger than the size of my print (for example, an 11x14" plexiglass if I'm printing an 8x10" print). A stationary, flat surface is also useable, but you'll limit yourself in techniques that you can apply without being able to move the print around or tilt its surface.
4. Apply your techniques using developer in place of paint/ink to areas of the print that you want to crate effects- ear gloves and safty glasses/goggles during this entire step as you need to protect yourself, especially your eyes from any chemicals that may splash up. A more diluted developer will give a lighter shade, a normal diluted developer will give an instant dark shade as well as develop that area of the print. If you're printing outside of a darkroom, be aware that the ambient daylight will fog your print faster than the ideal darkroom environment. So, if the ambient light in your daylight print processing area is too intense, put dark curtains over your windows to lessen the intensity. This will also help prolong the working life of your printing chemistry. You can also dip your print in a 10% strength of developer quickly, to darken the print's overall appearance, then sqeegee off the access solution. Repeat the process a few times to get the prints density to what you want.
5. Once you're happy with the results, put the print in the second fixer bath and fix it for the remaining duration of the required fixing time.
6. Rinse your print. If you're using fiber-based paper, use fixer remover or washing aid before giving it a final wash. Then, dry your print by your normal method.
You may need a few good practice sessions before you get the hang of these printing techniques, and it's best to treat it as an experimenting project. For those of us who love darkroom works, this is just another way we can express our creativity.
images © Kris Phimsoutham