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Platinum (Ziatype) over Pigment process - Part I - The basics

JimCollum

pro member
Part I - The Basics

I've been busy scanning a large number of my prints (a scanned print is a much better indication of the process than an original file, or photoshop manipulated image). Since I have a number of examples of this process, I figured I might as well describe it.

Plaintum prints were once the mainstream way of printing B/W images. Platinum, rather than silver, offers much longer life as well as a very long tonal range. There are currently no commercial platinum papers available, so if someone wants to try it, they need to coat their own.

Normal silver based papers consist of a mixture of light sensitive silver salts thinly coated onto a baryta/gelatin surface. Because of this surface, the Dmax (or level of maximum 'blackness') is very high, resulting in very dramatic, deep blacks. A platinum print is made up of a mixture of platinum and palladium salts that have been made light sensitive, spread onto watercolor paper. The chemistry not only sits on the surface of the paper, but soaks into it. The result is an image that doesn't have as deep of a black, but has an appearance of 'depth', and a *very* long, smooth tonal range. This depth is one of the characteristics of a platinum print that can't currently be duplicated using inkjet printers (the recent release of baryta papers for inkjet prints has allowed inkjet to more closely resemble traditional silver prints).

Silver paper is sensitive to the visible light spectrum (there's a falloff with red light, with allows for processing silver paper using a red safelight). Platinum is not sensitive to the visible spectrum.. but to UV light. This difference offers some advantages and disadvantages. When I coat and develop my platinum prints, I do so under normal tungsten light (florescent light emits UV)... which means you don't need a darkroom to process. But because it's UV, an enlarger can't be used to expose the paper... you must either use direct sunlight or a dedicated UV light source. It also means it's a contact process, you have to have a negative the same size as the print you want to make. In the past, this has meant that most platinum printers used Large (8x10) or Ultra Large Format camera (11x14, 7x17, 8x20,16x20, 20x24) to capture their images. Digital technology and the ability to create 'digital negatives' has brought a renewed popularity to platinum. By 'digital negative', I don't mean a DNG file used to capture RAW images, rather a actual negative printed on a transparency material using an inkjet printer. There are various methods to calibrate a digital negative for a specific printing process, and I won't be going into those details here.

Some links that will help in that area:

http://www.danburkholder.com/

http://www.precisiondigitalnegatives.com/

http://www.ronreeder.com/

http://www.botzilla.com/blog/archives/000544.html


You will also need sources for chemistry you'll need to coat your own paper, as well as the paper itself

http://www.bostick-sullivan.com/ (the best source, in my opinion)

http://www.photoformulary.com/DesktopDefault.aspx


There are also some very good books on Platinum Printing itself, the two I use most are:


http://www.dickarentz.com/

and

"The New Platinum Print" by Richard Sullivan and Carl Weese

http://isbndb.com/d/book/the_new_platinum_print.html

which seems to be out of print (if you find a copy.. get it!)


The simple description of Platinum printing is

1. print your negative
2. mix your chemistry (typically 12-18 drops for an 8x10 print).. you use a shot glass :)
3. using a glass rod or watercolor brush, coat your paper
4. put negative onto paper, using a contact printing frame or vacuum easel.
5. expose using UV exposure unit, or sunlight
6. develop print

The next installment I'll talk about the addition of a color layer to this process.
 

JimCollum

pro member
... and since things are better with pictures, here's a scan of a print

Aces & Spades, North Shore
Print 7x17"

 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Jim,

This is one of the most generous posts. To introduce others to your specialty prints is a treat. To show them the way is magnificent! Thanks!

I know that I plan to try my hand at this later this year. I have to look at your list of gear.

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
This deserves a bump! Maybe someone here will be moved to see how their scanned films or best digital camera files can be made into fine platinum prints.

Not to read this twice is worse than refusing a feast with a great chef!

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
A resolution for the new year, 2012: Get my Topaz scanner working and see it I can set up for Platinum printing! That's why I want this thread to be seen more!

Asher
 

JimCollum

pro member
asher,

thank you!
with the ability to produce digital negatives, Platinum printing is *much* more accessible. I'd even say easier than traditional silver printing (no enlarger.. no darkroom necessary.. you can use a low level yellow bug light for illumination. as long as you keep away from direct sunlight or florescent lights (tend to emit UV).. you're pretty safe from fogging
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Jim,

Well, I have to come up to S.F. to get some lessons. First I have to get together a list of what to buy! What one book to start with of your list above?

Asher
 

Mark Hampton

New member
This deserves a bump! Maybe someone here will be moved to see how their scanned films or best digital camera files can be made into fine platinum prints.

Not to read this twice is worse than refusing a feast with a great chef!

Asher
big bump.. thanks for pushing this to the top asher...

jims five images at the end of his site... mind blowing in platinum... beautiful..
 

JimCollum

pro member
big bump.. thanks for pushing this to the top asher...

jims five images at the end of his site... mind blowing in platinum... beautiful..
thank you Mark!

those are from the series 'Metamorphosis' (you can see the non-platinum versions at my site.. www.jcollum.com go to Personal Work, then Metamorphosis )

Metamorphosis
There are beaches north of Santa Cruz, California that I’ve been wandering along for the last decade. When the tide is low, rock surfaces are exposed that take you to surfaces of imaginary worlds. There is an organic feel to the rock surface. From the corner of ones eye, one senses twisting bodies, dragons, demons, shapes almost familiar, but just alien enough to require more attention. I have been to these beaches countless times, and each time the tide recedes, a new world is exposed
 
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