Book published tones vs. Print tones

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by Ken Smith, Dec 25, 2003.

  1. Ken Smith

    Ken Smith Guest

    Many of the books that I have as a guide to fine printing, such as
    Kevin Bubriski's "Portrait of Nepal", all have a print coloration that
    I cannot match. My toning ( selenium and brown) of warm or cool toned
    papers ( almost all of them) looks reddish or brown by comparison. My
    untoned prints of course look green. The published prints of Kevin's
    and many others I could site have a warm creamy slight green look,
    that at the same time manages to be brownish. Charcoal, nuetral, real
    black and white, are other descriptions I could give for the published

    My question is whether book publishing inks are true to the original
    photo, or do they create their own qualities? If they do lend their
    own qualities all I can say is they look better than my prints. There
    is a full body quality, and a very solid charcoal, no nonsense look.
    Ken Smith, Dec 25, 2003
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  2. Depends on so many factors there is cetainly not a yes and no answer to
    your very general question.

    Factors include:

    Scanned imagery, whether the scan operator attempted to
    get the scans close to some sort of idealization of the "image".

    Person(s) setting up the files/print plates/ color seperations,
    paper -ink selections and the type of print press used. (all effect the final)

    This is probably a short list but each one of these variables
    has many many combinations which would positively or negatively
    effect the end result.

    If the answer you seek is can they match or very closely match the answer
    is yes.....but it usually takes work and money is involved when quality
    printing is desired. <but not always in that order>
    Gregory W Blank, Dec 25, 2003
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  3. Ken Smith

    Ken Smith Guest

    The answer I seek is how to get the tonal look I described in the
    many books
    I've seen, and whether or not it's a lost cause due to the fact
    that printers ink has is own characteristics. Nothing I've tried, and
    no paper I've ever used has the look I repeatedly see in fine art
    black and white photobooks.

    As a side, it's remarkable how many hoops one can jump through
    trying to duplicate a look, when often you'll hear, Avedon uses Tri-X
    and D-76, Jock Sturges gang processes Tri-X in HC-110, etc, etc. In
    other words I have gone to considerable lengths in the last few years
    trying to measure up to some fine fine work, and I'm often left
    wondering...are these guys privy to something, or just basic good
    crafts people who know how to exploit their materials to serve a
    vision. Then happily, a good printer makes it sing even more with
    perfect double black runs and a rich paper. Perhaps the assumption
    that reproduction is a step down from the original is not quite
    Ken Smith, Dec 26, 2003
  4. Well, first you are going to need a 2 to 4 color printing press...

    It is as hard (er, impossible) to get a photograph to look like a
    lithograph as it is to get a lithograph to look like a photograph.

    Lithography uses ink, available in all sorts of colors and all designed to
    be pleasing to the eye. Photography uses silver, available in a
    few (generally unpleasant) tints of black and a few toners that (generally)
    make things look worse.

    Duotones use multiple inks for filling in shadows, giving tints
    to highlights and midtones. Dark glazes are used for the shadows.

    The closest one can come at home is an ink jet printer. Epson (?) sells
    quadtone black and white inks. There have been articles in the Camera &
    Darkroom (or whatever it is called nowadays) on getting lithographic B&W
    out of an ink jet. I don't know of any inkjet glazes, though.

    Another approach is 'film proofing'. This goes by the trade
    names Dylux, Silverprint, Cromalin, Matchprint and a whole host of
    others. Here lithographic films (made up of dots) are made for each ink
    channel, as they would be made for burning the printing plates.
    In Dupont's Cromalin system, exposures are made on a sticky
    receiver and then dusted with an ink pigment. A new transparent receiver
    is laminated on for each ink. These are one-of-a-kind proofs and can
    run one into the kilobucks - but that is cheaper than loading plates
    on a press and finding out color and registration are all off. The
    surface appearance of proofs is pretty crummy -- the best one can get
    is a 'candy wrapper' effect, the worst is a cloudy saran-wrap look.

    Note that some colors, such as Kodak yellow, are not printable with
    standard CMYK printing inks. As an example, a separate color channel
    (and a 5-color press) are needed to print Kodak advertisements.
    The same is true of many trademark colors. A color proofing system
    can accurately show such inks as any pigment can be used for dusting
    the receivers.

    I have not seen anyone using color proofing as an artistic medium.
    They all produce pretty much indistinguishable results. The secret
    isn't in the brand of developer or film. There is no secret.
    Paul Strand felt the lithographic reproductions of his photos
    are superior to the silver print. He spent most of his energy
    overseeing the printing of his books, to the extent it became
    almost impossible to find a printer who would work with him.

    I have some of A.A.'s prints and some of his books. It is interesting
    to compare the two images: silver and lithography. The lithograph
    always looks much better to my eye. The printing process allows
    extra attention to shadow and highlight detail. Additionally, the care
    spent on making an original print for reproduction is greater
    than the care lavished on a consumer print.
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Dec 26, 2003
  5. Not to mention little extra things like dot etching and overprint varnish
    which make offset printed images look even better.
    David Nebenzahl, Dec 26, 2003
  6. Ken Smith

    fbo Guest

    photography offset printing is a very specialized job
    the Heidelbergers has to be optimized at 200%

    think about not only duo-tone but also quad tone
    and they are combining "in" the ink different products

    combination paper-ink is very important too

    scanning at 600 lpi
    (normaly 133 /175 lpi)

    I've saw here in Belgium some printing work for Weston and others...
    fbo, Dec 26, 2003
  7. nonsense look.

    There have been a number of responses to this and I will
    add one. B&W ink on paper printing can be done with more
    than one ink. Two ink printing is called duotone and other
    layers can be added. These produce a look which is
    distinctly different from silver images, toned or not. This
    is in addition to the endless amount of manipulating of the
    image than can be done digitally.
    Now, there are some pretty interesting B&W silver
    processes, for instance lith printing. This is done by
    developing B&W paper in diluted lithographic developer. It
    can produce a variety of effects depending on the paper and
    degeree of dilution. Tim Rudman, of toner fame, has recently
    published a book on lith printing and there some information
    in his _Photographer's Master Printing Course_ which IMHO is
    a must-have book.
    Richard Knoppow, Dec 26, 2003
  8. The reproductions of his images in print are surely beautiful,
    possibly the high standards he had were a result of his platinum
    printing days, If you ever have or ever do get a chance to see his
    original platinum prints its an experience well worth the investment
    of time.
    Gregory W Blank, Dec 26, 2003
  9. Ken Smith

    Ken Smith Guest

    Thanks all, I appreciate all the informative answers, although no one
    addressed the first sentence of the "non general question", regarding
    coloration. Can I, or can I not make a photographic print, with the
    same color/tone as the printed page, which has always struck me as
    a more proper photographic look than all this green/brown/red/gold/
    etc etc, stuff. I'd like to acheive a neutral charcoal black. Is this
    color, only the domain of inks?
    Ken Smith, Dec 26, 2003
  10. Ken Smith

    Bruce Osgood Guest

    Can I, or can I not make a photographic print, with the same color/tone as
    the printed page,

    end quote


    Why? I think it's been very well explained by Richard, Jean-David and many

    Brooklyn, N.Y.
    Bruce Osgood, Dec 26, 2003
  11. The simple answer is no: Photos in books don't look like their silver
    counterparts. Most times, the book images look better.

    If you want to get prints that look like "book" prints, I suggest going
    to quad-tone inkjet printing using archival pigment inks (not dye inks)
    on archival paper. Of course, you'll need a 4000 dpi, 36-bit or better
    film scanner or a high end, 12-bit per pixel (at least) digital camera
    capable of giving you at least 300 ppi final print resolution. (More
    would be better.) Set your very expensive photo printer to print at
    2880 dpi.

    You'll also need a new, faster computer with at least a gig and a half
    of RAM (more would be better) to handle those 100 meg (or more) picture
    Stefan Patric, Dec 26, 2003
  12. You can't. Stop trying.

    You can muck about in the darkroom until you find something else
    that pleases you, though.
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Dec 26, 2003
  13. While it is possible to print black and white photographes on
    letterpress or photo-offset lithography with multiple impression
    (duotone or quad-tone), it is not vital to get good results.

    The main advantage is that it is possible with duotone to get somewhat
    greater ink density onto the paper (if the paper quality is good
    enough), and if you want, you can do the equivalent of split-toning if
    you want (I usually find this offensive: a show-off thing that calls
    attention to the process instead of the image, but YMMV).

    There are several requirements (aside from a good original negative).

    You need someone who really knows the half-tone process to make a proper
    half-tone image and then etch it into the plate. "Fine etching" is not
    really needed if a good half-tone has been produced; it is just a way to
    correct for a badly made half tone negative (or positive, depending on
    the printing plates you are going to be using).

    You then need a good printer, such as Sid Rapoport or George Waters to
    print it. They know enough to use an ink of the correct color _and_ with
    the correct sheen to match the paper. Nothing is worse than using a dull
    ink on a high lustre paper or, more commonly, a high sheen ink on a
    lower lustre paper: very distracting. The entire image can be
    overprinted with a clear lacquer, though I do not see this so much
    anymore. Furthermore, the use of photo-offset lithography requires a
    printer who really knows the chemistry of what he is doing so as to use
    the correct amount of fountain solution of the proper composition for
    the ink being applied and the correct ink feed settings so as to apply
    the ink at the rate the image consumes it (to prevent greying out or
    filling in between the dots). Too much fountain solution can also pick
    up lint that would then require cleaning the plate and, if really
    excessive, the entire ink distribution system.

    Of course, a good paper choice is required that gives the result the
    photographer desires.
    Jean-David Beyer, Dec 26, 2003
  14. The question I guess, I am left with is: Why would one want to match a book page with one's
    photography, I guess in this respect I am clueless. Should it not be the reversed?
    Gregory W Blank, Dec 26, 2003
  15. I haven't seen this book so I can only guess based on
    other well printed books of photographs.
    Part of the look of good printing is the texture of the
    paper. This is a result of several factors: the paper
    itself, the sizing, the finish and any overcoating done
    after printing.
    It IS possible to get neutral blacks from silver-gelatin
    paper but I don't think you will be able to exactly match
    the sort of texture one can get with ink on paper with any
    of the current photographic papers. There are simply not
    very many surface textures available.
    Neutral image color is partly a matter of the emulsion and
    partly the developer. You must start with a neutral paper. A
    good developer for neutral tones is Amidol. Unfortunately,
    Amidol has become expensive. Micheal Smith and Paula Chamlee
    have a good modern Amidol formula on their web site:
    Phenidone developers also tend toward neutral color on
    cold papers, Ilford Bromophen is such a developer. Otherwise
    it is similar to Dektol. Its hard to know what to advise as
    a neutral tone paper these days. My old favorite, Agfa
    Brovira, has been discontinued for several years.
    Selenium toning is often recommended for getting rid of
    the greenish color some papers get but it never looks
    neutral to me. A Gold toner will shift the image color
    toward blue and slightly intensify the image. Silver
    intensifier, like Kodak In-1 will intensify the image and
    give a neutral color. Since the added density is silver it
    is as permanent as the original image and will respond to
    toning if desired.
    At one time B&W papers were available in emulsions giving
    blue-black, neutral black, warm black and almost brown
    tones; in many stock colors, in many surface finishes, and
    many textures. Currently only a very few are available.
    You might also consider investigating some of the
    alternative processes for printing. Platinum/Paladium,
    Carbon, and salt prints all suggest themselves. There are
    many good sites dedicated to these. A good place to start is
    the Bostick & Sullivan site at
    Richard Knoppow, Dec 27, 2003
  16. Ken Smith

    Ken Smith Guest

    Thank You one and all. I will now stop holding my photos up to
    these gorgeous reproductions, and stop going "eechh" at my own lovely work.

    But isn't it interesting that reproductions can so improve an already
    fine print, and also that we photo printers can't get neutral tones.
    Ken Smith, Dec 27, 2003
  17. Ken Smith

    Tom Phillips Guest

    I'v always considered Ilford gallerie (graded) looks quite neutral when
    toned in selenium. At least compared to other cold toned papers.
    Tom Phillips, Dec 27, 2003
  18. Ken Smith

    Tom Phillips Guest

    I recall, more than 20 years ago this november, when Ansel Adams last
    major show "Retrospective" came to my local museum. Adams was scheduled
    to have attended the opening but at the time (a few months before his
    death) was too ill to attend. It was an impressive show with or without
    his presense. Being used to seeing his prints in reproductions, or an
    occasional 8x10 or 16x20 at other shows and galleries, I was simply
    astounded to see the quality of his work in 30x40 or mural print size.

    Those book and calendar reproductions in microcosm have never lived up
    to the real thing IMO and it's said Adams was quite anal about getting
    the best reproductions possible.
    Tom Phillips, Dec 27, 2003
  19. neutral tones.

    I recently saw an exibit of Edward Weston prints at the
    Huntington Library in San Marino (a city next door to
    Pasadena CA, not the little country). These were prints
    given to the Huntington by Weston. They are not IMHO up to
    the quality of other Weston prints I've seen. Most are
    pretty dark. I think they were printed that way rather than
    being an effect of time. A book of the pictures was also
    published by the Huntington. In every case the images are
    superior to the original. I never asked whether the book was
    made from the photos on display. If they were they were well
    manipulated. I _have_ seen other Weston prints which are the
    equal of any reproduction I've seen of any prints, but most
    of those in this exhibit were (dare I say it?) pretty awful
    while the book versions were excellent.
    Richard Knoppow, Dec 27, 2003
  20. Museum lighting may have a lot to do with it. A photo has
    to be printed for the for the amount of light it is going
    to receive in the location it is going to hang. Museums
    seem to have gone overboard in getting dingy -- I often
    wish for a flashlight at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
    I doubt if Weston had 21st century museum dinge in mind when
    he printed, IIRC he had skylights in his studio.

    I have made prints where I can not get the range of the
    negative onto the paper (Tech Pan, don't you know) and the
    shadows get blocked. If the photo is examined outside in
    bright light all the detail pops out of the shadows and
    they get that 'glow'. It is also interesting to backlight
    a photograph and look at the shadow detail -- this is
    one place where digital falls flat on its face: there
    is no residual detail in the image, nothing to peer into.

    The conservation craze seems to have reached its logical
    limit -- though art is preserved to last for ever it can't
    be seen. Art now depends on belief for its existence:
    If the evidence before one's eyes does not show Weston
    as great then one is shown a book... Familiar, in a
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Dec 27, 2003
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