I finally got into this process after months of scavenging the equipment and materials from various places. The first UV exposure box was faulty, so I had to get a new one. I kept learning about a new chemical or safety step I’d need to take.
These prints would have to be seen “in person” to be truly appreciated, of course. They are done on a hand-coated heavy art paper, and take about an hour each, not including the production of the negative. It’s necessary to expose in a contact printing frame after the paper has been coated and has dried. It’s nice, though, because the light-sensitive material mostly reacts with UV light, so a low intensity incandescent bulb is OK for lighting up your work area, especially helpful during the paper coating process.
You must mix your own emulsion to coat the paper, using varying quantities of different chemicals, and varying the amounts of each to get different results. I say platinum/palladium, but most of what I used was the somewhat less expensive palladium compound, since platinum compound runs about $10 per ounce. I put about a third platinum and the balance palladium.
Coating the paper can be done with a brush or with a peddle pusher. I used the glass rod to push the light-sensitive material across the paper:
Please imagine there’s a small amount of orange-colored liquid along the edge of the rod. The trick is to get the paper evenly coated.
Then, after you have allowed the emulsion to dry on the paper, take it and place it together with the negative in a contact printing frame. Your print will be the size of your negative, so you make it accordingly. This negative was made from a digital file in PS and Lightroom, and then printed on a special transparency material in my Epson printer.
Next, you place this ensemble into a UV light box manufactured in Austin. It’s something you must use with respect, since it uses several fluorescent light bulbs to give off a tanning booth strength light. You can also do this in sunlight outdoors if the weather and climate cooperate. The exposure time can vary quite a lot, but 5 to 10 minutes has been usual for me so far.
Here is a demonstration of placing the contact frame, paper, and negative into the UV box:
You close that lid tightly, and flip a switch on the side to get the exposure rolling. You can actually TURN OF THE LIGHT SWITCH, open one side of the contact frame to keep the negative in exactly the same place, and view the image on the paper as it’s beginning to emerge. You’re supposed to develop when you see a “whisper of and image.” I’ve yet to determine what exactly makes the best whisper. This is really an art.
After exposure, you remove the paper in low incandescent light, and put it into a very dry and very clean tray used only for pt/pl developing. You take the developer and quickly, evenly dump it onto the paper and agitate. As mentioned above, you will actually see the image faintly on the paper even before wet development begins. The image pops up almost instantly in the developer and then the print is ready to be cleared in three 5 minute EDTA baths. Finally, give a 30 minute wash in running water follows. Evaluate and hang up to dry. Some darkening will occur as a result of the dry down effect.
Here are some early pieces:
You can see where my emulsion was coated on the borders; messy, but it DOES look handmade!
This is not for the faint-hearted, but is a great rollback even past film and the usual silver halide black and white process. These are among the most archival prints made and will last as long as the paper they’re printed on.