Updated: Jan 20
Fibre Based Art Deluxe
Fibre Based Warm
Fibre Based Cool
During the 10 weeks of the project I tested several types of photo paper and discovered differences between them. For any image that needs to be exposed, a test strip is made first, a piece of paper is used to find out the time of exposure to the light but also to create a pleasant contrast in the image (filters 0-5 gradation) without printing a whole picture trying to reduce the waste of materials. Also in all images an f8 was used in the lens from the enlarger. Different paper types may affect the light exposure time and the filter applied. The type of development is applied based on the paper we have, resin coated is kept in Developer 1 min and the fibre base development time is doubled (2 min), the stop and the fix remain the same.
Comparing Resin Coated and Fiber Based Photographic Paper
All modern darkroom printing papers are able of exceptional results. The emulsion characteristics of fibre based, and resin coated materials are visually indistinguishable. In essence, we will obtain a similar tonal range and detail from both fibre based, and resin coated papers.
The only visual difference comes from the structure of the paper and the way emulsion is incorporated onto its surface.
Fibre based darkroom paper is a typically heavy paper base onto which the silver-gelatine emulsion is coated, yet the direct coating of the emulsion onto the paper base, had its issues. Most often, the paper base interfering with the emulsion, resulted in impurities in. To prevent this, an intermediary layer was added, called the baryta layer. All currently produced fibre based enlarging paper incorporates a baryta layer. The baryta layer is commonly made of barium and strontium sulphates. It helps isolating the two layers, it provides brightening through its higher light reflection ratio, and it can be tinted to create warm tone or cool tone papers. Being directly coated onto the paper base, brings out texture in the emulsion, which creates a sense of depth in the image. If it’s done under the right conditions, it is a long lasting, unless the emulsion can easily lift off the base, or the paper curls.
The RC base is comprised of paper sealed between two polyethylene layers. The silver-gelatine emulsion is coated onto this base like the FB papers, but without the baryta layer. Brightening or tinting agents are integrated into the inner polyethylene lamination layer or even in the emulsion itself. By laminating it strengthens the base, and it becomes tougher and durable than fibre based. On top of it they are adding a hardened gelatine super coating. Being tougher, the water and the chemicals absorbs much slower, requiring almost 1 hour wash, and it dries flat.
While in a successful result we don’t see much difference, in the process of making them we can observe a lot of characteristics. With RC we can use water instead of stop bath, because its durability it does not soak up a big amount of developer, and still get a satisfactory result. Using FB paper, we must be more careful, developing it up to 3 minutes (while RC needs 1minute), and keeping it in stop bath until fixed, then up to 60 minutes wash. Another important difference its in the drying time and flatness. RC paper is beginner friendly, because of its capacity of drying and staying completely flat through thick and thin. FB paper tend to curl, meaning that it needs a careful drying technique and some heavy tools for pressure on top of them.
The polyethylene lamination makes the RC paper tough, and durable even if it gets wet, compared to the vulnerable FB paper.
Surface quality is the main visual difference between fibre based and resin coated papers. Using RC paper we have a little control over the finished look, beyond the initial decision when choosing the type of paper when purchasing it. The resin layer on top of the emulsion can have a matt or pearl texture, leaving a smooth or glossy finish.
The FB paper tends to have a richer, more organic texture because the emulsion is coated directly on the base (or with the baryta layer between). In the drying stage we can change the finish, with a special glazing dryer. (the results of the air dried Glossy FB paper and the Pearl RC paper finished are comparable).
FB papers are the gold standard in long term archival properties. RC materials tend to have a lot of issues during the years: delamination of the resin layers, staining, cracking, and chemical ingress from the edges or accelerated aging. FB paper being suitable for archival purposes.
Besides their characteristics, RC paper are more affordable than FB papers itself, but besides the initial cost there are other criteria to think of. FB papers are more than RC papers, but saves a lot of time and money afterwards, in the process making. The RC papers needs extra hours for extended washing and drying times, which automatically increase our utility and chemical bills.
Finally, it all depends on what you want to achieve, and for what purposes you want to create your images.
To make sure that the prints are properly exposed, without wasting a lot of paper, is necessary to do a test strip. Each photo is different, be sure that you make a strip for every photo and write down the exposure time. The exposure time differs most between the 1st and the 3rd image. What is different and can affect the exposure time is possibly the paper, the finish and the brand.