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Platinum and Palladium Printing
Hand printing, and platinum and palladium printing in particular, is a slow and meticulous process. It has to be learned by experience. However the reward is a print which truly stands apart. My intent here is to share my experience and I ask that you appreciate that I am by no means an expert.
Before trying out this technique it is advantageous to gain a thorough understanding of each step in the process. This will assist further down the line with problem solving and making adjustments to the final print. Research each of the elements which goes into the process.
The first process is the making of the negative. Nowadays, the negative is usually captured digitally, and so that negative needs to be converted and printed onto film. The new negative is produced in the actual size of that of the finished print. For more information seeDigital Negatives for Alternative Processes.
Another crucial step in the platinum and palladium printing process is the working environment. I have found that temperature and humidity play a significant role in the process. Ideally printing should be carried out at 20 deg C with a relative humidity between 60% to 80%. Of course we don’t live in an ideal world. However, variations in temperature and humidity affect the paper and chemicals which result in variable outcomes. Although this can be frustrating, working in a temperature controlled environment, with the aid of some humidity device/s, can produce some relatively predictable results.
Determining the exposure time for the print is another step which needs to be resolved before setting out to make a print. The image is printed onto paper by exposing the negative and paper to ultra violet light. In most cases today, this is done with the aid of a home-made ultra violet light box. Of course, the negative and paper could also be put out in the sun to expose, but that would add another variable over which there is no control. It is here that some darkroom experience can be helpful. Making a negative of a step wedge and then making of print of it to assess for shadow and tone is useful in determining exposure times. See an explanation of how to do this here.
Hue and contrast is controlled by the chemicals and their concentrations. Again a little experimentation is required. Understanding the effects of the chemicals allows you to create a print which is not only aesthetically pleasing to you but also aligns with your point of view.
Despite all the knowledge and experience, no print will ever be perfect. This is part of the appeal of hand printing. Unlike digital, where every print is perfect and there is no 'accident' when making a platinum palladium print. Each print is unique. Happy printing.