Lith Printing

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A lith print is a darkroom print made using ordinary Black & White paper processed in lith developer, then processed in stop and fix. Many current workers tone their lith prints. The developer is the key in current practices.

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First Things

An introduction. Background, please. “Lith” is a contraction of “lithograph,” a printing process which made use of very high contrast emulsions and strong developers that exhausted quickly and suddenly. Kodak’s version was Kodalith – both film and paper were made. The film was used outside commercial print shops for decades as an abstractor by darkroom enthusiasts. It carried the stigma that is attached to Photoshop Plugins now.

Kodalithpaper with ‘Kodalith‘ developer in 1931, and ‘Kodalith‘ film following in 1933. (BJP 1973)

There were those who made use of the tone effects of lith film, but they are very few artists. Like most technical things, it remained something dabbled in. Kodalith paper was used by science labs for a decade before being transferred from the labs and print shops to the studio darkrooms of photographers. Here in the art world it seemed to answer a need for  prints that could be made quickly; prints that seemed old, because they were faded and brown. Lith paper was around before lith film by several years.

Since the lithography process no longer uses lith film or paper, it isn’t manufactured. Current lith prints are standard black and white papers developed in lith style developer. This produces, like all photography, an approximation of what it references.

Early Lith Printers

Les Krims  (Leslie Robert Krims), New York( 1943- 2018 ).

from a time when we spelled it Kozmic; Janice has escaped from Port Arthur but not from its empty cold fear filled conformism. There was no choice for a middle ground so lith, crosstars and glitter were called into the metaphoria.

krimsCRossStar
Hommage to the Crosstar Filter, (1971) Kodalith print. Les Krims

similarity within the frame prompting multiple meanings from outside — between the frames

bridge == panty

woman

triangle

corners

oh, and the cliches // crosstar effect ) commercial photography grasping eye appeal — shiny shoe … all cast in doubt by the violant stiletto heel..

rat underfoot. along the edge of land and water. atop a concrete slab.

commerce introduces reason to buy — maintain modern , other world look… fictional somethings

Others working with the Kodalith were so common that no one kept track. I must have had 200 students who made kodalith prints. Notables, other than Krims are Michael Becotte, Ron Leighton, also Christopher Cardozo shows up in some old show catalogs.

Current

The progression wasn’t much progress, instead falling to what is done by those attempting to raise their work by citing ‘print making’ as their cornerstone. These are principally photographers updating the landscape, adding to the world’s collection without increasing the world’s concepts. The world of the weekend and workshop took over, and they are holding on for everything they’ve got.

Current commonly referenced text is Tim Rudman’s Master Photographer’s Lith Printing Course. I consider it a not to own book. As far as essential information, it has 2 pages that present information of some interest to the curious experimenter. I’d suggest you hit sites such as Moersch, and Freestyle for ready to use information — online.

If you want an offline, (in the can) information source, use the Gene Nocon book. It contains more information, much more about printing. Its chapter on lith printing is concise with beneficial information. Be aware that the papers referenced are gone.

Rudman Lith Printing
Rudman Lith Printing
gene nocon
Gene Nocon

Next. The things

Your darkroom should be red light only, no OC safelights. Consider an inspection red flash light such as one from RH, or Celestron –

red led
red inspection lamp

Chemistry and paper – will your paper lith?

PAPER TEST: in white light, put 2 drops of lith part B onto it. If it darkens, it isn’t lithable.

Some Why

Infectious development- key chemical reaction for making of lith. It was a requirement of lithography that an image be composed of extremely sharp dots of high density. This meant the developer would produce high density silver then exhaust. The oxidation products of the developer become developing agents resulting in an accelerating, non-linear development process. With lith films this produces a very high contrast film consisting of stark, distinct areas of clear and dense image areas. With lith printing, this same low solvent, hydroquinone developer produces our lith print.

– developer: Moersch or Fotospeed

(’16) current choices. I use both brands, but prefer the Moersch for Foma and Slavich paper [Unibrom 160BP], my preferred papers for lith. Freestyle carries both developer brands, and Foma papers. B&H will order Slavich paper; drop shipping to you from a west coast importer.

 

Mixing– Moersch

Lith developers are two part chemicals. The standard mixing is balanced, or symmetric, meaning part A and part B are used in equal parts. The ratio is the combined concentrate to water (A + B + Water). Asymmetric (unbalanced) is when the A & B are not mixed in equal parts.

I use the 1+25 most of the time, occasionally following the 1+15 routine. Developing prior to snatch is always over 7 minutes. lithPrinting.001

MIXING– LD20 Photospeed

1 part Fotospeed lith LD20 Dev A + 1 part  Fotospeed lith LD20 Dev B  + 16 parts water (between 4 and 20 parts)

I prefer droppable plastic measures for the Wet Room. Mark the amounts with marker and tape — you can see and feel to confirm.

Worksheets

I often make worksheets so that I can keep notes, using them as a start point in later sessions, with other negatives. These 3 sheets can be used as points of departure for your own studio practice. The left is a process sheet; the middle compares the components listed on the MSDS’s of the key lith developers (ao: 2016), the last, with yellow marker, is a dilutions table — easy to just write 1+20 on note instead of details of quantities used.

Additives: Potassium Bromide (10% [50g in 500 ml h2o] // Sodium Sulphite (20g per litre of A+B syrup)

Procedure

Lith prints take time in the developer, much more time than other processes. Some colors on some papers can take 15-20 minutes to reach completion. My process means developing times exceed 7 minutes before the darks of the image mature.

Determine starting exposure using your normal developer. A lith print will need several stops more exposure than a standard gray scale print. I use an on easel lightmeter and an RH timer to make my test sheet — as an initial test, using Fomatone, consider this example: if the normal paper exposure and development is 12 seconds exposure with 2 mintues in dektol 1:2, then the test steps I use for lith developer is the sequence [20 | 40 | 80 ] seconds and the development will go to at least 4 minutes, up to 11 minutes. The longer the development the deeper the tones

1L new lith developer + 500ml old brown in a 11×14 tray for making 8×10 lithprints. Using a larger tray provides easy physical management of the print, it also provides enough developer so that it is active longer for more prints. You can use a count of prints as an index of how much, or when, to replenish.

Exposure: more gives warmer highlights and softer gradations. As development time increases, before reaching “infectious” development, the greater the lith effect.

Snatch Point — the shadows are going to build into the middle tones overtaking them and hiding critical low values. Also, when the color is right. If you are slow to judge, or you prefer to stop the action quickly, use a citric acid stop such as Ilford’s IlfoStop, or LegacyPro’s EcoPro odorless stop. In any case don’t use indicator stop.

Refreshing developer — Charging the day’s tray without ‘old-brown’ means adding 2 8×10 sheets of undeveloped paper; do this with the white light on so that they paper darkens to black. This is a good use for that eBay paper you bought that was of unknown origin, but from a non-smoking home. WHEN: under white inspection light evaluate color of developer – yellowish (10 – 40YCC) to ‘amber’ still good – deep brown == dump, reserving only 40ml or so to use as old brown.

Using at least 1 liter of developer in a tray, the working life is a full 10hr day. Every 10 prints, refresh with 4ml each A & B & 40ml of OB.

Old Brown [OB] —  developer turns brown as it exhausts in the working tray. Saving this developer till another processing time in a jug is the ‘old brown’ used in lith printing and solarization. Not all ‘old brown’ serves the same purpose, or is as effective. I prefer the exhausted developer from a solarization session for my ‘old brown.’

Developer Formulas

From my old darkroom wall sheets:

Papers

Adox

  • MCC [ development will take more than 20 minutes for the best lith effect ]

Foma

  • Fomatone 131 & 542 [my choice for range of lith colors.
  • Fomabrom [ coarser blacks rather than ‘tone’ effect, but I prefer Unibrom]

Ilford

  • Warmtone (barely — only use as a trial paper if you already use it. ) If you wish to use Warmtone, I suggest using with a more concentrated developer, say 1+10. If you are familiar with 2 tray, ie, split Lith, then that works well with thin negatives. Your exposure must be increased even more than with regular lith papers, so that your ‘snatch’ is under 5 minutes. By watching shadow growth closely you can get a nice flavor of lith – tones are good, but color is not as wide ranging as other more lithable papers. After toning can be used to widen the colors produced. Fortunately Ilford Warmtone takes well to toning. I use prepared toners from: Moersch, Foma, Formulary.
  • Art 300 [beware this paper will stain, or mottle. Wash time should be less than 45 minutes]

Slavich —

  • Unibrom 160BP — my preferred paper. Liths consistently. Doesn’t have the range of colors as Foma’s papers. I use any of the 3 grades: 2,3,4 — I keep 100 sheet boxes (11×14) of #4 , and 25 sheet packs of #2 & #3.

Silverprint (a store) stocks “lith paper” being Slavich Bromoportrait FB #3. Their other lith paper is Fomatone 131 & 132 FB, and Fomatone 532 Nature II.

Freestyle carries Fomatone