What is Lith

making silver blush

Lith is an altered darkroom procedure. Lith printing is done by using a high contrast, very active, easily exhausted developer, originally formulated to process film, as a paper developer. At one time (’60-’72) Kodak made a lith paper for use in confirming the dot and size of litho film – the stuff used for halftone lithography – notice the name.

As photography moved from the commercial to the fine art as a means of income; as it became a studio practice in colleges, artists took on prior products and processes in the practice of an artist. They retrieved, re-purposed commercial conceits for esthetic effect.

Counter Culture

Kodalith paper and  developer satisfied the need an urge for a printer affect for a printmaking aesthetic. It produces a high contrast image that is warm tone, having an altered tone response that is counter to the Adams-Westen F.64 look and feel.

Warm is old timey… sepia suggests authentic & old. Making an image that holds that aura while achieving an altered printed tone range seemed new. This satisfied counterculture drive for alternative ways of seeing portraying and subverting standardized commercial response

What Does Lith

making silver blush

Look Like

This is where the roads part. One trail leads to glorious sunburst, as the other emphasizes modest color shift with abrupt tone contrasts. Kodalith paper was warm tone that would turn yellow if the developing time was extended. This extended development was usually to overcome too little exposure, and/or exhausted developer.

The rows in the graphic are:

  1. papers no longer in production.. Brovira, Cykora, Kodalith paper
  2. current (2017) warmtone papers: Ilford MG warmtone / Foma Fomatone / Slavich Bromoportrait
  3. current (2017) coldtone papers: Slavich, Foma Fomabrom, Adox Lupex (contact chloride paper)

What Does It Solve

To weekend zoners it is novelty – a reason to “do it in the dark,” or “keep film alive.” These are the red-light workers acting on such advice as: Lith printing can breathe a whole new life into an everyday image — 

Lith printing was revived and is championed by several onliners and book pushers. This monetizable interest comes from the weekenders reaching retirement age; discovering need for awakening tired original negatives, they proceeded to alter the soup of their print.

These photographers are the same ones disparaging digital photographers’ making push-button plugin pictures. Neither technology makes meaningful, nor meaningless images. The lack of visual understanding is the shortcoming each actor is unaware of in their struggle to realize meaning.

I use lith to enrich the shades of grey available with current papers. Altering the underlying tonal quality providing a small variation of skadesics, thereby increasing the  visible shades without reducing contrast. Simple: I get bigger mid tones.

What Do I Need

Just the standard darkroom conditions. I’ve posted specifics in the following referenced links (this site). Use a paper such as Foma Fomatone & Moersch Lith Developer. You must use a stop bath — water bath will just frustrate you with likely staining. My standard fixer is Ilford Hypam 1+9.

easy bake starting point:

  • 120 neg in Beseler 45MCRX
  • lens wide open
  • 16 second exposure
  • Moersch Lith: 30,30,800 for 7 minutes development
  • when it looks good ::: snatch into citric stop bath (NO INDICATOR DYE)
  • flip print over, pull from stop, quickly into fixer
  • fix for standard (read paper instructions) time (5-8 minutes)
  • wash



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