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



blog posts on lith

Slavich Paper: Update / 1-18

As paper comes and goes; as channels change; the supply of darkroom paper seems to gyrate like fashion. Photo paper is no longer a stable supply – the use dwindles, the need narrows, this reduces certainty such that people ask questions about alternates. Sometimes, just in case; other times because of changes in their restrictions, or ability, access.

Slavich paper is available in the US from key suppliers as well as a tiny niche importer. It is not a stock item – it is special order item. It can be imported, but this requires effort as well as significantly higher financial commitment.


I’ve used Slavich for several years – several thousand prints. I like the tactile response of the paper as I work with it through the chemicals. It even spots well; well enough that the novice, who often thinks that spotting is retouching, will be able to touch those white dots away. I am drifting away from the paper, choosing to reduce the number of papers I use. Ilford will continue to be my main supplier. Foma will be my second choice paper, since I can source it from Europe.

..The key image of this post shows the 2 Slavich papers.. Unibrom and Bromoportrait. Unibrom is a graded paper that develops to a neutral tone in Dektol, or to a cooltone in catechol. Bromoportrait is warm tone, particularly in a warmtone developer such as Fomatol PW.

fomatol PW


How does the Unibrom compare?

This is a photo of Unibrom atop a piece of MGFB – that’s the paper with the torn edge. I can clearly see the difference in tone and density between Unibrom and MGFB. These papers were exposed to a stouffer wedge, then processed at the same time in Dektol (1:1) for 2 minutes. (in the background, out of focus, are other test sets for other setups in process)

The Unibrom is slightly less intense, as well as mildly warmer.. both attributes could be adjusted with additives… but why?

Unibrom v Ilford Classic

Ilford MGFB Classic is widely used, highly regarded easily available paper. It comes in many sizes as well as quantities. Quantity has meaning to frequent printers – I prefer a 250 sheet box to a stack of 25 sheet packs.

What Does Slavich Provide?

It is low cost, well made paper – is durable during wet stages.

The Unibrom solarizes easily. The Bromoportrait (FALL 2017 SLAVICH CEASED PRODUCTION)  is lithable (using divided dev is most flexible means) as well as having a bright warmtone for standard imaging. It also solarizes, but without the stark changes of Unibrom – the changes that most printers expect of a solarization.


related posts on this site:

  • slavich arrives 2/2/15
  • characterizing paper 9/26/16
  • lith printing 5/24/16
  • variable contrast developer 5/21/16