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Using Fixed-Out paper

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  • James Browning
    I ve been making a series of prints using fixed-out Emaks (Fotokemika fiber paper). I ve rolled over 150 prints using this paper, so I thought I would review
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 26, 2011
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      I've been making a series of prints using fixed-out Emaks (Fotokemika fiber paper).  I've rolled over 150 prints using this paper, so I thought I would review my experiences with it. 
      -------------------------------------------------------  Using B&W Fiber Papers with the Dye Transfer Process ---------------------------------------------------------------
      I prepare the paper by fixing it out (in the dark) using Kodak Professional Fixer (CAT  197 1746).  Use this hardening fixer if you want to make test prints omitting the M1 mordanting step. The fixer contains Alum, which acts as a mordant to hold the dyes in the paper after transferring.
       I mix the fixer at 120 deg F, and fix at that temp.  6 sheets 20x24" with continuous interleaving and agitation for 10 minutes.  If you are going to omit the M1 mordant step,  discard the fixer at this point.  You may prepare 6 more sheets from the 1 gallon fixer bath before discarding it, but it won't contain enough aluminum for good results without the M1 mordanting step.  You may use a non-hardening fixer as well, but that will require using the M1 mordant for all sheets.
      Follow the fixing with a 5 minute wash (interleaving sheets, 3 water changes).  Treat in Perma-Wash for 5 minutes (same interleaving sheet method), and follow this with at least 5 15 minute washes (full water change between washes) in water (I wash in a tray that is on the rocker).  Hang the paper up to dry in a drying cabinent, and then store in a film box under a weight to flatten.  You don't have to dry the paper, you can put it in the conditioner if you are ready to roll prints.
      You may use this paper for test prints at this point,  M1 mordant isn't required for the test prints.  If you don't M1 mordant,  you will get a slightly less sharp print,  which will loose more sharpness everytime you rewet it for retouching.  Good for test prints, not so great for final prints. 
      The test prints will be quite close in color and density  to the M1 mordanted final prints.  The fixed out (but not M1 mordanted) paper will transfer the image very well,  and can achieve a very high density.  Transfer at 100 deg F (heated granite slab is what I use) for 5 minutes for a normal matrix, or 7 minutes for a dense matrix.  You will need to adjust the color slightly if you want to transfer to Kodak DT paper, but this isn't too difficult to get a handle on. 
      You will notice that the Cyan dye appears quite blue on the fixed out paper when it is wet.  This is converted to a much better Cyan hue upon drying in a heated drum dryer.  In fact,  the Cyan on the Aluminum mordanted (M1 mordanted or not) are much better than on Kodak paper, and don't suffer from the darkening / too blue Cyans seen on Kodak paper.  This yields much better dark blues,  Cyans, and Greens on the print. 
      To make the final prints, you will want to mordant the paper using the M1 mordant method.  This is much more difficult to do than simply using fixed out paper, but the resulting prints will be very sharp, and can be rewet several time for retouching without loosing sharpness. 
      Mixing the M1 Mordant:
      Part 1
      Aluminum Sulfate  536 g
      Water to make 2,666 ml
      Part 2
      Sodium Carbonate 107 g
      Water to make 1,333 ml
      With the solutions < 80  deg. F,  VERY slowly add part 2 to part 1 while stirring rapidly.  Make small additions, and wait for the solution to fully clear (white precipiated re-dissolves). As you near the end of the mixing,  add slower, and be very careful to let the precipitate re-dissolve.  If you add too fast, you will get a massive amount of insoluable precipitate which can't be re-dissolved.  It is difficult to filter this out, but it can be done with coarse filter paper and a vacuum flask with Buchner filter. 
      This is the mordant which contains the aluminum which fixes the dyes into the gelatin coated on the paper.  The mordant will enter the paper, but it must be treated with a second solution which converts the mordant to an insoluable form, fixing it into the bulk of the gelatin.  This occurs when the pH is raised (more basic) beyond a certain level.
      Sodium Acetate  200g
      Water to make 4000 ml  (5% solution by weight)
      The pH of this solution is 8.60 when fresh mixed.  It will lower after some use.  Add small amounts of Sodium Hydroxide (1% solution) to adjust the pH to approx. 9.00 if you see the pH drop below 8.00. 
      Use the two solutions for about 25 sheets of 20x24" paper and then discard.
      To mordant the paper:
      Soak the paper in the M1 mordant while interleaving / agitating for 5 minutes.
      Wash the paper for 5 minutes is water 80 deg F.
      Soak the paper in the Sodium Acetate solution while interleaving / agitating for 5 minutes
      Wash the paper for 5 minutes.
      You can then either dry the paper, or put it in the conditioner if you are ready to make prints. 
      Do not use either the fixed out (not M1 mordanted) or the M1 mordanted paper after 1 month of storage.  You will start to see bleeding around the edges of the print when the paper gets old. 
      While the M1 mordant yields very sharp prints,  it does have some drawbacks.  It  is more work to perform the additional step of mordanting the paper.  The mordant has a tendancy to deposit on the surface of the paper which will cause the Cyan dye to slightly poison the matrices.  This can cause an incomplete transfer (slight blotches in high density Cyan areas may be seen), and/or an unwanted sheen seen on the surface of the dried print.  This is more likely to happen if you use the mordant solutions for too long.  If you  are getting back transfer and/or sheen on the surface,  wash the surface of the paper with a paper towel soaked in a very dilute solution of PhotoFlo.  Scrub the surface very thoroughly, and then wash with several changes of hot water prior to placing the paper in the conditioner.  This mostly solves the problem with back transfer, and gives you a very brilliant gloss surface. 
      The M1 mordanted transfers will probably exhibit some Cyan dye retention in the matrices, mainly in the Cyan matrix, but a little dye may back transfer to the Magenta and Yellow matrices as well.   I don't normally use a matrix clearing bath when working with Kodak paper, but I have gotten into the habit of clearing all my matrices when working with the M1 mordanted paper.  The fixed out but not M1 mordanted paper does not have this problem so matrix clearing isn't necessary.  Still, it is a good idea to always clear the Yellow matrix to minimize pollution of the yellow dye.  Use the clearing bath by diluting the stock solution 1:10 with hot water. Soak the matrix in the bath for 1 or 2 minutes, then wash in hot water until no stain remains.  Then put the matrix in the second acid rinse for 30 seconds, and then give it 2 short rinses in hot water before returning it to the dye bath.  If you do the every time, you will get more consistant color from print to print. 
      The prints which result from these procedures are very high quality. The image is very sharp and retouches easily without losing sharpness. The paper is a beautiful bright white rather than the yellowish appearance of Kodak DT paper.  The gloss is higher, and the paper is much easier to handle - it can be dried in contact with a blotter without picking up fibers, and is easy to dry mount without melting the surface (both can be problems with the Kodak paper).  Finally, there is a dramatic improvement in the purity of the Cyan dye after drying compared to the Kodak DT paper. 
      This technique does add time and complexity, but these days you can't order paper from Kodak.  This essentially becomes an unlimited supply, which liberates you to use the paper to make more test prints, and therefore better final prints. 
      Regards - Jim Browning, Moderator
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