Developing Paper in Film Developer (esp. D23)?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by paresh_pandit, Aug 9, 2019.

  1. Hi guys,

    Good day, there.

    I have been developing my own BW film for some time now, and have recently acquired an old basic enlarger which I want to give a try. Now I have "fixed-up" most things that needed attention, and it is time for the rubber to meet the road. For film, I an inclined to now graduate to D-23 , made at home (vs. Caffenol which I have successfully used till date).

    1. The question is, could I use the D-23 for developing silver gelatin based Paper as well?
    2. I did not find much resources on the web discussing this, as people rarely seem to be discussing Paper Developers (side note: people have used Caffenol for Paper btw). The consensus, from what I found out, was that normally paper developers tend to be faster acting, and hence will develop films with higher contrast. And here, D-23 seems especially known for producing slow and relatively-lower-contrast negatives. Conversely, thus, a film developer recipe should produce lesser contrast for paper development – which seems to be an undesirable way to go about printing...?! Or not? Please advise.

    3. Further, I have found that most Paper Dev recipes require addition of Hydroquinone – which I would need to go out and get from the city center, and I stay far. [Is it a must-add for paper development? And if yes, what could be the alternatives?] At the moment, the priority is just to get my feet wet asap, as I am in the mindset to give this a go. Was going to get Ilford PQ Universal from a local dealer (heard it can also cook films pretty well – some say a little grainier); but he is out of stock, and will get stock in another ten days or so – to far out to start, for me. :D

    4. Another conundrum is that I have some really old local-brand sachets of universal film and paper developer at hand, in powder premix form. But they are now so old, that the each sachet has turned into a big solid bricky lump. Should it be worth it to break them, and brew in some warm water (instead of making some developer)? [Also, they also seem to prove a point that paper and film developers can be the same.]

    5. While on the subject, how about D76 for Printing?

    I know I am asking too many things at once, and going all over the place. Kindly excuse me for the same, in lieu of my excitement and tangentially limited options. Eagerly looking forward to your kind and able guidance!

    Best regards,
  2. The first thing that comes to mind is that film developer, mixed as normally indicated, will not have the capacity to process the many sheets of paper usually exposed in a printing session. One sheet of 8x10 paper is equal to about on 36 exposure roll of film. I can't account for the differing silver content though.

    I would think that Dektol, a long time paper standard, would be reasonably easy to acquire.
    paresh_pandit likes this.
  3. This question came up a year or two ago.

    There was once Versatol, a liquid concentrate meant for film or paper, with a different dilution
    for each. The paper dilution was much stronger, and not so economical.

    Dektol is one of the recommended developers for Technical Pan film, at a fairly
    high contrast index.

    As well as I know it, you would want a much less dilute form from that normal
    for film developing. Normally, that would make it much less economical, such
    that buying a traditional paper developer is a better choice. Also, you have to
    plan before you mix up the film dilution.
    paresh_pandit likes this.
  4. Here is the description of Ilford paper developers.

    Introduction to ILFORD Paper Developers

    It does seem that PQ Universal is meant as either paper or sheet film developer.
    It doesn't mention roll film.

    With normal US suppliers, Dektol is reasonably priced and lasts a while.
    I have also tried Polymax-T, though I don't know that the results are any
    different from Dektol. Polymax-T comes as a liquid concentrate, and
    Dektol as a powder.
    paresh_pandit likes this.
  5. If you've got the measuring facilities to mix D-23, you can certainly mix D-72. Just need to buy some Hydroquinone, Sodium Carbonate, and Potassium Bromide. D-72 is pretty much the equivalent of Dektol.
    paresh_pandit likes this.
  6. paresh_pandit likes this.
  7. Even 'universal' developers are pretty poor (and uneconomical) for developing paper. They're a complete compromise and generally unsatisfactory as either a film or paper developer. They're grainy and contrasty for film, and deliver grey and wishy-washy prints.

    Really, the only way to get a decent print is to use a proper commercial paper developer like Dektol, or to mix something like D-163 or ID-20 from raw chemicals.

    D-23 will be near useless as a paper developer, and needs a lot of modification to increase its activity sufficiently to give a half-decent print. Not worth the bother IMO.

    If you want to make a print developer from scratch, here's a reliable formula for Ilford ID-20 MQ version:
    Metol ..........................3 g
    Sodium Sulphite ......50 g
    Hydroquinone ..........12 g
    Sodium Carbonate ...60 g
    Potassium Bromide.....4 g
    Water to make .............1 Litre
    This is a stock solution that should be diluted 1+3 with water for use.
    Recommended development time - 1.5 to 2 minutes at 68 F/20 C.
    (Personally I prefer to use my paper developer a bit warmer at around 75 F/24 C.)

    The above formula can be modified to use Phenidone, which is safer for use as a paper developer, since it's less likely to cause an allergic skin reaction - an itchy rash or dermatitis. Developing paper always carries a risk of skin contact, and although many people can practically wash their hands daily in developer with no bad side effect, others aren't so lucky and have an adverse reaction. Better to be safe than sorry!

    Substitute 0.5 g of Phenidone for the Metol and increase the Pot. Bromide to 4.5 g in the MQ ID-20 formula.

    P.S. Paper developer doesn't keep well once diluted for use, especially the MQ version. You can possibly keep it for 24 hours by covering the developing dish with clingfilm. Otherwise it should be discarded after a printing session. It'll develop about 20 10"x8" prints per litre of diluted solution.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
    paresh_pandit likes this.
  8. rodeo_joe has it.

    Here's the Kodak 'standard':
    not too different from Ilford's
    paresh_pandit likes this.
  9. Dear all,

    Many thanks for the quick and insightful responses. For some reason, I did not receive email notifications on post replies. Thus, kindly accept my delayed acknowledgement and thanks.

    I understand from the guidance above, and some further reading, that it would indeed be wise to buy/make separate stock developers for print and paper. And have thus made a trip to the chemical supplies store in the city, yesterday. Unfortunately for me, Metol was not in stock, and shall be sent only on Tuesday/Wednesday vide courier now. Therefore, no experimentation, until I get it since Metol is the key developer for both formulae. [But the bonus was, at the camera store, got some expired rolls of Agfa APX 100 in 120mm, really cheap. So, all was not wasted, after all, haha.]

    As for Developers, have narrowed it down to an undivided D-23 for film, and a formula called Gevaert G.251 (found vide MDC). The latter is also quite similar to the above two paper developer formulae (from Ilford and Kodak), kindly shared by @rodeo_joe|1 and @JDMvW .

    I want to also try PMK Pyro soon, for film. A little later, though, at the time of my next round to the Chemical Supplies store. Also because Pyrogallol itself is quite expensive (compared to most other commercial photo chemicals i.e., excepting silver, gold, et al.) :D

    Thanks again to @rodeo_joe|1 for suggesting Metol substitution. As you can see from my story so far, I really need something to replace it, right this moment. Haha. Read up on Phenidone, and man, seems like it is certainly a much better all-round choice in terms of both speed as well as handling. Only concern that comes to mind is that due to acting slower than Phenidone, Metol might help produce lesser contrast and thus better tonality (?).

    Will post on my success with these soon–perhaps here, perhaps elsewhere on the forums. Have a nice weekend! :)

    Thanking you,
    With humble regards,
  10. Nah!
    You'd have a lot of difficulty telling Phenidone processed film/prints from those processed in a Metol developer.

    In fact I formulated a Phenidone-Ascorbate ('Vitamin C') developer to emulate D-76, and I'd challenge anyone to tell it from commercial MQ D-76. It has the same developing times and everything.

    Unfortunately, our stupid European Union legislators have banned the retail of Borax! Thereby removing easy access to one of its key ingredients. Not to mention access to a very cheap and effective ant killer.

    P.S. If you take my advice, you'll forget the idea of trying this, that and the other developer, and simply get used to using just one. Good technique is about getting consistent and expected results. Not trying every arcane and weird process in the hope of finding some magic 'look' that simply doesn't exist.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
    paresh_pandit likes this.
  11. Thanks again for responding to the query, @rodeo_joe|1 .

    Yes, I can see how it seems trivial sometimes, in terms of what chemicals are banned where. There certainly needs to be a better (and perhaps, an universally applicable) system where they can ration out certain chemicals for certain uses, rather than putting out blanket bans. Not all people have the knowledge or the resources to find workarounds, every time – viz. yours truly, for eg. In India, at least for now, many a things are accessible due to relatively less stringent controls. However, due to abuse in agricultural sector, Thiourea is banned for retail sale. So there goes a good and cheap bleaching agent for us.

    I indeed see your point in sticking to one formula for a process and then mastering the workflow around gaining mastery over its use and iterations. Pyro PMK being a different breed of developers, interested me in terms of finding out what really was the difference. Of course, as you said, I might not really be able to notice much unless I do grain-peeking, anyway. Many a maters have in fact stuck to their formulae, despite some experts recommending that one can also make chemistry a variable for controlling the image-making process. D-23 is close enough to D-76, and both have been relied-upon throughout careers by many a great photographers, and I certainly do not need to reinvent the wheel, and rather focus on more productive things, you're right! :)

    [P.S.: Update on Metol. It is being sent out today, and should reach me by the weekend.]

    Wish you a nice day.
  12. As I'm sure you know, I often say much the same thing.

    The differences between common commercial developers on the end result are quite small, and I think it is a good idea for anyone starting in the darkroom to use either an off-the-shelf commercial developer or a home-made equivalent until they get the process down. D-76, HC-110, XTOL, and their Ilford equivalents are all great starting points.

    Experimenting with developers is fun and something I do too, but I developed a lot of film in D-76 before I ventured off to something else. Even now, I still grab the HC-110(not a lot different from D-76, but probably a bit more flexible and more importantly I can make a small batch from concentrate as needed rather than preparing a full gallon of D-76 that I may or may not use) or occasionally D-76 for good, predictable results. I'm also not averse to using others-I keep both TMAX developer on hand for T-grain films(especially TMY at EI 3200, where I've found it a bit more tame than other common developers) and Rodinal for certain applications where it's just the correct developer to use. I'll also experiment with my own, but know that at least my technique is sound and if something goes wrong, I can rule that out.
  13. I started with D-76 when I was 9, and learned about Diafine from my grandfather when I was 10.

    I did lots of 7th and 8th grade yearbook photography with Diafine, much of it available light in our well-lit
    classrooms. (One wall of mostly windows, and a lot of fluorescent lights.) I didn't really understand
    the magic of increased EI, but it worked well for me. It is still my favorite developer.
    (Though most newer films don't have the big EI increase that older films did.)

    I now also have HC-110 and TMax, the latter I bought along with a roll of (new) TMZ.
    The higher EI (push) times for TMZ use either TMax or XTOL, but I have also used TMax
    for other films.

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