How Does Resin Coated Paper Compare to Fiber Based Paper?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by Vincent Peri, Jun 28, 2018.

  1. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    I'm working on getting another darkroom set up, and I always used to use Ilford Ilfobrom Galerie fiber based paper in the past, but Ilford is pricing it out of existence (as far as I'm concerned). So I'm thinking about using Ilford Ilfospeed RC resin coated paper.

    How does resin coated paper compare to fiber based paper? I'll be using a Beseler 23C III enlarger with color head (to get diffused light) with an EL-Nikkor 50mm 2.8 lens.

    Do developing times change much? How resistant to scratches is resin coated paper? What about archival quality? And so on... feel free to bring up other differences.

    Thanks for all comments.
  2. I have never cared for resin coated paper. I ended up using the only box I bought for negative proofs. I suggest you try a box of Ilford multigrade Classic FB. You have the color head that will provide the "variable color" for variable contrast paper. If you selenium tone your prints, this particular Ilford paper tones well at 1:10 dilution.

  3. RC paper has become the de-facto standard for general use for good reason.

    The emulsion essential behaves the same(assuming like-for-like), but it's quite durable. The other thing about it is that washing times are a couple of minutes and air drying might take 30 minutes at the most(just don't try to put it on a drying bed like you'd use for FB-that's a good way to ruin both the print and the dryer).

    It's considered to not be as archival as FB, but if treated right it's still pretty good and there again doesn't need the extended "archival washing procedure" that folks now often recommend for FB. Of course, I'm a bit skeptical of that given the number of 1950s family snapshots I have that are FB paper that I doubt were given an elaborate wash.

    I still like FB paper, but save it for "special" stuff. Routine use is on Ilford RC paper, and I have zero complaints about it. If I'm doing a dozen prints of the same thing, it's nice to only have to worry about a 2 minute wash, and also having the first prints dry by the time I get around to the last.
    Ed_Ingold likes this.
  4. "Gloss" fiber has much more in common with "Pearl" RC.....just in case you have never experienced THAT aspect of the two. :)
  5. You'll get opinions from all over on this and the debate has been ongoing for decades. I agree with what Ben says. RC is the standard and it does process faster, is less expensive and will probably outlive us all.

    Most of us will agree that FB has a certain look to it and some will say it has more "soul" and every photographer has some negatives that just seem to be matched to FB paper.

    I'm happy that we have both.
  6. AJG


    I've used RC for years for contact sheets and prints where cost is important but I still prefer fiber base paper for exhibition prints. I have contact sheets from 40 years ago that look fine (they have mostly been stored in boxes, out of the light), some that are more recent that have brown stains on the back from the incorporated developer that made them useful in stabilization processors that I never used, but the images still look OK and a couple of mounted RC prints from commercial jobs that have been on my studio walls for 20 years or more. If you're doing a lot of prints for family, etc. I'd use RC. If you're showing in a gallery or museum, I'd go the extra mile and print on fiber.
  7. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    I'm strongly leaning to the RC paper. If anyone ever offers to buy any of my prints, I'll bite the bullet and use fiber based paper for them LOL.

    I really have no interest in multi-grade paper. It would just complicate my darkroom routine, which has worked perfectly for me in the past.
  8. Does somebody make graded RC.?
  9. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

  10. I might be missing all of it, bit i DO see Grade 2 and 3.
    That would definitely NOT be enough for my "talents". :)
  11. FWIW, unfiltered multi-grade paper, per the Ilford data sheets, will print at grade 2.

    Color heads make using multi-grade super easy since you don't have to mess with filters or worry about second hand filter sets that are missing grades :)

    Plus, I find half grades super useful. With my typical Tri-X/D76 negatives, I often find a 1 1/2 to be "just right" in my Leitz Focomat, while 1 is too flat and 2 is too harsh.

    This is especially true since you can typically only get 1, 2, and 3 in FB graded papers now.

    BTW, for low cost but perfectly serviceable RC paper, look at the Arista line. It's less expensive although I don't like it as well as Ilford.
  12. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    When I first started my own darkroom and did my first prints I was disappointed. The 8x10s didn't have the feel of real photos; they were hard and curly like dead leaves. A friend told me they were like that because they were FB paper not RC paper like all the photos I would get from photo stores. I switched to RC paper and was happy. For serious prints I would later use FB paper and a dry mount press. But for everyday, for fun not profit, I would use RC paper and didn't notice any marked difference in enlarger exposure times
  13. Films and papers are covered with a coat gelatin in which is imbedded light sensitive salts of silver. There are three silver salts: silver iodine, silver chlorine, and silver bromine. When exposed to light these silver salts absorb light energy and this action reduces (splits) these crystals into their two component parts. In the camera or under the enlarger we don’t allow that much light to play. Our exposures are insufficient to reduce. However our exposures weaken the bond that holds the crystal together.

    The developer solution is a reducing agent able to liberate metals from their salts. The developer differentiates between exposed and unexposed silver salts and reduces primarily the ones that received an exposure. Once reduced, metallic silver remains imbedded in the gelatin and the other components soak into the developer, which is mainly water. Unexposed silver crystals are not reduced, however, they will self-reduce if exposed to copious amounts of light. This action will occur without the aid of a developer. If this happens the metallic silver deposited by this self-reduction will darken the film or paper causing the image to fade.

    To prevent this destructive self-reduction, we subject film and paper to a fix bath. This unique bath seeks unexposed and thus undeveloped (un-reduced) silver salts and dissolves them. As this is happening, the metallic silver that makes up the image is unscathed; it remains imbedded in the gelation coat we call an emulsion.

    In order to work its magic, the fixer contains sulfur. Sulfur is an enemy of silver. Sulfur attracts over time, tarnishing by turning the silver yellow-brown. Eventually the entire image will become stained (flawed). To prevent we merely need to flush away all residual fixer with its sulfur.

    Photo paper is mainly made from wood pulp, perhaps it contains linen. In any event, paper is comprises of a multitude of plant cells. These are little boxes that hold fluid. Thus the structure of paper makes it difficult to flush away the residual fixer. We must wash, in running water for 30 minutes, single weight fiber paper and 60 minutes for double weight. Less, we run the risk that the image will fade in time. During World War II it was discovered that washing in sea water (3% table salt) followed by a fresh water rinse did this trick in half the time. This is the basis for all the hypo clear solutions which are mixes of different types of salts.

    Film fares better because it structures, no cells, allows for faster washing. Papers can however be waterproofed. This is a coat that prevents the paper from absorbing fluids. If so overcaoted, the paper acts much like film as to how it washes. Resins are substances extracted from trees. These substances have been used for centuries to waterproof cloth and even the hulls of ships. During World War II photo papers were resin coated to speed up the washing cycle. Today’s papers uses laboratory manufactured resins to do this deed. Fast washing is the chief advantage however, the resins can be embossed. This can simulate silk or matte or glossy. After the paper is coated and embossed, the light sensitive emulsion is applied. These are the same coats that can be applied to fiber paper that has not been coated with resin.
  14. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I look to your posts, Alan. Thanks!
  15. That is what ferrotype plates (or dryers) are for. But I was never that good at doing it.

    But yes, air drying FB glossy isn't very glossy.
  16. Development times have always been 1:00 or 1:30, the latter more usual for enlarging papers.

    Fixing and washing are much faster for RC papers, close to those for film.

    In my early darkroom days, before RC paper was popular, I mostly used single weight FB.

    I used to have a Kodak blotter roll, in which you roll it up with prints inside, they dry
    mostly not too far from flat.

    RC you can air dry, or warm forced air dry (like with a hair dryer) and it comes out
    close to flat.
  17. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I hung RC on a clothesline in the darkroom - worked well. You need to use the wooden spring clothespins which don't have serrated jaws to avoid marking the edges of the prints.
  18. A couple of points. The silver halides are chloride, bromide and iodide; the chlorine, bromine and iodine are chemical elements.
    RC papers are simply plastic coated (usually polythene), with no complicated laboratory processes.
    Hypo clearing agent is usually sodium sulphite, not sodium chloride based.
  19. @ Martin Rickards --

    The light sensitive compounds used are iodine, chlorine, and bromine. These are members of the Halogen (Swedish for salt maker) family combined with silver. Ordinary sea water, or 3% solution of table salt will work just fine as a hypo clearing agent. More effective is a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide which oxidizes and renders the fixer harmless. In lieu of table salt or peroxide, any of several common salts will alter the infusion rate of gelatin and pulp based papers. Most hypo eliminators work because the wash water is caused to better percolate within the material.
  20. @ Martin Rickards --

    Making RC paper is complicated. A modern RC is ordinary paper sandwiched between thin sheets of polyethylene (a laboratory produced resin). To cause it to adhere to the photo paper, it is subjected to a super high voltage that generates a corona discharge by ionization.

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