Trouble Flattening Fiber-Based Prints

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by jafieldspictures, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. I'm printing on Ilford multigrade fiber-based matte paper, but they're wrinkled even after I flatten them. After I take them out of the orbit wash, I firmly squeegee both sides and put them on the drying rack for ~6 hours then flatten them for 4 minutes at 180 degrees F in a hot press and 4 minutes under cool weight.

    Most of the curve is gone, but some of my prints are wrinkly near the edges. I've tried flattening longer with no success. Am I squeegeeing too soft or too hard? It didn't happen before but now it's happening to most of my photos and I can't think of anything that I've changed in my darkroom process.

    Tried searching on here before I posted, but all I could find were tips for flattening them when they're just curved a little, but this is beyond that.
  2. We can put a man on the moon, but we cannot make FB paper that dries flat. :)

    IMO, print on RC - it will save you the hassle of FB paper and have nearly the same qualities in everything else.
  3. Isn't this what print dryers are for?

    In the old days, there were ferrotype plates that you put the prints, face down while wet on the plated steel sheet, used a rubber roller to get them flat and stuck. They stay stuck, until they dry and pop off.

    But later, there were print dryers. Production sized have a drum that rotates slowly with a heater inside. There is cloth that covers part of the drum, and moves with the drum surface. You put the prints in the top, facing the drum. They dry as the drum rotates, and if all works right, come out dry at the bottom.

    For smaller darkrooms, there are two sided dryers, curved plates on each side, heaters in the middle, and cloth that snaps on the outside.

    With RC paper, you can use either of the heated dryers, but with prints facing out (away from the metal sheet), and a lower temperature.

    But I didn't have any of those in my early days.

    But after not so long, a Kodak print drying roll which had blotter paper one sheet, and a coated sheet on the other side, prints went in between, and also a layer of corrugate cardboard (for air circulation). Next morning they will be dry, and mostly not curled.

    I used this a lot for 7th and 8th grade yearbook photography.
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Ancient trick for important prints is to process a sheet of unexposed paper identically and dry mount back to back with the actual print. As mentioned, RC solves the problem, but at some cost in texture and IMO quality.. You don't mention what weight the Ilford paper is - wrinkled edges suggests a light weight, a heavier stock might help. Though this goes back in time, seemed to recall there was also a print flattening solution. A Google check using "how-to-flatten-fb-prints" suggests glycerin 2oz. to 30oz water and other options, I have not used that or pursued the info in depth, but another possible option. Good Luck with it!
  5. I have the same problem sometimes with Oriental Fb Vc double weight paper. I have never been able to figure out why some prints end up with curly edges. I also flatten prints with a dry mount press and most come out ok but some come out with curly edges. I have had some success with rewashing the curly ones and then drying and flattening them again but that does not always work. It seems that some prints are going to be permanently curly. I have also printed with generous borders and then trimmed off the curly edges.
  6. When I was doing fiber-base darkroom prints I would squeegee them, let them dry overnight on screens, and flatten in a dry mount press the next morning.
  7. I only squeegee the back of fiber paper, never the emulsion side (it's softer when wet). I dry them face down on drying screens at least overnight. If the room is too dry, they will dry faster and be more curled - you want them to dry a little more slowly. Once they are completely dry, I flatten the ones that will be matted (ie. only the good ones) by putting them in the dry mount press between pieces of matboard for about a minute at about 200 F. After the press, they sit between the pieces of matboard to cool (this seems to be key). I have also put dry prints in the press without turning it on - just using the pressure - for a day or two. That seems to work fairly well, too.
    Prints that I've made but not decided to mat usually accumulate in acid-free boxes and are much flatter after awhile there. 8x10s also fit in coffee table books and that works, too (just slowly).
  8. I have one of these and it works ok with FB paper, but you have to keep the cloth clean clean clean, otherwise it will damage subsequent prints. If you do not wash prints sufficiently - even just once - fixer gets into the cloth and it is difficult to clean. Use of detergents can lead to long-term issues with prints, too. So my dryer hasn't been used in 20+ years.

    I don't see a reason for this and at worse you can cause the plastic on the RC paper to melt if you're not careful.
  9. I remember that from even before the blotter roll that I mention, so before 8th grade.

    I had one bottle, it was expensive, and didn't work very well.
  10. I think the cloth comes off to wash.

    Yes, so you need one with a temperature control. Not all have one.

    I do remember doing it with the big roller type dryer, though.
  11. My class used to use an artists Sketch pad, put the prints inbetween pages, and then put weight on top of it to keep it flat and the sketch paper soaked up the water from the print..
  12. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    We had a blotter stack at one point as well when I was in school - sheets of blotting paper interspersed with corrugated cardboard, at one side a fan, weight on top of the stack. the open corrugation channels need to face the air source as mentioned in the following. Here is a "modern" take on that, though not aimed at photo prints, Link Journal - News - Other AP Stuff
  13. Yes, it does, but as I noted it is very difficult to get clean because you really cannot use detergents. They never rinse out completely and can contaminate subsequent prints.
  14. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    The trick is to use Hypo Eliminator and rinse thoroughly / properly so as not to contaminate the cloth in the first place. It is simple enough to make new cloth covers if needed - I never found that to be a necessary. There are so many issues to deal with if you want truly archival prints. What percentage of photo prints actually survive long enough for that to be worthwhile?
  15. Yes, I don't believe that my prints are archival.

    Actually, I don't have many prints from days long ago, but all my negatives are still good, up to 50 years later.

    I suppose you could use Hypo Eliminator on the cloth itself, then wash well.
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  16. I have FB prints done almost 30 years ago exactly how glen_h indicates above. They look as good now as back then.
  17. Use a print flattening agent (diluted) for a final rinse. It is an humectant and surface reactant which wets the emulsion evenly and keeps it from buckling as it dries. For matte surfaced paper, you dry prints between leaves of blotting paper under a weighted (25# or so) plate.

    We had a 4'x20" Paco drum dryer at the newspaper I worked, which gave a perfect ferrotype and flat (though curled) print in about 6 minutes. We used a flattening agent just before loading the wet print. They quickly flattened out as they cooled (and remain dead flat to this day, 50 years later).

    Test your fixer from time to time. Prints will stain if not fixed completely.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  18. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    +1 Drum dryer.
  19. A few years ago, someone offered me a drum dryer free.

    It would take up a large fraction of my not-so-big darkroom, so I didn't take it.
  20. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    oh man ill bet you regret not taking it.

    B&H sell a nice small plate type. my son uses it and loves it just because it can be stored away easily.


    dryers are the way to go if printing fiber papers.

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