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Old 4th August 2010, 11:21 AM
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Default Masking material for contact printing

Now that I have my 5x7 camera up and running, the world of contact printing beckons. I have managed to acquire a wooden split-back frame which is big enough for 10x12 images, and want to make a (removable) mask with a suitably sized hole that the negative will fit into. I will also be making 8x10 pinhole negs at some point, hence the need for removable masks. My aim is to be able to print so that the paper not covered by the negative remains white.

The usual internet search turned up Rubylith, but this seems hard to get hold of and is adhesive. Iíve experimented with various card and acetate materials available in my local art shop/stationers, but these are either too thick or do not block the light sufficiently well.

Has anyone been through a similar exercise, and if so, what ended up working for you?
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Old 4th August 2010, 01:25 PM
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Hi Paul and welcome to the wonderful world of contact printing

When I use fast enough papers I use my enlarger as a light source and use the built-in sliding negative masks to give a white margin around the print. I simply focus their shadows, with the swing safe filter in place, until they look sharp.

I've also used a card mask simply layed on the glass of the printing frame. However the edges of the white borders are not as sharp as the above method.

When using the slow silver chloride papers and alternative processes, I simply trim the black rebate of the film and mount the trimmed prints onto good quality white paper, usually 300g stock.

Have fun
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Old 4th August 2010, 08:05 PM
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Thanks Trevor, I hadn't thought of using neg masks - a cunning plan. I'll see how I get on. Once I'm comfortable with this, it'll be time to play with making argyrotypes.
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Old 4th August 2010, 08:23 PM
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Nice idea that, Trevor. I haven't done any contact printing since I got my enlarger, but I'll try it. Always used black card from Staples before, which worked well with the old light bulb.
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Old 5th August 2010, 12:32 AM
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I've cut very cheap, very effective contact exposure masks out of the black plastic bags that hold photographic paper. The mask is adhered to the glass of the contact frame with double sided tape strips laid just inside the cut edges. I measure the thickness of the plastic with a micrometer to make sure it is slightly less thick than the negatives I will be using. This way the pressure of the contact frame still squeezes the negative and the photographic paper tightly together.
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Old 5th August 2010, 06:26 AM
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The difficulty with masking negatives is threefold: (1) is the mask thick enough to stop the light; (2) is it so thick that it reduces the pressure on the negative and hence leads to soft spots on your print; and (3) is the edge effect from the mask pleasing?

Various materials may work depending on your process. When I want to make negatives I use non-adhesive rubylith that I bought from a guy on eBay.

If you're using a hand-coated process then an alternative is to mask your paper (before coating) rather than the negative. This can be a little bit fiddly but it works. It's my preferred way for masking with pt/pd.
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Old 5th August 2010, 11:32 AM
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Maris - I don't know why I didn't think of that. Simple but effective!

Ian - I will be coating some paper soon, so this too is a good tip.

Thanks both.

Once again FADU comes up with solutions.
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Old 5th August 2010, 11:50 AM
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Of course there's one other option which is even easier: crop the print and dry mount it to another surface.
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