The film photography & darkroom work of David Kirby

Behind The Print: Lithing Boats & The Power of Tapestry

Here's another article brought over to this site from my previous blog.  In this article i'll be discussing a print I made some time ago which has an almost watercolour feel to it.  The secret is is the toning as we shall see... 

As usual at the weekend I had a bit of time to myself as Jess was working the morning shift (got to love that morning shift)!  Note - Jess no longer works at a hotel so the morning shift is long gone - bye bye Dave time.  What better way to spend this time than by dabbling in the ancient art of printing?!  I was in a very lith mood so I chose a negative from my latest roll of film and picked a paper.  As mentioned previously I recently won a bulk load of paper on Ebay, mostly old Agfa Brovira and Portriga, but I also got a small pack of 8 x 10 Fotospeed Tapestry.  Is it lithable?  Internet says yes as does the good old Facebook lith printing group.  A bit of reading in Lord Rudman's lith and toning books revealed this to be a very special paper.  It liths very well and when toned in selenium a wide range of colours are available.  I got set up and gave it a try... and what a paper!  A lovely textured base with a nice matt finish, it liths fantastically and (as we will go on to see) is phenomenal in Selenium.  This is the print I finally got at the end of the process:

As you can see it has a very different look to my usual prints.  It looks (to me at least) like a watercolour painting.  The colours you can get from this paper in selenium are fantastic, but instead of me talking about it - I have pictures!

The first print I made of this messed up because I ended up putting finger prints all over the paper.  I decided to use this print to see how far the colour change in selenium would go.  What follows is a series of pictures (taken on my camera phone - sorry for the poor quality of some of them) from 0 to 23 minutes taken every 60 seconds to demonstrate the colour changes.

Firstly here is the original, untoned print:

When dry this turned a strong pinkish colour:

30s - note the shadows immediately turning a cool purplish colour

1:30 shadows cooling off further and working up to the lower midtones


3:00 midtones starting to be affected.  Hints of purple can be seen around the boats cabin

4:00 nice separation in the cabin area and increased separation in the sky


6:00 purple tones taking over the midtones now and moving up towards the highlights.  The sandy foreground taking on a cooler steely grey tone.



9:00 cloud separation reducing slightly as the cooler grey moves towards the purple areas





14:00 the cool grey now slowly turning into a soft creamy buff colour

15:00 as the creamy colour is taking over cloud separation has reduced significantly


17:00 shadows have a slight olivey brown tone






23:00 the cream has settled into a pale creamy grey colour across the print

As you can see the print goes through many different colour changes before settling down at around 20 minutes or so.  My plan now was to give an overall toning in selenium to get things going then wash the print and, using a paintbrush, place selenium onto the areas I wanted extra toning on.  I started with the sky so as to increase separation between the purple and yellow areas, then I toned the foreground to change it from the cool grey to a sandy yellow colour.  Then I did a little extra on the cabin and prow of the boat to help it stand out from the frame a little more.  I think the final print looks much better with these multiple pastel colours than it would with just one overall tone.  But maybe that's just me.  One thing that I should mention if you should be lucky enough to come into ownership of this paper is that it dries a different colour.  For example - here is my final print when wet (prior to toning):

And here it is dried out prior to toning:

As you can see we've gone from yellow to pink.  Not quite what I fancied for this print but maybe one to keep in mind for another subject.

I'm sure this "toner painting" could be just as easily applied to any other paper.  You probably won't get as much of an extreme colour shifting but you may get something.  It's certainly something i'll be keeping in mind to try out in the future.

Hopefully that's been informative in some way for you, or at least an interesting read about the power of toning.  Until my next post, happy printing!