The film photography & darkroom work of David Kirby

How To: Get Your Fibre Prints Flat

Ah fibre paper, you magnificent beast.  Yes, we love you but yes, your curl upon drying is a most vexatious thing.  I am sure that many of you reading who use fibre paper will agree with this - getting that curl out of the paper once dry is hard (unless you have a dedicated piece of equipment such as a press and they are expensive).  In this tutorial I will show you how I get my prints flat quickly and without any expensive machinery.

Equipment Required

To get your prints flat you will need:

  1.  2 no clean tea towels;
  2.  A clothes iron;
  3.  2 to 3 heavy books.

How to Do It

The process itself is very simple.  Firstly you need to fold your first tea towel in half across its width and place it on a clean, dry work surface such as a kitchen worktop.

Then you place your print face down in the centre of the tea towel, making sure that both the print and the towel surface is clean and free from any dust or dirt.

Next take your second tea towel, fold it in half as before and lay it on top of the print and initial towel.

Now plug in your clothes iron and set it to a very low heat.  We don't want to overheat our print as this could be damaging to the emulsion.  I set my iron to around a quarter of its maximum heat.  Once your iron has warmed up gently move it back and forth over the surface of the towel. 

You only need to do this for a few minutes.  Be careful not to linger in once spot too long with the iron as well.  Every 30 seconds or so it is helpful to lift the towel and check that your print is ok.  It should feel ever so slightly warm.  If the print is too hot set the iron aside, remove the top towel and let it cool off a little before proceeding.  The idea here is to impart slight heat to the print not nuke it.

Once your print is slight warm throughout take the iron away and place your heavy books on top of the top towel. 

The good thing is that, unlike when flattening prints cold under heavy books which can require a number of days, this takes only a few minutes.  Soon enough your print will cool off and the books and towels can be removed and you should have a nice flat print.

Some words of caution now though.  As with so many things darkroom-related it is best to try this method out on an old work print before applying it to your final prints.  There are many people who do not approve of using a clothes iron to flatten prints which is absolutely fine, however this method works for me and so far I have not seen it degrade my print quality in any way.

So, a short and sharp tutorial this time.  I have some more in the works which I am hoping to soon get around to finishing.  Until then, happy printing!