Handcrafted Heirloom Photographic Prints

De-Constructing a Hybrid Print

This is the first of a series of posts on the making of the print: "Natural Still Life, Near Lagoa Bonita, Sao Miguel, Azores".  Without going into ALL the details (much too complicated), we'll de-construct how this image is created from the original color photo.

This image has four layers of printing, each with it's own negative.  Three completely different alternative printing process are combined: Platinum/Palladium, Cyanotype and Gum Bichromate methods, in that order: The first layer is a Platinum/Palladtium Print; the second a Cyanotype; and the third and final layer using Gum Bichromate.

The Platinum/Palladium layer is used for the base, giving both details/structure and providing the darkest shadow tones.  The Cyanotype layer provides the cyan color, and the Gum Bichromate layers use professional watercolor mixed with gum arabic and a light sensitive component for the yellow and magenta layers.  Those colors combine to provide the other colors, like greens, oranges, purples, etc....

The color file is brought into Adobe Photoshop and sized for the final negative output. The color mode is then switched from RGB (Red Green Blue for computer monitors and televisions) to CYMK (Cyan Yellow Magenta and Black for printing press type output).  In Photoshop, the four CMYK channels are then split into four images, each a monochrome representation of one of the CMYK colors.  The Black negative below will be printed as a Platinum/Palladium print; the Cyan negative will then be printed as a Cyanotype print; and the Yellow and Magenta negatives will be printed using the Gum Bichromate method with yellow and magenta watercolors added respectively.

Each file is converted BACK to RGB (I know, it's complicated and we're only describing the very basics), but they still are essentially black and white images in appearance.

Now, at this point I'm going to mention that there is ANOTHER complicated process of testing and calibrating that I'm not even going to go into here at all.  Essentially, that process determines a) the exposure time under UV light giving good dark tones; b) the color that is used for the negative to block light and give good whites for the print time used; and 3) a photoshop Gradient Map (or sometimes a Photoshop Curve is used) which ensures the tones of the image are normally and naturally distributed.  That's all I'm going to say about THAT!  So the individual images above have that gradient map applied, are inverted and then have the blocking color added for each process.  Here's what the images look like in their four negatives ready for printing:

Kallitype Negative:

Cyanotype Negative:

Yellow Negative:

And finally, Magenta Negative:

Note the registration marks at the corners to help line up the negatives when printing.

So that's that for part one.  Next, four or more layers will be printed on top of each other on high quality watercolor paper designed for photographic processes such as these.  I use mostly Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag Paper.

Next time, we'll see what happens as we print each layer, and then the final product.  I hope you've enjoyed the first part of the tour!

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