I had a chance to test out the same digital negative on 3 different kinds of paper, Arches Platine, Bergger Cot 320 and a relatively new kid on the block, Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag. I’ve used Platine before and had so-so results, but I’ve had more experience with the cyanotype process since then and thought I would give it another go. The Bergger and Hahnemuhle arrived this morning, just in time for a printing session out in our abundant June sun.
In all cases, I tried to keep everything as consistent as possible, but I had coated and exposed the Platine before the other two papers arrived, so there is a time of day difference amongst these prints. In all cases I double-coated with Photographer’s Formulary liquid cyanotype chemicals, with just a few grains of potassium dichromate (I didn’t weigh them, but there was maybe 4 or 5 grains). I let the emulsion dry in the dark between coatings, and when the second coat was dry, I grabbed my digital negative and contact printing frame and put them out in the sun. I should have been a bit more diligent with timing each exposure, but I was inspecting them until they looked right. Most of these exposures were pretty quick, 3-5 minutes.
Development was in a very dilute, distilled white vinegar and water bath followed by an extended bath in plain water (1/2 hr each print). I then hung each up to dry from one corner. All dried pretty flat.
So, how did the papers do? I found Arches Platine to be the most difficult to brush with the initial coat. Perhaps it comes with a bit more sizing than the other papers, but the emulsion just tended to bead up at first. After a few brush strokes, the emulsion started flowing smoothly. The Bergger was the easiest to coat, followed closely by the Hahnemuhle. I used a synthetic bristle brush (hardware store special!) for all three.
All three are hot press papers and so have a very smooth surface, and a slightly rougher surface. This was most evident with Arches Platine, but the Bergger I had to examine very closely to tell which side was which. All three held up to the extended water baths without any issue. I bought the Arches Platine in 11×15 size, so had to cut down the sheet for the 8×10 print. The Bergger and Hahnemuhle both came in 8 1/2 x 11, both the same price from B&H.
As far as results, even side-by-side I saw little notable difference that could not be attributed to exposure. All 3 gave excellent results with this negative and I would use all again in the future. If I was forced to pick one winner, I think I would go with the Hahnemuhle. It gave similar, rich shadow areas as Platine, but was much easier to apply the first emulsion coat. The Bergger Cot 320 was right there as well, and I think I pulled it from exposure a little soon. Since I am almost out of Arches Platine, I will likely work more with the Bergger and Hahnemuhle for future alt process experiments. I’ll have to give Ziatypes a try soon as the humidity is almost perfect for it (65-80%).
And totally out of left field, I also grabbed some wrinkled up brown paper bags and decided to coat them with emulsion (single coat this time) and use some different digital negatives, just for fun. They didn’t scan all that great, but look rather cool in person. They got more wrinkly when they fully dried.