Making a Platinum Print

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Making Platinum Prints

Fine Art Platinum prints are hand crafted one at a time. The following is a brief glimpse of the process we use to make our Platinum prints.

Platinum printing materials are only sensitive to ultra-violet (UV) light, which is not available through an enlarger. As a result, the negative needs to be the same size as the finished print. For the larger print sizes, such as 5 x 7 and 8 x 10, an enlarged negative needs to be made first. The negative is placed in direct contact with the coated paper, and the combination is then exposed to a source of UV light. Two of the most common sources of UV light are the sun and UV light bulbs. Since the amount of UV light from the sun is variable, we use a box packed with UV light bulbs for exposure to produce more consistent results.

The paper that we use is typically a heavy watercolor fine art paper. It must be free from metallic impurities or else black spots will appear in the final print. The paper is trimmed to a size larger than the print to allow room for coating with the light-sensitive photographic emulsion. Some papers also need to be treated before coating to produce better quality prints.

The emulsion is mixed by adding together a combination platinum and palladium solutions, the sensitizing solution, and an emulsifier to help the mixed solution flow more evenly in the coating process. The final color of the print is influenced by the number of drops of the platinum solution and palladium solution that go into the emulsion. Palladium tends to produce a warmer colored print (brownish toned) and platinum tends to produce a cooler toned print (black to purplish-black).

After mixing, the emulsion is poured along one end of the paper, then evenly spread over the printing area using either a brush or a glass rod. The coated paper is then placed in a drying cabinet to dry. Any emulsion that is still liquid when placed in contact with the negative will stain the negative and possibly render it useless for future printing.

After the emulsion has dried, the paper is humidified. The negative and paper are then placed into a contact printing frame, which is then placed into our UV light box. After several minutes for a proper exposure, the frame is removed from the light box, the paper is removed and placed into a tray of developer. After developing the print is passed through a series of water and clearing baths to remove the sensitizing agent and unused platinum and palladium that remain in the paper (which produces a yellowish stain).

After clearing, the print is washed, dried, then flattened in a mounting press. The print is now ready for mounting and matting. The approximate time from coating the paper through the wash is about two and one-half hours for each print. The resulting platinum and palladium print is very stable, more so than a silver print, much more so than a color print (which is made of dyes), and will last as long as the paper on which it is printed. Since each print is individually crafted, there are subtle variations to each print. Every print is unique and no two are totally identical.

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