The Project Vedos made its first Vandyke brown prints today. There are many formulae for Vandyke, we used the traditional one which is known to work well on most papers:

Solution A
Ferric Ammonium Citrate: 9.0 gm
Distilled Water: 33.0 ml

Solution B
Tartaric Acid: 1.5 gm
Distilled Water: 33.0 ml

Solution C
Silver Nitrate: 3.8 gm
Distilled Water: 33.0 ml

These solutions were combined to form the Vandyke sensitizer. After a few sensitizing tests we also added Tween-20 wetting agent to the sensitizer, one drop of it per each 10 ml of sensitizer, because we noticed it will make it easier to coat the paper evenly and quickly.

Our standard exposure time was 150 seconds with our UV-exposing unit – we used that exposure for all paper tests below. Just like in cyanotype (see previous posts), all our papers seem to work also in the Vandyke process. However, we noticed small differences between the papers, which led us to divide them into two categories – we call these “Premium” and “Regular”.

Guarro Casas papers belong to our Premium category – they print beautifully, and they come in two varieties, white and cream. White yields nice chocolate brown tones, while the cream stock adds almost golden glow to the print. Our favourite cyanotype paper – Somerset – works well also with Vandyke, and, surprisingly, Hahnemuhle etching paper, in spite of its porosity, prints very well. All these papers were tested without adding any extra sizing.

We also tried double coating, with the paper drying in between (the upper part of the first sample on left (Canson) has been sensitized twice), but we gave up on that, because there was no significant difference compared to single coating.

Our “Regular” (left) and “Premium” paper samples. The Regular papers (from left): Canson Montval, Fabriano Accademia, Fabriano Bianco, and Arches Aquarelle. The Premium Papers (from left): Guarro Casas, Guarro Casas Cream, Somerset, and Hahnemuhle.

The tone range of Vandyke Brown is long – printing a Kodak T-27 step tablet confirms that. When making digital negatives for Vandyke it may be hard to get densities high enough with an inkjet printer. We can try colorized negatives, finding best hues to block the UV-light (see previous posts).

Below is a Vandyke print of the RNP-Array color chart mentioned in previous posts. The upper chart is printed from an Epson Pro 3800 transparency, and the lower one, for comparison, from a transparency made by an inexpensive HP Deskjet F2100 series printer (both were printed on the same type of transparency material). We can notice that HP inks cannot build enough UV-density, so you cannot use this printer with its inkset to produce proper negatives for Vandyke process. Instead, there are some Epson inks (upper part of the print) which work well with digital negatives, especially hues from red through yellow to green.

The UV-blocking color test from transparencies printed with an Epson Pro 3800 (upper) and HP Deskjet F2100. Areas remaining paper white represent the best blocking colors of each inkjet printer.

The first color we chose for UV blocking was orange (255,156,17), but when contact printing a ChartTrob step tablet on Vandyke paper and calculating a correction curve, we found it quite strange looking to our eyes (very flat, with extremely contrasty shadows), so we didn’t try it in actual Vandyke printing.

Instead, we chose another blocking color, red this time (255,15,15) – the curve created looked a lot better now, and we also used it with making some test prints.

Our first (orange) blocking color didn’t work well, so we defined another one (red), which was much better.

vdb-1.jpgThis is our first try with the new correction curve – the print’s midtones are somewhat low in contrast, so we corrected the curve manually, and the next print (below) is more like what we were after.

Jalo Porkkala: In Times Past, Vandyke Brown Print