Photographic Emulsions

Photographic Emulsions

Commercial photographic printing papers, although still available in quite a variety of types and finishes, impose several limitations. The paper type is pre-ordained by the manufacturer and must be a highly machined product that will pass through the elaborate manufacturing process. Probably the greatest constraint is that the printer is limited to working upon a two dimensional plane.

Self-coated emulsion offers the simplest way to unshackle oneself from the manufacturer, as an image can be placed on a wide variety of surfaces, many unusable with other alternative photographic processes. In addition the high speed of print emulsions means that enlarging can be employed, unlike the contact-speed processes. In the 20 years or so since high quality photo emulsions came on the market a new chapter has opened up in the history of the medium, and placement of traditional photo imagery has taken on a different dynamic - shape, dimension, surface quality and type of base material are all in the hands of the print-maker.

In recognition of this we produced a book 'Silver Gelatin' in 1996, which covers the technical aspects of emulsion work exhaustively as well as containing extensive colour portfolios. Now in its 3'rd edition, recommended to everyone wanting to work seriously with emulsion.

A website primarily dealing with emulsion work is 'Light Farm';

There is also much ongoing discussion on emulsion techniques within the Analogue Photography User Group (APUG)

Jonathan Stead, based in London and Sheffield, runs workshop in Silver Gelatin Dry Plate using SE1 Emulsion: 

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Foma Photographic Emulsion 1 Litre (with hardener)
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For most common applications, especially on smooth surfaces, one layer of Foma emulsion is enough to be spread. One main advantage of this high-speed emulsion is short exposures, which enable large-size enlarging. With most developers, this emulsion produces a neutral to mildly warm image tone.

Supplied with the emulsion, the hardener ensures good mechanical resistance of the layer spread, and is recommended for all applications. The correct proportions are those supplied, i.e., 15 ml with 1.0 kg of emulsion. Suitable hardeners can also be used, e.g. formaldehyde (1.0 to 5.0 ml of 10% solution per 1.0 kg of emulsion), or in combination with the same volume of chrome alum solution (10%).

1 kg of emulsion is sufficient to prepare an area of 3 to 6 sq. m according to base type, surface quality and thickness of the layer spread.

Silverprint SE1 Emulsion 250ml
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SE1 Emulsion is made for us by one of the main photographic manufacturers in this country, this is a normal contrast bromide emulsion which is versatile and easy to use. Contrast: reasonably hard grade 2. The high silver content allows a certain degree of dilution with water in many cases. If applying to a transparent medium use full strength, but on opaque surfaces such as paper do tests using 1 + 1 and 1 + 2 dilutions with water.
SE1's substantial concentration of high bloom gelatin yields good adhesion to many surfaces, often without subbing beforehand. Processing is as for normal paper- the emulsion is quite robust, and does not usually need hardening, & is robust to use standard rapid fixing agents without bleaching. The image colour is neutral to slightly warm-black, and it reacts well to toners of all types including selenium, also to Lith. development.
A separate subbing solution is available for optional use when coating smooth surfaces such as glass.

Silverprint SE1 Emulsion 1 Litre
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Silverprint Hardening/Subbing Solution
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This hardening solution is very useful as a preparation treatment prior to emulsion coating on non porous surfaces such as glass.  Sold in a pack that makes a 1 litre working solution it should be used and discarded as will not store longer than a couple of days.

SILVER GELATIN Book Martin Reed & Sarah Jones
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Still the only book totally geared around the use of liquid emulsion, 18 years on & in it's 3'rd edition - now in the internet age unlikely to be surpassed.  We really sweated over this, and most of 1995 was taken up with research, interviews & editing to establish the all-embracing approach we were looking for. Contains extensive colour portfolio section, interviews with practitioners and very detailed technical chapters.

2001 Aurum Press, Softback, 144 pages

Rollei Black Magic Grade 3 Emulsion 300ml
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The Hamburg-based photo. distributor MACO launched a range of emulsions several years ago, which are an alternative to the ‘SE’ variety. Available as a single graded hard-contrast emulsion, or a variable contrast emulsion that can be used in conjunction with filters, as well as several accessory products including hardener and gelatin substrate.

Rollei Black Magic VC Emulsion 300ml
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An alternative liquid emulsion tuned up to respond to variable contrast control, using yellow (soft) & magenta (hard) Multigrade filters.

Rollei Black Magic Photo Gelatin100g
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High bloom photographic gelatin for use in preparation of surfaces with sizing, or any application need a good quality gelatin.

Rollei Black Magic Additive Hardener 250 ml
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A supplementary hardener which can be added into an emulsion to limit uptake of water into the gelatin - this will limit the expansion of the emulsion & can protect from frilling or separation from the base.
Useful if processing & washing when the temperature is higher than normal, or if the key between emulsion & base is not particularly good.

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