The use of Ilford contrast filters in the print process : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

I am new to B&W processing and printing and am just beginning thw get my head round the various variables involved in making a good print. One area which i haven't yet been able to decipher from the various books etc., is when tho use the filters. I am usung Ilford film, chemicals and Multigrade 1V RC papers. Can you advise me? Regards

-- Norman Christie (, December 10, 2000


The filters provide differing degrees of contrast, so that negatives of differing contrast can all be printed satisfactorily on your variable-contrast paper. Each sheet of VC paper has a combination of contrasty and less contrasty emulsions that respond differently to various colors of light and thus enable a wide range of contrasts to be produced by varying the color. The alternative to this way of controlling print contrast is to use "graded" paper. The grades are numbered from 1 through 5, with the contrastiness increasing as the number increases. Filters are not used with graded papers, which have just one emulsion and thus one contrast. Buy some Ilford MG filters and print the same negative with each of them and you'll see what's going on. If you've been printing on VC paper without a filter, you've been getting about a 2 contrast.

-- Keith Nichols (, December 10, 2000.

Hi Norman, Keith gave you a good answer. I would only like to emphasize that 'life is simpler' if - when using MG paper - you always use a filter, even when you only want 'normal' [#2] contrasts. That way you can learn to control your printing times better. When you get the filters, they will have instructions with them.


-- Christian Harkness (, December 11, 2000.

There are two books that may help.

I can't remember the name of the book, but the author is Carson Graves. It is complete info, along with exercises to learn to print.

The other is "Post Exposure" by Ctein.

Basically the filters control contrast. The more contrast the less exposure steps from black to white. The less contrast, the more steps.

To print run a test strip to determine the exposure time based on the HIGHLIGHTS. This may be a pure white, or may be a very light gray to bring out texture. Then look at the shadows. If the shadows are too light, you need more contrast, if the shadows are very dark and there is no detail, you need less contrast.

I prefer to use a color head on my enlarger and dial in more yellow for less contrast, more magenta for more contrast. Much finer control than filters.

-- Terry Carraway (, December 12, 2000.

For me the main use for Multigrade papers is that you, in a same print may use different grades. If you have a print very contrasty in a small area you may mask all but that area, put a grade 1 and you get lots of grays. If in other area you have lots of grays, you may use a 4 filter to have a more contrasty zone. This is, in my opinion the best use of multigrade system. You may try the follow experience: Select a negative that you think is good (lots of tones, from deep black to white). then make a paper strip to know the best time exposure (x seconds). Knowing this, you may use another paper strip (cover 4 of 5 parts), and use filter 1, expose at x seconds. then cover the first exposed part, uncover the second 1/5 part and expose x seconds using 2 grade filter, and so on. you get in a same papre strip all 5 grades. Believe me, there are interesting differences. If you're new in this bussiness, do the same, using for instances filter 2, but changing the aperture of your enlarger lense. Note that if you change from f11 to f8 you must expose half of the time, if you change from f11 to f5.4 you must expose 1/4 of the time. Best luck Rui

-- Rui Edgar da Silva Guerreiro (, December 13, 2000.

Is there a downside to using VC paper instead of graded paper?

-- Steven Fisher (, December 19, 2000.

Yes. Less sharpness. Of course, there are many upsides!

-- Sal Santamaura (, December 19, 2000.

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