Toning & VC Papers : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

From a prior post regarding the problems I'm having with toning AGFA paper George replys: "I always avoid using variable contrast papers for prints I intend to tone. They are not really made for that job..."

-- George Papantoniou (, November 07, 2001.

George, or anyone else, can you please explain this.


-- r (, November 07, 2001


I tone almost everything I print, including VC papers. The only problem I have noticed is that sometimes if you use different filters, thereby utilizing different emulsions, you will end up with slightly different tonalities. I don't mind this, since I'm not normally striving for uniformity of tone from one print to the next.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, November 07, 2001.

I routinely tone AGFA VC Premium RC. It tones very nicely in selenium, taking a rich brownish tone. Ctein, in his book Post Exposure, recommends toning RC papers as a matter of course to lengthen print life.

Granted, not all RC papers tone well. (But that is true for some fiber papers as well.) Some, like Ilford Cooltone, take almost no color at all. AGFA RC, however, tones as readily as most fiber papers.

Incidentally, if the fixer contains hardener, toning will be limited if not completely negated.

-- Ted Kaufman (, November 07, 2001.

The scientific explanation that I can give is that the VC papers emulsion is more often "enriched" with chemicals that are supposed to keep its characteristics constant (for example, stabilisers that keep the print tone constant in different developers, dev temperature etc). You see, VC papers have a different target group than the fixed grade ones, they are manufactured for people who are bored of working in the darkroom (that want to get an acceptable result easier and faster). Fixed grade papers give a better result, but with greater pain and effort. So, the companies have thought that VC papers users would be annoyed if their papers would change their tonality when their developer gets exhausted, to give an easy example. And they have added some extra chemistry in the emulsion jusy to make them behave in a more constant way. The problem is that this same chemistry may interfere with the toner during the toning procedure and prevent it from doing its job, or just change the effect the toner is suppose to give. Another strange result might be that the different emulsions that are incorporated in the VC papers photosensitive layer might react differently in the toner. You see, in order to make them be what they are, VC papers contain chemicals like the ones we find in panchromatic film emulsions (colour sensitisers) that make them be sensitive in colours they otherwise would not be. Fixed grade papers usually just contain silver halides and a few additives that have been around since the invention of the dry plates... On the other hand, I won't disagree with anyone that claims he is toning VC papers with sucess, since the meaning of sucess is quite relative and only if he would compare results with some really sucessful ones would he be able to tell the difference...

George (really fanatic fixed grade paper user) Papantoniou

-- George Papantoniou (, November 08, 2001.


Atleast you honestly profess to be a fanatic about graded paper. Otherwise I would have had to take offense at the characterization of those who use VC papers as bored or maybe lazy darkroom workers. I'm not a fanatic about either type, although I probably use VC more than graded. But I tone everything. Yes, I recognize that split toning can occur, more with some papers than others. However, since I tone for permanence rather than a marked color change, I don't have objectionable results. By that, I mean that I have successful results. Is that subjective? Sure it is! Will it look the same as yours? Depends on the paper, toning methods (which vary tremendously) and our subjective eyes as well as our biases. I have seen plenty of successfully toned prints by great photographers, and I have no problem distinguishing my prints from theirs, because they are great and I'm less than great. But their toning vs. my toning has never bothered me. I'm guessing that by "really successful ones" you mean yours.

Anyway, I agree with your assessment about why the split toning occurs and I enjoy your answers when I see them. I couldn't resist writing when I saw your admission of fanaticism, which confirmed what I suspected as I read your answer. Some of us VC users are fanatics, too. Not all of us are bored or lazy!

-- Don Welch (, November 08, 2001.

George, right off the top of my head come the names John Sexton, Howard Bond and Bruce Barnbaum. Would you characterize these confirmed users of VC papers the less skilled, lazy types you refer to as the careless, bored workers who prefer VC paper to graded?

-- Ted Kaufman (, November 08, 2001.

Ted, I like the work of the fine printers you mentioned. I think that they use a lot of VC paper for different reasons, including the following :

With VC paper you can apply the fine technique of split-grade printing, which is really great and can help you to get acceptable prints out of rotten negatives.

VC papers are promotioned by the companies some of the persons you named have cooperated with for the promotion of their products.

Some of the persons you have named print other people's negatives, and people who print rotten negatives often have to use VC papers in order to correct them. (this refers to the first reason, because I don't think that any of the people you mentioned would ever make a negative so bad that it would need a VC paper to be printed).

VC papers are easier to work with and often cheaper than the fixed grade ones. I don't think that the persons you mentioned don't have the money to afford expensive papers, but if you print a lot...

Everyone is using VC papers, and some of the persons you mentioned are having teaching carreers (workshops etc), so they have to be able to teach their audience what it wants to learn, that is how to get nice prints on VC papers (they must have a hard time doing it, though...).

Saying bad things about products that the companies count on to keep their industry going is not a good idea, when you write articles in magazines (I do that in my country and I know) and want to maintain a nice relationship with the people you will some day ask for help (for sposoring a seminar or workshop, for example). You have to consider the fact that since the VC papers have (almost completely) gotten the fixed grade ones out of the market, a big problem of the paper manufacturers and photo retailers has been solved: they have to stock one fifth of the total amount of merchandise they stocked before, and they don't have to worry about those extreme grades (1 and 5) that never got sold and stayed on their shelves for ages.

Well, I've said it all, I think. Well, I can make up more, but then it will be too long.

-- G-fixed grade Pap (, November 09, 2001.

Ricardo, I don't want to say that everyone who uses VC paper is lazy, there are some VC users who are only misguided ;-)

-- Fixed-George Papantoniou (, November 09, 2001.

George: I agree with your point that if we don't support a product it will disappear. However, with that said, if Kodak, Ilford and Agfa elect not to make graded papers for economic reasons, in spite of a devoted yet small audience, it opens the door for smaller companies like Forte and Bergger. That's not such a bad thing.

As far as the photographers I mentioned chosing to use VC papers: Howard Bond has printed all of his most recent portfolios entirely on VC papers. I don't think he would choose VC papers, if they compromised the quality of his presentation, simply to influence his workshop students. Branbaum states he uses VC for split printing, but increasingly uses VC for the bulk of his printing. Sexton does do promotion work for Kodak, and thereby supports their products, but his prints are beautiful enough to suggest he would not diminish his work by choosing an inferior product.

-- Ted Kaufman (, November 09, 2001.

I'm having some real problems with George Papantoniou's opinions on graded paper. I'm no Sexton or Bond but I care passionately about my work and am forever striving to improve and I use variable contrast papers, Forte for prefernce. I don't produce rotten negatives and I don't consider myself misguided. You would not have heard of him over in the States but we have a photographer called Barry Thornton. Barry, like me, is passionate about his photography (and is 100 times more accomplished than me). I have seen many examples of his work both on VC and Graded papers and they all look superb. Sure, they look different in some instances but I would not say that prints on one type of paper are superior but the overriding impression I get that Barry manages to match the paper to the image in order to get the result he wants. And that's my point. I will use any means necessary to produce the image I want be it graded or VC, although I have not used graded papers for some time. I would suggest that George manages to match his viusalation using graded papers exclusively, and good luck to him, but I also detect a slight "graded eliteism" which I find a little frustrationg. Enjoy your photography George and I sincerely hope all your darkroom hours are fullfilling. I know mine are.

-- Adrian Twiss (, November 20, 2001.

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