Black keyline on prints : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

How do you get a good, clean, thin black line between the image and a white border? Its a very effective presentation, and I would like to offer this for some of my clients. Is there a commercially available tool for this, or is there some trick?


chuck k

-- chuck k (, December 05, 2001


What typically is done is to file out your negative holder to show the edge of the negative. You will have to adjust your easel carefully. There is an easel that you can "double print" a border but from what I have read, it is a pain.

-- Scott Walton (, December 05, 2001.

The glassless negative carriers for most enlargers are fairly expensive, and you may not want to permanently alter your carrier by filing it out. An alternative is to make a new carrier from a sandwich of 4-ply mat boards, in which you cut the oversized negative window with a mat cutter. Use beveled edges to keep the outer black printed edge sharp. The mat board alternative was suggested by Ed Buffaloe a while ago in response to a question about negative carriers for panoramic negatives.

-- Tim Nelson (, December 05, 2001.

Chuck: Fileing out a negative carrier or making a mat board carrier will work fine for full negative prints. For cropped prints made on a 4 bladed easel, after exposing your print, place a piece of mat board exactly covering your print area. Then open the easel blades just the width of your desired border and blast with white light. It takes a little practice but will look great after you get the hang of it.

-- Arden Howell (, December 05, 2001.

I agree with Arden on an inexpensive method that can work with a little practice. An alternative but related way is to have a mask (black matt board, square metal sheet, etc.) that is square, and expose a thin line along two connecting sides (for example, the top and the left side), and then reposition it to get the other two sides. Sometimes this is easier than trying to cut a mask that has the same reveal on all four sides at the same time, but that is also another method you can try.

There was also an article in Shutterbug at least three or four months ago on borders that goes over some techniques for creating different types of borders. The article also referred to several easels that can be used to create borders.

-- Jim Rock (, December 05, 2001.


If executed properly, all of the above suggestions will work, but here's another idea... I haven't actually tried it yet, but a professional printer I know uses this technique and gave me the idea.

Using any thin clear plastic sheating, like the stuff for overhead transparencies (the thinner the better) draw the border, key line or whaterever on the transparency film. You can even use a computer program to generate the printed transparency output. You will want to size this to the format negative you are shooting. Once you have the key line on the transparency film, expose it via contact on a piece of lith film. Develop the lith film and you should have a negative copy: the keyline will be clear film base and the rest of the negative area will be extremely dense. This is much easier to accomplish with LF negatives, but can be done with 35mm. It just requires more care. The nice thing about this method, is that once you have this negative, you can use it over and over.

Place the keyline negative in the carrier, carefully align the easel, and make an exposure; only the keyline, or black border will print. You only need a very short exposure, just enough to produce black through the clear film base of the key line. Remove the keyline negative and replace it with the negative you want to print. Readjust the easel and expose the paper as normal.


-- Pete Caluori (, December 07, 2001.

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