Yellowing of prints : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

After years of doing strictly color, I switched to black and white a few years ago. These are black and white portraits on 2 1/4 and printed usually to 16x20 or 20x24. Some of the photographs I framed were starting to yellow in as little as 3 months.

My process initally was not very careful but since the problem emerged, I have changed to a two bath fix and even an archival print washer. I use Ilford Multi IV RC and dev, stop and fix in Ilford chemistry. Stop 30sec, fix1min each bath. Wash 2 min in tray and 5min archival washer. However prints that I drymount with an Ademco press were the ones that yellowed. I use strictly archival board, Seal archival tissue, and release paper in front of the print while in the press.I press for 45sec at 185deg. A large number of prints have yellowed but not all. The kicker is I also had prints mounted by someone with a vacuum press during this time, even the ones with less than anal chemistry monitoring, and none of them has yellowed at all.

I have asked Ilford, as well as a number of pro printers and nobody seems to be able to figure it out. Any ideas would be appreciated and I know, SWITCH TO FIBER BASE.



-- Michael McBlane (, January 08, 2002


Hmmmm, very strange. The only thing I could suggest is double the fixing time and the use of Agfa Sistan after the final rinse. ?:-/

-- Patric (, January 08, 2002.

In his book *Post Exposure,* Ctein writes about his experience with RC paper and yellowing of prints. His conclusion is that RC prints, if not stabilized with treatments such as selenium or Sistan, may not be as stable as fiber based paper. You might want to look up this chapter in his book, which should be available in most libraries.

So if you are using RC paper, especially if you are selling your prints commercially, it is probably best to tone your prints for archival permanence. No need to switch to fiber if RC serves your purpose, but go the extra process to stabilize your work.

-- Jim Rock (, January 08, 2002.

Forgot to add that my general knowledge is that yellowing is often related to improper fixing or washing, or of some contamination in this process. This is expecially true with some toning processes like brown toner, but you didn't indicate that you toned your prints.

-- Jim Rock (, January 08, 2002.

Aren't archival washers made for longer washing times like 30-60 minutes? I don't think there will be so many changes of water in only five minutes in them. I wash my RC prints in trays only and with lots of water. Just a thought.

-- Patric (, January 08, 2002.

Does the yellowing happen on black silver image area or white background area? A big difference.

Fixing in Multigrade fixer 1+4 for a minute wigh good agitation and washing in a tray for two minutes also with a good agitation at 15C or above is enough. Multigrade fixer is a rapid fixer in very mildly acidic solution, and is very easy to wash off. The problem is most likely somewhere else. What really matters in washing is agitation. If you change water for once or twice, you don't even have to change water - whatever remained in the paper after a couple water changes that is diluted in a tray-full of water leaves insignificant amount if fixer from silver stability point of view. But remember to give a good stirring. Many archival washer designs could even use fishtank pump to circulate water instead of or in addition to relying on fresh water intake to circulate water. After all, I would peacefully go back to the simplified process and think about the real suspect. Do you use wetting agent? (for RC, I recommend wiping instead.) How you dry prints? Have you ever toned prints? and did they suffer the same degradation?

-- Ryuji Suzuki (, January 08, 2002.

Dear Michael, The bottom line is that RC is not archival! With that in mind why waste all your time and effort on a print that WILL NOT LAST regardless of yellowing. SWITCH TO FIBER!

-- John Elder (, January 08, 2002.

As for the last post from John - the latest test from the IPI show that there is no reason to believe that RC papers can not be as archival as Fiber. The defining factor of the archivalness of any material is based upon how they are stored. An RC print that has been processed and washed properly, toned and Siataned would last as long as a fiber print recieving the same, IF it were stored properly. With that said - the problem you are having might be in the type of washer you are using. Most "archival" washers end up being a lot of $ spent on less than perfect results. In an extensive set of test done by David Vestal - he found that the only washer that came close to living up to its claims of completely cleaning a print was the cascade type of washer. And even this type required at least an hour of wash time to truly clean the print(s).

-- James Megargee (, January 10, 2002.

James, you don't need such a lengthy washing with resin coated papers to wash to their best permanence. Even with fiber based paper, once you rinse the paper thoroughly, the residual fixer after dilution in a tray of water is good enough to qualify commonly accepted archival standard. The more influential factor is water agitation, temperature and the kind of water impurities. Certain kinds of mineral in water act like wash aid agent. If you are a fiber based paper user, I recommend you to run your own test to test your washing technique candidates.

I think the biggest benefit of "archival washers" is convenience. They are not *necessary* to wash prints to any reasonable archival standard.

-- Ryuji Suzuki (, January 10, 2002.

James' advice about the IPI articles is right on...but I doubt it will do much to stop the old rc vs fiber rant. I don't know exactly what's causing your prints to "yellow" out, but I will say that I work with an Ilford 2150 processor. We've had some problems in the past, but have been able to troubleshoot our way through them, although it hasn't been easy in certain cases. In a production environment, RC is what is used, but the key is to understand that it is _not_ going to last forever. Prioritize your materials to what you need....I'm sure you all will beat up on me after this, but hey--take a poll of the archives/museums & research libraries in your area and find one that doesn't use RC paper at least most of the time.

What we've done is to make some ringarounds of different paper types and ran them all through the processor at the same time, but did variations with different toners and dilutions. Then we'd do a low-tech test and just hang them around in susceptible know like next to a fabrication paint-spray booth where stuff like toulene and lacquers are used....doesn't take a genius to figure out why those untoned control prints crapped out in 3 months....funny thing is, the toned ones looked fine, even years later.....or hanging the entire ringaround on an ordinary office wall, but under fluorescent lights for 24/7 for about a year and a half....again, not much of a no-brainer there. Actually in this one, there was Brand X's paper that was a control that did rather poorly untoned, but the toned was fine...but Brand el-cheapo (a supposedly inferior old-style rc paper) did fine even untoned! Go incorporated, alot of variables...mostly in air pollution, which is why you should tone everything either in selenium (strong, no weak dilution) or sulfide toners. The other no-brainers were like this: the valve on the wash water recirculating broke, no recirculation in the tank....doesn't take Einstein to figure out why the prints silvered out a couple of months later....the earlier 2150's had an inferior wash-tank arrangement, that made Ilford add a spray bar to the tank to get a better wash....the machines actually fix & wash the prints to the ansi/iso spec for an "archival" print. The std. is set against a certain std. of storage as is the std. for fiber prints...BUT most people don't know this or ignore it, so they tend to badmouth rc...which will not last as long as fiber, but that's sort of a moot point, because it may last long enough for a person's useage just fine. The second part of the life expectancy--LE--(the actual word that's used, "archival" is meaningless) is the actual storage...this is the big question mark. Know your materials & go from there....

For a slightly longer lasting print (although our prints are used in short to med. term exhibitry where they are under illumination & display for about 8-10 hrs. a day and 6 days a week---they tend to last 5+ yrs. this way, untoned which is a harsh condition...the problems that have occured are because some dumba** has used a nasty product like liquid nails or something to mount them to a wall, or used a horrible cleaning product or oil-based paint nearby....beware.)---anyways, this is what we do with the machine: turn off the dryer, and run the damp print out. Re-wet in water for a minute or so, then tone in selenium 1:9 or stronger. re-wash for about 5 minutes at a warm temp--like 75-80 degrees. If the edges frill, trim them off (make an oversize print with big borders). Dry in another clean, heat dryer. Believe it or not, the 2150 running at 90 degrees in under a minute will fix & wash a print good enough to pass the tests, and to not stain in selenium this way...if the chem. is fresh & the wash tank is okay & the temp is high.....YOU don't need that archival washer. It's probably not giving you an adequate change in water, a good old tray & siphon is about all you need really. Wash the prints for 5 min. , no more than 6-7.

Lastly, don't use dev. incorporated papers if you can help it...and dry mounting is anything _but_ archival, but then RC printing isn't the same as fiber either....but if you dry mount fiber, that's not technically "archival" either. That cold mount PMA material from 3M works great for RC paper. Alot of dry mount adhesives are not really that great to use, and the tissues themselves are glasseine or something like that....your problem could be the tissue, but I think it would take many years for that to pop up.....

The problem with saying "yellowing" is that it's sorta vague...yellowing could be because of inadequate fixing, but if the wash was too short, that might cause silvering out in the shadows as well...if pollutants are getting to the prints, they tend to look like reddish-orange patches or little blobs somewhat like what they call "redox blemishes". When the dev. incorporating agents go bad & rise to the emulsion surface (MG III Rapid was like this), the whole print will turn a brownish/tan-yellow. Even the non-image area. It's really hard to pin down this stuff, you need to take it one step at a time and try to do a process of elimination....I know some of you all won't be able to resist the temptation to say "rc sucks, use fiber, nyah-nyah-nyah..." but I work in a production lab....put yourselves in MY shoes on a 40 hr/week + some 9-5 printing it for 10+ yrs., with a third of that time using trays, and some fiber....making at times 350+ 5x7s of a neg in a'd learn to want to use that machine & rc paper as best you could too....if something goes wrong, figure it out or at least try....

hope this helps, as always my opinion only.

-- DK Thompson (, January 10, 2002.

Ryuji - I did not mean to imply that RC required a 1 hour wash time in my last post. I'm well aware of that. My reference was to Vestal testing of various "archival" washers and the extensive time that most of them require to actualy get a print (on Fiber) to some type of archival standard. Some tested to be little different than running a hose into a tray. The problem with most of them is cross contamination and the tendency of the print to stick to the dividers during washing. What is not often mentioned in a discussion on this issue is something that DK begins to touch on in his post. Thats the volumn of prints that you are talking abou. If a persons average printing session is only 2 or 3 images, then much of what is recommended concerning archival processing and proper washing becomes quite simple. A Kodak Sphion would be fine for washing. Its all a matter of degrees.

-- james Megargee (, January 11, 2002.

Question For James Megargee: If you are making a print for exhibition, assume a traveling show over a period of 3years,wouldn't you select a fiber print? If you are making a print for sale at a photo gallery, assume Howard Greenberg's gallery, wouldn't you print on fiber? By the way how are you?

-- John Elder (, January 13, 2002.

James is right about the washers...most if not all vertical "archival" washers are water-sucking monsters. They only serve as the "convenience" of not having to manually shuffle prints around trays or wash individual prints one at a time. I've used one for over ten years and it takes me about 70 gallons on average to achiveve a full wash (as per the HT-2 tests) no matter if I'm running the abbreviated Ilford fix sequence or the Kodak method. That's a heck of alot of water for just one or two this instance, a siphon and an oversized tray is almost better...

They don't recommend that you wash all the hypo out of the paper either...but an average person outside of a conservation lab probably can't determine just how much should be left in. But that's why they don't recommend the use of Hypo Eliminator (not talking about Hypo Clear here, HE is different) anymore need trace amounts of hypo to protect against pollutants. It's the crap in the atmosphere now in an industrial society & urban areas that is actually killing alot of these prints.

As to what someone would pick for a traveling show or whatever...well just depends on what the final use is going to be...the "fiber based union" may balk at printing on RC for this, but there can be good reasons to do so if you're happy with the way your prints look....if a print is damaged in transit, or somehow while hanging--you're not at as much of a loss...three years is nothing to be on display. We've had untoned, un-archival prints on display for closer to ten years almost fine. Prints that the public can (& will) run their hands over and kids can't seem to resist trying to destroy.A couple of years is like a drop in the bucket for a display time. We had a traveling exhibit from the NARA last year and the entire thing was done on lightjet output c-prints--both b&w and color images--and they looked absolutely great. I saw the original exhibit up at the archives in DC earlier, and they had fiber based prints on display, but the traveling show was just as good....the LE of those fuji c-prints is like 50 yrs. or so. I think you'll find that if you get outside of the fiber-only crowd, that alot of people do use other opinions only here as always.

-- DK Thompson (, January 14, 2002.

John, I'm doing well. As for the question - DK experience is the same as my own. What I have learned over time is that you put the negative on the type of paper that best expresses the images intent. At the lab that's sometimes RC sometimes Fiber. As for gallery sales- it depends upon what the gallery will except. Most will take RC if it meets archival standards. As a side note - you would be suprised at how many ( then again maybe not) would not know or care if the prints were actualy archival.

-- James Megargee (, January 24, 2002.

"the latest test from the IPI show that there is no reason to believe that RC papers can not be as archival as Fiber. The defining factor of the archivalness of any material is based upon how they are stored. An RC print that has been processed and washed properly, toned and Siataned would last as long as a fiber print recieving the same, IF it were stored properly."

No reason other than experience. EVERY time the makers tell us RC is fine & should last as long... or outlast... fibre papers, we get out ass burned big time. For commercial, quick work & short term, RC is fine. It has a greater range of tones from pure black to paper white than any fibre paper on the market if you pick the right RC paper. The only thing that comes close is ferrotyped B&W glossies. The titanium dioxide layer causes problems. Ozone causes problems. Sulfur dioxide causes problems. For all we know cow farts have a negative effect on the damn stuff too. It just does not last as it should.

As for dry mounting. Independent testing shows dry mounting prints on Bainbridge Alpharag Artcare board gives an extra layer of protection from contamination coming through the back of the print. One of the biggest dangers to prints when on display is the unprotected handling while setting up or mounting. Handprints show up after a bit as bleached out areas, turning some print ugly colors.

We still don't quite know just how to make prints last forever. With the known problems with RC, some RC, it is enough to keep one from using it for anything important. Even if only one print in 20 has problems, do you really want that one customer calling you a few years down the road because the $900 print you sold them is fading off the walls?

As for archival board, there are a number of makers in the market. Bainbridge Alpharag Artcare has been tested & found to work well in protecting prints from outgassing and pollutants in the air. Check out View Camera magazine for the article by Michael A. Smith on this. One other kicker is the habit some have of putting prints in wooden frames which introduces another set of gasses to attack your prints.

If you want, try Scotch PMA (positionable mounting adhesive) for RC as it does not use heat in the mounting. If you do, it goes on easily & quickly and per Light Impressions, is considered "archival" in quality.

UV filtering glazing can only help, whether glass or acrylic. One more worry in that light itself attacks prints, with the brigheners in RC prints being suspect here.

If you want to continue to use RC try a more vigorous rinse the entire time, extending it a little more. Make sure your fix regimen is with fresh solutions. Tone the prints, every one of them, or treat in Agfa Sistan. Not a perfect solution but the best current knowledge seems to be able to come up with.

Try also an air filtration unit where you work on the prints when you mount & mat them. Air quality has more to do with print life than some suspect. Almost all aging testing is done in sulfur dioxide gases. This is a big component of the air near internal combustion engines... and it attacks silver prints.

In short, tighten up every step of the process and hope for the best. Part of that 'best' you already know, fibre papers still have a lot going for them. If you want the work to last, no matter what RC "should" do, use fibre materials & tightly controlled technique every step of the way.

-- Dan Smith (, January 24, 2002.

Assuming a given polluted inviornment where a print is not in a light sealed vacum box, Who out there disagrees that a fiber based print properly processed will have a LONGER LIFE expectancy than a RC print. I am not asking what a person can get away with selling to ignorant or uncaring people, but rather how can you dissagree that fiber paper is the longer lasting product. It seem that the commercial printers are trying to justify their printing of RC print! If I was printing those large quantaties I too would probably try to print RC. However how can anyone argue that RC is a better product than Fiber. To make such an argument requires all kinds of qualifications as seen in this thread. Regardless of what a gallery might accept, it seem to me that you would ,without exeption, want to deliver a product that the ultimate consumer can have the greatest confidence when he or her hangs that ptint in his hime, office etc.

-- John Elder (, January 25, 2002.

There seems to be a misunderstanding concerning where this thread has gone. I was not advocating printing on RC paper over Fiber. Nor was I saying that if volumn printing was involved that the automatic choice of paper would be RC. Myself - I prefer Fiber. But not because of its archival quality, but because of the ability to control the image quality during processing (developer). But with that said, I have images that were printed on RC material that are 15+ years old that have not changed a bit. The problem with RC material is, that over the long run, how it is stored becomes the defining factor as to how long the image will last. This is no different than c- prints and is the reason why museums have had to install special storage situation for their color print collections. It is well known now that the greatest danger to ANY type of material is enviromental pollutants. Hence the need for proper storage. The primary problem with RC materials "archivalness" comes from its display conditions. Because of its makeup it will give off "fumes" when stored in a sealed frame that become a detrament to itself. As a side note to all this - the last time I visited the IPI I was shown some prints (single weight fiber) that were printed in the 40's that showed no signs of fading. And these were made long before the use of Clearing agents, toners, etc were commonly used. The conclusion was that they were no more than properly fixed, washed and stored.

-- James Megargee (, January 26, 2002.

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