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Alternative Photographic Processes - (Hand made photographic -emulsions and processes)

Papers & other support bases for alternative photographic processes:
While a variety of surfaces can be coated with various emulsions, paper is the most widely used for most processes and the most preferred. There is a great range in the quality, strength, weight, surface texture and even colour of different papers.


Before you begin experimenting ask what out come you would like to have with the final prints. If you are looking to produce fine art prints of archival standard - the highest quality that remain stable, then you will need to use high quality paper that is expensive. If on the other hand you are more interested in the aesthetic qualities, you might want to work with old paper which carries stains and artifacts from a past life. However, don't expect these papers to remain stable over a long period of time.


What ever paper you decide to use, you need a paper that is strong enough to process, and one which is either presized or you coat with a size to prevent staining of the paper.

The best papers for this procedure will be those that are not too soft and have been sized.

Working with paper and processes that do not require highly sized paper makes working much easier.

Unsized papers will soak the sensitizing solution too deeply and unevenly into the paper. (If you wish to experiment with softer papers, you may need to size them with gelatin before coating them.) Use any paper that can stand soaking, such as many watercolor, etching, and charcoal papers, commercial offset cover stock, or heavier sketchbook pages. Clobbered papers may bleed or fade. Any paper can be coated with an emulsion but there is great variation in both the and physical strength of papers, and many are not suitable for coating.


Recommended papers that need no size:

Arches Arjomari - This is a french made paper - 100% cotton- mould made - Gelatine tub-sized - air dried - 4 Deckle edges wter marked - Grain Sartine hot pressed - 300 G/m2 56 x 76 cm

Water mark in Arches Arjomari paper

Raise embossed aquarelle Arches marking in the corner of the paper.


Arches BKF Rives - 560 x 760 Velin Arches Blanc - This paper may require sizing

Water mark in Arches BKF Rives paper

Fabriano Satine Water Color Paper 300 grms Fabriano Paper

Ingres d'Arches MBM

MBM ingres d'Arches



Arches - water colour paper 185 GSM 100% cotton - French made

Arttec Oil sketchpad paper - Australian made

Canson drawing paper 220 gram acid free - For the Arcane project Tess Edwards and my self used this paper

Canson Montval - This is a French made paper which is 300g/m and has a good surface texture, it is acid free, has no optical brighteners and is mildew resistant - I used this paper for the LEAF print from the Impressions de Lumière project. It is well sized so it easily washes clean to a bright white of any stains from the cyanotype process.

Embossing mark impressed into the Canson Montval paper.

Surface texture of Canson Montval

Crane's Kid Finish

Hahnemuhle Fine Art - This paper is used for pigment printing and has a special coating that makes it difficult to wash out with Cyanotype. It produces excellent pigment prints for use with some processes over the top of the pigment like Van Dyke .

HAHNEMÜHLE 'TIEPOLO' paper (450gsm/200lb) (A FINE PAPER MANUFACTURER FROM GERMANY, with origins in the 16th century.)
A 100% cotton paper, fully sized, acid free, needs no stretching, available either Matt (NOT) or Rough surface:

Lana Royal

Magnani (Cartiera)

Water mark on Mangnani paper

managni paper





Strathmore watercolor paper - hot pressed

Paper strength & weight:

It should be remembered that any paper or support base is not only coated with the liquid emulsion but processed in liquid and needs to be strong enough to withstand this processing and washing. I have seen artists coat a thin piece of tissue paper with emulsion and then watch as it disintegrated during the processing. If you are unsure about a paper, test a small paper sample by soaking it in water at least an hour, or overnight, then pick it up and turn it over several times. If it tears easily or falls apart, it is unsuitable. Although the quality of paper differs greatly, the thickness of the paper gives some indication of strength. I have found 220gm weight paper very effective, but this relates to the strength of the paper and the physical dimensions of the sheets you are working with.

The larger the sheet dimensions, the greater the weight needs to be.

Using soft papers

Often it is not the construction of the paper but the weight and handling when wet that destroys it. A method where finer and softer papers can be taped down onto a board to coat expose and process it can be useful in retaining the sheet intact. (Use wettable package tape for this). If you don't want to introduce acid or contaminate the paper the board should be coated with sanding sealer or polyurethane varnish. Remember that if the paper is taped down this edge will be lost when the print is cut off the board.

pH value of paper:

The pH value of the paper and other additives in any paper determines stability of the paper over time. Papers with a low acidity will last a much longer time than papers with a high acidity. The purest papers are referred to as having a pH of 7 which is designated as neutral and the same as water. Using papers or materials with a higher acidity means they will react over time. Paper surface: Papers come in a range of surfaces which can be incorporated as part of the aesthetics or concept of the work, and generally course textured papers diffuse the detail of the image while smooth surfaced papers give the maximum sharpness and increase contrast.

Paper surface:

Papers come in a range of surfaces which can be incorporated as part of the aesthetics or concept of the work, and generally course textured papers diffuse the detail of the image while smooth surfaced papers give the maximum sharpness and increase contrast.

Paper resources:

While high quality papers like intaglio or etching paper have the desired quality, experimenting with a range of papers can produce some interesting results where the paper augments the image. Good information on paper qualities can be found at:


It is wise to store any work on paper with care. Dust and dirt that collects on paper left out for a length of time, this in turn collects moisture and can transfer acid onto the paper. Keep unframed finished works, or uncoated and processed paper wrapped in acid free tissue paper and stored in a suitable plastic bag.

The following table shows the width and height of all ISO A and B paper formats, as well as the ISO C envelope formats. The dimensions are in millimeters:

A Series Formats B Series Formats C Series Formats
4A0 1682 × 2378
2A0 1189 × 1682
A0 841 × 1189 B0 1000 × 1414 C0 917 × 1297
A1 594 × 841 B1 707 × 1000 C1 648 × 917
A2 420 × 594 B2 500 × 707 C2 458 × 648
A3 297 × 420 B3 353 × 500 C3 324 × 458
A4 210 × 297 B4 250 × 353 C4 229 × 324
A5 148 × 210 B5 176 × 250 C5 162 × 229
A6 105 × 148 B6 125 × 176 C6 114 × 162
A7 74 × 105 B7 88 × 125 C7 81 × 114
A8 52 × 74 B8 62 × 88 C8 57 × 81
A9 37 × 52 B9 44 × 62 C9 40 × 57
A10 26 × 37 B10 31 × 44 C10 28 × 40




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