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

Techniques for applying photographic emulsions

Suitable brushes for the application of the emulsion can differ between the desired aesthetic effect the photographer is after, the surface of the support base to be coated and variations in processes.

While the emulsion can be picked up by dunking the brush in the emulsion in the normal manner, some workers prefer to pour or drop solution onto paper with eyedropper or plastic spoon and spread evenly with brush.

For an even coating a wide foam brush works well. But where broken brush marks are desired a thick bristled brush works best. Depending upon the process, usually one coat is all that is necessary.

Two thick coats may result in dull, silvery or chalky images, which may or may not be desirable.

Even application:
Many photographers applying these emulsions strive to coat the paper over the entire surface of the paper all the way to the edge in an even way where there are no application aberrations. And for some processes like gum bichromate, two brushes might be used, one to spread the emulsion, the other to blend the laps evenly. A foam roller can be used to smooth out the coating, but of you want to retain the brush marks on the edge only use this in the centre of the emulsion application.

Brush Marks:

However, for many artists one of the attractions and aesthetic features of alternative processes is the way the emulsion can be coated onto the paper leaving a loose edge reference to the rectangular area where the image is to made. Brushes can be selected with coarse bristles that separate as the brush runs dry on the paper and create a certain aesthetic. Usually this is controlled so there is a ragged edge around the area where the emulsion is applied.


Uneven application:

The emulsion can be applied so there are areas not covered which cut through the final image and leave gaps.

By using the side of a feather, the emulsion can be applied in a manner where the coverage is very broken.

Emulsion thickness:

The emulsion might be applied in various thickness on the paper, thicker in some places where it is allowed to pool up and thinner in others where it is brushed out.


In some situations the emulsion can be splashed or flicked onto the paper from the brush, but care must be taken to make sure this is done in a safe manner.


Free Form:

The application of the emulsion can break the rectangular format entirely and can actually be painted on the base to form motifs, shapes or symbols of any desire. More

From Aporian emulsions


Repelling base:

Notice the area where the photocopy text has repelled the emulsion.

For an interesting effect, the paper might be coated with another material that repels the emulsion. For the Hermetic Arcanum project with Tess Edwards I took a small book and photocopied the pages onto an A3 sheet of paper. The Emulsion was then painted on in the form of various alchemic symbols. In places where the emulsion was thin the photocopy toner repelled it, producing some subtle nuances.

However, applying a liquid emulsion over another medium that is either water soluble or can migrate and blend with the liquid can produce undesirable results. For instance applying an emulsion over charcoal produces a grey wash in the white areas of the image.



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