The Colour of Paper

I’d really only knew about using photographic paper as a capture medium when I bought the Titan pinhole and even then I didn’t use it much with the Titan.


It wasn’t until I bought the Crown Graphic that I started to use paper a bit more because of the speed increase using a lens.

The Direct Positive paper from Harman Ilford offers such an ethereal look, I love it.

With the Titan pinhole package came some 5×4 cut sheets of multgrade paper to make negatives, this was fun but weird having a paper negative.

My brief experiments were a bit screwed up due to bad processing/bad chemicals but I got the gist of it.


Paper Negatives
My interest in multigrade paper continued when I bought the Graphic view. I won’t mention the time I thought I had flashes strong enough to affect the paper but I learned my lesson.


I then went onto use paper in my homemade ultra large format camera.

Building the camera was a whole lot of fun and an experience I might repeat some day.


I can’t remember when it struck me but I wondered, why stop at B&W multigrade paper, why not use colour paper?

So I bought 50 sheets of Fuji Crystal photographic paper for about £30, which is insanely cheap compared to some black and white paper, and I started down the slippery path.

The question was, “how do I develop it?” this answer lay in an APUG post that claimed the only real difference between RA4, the paper developer kit, and C41 was the CD developer (CD3 in RA4 and CD4 in C41). The post claimed the CD developers were very similar with C41’s CD yielding ‘close enough’ colour accuracy.

They were actually talking about using C41 to develop prints made from negatives but that was enough for me to start experimenting, I still had a working C41 kit at home and went to work!

My first experiments weren’t that successful but still interesting at least.

First up was a self portrait in the mirror. The exposure was about 2 minutes wide open with an orangey light from above and dull overcast daylight spilling in from the side.

Is it over exposed or over developed, and why so blue?

The negative:


Developing/BLIX times were around 3-4 minutes, stabalising for a minute.

Next up was a bright red leafed plant.

The negative


This was developed for about 1 minute and BLIX’d for about 2 minutes and clearly underdeveloped. The colours are a bit more in tune with what the camera saw when inverted unlike the last time.

Next up was one of Anna’s toys lit by orangey ceiling lights and a modicum of daylight spilling in from behind the camera. The negative is very red unlike the plant which came out green (red when inverted or contact printed).



Why so different from the plant?

It made me think about what light the paper is getting. The light in the room was quite orange from the ceiling lights and I wondered if the camera was simply transferring that ‘true’ orange colour onto the paper.

So I went back to the red tablecloth and plant to see if the redness from the first plant photo was down to underdevelopment.



Maybe it was poor development that caused the first plant pic to be rendered green then red when inverted.

My colour theory is the negatives are the colours represent what the paper is seeing so when it’s inverted the colours are also inverted.

I tried to test this with a photo of my first ‘proper’ camera; a Pentax K1000.

Here I made one frame as normal and on the second I held a green, non graded, colour glass filter over the lens to offer a redish warm light onto the paper.

Here’s the non filtered image:

The negative is noticeably warmer and the reverse is a lot cooler.

Here’s the green filtered image:

To me, the reversed image is much warmer but not as red as I thought it could be; I expected the green filter to dominate the tones producing a very red image.

Very interesting!

Moving on a few days I was approached on Flickr by TheAntiMark about how I was making these images because he was also experimenting with colour paper negatives and he opened a massive can of beautiful juicy worms full of ideas that I just can’t wait to experiment with.

The most interesting experiment will be making positive prints from the paper rather than negatives. The process isn’t perfected but it has a lot of potential.

If this is something you’re interested in then please checkout this Flickr group for ideas and experiments: Colour Paper Negatives

More about this soon, possibly this weekend (13 jan 2013).


5 thoughts on “The Colour of Paper

  1. This is a fantastic post. I haven’t used the paper that came with my Titan. I’m kind of afraid to but after reading this I am going to give it a try. Thank you


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