Carbon Journal, Day 12

Day 8: Sizing Watercolor Paper

When starting out with carbon printing, it's very easy to excited over the textures created with relief in single transfer images. The beautiful semi-matte shadows raised above the mid-tones. Highlights glimmering from the glossy paper base below. When done correctly, and with the right image, relief is simply gorgeous. Fortunately, this is but one face of many that carbon transfer printing is capable of. 

One defining property of carbon is that the final gelatin image is resting on top of the support substrate. This allows carbon prints to be transferred to a wide variety of surfaces including, but not limited to: photographic paper, watercolor paper, plastics, glass, sheet metal, wood, and more! An added benefit to this substrate flexibility is the longevity of carbon. So long as the surface will hold the sizing (gelatin gets stronger with age), the carbon print will last.  Simply put, a carbon transfer on an archival surface such as 100% cotton rag paper, will last much, much longer than any "archival" inkjet or silver gelatin print. 

So how do we get to such an archival print? Well, the first step is to prepare your paper...

11:00AM - Weighed out 10g of gelatin, brought mixture to 200ml total with addition of distilled water. Let bloom 30 minutes. 

11:32AM - Thinner 5% gelatin mixture is heated up to 110 degrees (F), and given time to "gas out" like it's thicker brother, carbon "glop". 

11:58AM - Pre-torn 5x7" pieces of Fabriano Artistico extra white, a 300gsm cotton rag paper, are laid out on a flat surface that will wick heat away, letting gelatin set quickly. These adorable little 5x7's are for Brandon Nedwek, an upcoming Carbon Workshop attendee who will be bringing his own 4x5 negatives to print. Can't wait! ^__^

The thin sheet of plated steel is also used for making "high relief" tissues, stay tuned for that journal in the coming days!

The thin sheet of plated steel is also used for making "high relief" tissues, stay tuned for that journal in the coming days!

11:59AM - 5-10ml of hot gelatin is measured out into pyrex shot glass (double-duty darkroom equipment!), then has 2-3 drops of 37% formaldehyde added to harden the gelatin mixture. *Please wear gloves and have good ventilation for this step!*

Not pictured, wetting the foam brush in warm water followed by "shaking out" brush before applying gelatin.

Not pictured, wetting the foam brush in warm water followed by "shaking out" brush before applying gelatin.

12:00PM - Warm gelatin is brushed on gently, but quickly, onto paper surface. Too much pressure may result in uneven streaks and bubbles. Again, the trace amounts of formaldehyde fumes are still dangerous, so be sure to coat in a well ventilated area!

You don't wanna know just how much of this stuff I handled without gloves during grade school science class! x__x

You don't wanna know just how much of this stuff I handled without gloves during grade school science class! x__x

12:05PM - A few minutes after gelatin coating is complete, the paper is starting to curl slightly, and needs to "cure" for several weeks. The longer the gelatin coating is allowed to harden, the stronger the surface will become to hold the final gelatin image. Remember, the surface has to be able to withstand a pre-soak of ~60 degrees (F) and a development bath of ~110 degrees (F). 

As the gelatin hardens more, the curl will go down slightly, but the curl goes away instantly in the pre-soak bath. 

As the gelatin hardens more, the curl will go down slightly, but the curl goes away instantly in the pre-soak bath. 

Well, that's all there is to gelatin sizing folks! A quick, simple process that allows any carbon printer to up the archival stability of their prints. These prints will show little/no relief, but will be nearly as impressive on this heavy-bodied, brilliant matte surface. Coming up next, getting ready for high-relief printing!