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History of the bromoil process

Writer / David W. Lewis

The history of the bromoil process and an excerpt from the David W. Lewis’ book “The art of Bromoil and Transfer”.

The bromoil process was invented in 1907 be Englishman C. Welbourne Piper on a suggestion from E.J. Wall. Wall had previously worked out the theory but never actually applied it. The bromoil transfer technique was invented by Fred Judge FRPS and first published in 1909 by C.H. Hewitt. It was subsequently made popular by Frenchman Robert Damachy who work in the Oil or Rawlins Process. Mr. Rawlins employed a roller to ink up his oil prints before the proper brushes became available. F.J. Mortimer and Dr. E. Mayer should also be credited with significant contributions and refinements to the process.

A bromoil print is simply a silver bromide or chlorobromide photograph from which the silver is removed and a greasy pigment substituted. This is
accomplished by first immersing the black and white print in a chemical solution which bleaches away the silver image and converts into varying degrees of insolubility the gelatin coating which holds the silver.

The matrix as it is now called, is immersed in warm water where the gelatin swells in direct inverse proportion to the amount of silver originally contained in the emulsion. In the shadow areas, the gelatin is very hard and thus swells very little. The highlights on the other hand remain soft and swell considerably. When a greasy pigment is applied to the moist gelatin surface with the stagfoot-shaped brush, the ink is accepted freely in the shadows and the lower tonal values. The highlights in the print because they are swollen with water reject the ink, while the intermediate tones accept the ink proportionately.

The Bromoil Transfer

A bromoil transfer is made by placing the completed inked up bromoil print in intmate contact with an artist paper. This sandwich is then pulled through an etching or bromoil press. The result is a layer of pigment on the surface of the paper. The pigment leaves a matt surface and takes on the texture of the transfer paper.

The art of bromoil and transfer
The Art of Bromoil & Transfer
by David W. Lewis
A book focussed on the bromoil and transfers processes.

 

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