This article should be read in conjunction with the introduction to the Lith Printing process. It is based on 2 parts of a 5 part Lith printing series that I wrote earlier this year (2004) for ‘Black & White Photography’.
The first part lists the current lithable papers that I know of and use (about 60), together with some brief thoughts on how to choose them. The second part lists the Lith developers that I know of and have used, again with some thoughts on their use. There may be other suitable products that remain outside my experience.
A newer addition to this materials list can be found as a pdf download here
Current status of suitable papers for Lith Printing
Kodalith paper and Sterling Lith paper were both much loved dedicated Lith papers. Both have been out of production now for years.
The Kentona, Art Classic, Tapestry, Luminos emulsions changed when EEC laws restricted the use of cadmium in the manufacturing process. Although these papers were fine art warm tone general papers they had unique properties when Lith printed and then selenium toned. Although the new cadmium-free versions of these papers both print and Lith print very well they are quite different to the old and no longer have the multi-colour potential in selenium that their predecessors had. They remain excellent choices for the process as well as for conventional fine printing.
Fotospeed Lith paper was originally Sterling Lith F. A new European paper replaced it when the Sterling factory in India was destroyed. This new version has also undergone emulsion changes designed to improve its Lith printing qualities and a new uncoated version has been launched this year. It is a very ‘lithy’ paper tending towards the graphic. Shadow areas often take on a gritty or rough textured appearance.
Forte papers also underwent some emulsion changes just after my Lith printing book was released. They too still Lith print extremely well. Some of their fringe properties (bleach-back, bleach and redevelopment etc) may now be different to some of those described in the tables in the back of my Lith printing book.
Changes in paper emulsions are a fact of life. We all know that printing papers are periodically changed for a variety of reasons and I know that more changes are on the way. There is no point in mourning what is gone – we simply have to deal with it and move on! Fortunately there is still an amazing choice available to us.
Spoilt for choice
I have listed here nearly 60 current papers that can be used for Lith printing, many of them excellent and distinctive for one reason or another. Some are marketed under different names in different countries. As I have only included here papers from my darkroom there may be even more. Used with the different developers described here, you can see that we are still truly spoilt of choice. If that is not enough for you the list of useable papers becomes even bigger if you consider bleach and redevelopment in Lith developer.
How to choose
At first sight the choice may seem bewilderingly large. There are several considerations that may make your selection easier:
Do you want an ‘all round’ paper for both Lith and general printing, or specific papers for each?
If wanting to experiment with Lith, rather than using it regularly, this might be the most important factor for you. There are some top B&W exhibition papers that also Lith print beautifully. Forte and Oriental are examples. There are plenty of others too (see list below).
Do you want a warm or cold tone image?
Some papers ‘naturally’ Lith print to very warm colours – rich chocolate brown, orange, maroon, pink, salmon, or golden yellow-brown. Some give cooler hues of mushroom, putty or milky coffee. Both Foma and Forte make a range of papers from very warm to cold. They all Lith print, although the warmest are the most loved for this process. Technique can also play a large part in the final image colour, as can developers, bleaches and toners.
Do you want fibre-based or resin-coated paper?
There are now more excellent choices for both than ever before.
Does the image need a graphic gritty coarse interpretation, or a gentle soft subtle one?
Fotospeed Lith and Cachet Lith Paper RC-F yield more gritty graphic results, the former giving a coarse textured appearance to the blacks, almost like canvass. Fomatone MG and the various Polywarmtone variants can give deliciously smooth subtle results in Lith that tone wonderfully. Some, like FomatoneMG/ Acugrade Warmtone change character dramatically from one to the other with developer dilution.
Fortunately there are budget papers that Lith print very well. However, in pursuit of a particular look other properties of some papers may well override cost considerations.
The issue of graded paper vs. variable contrast paper is not really relevant to Lith printing. The contrast can often be altered over 5 or 6 grades in either without the use of filters, simply by altering exposure &/or development (see ‘ golden rules‘ in my previous article).
Recommended Lith printable papers
There are simply too many good papers to review in great depth here and too many variations for each to cover in full, so here is a synopsis to guide you in your own experiments. The colours and effects listed are typical but often may be varied considerably by processing techniques. They are listed in alphabetical order rather than as a performance rating. The availability given is only a guide. Some may be more widely available than I have indicated here.
Bergger: France, available Europe, UK, USA. Lovely high quality general papers that also Lith print well. Have something of a cult following.
- Bergger Prestige CB Art. A warmtone graded paper. Be patient under the enlarger – a slow paper.
- Bergger Prestige NB Art. A neutral tone paper.
- Bergger Variable VCCM , VCCB (warmtone), VCCBS (cream).
Cachet/fappco: USA. Treat as for Maco papers.
- Cachet Expo RF FB. Neutral/cool tone paper containing gold chloride in addition to silver. Excellent for Lith printing. Similar colour and effect to the original Sterling Lith paper, but until recently without the problem of pepper fogging. Recent batches exhibit very minor fine pepper fogging. Also a good general purpose paper.
- Expo WA
- Multibrom VCFB WA. Both warmtone lithable papers.
Classic Arts: Continental Europe. High quality general exhibition papers, superb in Lith developer. Process as Forte.
- Classic Arts Museum
- Classic Arts PW, Polywarmton. Gloss & chamois variable contrast warmtone, ivory base paper. Compare to Bergger Prestige VCCB and Forte.
- Classic Arts Polykalton. A ‘cold’ Bromide VC paper – grainy colder Lith prints.
- Classic Bromoil paper (not checked for Lith, potentially good & worth a try)
Foma: Czech Republic: Available Europe, UK (from Retro photographic), USA (from JandC and also Fotoimpex US). Super papers for Lith and also for general printing. All papers in range will Lith print. The best are.
- Fomatone MG Classic. Probably the last remaining cadmium paper. Superb range of rich colours when using Lith techniques, yellows, yellow-orange, orange-browns. Responsive to changes in developer dilution. Lovely in selenium, tricolour splits.
- Fomabrom an excellent Lithable paper producing rich yellow-red tones.
Forte: Hungary. Available world-wide (labelling varies slightly). One of the world’s outstanding quality exhibition papers. A huge range of emulsions and surfaces. They all Lith print. The warmtone papers may give chocolate or salmon/orange, depending on developer. The others more charcoal black on putty colours or mushroom pinky-beige.
- Forte Polywarmtone (PW14 glossy, PW15 semi gloss) Delicious smooth rich colourful tones in Lith. To die for!
- PW 17 Natural (PWT semi-glossy surface & ivory base tint). As above.
- PWT Art (US) Heavyweight matt. As above.
- Forte Polygrade FB. Neutral tone – gloss, s/matt.
- Forte Museum
- Forte Bromofort cold tone. Gloss, s/matt, lustre & matt. The only full matt paper that Lith prints really successfully. Prone to pepper fog & ‘black dot syndrome’.
- Forte Coldtone FB s/matt.
- Forte Fortezo Museum. Excellent and another favourite. Warm tone brown. Gloss, s/matt, lustre.
Fotospeed: UK. Available world-wide.
- Fotospeed Lith Uncoated. New Uncoated version. Has a ‘handle with care’ warning, although I have never experienced surface damage. Milky coffee colour with gritty textured effect in the blacks. I think it is best suited to images without large dark areas requiring smoother tones e.g. dark blue skies. Higher dilutions give pinker hues on dry down (but not as pink as Kentmere Kentona) and lower Dmax.
- Fotospeed Bromoil paper.
- (Fotospeed Legacy) Although not promoted as ‘lithable’ this excellent paper can also be persuaded to give good neutral tone Lith prints, notably with Moersch Easylith and Polychrome kits (see below), which warm up nicely in selenium or cool down in gold.
Freestyle: USA (CA)
- Freestyle Arista EDU VC FB. A high quality enlarging paper at budget price. Lith prints to more neutral hues than some. Can be ‘warmed up’ by developing and toning techniques.
Ilford Available world-wide.
- Ilford MGWT & MGCT. I like Ilford papers a lot, but not for Lith. MGWT will Lith to an ivory colour rather unexcitingly with grudging infectious development in hot Lith and tones slowly. I have not used MGCT for Lith printing but have heard of interesting although subdued colours in Lith.
- Kentmere Kentona. Glossy. Lith prints well. Blacks may sometimes have unobtrusive faint texture, smooth mid & high tones. Pinker, in the same bath, than Fotospeed Lith, it can give various browns, pinks and milky coffee combinations, greenish browns with Easylith, red-brown in Selenium.
- Kentmere Art Classic. Lovely lightly textured warm tone cream based exhibition paper. Lith prints as Kentona.
- Kentmere Art Document. A lightweight textured parchment-like finish. Liths easily giving warm sandy browns. Super for images needing a textured art look.
- Kentmere Fineprint VC. Warmtone Liths to yellow brown with cold blacks.
Luminos: (US). All the ‘Classic’ range have the same easily lith printable emulsion on a choice of white, cream, gloss, stipple, textured papers. Pinky-brown to ‘cafe au lait’ colours.
- Charcoal R WT
- Archival R WT
- Classic Pearl WT
- Classic glossy WT
Maco: Germany. Available worldwide.
- Maco Expo RF series: Gr 2,3 & 4. Neutral/cool tone paper containing gold chloride in addition to silver. Excellent for Lith printing. Lith prints easily giving rather similar colours to the original Sterling Lith paper. Recent batches have shown very minor fine pepper fogging.
- Expo WA
- Multibrom VCFB WA. Both warmtone lithable papers
- Moersch Select Sepia VC. Liths to pinky orange or rich browns. Luscious.
- Moersch Select Ivory. Reddish browns, warm blacks
- Moersch Shedlight. Gives cooler mushroom/putty colours
Oriental: Japan. Available worldwide. One of the finest, although expensive, enlarging papers made. Lith prints easily and well.
- Oriental VC FB. Not unlike the old Sterling Lith but slightly less graphic.
- Oriental G (Gr 2,3 & 4). Coffee or putty hues to red-brown in selenium
- Tetenal Baryt Sepia (Continental Europe only). Glossy. Lith prints well. Gives various browns, pinks and milky coffee colours.
- Agfa Multicontrast. Cool sepia/putty hues.
- Cachet Lith Paper RC-F. Cold gritty lith tones
- Classic Arts: Super warm and cold tone RC lithable papers.
- Classic Arts Polywarmton RC
- Classic Arts Polykalton RC
- Foma: Fomatone MG. As for MG Classic – see FB papers above.
- Forte Warmtone (plus) RC warm tone. Gloss, s/matt. More exceptional papers from Hungary
- Forte Polygrade – V. RC (US) cold tone. Gloss, s/matt.
- Forte Coldtone RC.
- Other Forte RC papers in the US – not personally tested, but reputedly OK
- Freestyle Arista. EDU VC RC Cool to neutral tones with cold blacks: (USA). Good value quality papers
- Freestyle Arista. EDU RC: (USA). Graded Cool to neutral tones with cold blacks.
- Ilford MGWT & MGCT See under FB papers
- Jessops Variable Contrast RC. Lith prints convincingly – subdued sepia/coffee colours before toning. Well priced.
- Maco Lithpaper RC F. Gritty cold brown tones
- Paterson Acugrade Warmtone RC. Easy to Lith print. Flexible. Responds beautifully to changing dilution of developer to give a variety of colours from browns to orange, pinks & ginger. Tones beautifully, tricolour splits in selenium.
Current status of suitable developers for Lith Printing
Ready made kits
There are many differences between these kits. Size, cost, packaging, formulation, performance, the inclusion of additives and the presence (or absence!) of helpful instructions may all be important to you. Also, a newer concept has emerged. Only recently imported into the UK by Retrophotographic it is the combining of 2 separate developer stages, to give what might be termed a hybrid Lith process. I will describe this rather elegant process later.
Here are some additional general points about using these developers:
Formulation: An account of the chemistry of these developers and of the infectious development process that is responsible for the Lith printing effect is outside the scope of this article and can be found in my Lith printing book. Suffice it to say that they are highly alkaline hydroquinone developers, with very low sulphite levels. Sulphite is an anti-oxidation preservative, but it inhibits the all-important infectious development central to Lith printing. The relevance of this will become clear later, but a few other general points are worth making:
With the exception of Speedibrews’ Lithoprint, all current Lith developers come as 2 separate solutions A and B, mixed and diluted immediately before use. Unmixed they have a very long shelf life. Once mixed, they oxidise quickly and have a short working life. Also, higher dilutions have little active developing agent and small capacity. This can lead to sudden standstill in mid print unless replenished.
Formaldehyde (or para-formaldehyde), a known carcinogen, is present in many lith developers and is associated with an odour in use. The new Lith developers from Moersch are formaldehyde free.
Ratio: A and B are normally used in equal quantities but can be varied for fine-tuning results. Increasing the amount of A increases colour and contrast but exhausts faster. Extra B has the opposite effect.
Dilution: Most Lith developers were designed for processing Lith film and their instructions may reflect this. Unless stated that the instructions are for Lith Printing the recommended working solutions are likely to be too strong and fast for this application. Increasing dilution by a factor of 3 is a good starting point for these. (A note of caution here: Dilution instructions vary with the make. Some are expressed as 1A+ ‘X’ water plus 1B + ‘X’ water. Some are 1A+1B+ ‘X’ water. Others like Moersch use 1+X, where the ‘1’ is actually half A and half B. Read the instructions carefully but be prepared to experiment widely)
Changing dilution has other effects too. Stronger developer will give the classical lith look of white, black and a coloured band in-between. Use high dilutions if you want the most colours available from that paper/developer combination, together with maximum differentiation of highlight tones and subtleties. Papers vary a lot in this respect. For example, the colour with Fomatone MG and Acugrade Warmtone changes completely from brown to salmon pink/orange as dilution increases, even higher dilutions giving soft romantic interpretations.
Temperature: The normal development temperature is 20C but as this is a ‘snatch’ rather than a completion process higher temperatures to around 26C are not critical and just speed up the process. Hot lith at 30 – 40C, combined with extra dilution and exposure, can produce more colourful results with different characteristics that vary with the paper in use. These hotter solutions may give off more vapours, which can be unpleasant – especially with large trays. The emulsion is more vulnerable to damage however and should be handled with care. Drying and re-soaking is wise here before toning.
‘Old brown’: Fresh Lith developers generally give less interesting results, coming into their own after a few prints have passed through them. For this reason I bottle the well-used ‘old brown’ developer at the end of a session and add some of it to the next fresh mix (taking care not to mix brands). How much to add depends on the original dilution and on how old and brown it is. Try adding the same volume as A or B and experiment from there for the effect you like. Care: See warning below about OB and calculating dilution
Additives: Apart from the A:B ratio, dilution, old brown and temperature there are other ways to doctor your Lith developer and two companies provide extra additives for this purpose – Fotospeed and Moersch. Both provide the preservative sodium sulphite and the restrainer potassium bromide (which will significantly extend development times) as optional additives. Amongst their uses is the control of chemical fog and out-of-control random infectious development. The latter still occurs with some papers in the form of ‘pepper fogging’ – a rash of tiny black spots – and what I call ‘Black dot syndrome’, the random occurrence of larger isolated black spots in light areas. These occur in susceptible papers (notably Bromofort) mostly in well-used and highly diluted developer, when sulphite levels fall too low. Adding sulphite usually cures this but adding too much will inhibit infectious development, giving weak blacks. Moersch also provides additional additives E and F (see ‘Ready made Lith developers’ below).
Replenishment: As these dilute developers have both a low capacity and faster oxidation it can be necessary to replenish them. Take care not to do this often as the main qualities for a good lith effect get progressively off track in ways that simple replenishment cannot correct (see my Lith printing book for details). Either replenish with a little diluted developer every few prints, when the optimum effect has been achieved – or replenish once with concentrate when required. A second replenishment with concentrate usually gives poorer results and it is better to discard and replace, leaving some to act as ‘old brown’ for the fresh brew. As bromide builds up from each print in the developer do not use high bromide developers (like Easy Lith, or with bromide additive) for replenishment.
Two-bath Lith and ‘Hybrid’ kits: Moersch Polychrome
These are two different approaches exploiting the same idea. The first uses two lith developer baths. The first is a stronger higher bromide mix, such as Easylith, which gives convincing separation of colder blacks. The second bath is highly diluted and ‘mature’ and imparts softer more colourful upper tones. Lithoprint also makes a good second bath here.
The second technique uses a different type of soft working developer for bath 2 and a slightly more complex routine. I like this concept and have used ‘Polychrome’ on a number of workshops now, where it has proved very popular. The first bath is the high bromide Easy Lith, used less diluted and without Old Brown. These factors maximise the development and early separation of cold blacks without concern for the formation of colourful detailed light and mid tones. The print must go into a stop bath (but not fix, therefore don’t use the fix tongs here) at this snatch point to halt the rapidly progressing blacks. After a short wash the print is placed in the second developer ‘Sienna’. This is an ultra soft-working non-lith developer, which cannot give decent blacks on its own but does produce wonderfully delicate and coloured light tones, which can be altered by the two additives included, ammonium chloride and a carbonate. The exact extent of the blacks therefore is controlled in the first bath alone, whilst all the delicate work takes place in the second bath – but remember to allow for the dry-down of these subtle tones.
The untoned colours of these prints vary a lot with different papers and can be altered further by adjusting the additives included in the kit. Slightly increasing the ammonium chloride lowers pH and shifts colours towards yellow and olive hues. Adding carbonate raises pH, stimulates activity and moves colour towards red-brown. Caution must be exercised here as fogging easily occurs, in which case the bromide additive may counter this and can yield strong pinks, depending on the paper in use. A wide range of starting colours is therefore available, from blue-green or olive at one end to pink and brown at the other. Papers that give more neutral mushroom hues will colour up nicely in selenium or gold toners, to which these prints are very responsive.
The new Fotospeed Lith paper processed in Moersch Polychrome has produced a range of colours here (a,b & c) before toning, by adjusting the additives supplied. D) shows increased density, colour shift and some mid tone fogging from adding extra carbonate (supplied). The blue version e) shows the excellent response to gold toning.
- Fotospeed LD20 Lith: 2x500ml. Contains both 2 useful additives; sodium sulphite and potassium bromide (see ‘additives’) and detailed instructions for Lith printing. One of the few products here to be date stamped. However, don’t discard outdated stock without testing. In my experience it long outlasts its ‘best before’ date.
- Freestyle Arista Liquid Lith & powder Lith (US):
Various sizes. (I have yet to try these)
- Maco LP Superlith: 2x500ml. This has replaced ‘LP Lith’ in the last 12 months and claims ‘increased energy’ by 30% and doubled tray life. It has Lith printing instructions. The instructions recommend a dilution of 1+1+6. In my experience this is much too strong and this product performs very much better at a minimum of 1+1+12 and even better at 1+1+20 or 24.
Ready-made Lith developer kits
Larger volume products: Possibly too expensive for the low volume user or first time experimenter, although they will keep for years unmixed.
- Champion Novolith: 2×5 litres, giving 40 litres of film strength developer or between 120 and (say) 300 litres for Lith printing.
The following have now been discontinued:
– Kodalith liquid concentrate: 2×5 litres to make 40 litres of film strength solution. Working dilutions vary as for Novolith.
– Kodalith Super RT: In powder form, to give 7.6 litres of film strength developer. Approximately a third of the liquid concentrate strength and differently formulated, it is equally easy to use with good results.
Smaller volume products:
- Forte Lith professional pack: 2×1 litre. Minimal instructions state 1+1+4. Try starting from 1+1+12 or higher. I prefer 1+1+16* and found high dilutions around 1+1+18/20 provoked pepper fogging or ‘black dot syndrome’ in some papers (notably Maco and Bromofort) possibly from the resulting low sulphite levels.
*NOTE: If the Old Brown is still quite active, adding it in volumes equal or double the A volume will skew the dilution calculations making the final brew stronger than if Old Brown was left out.
1+1=2’OB’+12 water is too fast & cold for my taste. 20 parts water suits me better if still active OB has been used. Watch for Pepper Fog & Black Spot syndrome in susceptible papers.
Fotospeed LD20 Lith: 2x500ml. Contains both 2 useful additives; sodium sulphite and potassium bromide (see ‘additives’) and detailed instructions for Lith printing. One of the few products here to be date stamped. However, don’t discard outdated stock without testing. In my experience it long outlasts its ‘best before’ date.
- Freestyle Arista Liquid Lith & powder Lith (US): Various sizes. (I have yet to try these)
Maco LP Superlith: 2x500ml. This has replaced ‘LP Lith’ in the last 12 months and claims ‘increased energy’ by 30% and doubled tray life. It is formaldehyde free and has Lith printing instructions. The instructions recommend a dilution of 1+1+6. In my experience this is much too strong and this product performs very much better at a minimum of 1+1+12 and even better at 1+1+20 or 24.
‘ Easylith‘, made with inexperienced lith printers in mind, a higher bromide (restrainer) level facilitates convincing infectious development.
‘ Masterlith‘ for the more experienced user. Includes two additional additives C and D, based on potassium bromide and sodium sulphite (see ‘additives’). Both kits contain Lith printing instructions.
Additional additives: E, for increasing grain at the expense of colour, and F, for shifting colour from traditional yellow/brown towards red.
Polychrome kit: A ‘hybrid’ lith kit – see main text.
- Nacco Naccolith (US): Various sizes. In my limited experience of it, easily produces warm brown Lith prints but my impression is that it possibly yields fewer other warmer colours in the pink and orange ranges with some papers.
- Photographer’s Formulary Kodalith (US): Different to the Kodaliths listed above, this is similar to the Ansco 70 formula and more suited to film use than lith printing
- Speedibrews’ Lithoprint: 2-part powder kit to make single solution concentrate. Not a true Lith developer. Requires a different technique, as there is no infectious development rush the highlights need to be watched approaching the snatch point. Can produce very colourful toner-responsive prints with some papers. Blacks can be ‘soft’ but the 2-bath technique described here gets round this well.
- Despite its promising sounding name, Dokulith is not suitable for Lith printing.
Some main suppliers for lith printing materials:
In the UK.
- Forte UK www.fortephoto.co.uk
- Forte (products & International dealers) www.forte-photo.net
- Fotospeed (Lith paper, developers & toners) Tel.: 01225 742486 www.fotospeed.com
- Jessops Ltd. Mail Order enquiries: Tel.: 0116 232 0432 www.jessops.com
- Kentmere Photographic: Mail Order (International) Tel.: 01539 822322 www.kentmere.co.uk
- Mr. Cad (Maco, & all things photographic) Tel.: 0181 684 8282 www.mrcad.co.uk
- Nova Darkroom Equipment Ltd.(Forte & other papers & chemicals) Tel: 01926 40309.
- Paterson Photographic Ltd. (Acugrade WT, toners etc) Tel: 0121 520 4830 www.patersonphotographic.com
- Process Supplies (many papers & chemicals) Tel. 020 7837 2179 fax. 020 7837 8551
- Retro Photographic (Foma, Moersch, Maco, Kentmere etc) 0800 915 9751 www.Retrophotographic.com
- Silverprint (all makes papers, chemistry) Tel. 020 7620 0844 web: www.silverprint.co.uk
In the USA
- For Arista and many other papers: Freestyle Photo Supplies.
- For Foma: www.jandcphoto.com,
The Master Photographer’s Lith Printing Course: A Definitive Guide to Creating Lith Printing
by Tim Rudman