George L. Smyth gives us a rundown on which Bromoil papers to use.
There was a time when photographic paper was made specifically for the Bromoil process. They were very easy to use and produced wonderful prints. Things became more difficult in the 1950s when the manufacturers began supercoating the paper. This is a clear hardened gelatin layer that lies above the emulsion that protects the paper from scratches during processing. With the advent of digital photography, many papers favoring the Bromoil process have gone away.
The addition of the supercoat makes the process more difficult for the Bromoil printer because this hampers the swelling of the gelatin upon which the process depends. But things have never been easy for this time-consuming, labor-intensive process. Finding the right paper is essential and fortunately there are several papers that can be used.
Fomabrom Variant IV 123
This is a wonderful paper with a cream base that accepts ink well. It is reminiscent of Agfa MCC118, which was a favorite of Bromoil printers when it was available.
With a clean white base this paper bleaches well and is easy to ink. There is an elevation of contrast that needs to be taken into account and it is recommended that a grade less contrast be used as a starting point.
This is another fine white base paper that offers contrast similar to Kentmere. This paper exhausts the bleach/tan solution about twice as quickly as other papers.
A very nice cream base paper that is very difficult to find in the United States, though it may be available in Europe.
The above papers are all fiber base non-glossy paper. Resin coated paper is not suited for the Bromoil process because its coating prevents the gelatin from swelling enough to control the contrast of the print. Glossy paper offers no “tooth” for the ink and results in smearing. Although it might be possible to use RC or glossy paper, special processing would need to be created to overcome these obstacles.
As photographers leave the film realm for the advantages of digital photography, they no longer have use for their old photographic paper. By the time they come to this conclusion, oftentimes the paper they give away has no use to other photographers, as it has become fogged. This is not something that should necessarily deter the Bromoil printer.
The ink in a Bromoil print does not depend upon the silver in the paper, but the swelling of the gelatin. Indeed, the silver is removed in the bleach process, at which point the gelatin is swelled in relation to the sliver content. As long as there is enough variation between the base fog and the darkest shadow elements to make out an image, it should be possible to use the paper.
Above is an extreme example of a print that was made from fogged Agfa MCC118 that was given to me. As this paper offered variable contrast, I exposed it with the magenta in the enlarger head at its maximum and the yellow turned off, offering the highest contrast possible. The addition of Benzotriazole to the developer helped minimize the fogging. To the right is a straight print made from this paper, which shows how severely fogged it actually is. Who would have thought that paper destined for the scrap heap could still be used?