Bromoil on aluminium sheets

Henk Thijs is getting into advanced Bromoiling and tells us how he bromoils on aluminium sheets.

Writer and Photography / Henk Thijs

It was on a Sunday, near midnight that I tried to scan one of my bromoils on aluminium sheets and I spilled half a glas of red wine on my keyboard and trousers. An hour later that I went to bed, no scan, but luckily I had some borax in my darkroom. It is a real disaster to try to get some grip on scanning such prints, so you have to do it yourself to see the charm of it. Not the scanning, but the aluminium-bromoiling.

To get some aluminium sheets I went to the owner of a print shop who still used off-set matrices for print purposes and sold the used alu-sheets for one dollar per kilo (about 10 sheets 45×55 cm); the back is excellent for the bromoil process.

For the first cleaning I use an ordinary stiff 3-5 cm paintbrush with some cheap toothpaste and after that, I rubbed it firmly with some white spirit or pure alcohol.

Henk Thjis. Harbour Amsterdam 2000 bromoil on aluminium (the original image was ‘sabattiered’).
Henk Thjis. Harbour Amsterdam 2000 bromoil on aluminium (the original image was ‘sabattiered’).

Image left: Harbour Amsterdam 2000 bromoil on aluminium (the original image was ‘sabattiered’).

Now I treat the surface with Klaus Pollmeier’s “beer coating” before applying the Liquid Light (SE1 from Silverprint). See beneath. I dilute the Liquid Light (heated to 50° C) one to one with water. I do two coats. A thoroughly drying between the coatings is necessary. A red safe light nearby allows to check the coating. Until now I could not detect any fogging by doing this.

To avoid that the Liquid Light becomes thick during coating I put some hot water in a tray, cover it with a piece of glas, put on top of this the alu-sheet, wait a bit for warming up the alu-sheet and then coat. After the first coating I seal my darkroom; years ago, after waiting some time to allow the first drying, I entered my darkroom as usual and switched on the light, as usual, and there was no need anymore for a second coat. Before asking the Lord to have mercy, I went out and waited until the next day before removing the first Liquid Light-coating and cleaning the alu-sheets again. Since that time I really barricade the door of my darkroom from the outside in order to trigger the alarm bell in my head.

From now on the alu-sheets must be handled with care, scratching is a real nuisance. Normal darkroom work is done to prepare the matrix.See info concerning bromoil, Post-Factory Issue#6 Bromoil Express by Bob Gumpper, Making a Bromoil print by Dave Symonds and the Oleobrom process by Kirk V. Toft. LRPS.

Just a few remarks:

  • No bath must exceed 20°C (the SE1 will swim and not tack to the alu anymore)
  • Against all bromoil-rules I do not use fresh Dektol; I often want a sabattier effect and therefore use an incredible dirty orange soup to develop my prints.
  • Normally a darker print is needed for a bromoil print, but with Liquid Light the result is not always so predictable, even when using test strips; so, when I have a ‘normal’ print and not the desirable over-exposed one, I make a so-called ‘bromaloid’.Instead of fixing after bleach & tan the print is put in Dektol again; the image is appearing again as a normal silver print but allows inking. (this is anyway a good start for beginners). After repeatedly inking, spaying water, rolling etc. it is a pleasure to see the image becoming ‘richer’ and eventually a bit more colorful.

Henk Thijs. Flea-market Tongeren (B) 1998 bromoil on aluminium
Henk Thijs. Flea-market Tongeren (B) 1998 bromoil on aluminium

Applying the ink to the alu-sheet is a bit different to inking the paper matrix. In the beginning it looks like as if the alu-sheet is not taking any ink, but careful, if you work now with a thinner ink it can be the end. Too heavy inking cannot be removed as with paper matrices even white spirit is not able to remove the ink, it looks as if the ink is burnt in. The best thing is to start very early with spraying the matrix with water and go over it with a foam brayer. This is the best method to proceed anyway; clearing the highlights must be done regularly. Even the thinnest inking brings the image back and from now on it is self-explanatory how to continue. Just trust me.

After a ‘tennis-golf-rsi’ (I do not golf, I do not tennis, I just drink wine, see above), I switched from the brush to 5 cm foam brayers.If you want to bring back the ‘underwater effect’, you have to wait about six month in order to coat with Schmincke Final Varnish (glossy) normally used for oil paintings. Do not worry, galleries are not standing in line to buy bromoils.

Of course one can ask ‘why all this fussing around with alu-sheets, cleaning and spilling beer?’. To be honest it started years ago with a Xerox transfer on kitchen-alu-foil i.s.o. paper, a real mess with nice results. It is was in the old days of ‘the list’; it was the time of Luis Nadeau, Klaus Pollmeier and Pete and Bob and Judy and Terry; ‘the list’ at that time was nearly the only source for alternative processes.

Just due to the shortage of bromoil paper (and the curiosity about papers used in other alternative processes with names like Fabriano, Stonehenge, Hahnemuehle, Rives b.f.k …. ) I started making “my own” bromoil paper using Liquid Light. First on the papers mentioned and finally also with aluminium-sheets, remembering the Xerox-effect.

Be aware of the fact that the majority of the results will end in the wastebasket (for sure the best place for the majority of images nowadays). But the best results are the accidents the I cannot do it agains. They are my excuse for the chaotic way of taking notes. I am a convinced re-inventor of the wheel, hoping to do this for the rest of my life.

The ‘beer’ coating

  • Weak beer (Pils) 100 ml
  • Waterglas (Sodium Silicate) 10 ml

Let the beer stand for 1-2 hours, then mix with Waterglas and add max. 1 g Caustic Soda.

Another one

  • Dist. Water 8 ml
  • Beaten egg white 7 ml
  • Waterglas 3 ml

Coating can be done with a foam brush, thoroughly dried with warm air, then washed for 2-3 minutes with cold water. That is it.

Henk Thijs is a bromoil artist from the Limburg region, south of the Netherlands.
This article has also been published in The World Journal of Post-Factory Photography.

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