It’s big… it’s huge… it’s The MASSIVE paper chart for alternative processes

Is “massive” as in a massive paper chart for alternative photographic processes an exaggeration? No, more of an understatement. Christina Z. Anderson has run countless tests on any paper she could lay her hands on and is generously sharing her findings in a free version. To recoup some of the thousands of dollars spent on testing – as well as getting all the details – you can get the full version of the massive paper chart.

Writer and photography / Christina Z. Anderson


paper testsOver $6000 in paper and chemistry went into the paper testing for this chart, not to mention time involved; please respect the author’s research and credit her accordingly when using this information. If you save $$ on paper using this chart, donate to AlternativePhotography.com so it can continue to be the No. 1 alt pro website in the world!

  The massive paper chart with full details
The Massive paper chart with Christina Z. Andersons research
For less than the price of a paper, you can get the FULL version of The Massive Paper Chart with ALL the details (© Christina Z. Anderson 2024). The format is Excel but it can also be used in Google Sheets or Mac Numbers. You can see a picture preview of the first row here.
$15.00 Download Excel sheet (also works in Google Sheets and Mac Numbers)

Only available here at AlternativePhotography.com

Why buy it here?
When you choose to buy from us, the money goes to the author, Christina Z. Anderson, and towards running AlternativePhotography.com. 
 

The purpose of the massive paper chart is to put in one place 26 years of experience with myriad papers for alt. When I first started out in alt I wasted prints and chemistry because I didn’t know about paper specificity and process or what I term “paper-picky.”

Cyanotype paper testing using the same negative for all the papers. When I do this I use an image that has a full range of tones but especially high key whites (like clouds) to see how well the lightest tones are captured.
Cyanotype paper testing using the same negative for all the papers. When I do this I use an image that has a full range of tones but especially high key whites (like clouds) to see how well the lightest tones are captured.

The chart includes over 85 different papers. Papers by these companies are included: Arches, Baohong, Bee, Bergger, Bienfang, Canson, Clairfontaine, Clearprint, Fabriano, Fluid, Hahnemühle, Heine, Indigo, Khadi, Leather Village, Legion, Magnani, New York Central, Paper Foundation, Pro Art, Rives, Ruscombe Mill, Saint Armand, Saint Cuthberts, Strathmore, Twinrocker, Two Rivers, Velke Losiny, Winsor Newton, and Wyndstone—all currently on the market but this changes yearly I’m sure.

Around 150 papers in all were tested; those that do not appear on the chart were either no longer available or unsuitable for alt (e.g. an unsized paper suitable for printmaking might be too absorbent for alt, or a paper might fall apart in a water wash). Though there are a few washi on this chart, washi in general were not tested.

Topics in the spreadsheet are paper name, paper description, texture, weight in gsm, colors, composition, buffering, sizing, paper Dmin, cost for an approximate 11×14 (this is ever-changing), which processes the paper is good for, and then specific results for the processes: argyrotype, chrysotype, classic cyanotype, new cyanotype, palladium, salted paper, and vandyke brown. Though gum is included in the “good for which processes” column, gum was not run through tests for this chart because:

  1. gum is not paper picky
  2. gum is not buffering-sensitive and
  3. gum merely needs a nice, strong paper, like a 300 gsm/140lb watercolor paper to work.

How to work with the chart

Formatting the massive paper chart

The FREE version of the paper chart for alternative processes

There is a totally free version of the paper chart available here, it contains the basics (but not the details). 11 pages of dedicated research totally free, though we appreciate a donation or that you sign up as a Supporting Member. It has the basic info and is a great start, but if you’re serious about alt. proc. the full version above is recommended. 

Download the FREE version of the paper chart here as a pdf.

The free version of the massive paper chart

 

Explanation of the paper chart

Dmin is a measurement of how white a paper is.
Dmax is a measurement of how dark a process gets on that paper and is really only relevant within the process itself (e.g. from most to least Dmax average is new cyanotype 1.48, classic cyanotype 1.43, vandyke brown 1.35, argyrotype 1.31, palladium 1.31, salt 1.26, chrysotype 1.22.)
Exposure time (ET) is how long it takes for a process to achieve its darkest dark or “maximum black.”
Exposure scale (ES) is how many steps a process prints from maximum black to paper white, counting steps on a 31-step wedge. E.g. if a process prints maximum black at Step 2 and paper white at Step 21 that would be a 2.0 ES (some don’t include paper white; I do). A longer ES generally equates to lower contrast (note: salted paper prints over 31 steps, hence an ES of 3.1+ in that column).
Pink on the spreadsheet indicates those few papers that are good for all tested processes, which means they are unbuffered and strong enough for gum, too.
Green lettering indicates cotton and linen fibers in the Excel spreadsheet.
Gray cells indicate the paper is unsuitable for that process, though borderline unsuitability is not grayed out.

The alternative photographic processes tested in the paper chart

With argyrotype, humidity is all important! If the paper is a sized watercolor paper, pre-humidify the paper before coating, humidify coated paper for 30 minutes before exposure, and time all baths carefully so washoff and bleeding do not occur.
With argyrotype, humidity is all important! If the paper is a sized watercolor paper, pre-humidify the paper before coating, humidify coated paper for 30 minutes before exposure, and time all baths carefully so washoff and bleeding do not occur.

Argyrotype

Argyrotype was made according to Mike Ware’s formula with no added glycerin to the sensitizer and 2 drops 5% Tween added per ml for most papers. For thin, absorbent papers, paper was coated and hung to dry and exposed just off damp. For thicker, less absorbent, watercolor papers, that paper was left in a humidity chamber, coated humid, returned to the humidity chamber to dry, and exposed humid. All papers were overexposed for 20 minutes to achieve maximum “black” with two steps merged. Papers were developed in two baths of water acidified with ½ teaspoon citric acid (.25%—water should be pH 4) per liter for 2½ minutes each, fixed in 2.5% sodium thiosulfate for 2 minutes and water washed for 30 minutes. All times including the water wash were carefully observed to minimize bleeding off of the print which makes for bland Dmax.

Humidity’s role in alt pro cannot be overestimated. The two processes that don’t seem to much care are gum and salted paper; the others, it make all the difference in the world. A humidity chamber can be nothing more than a tray of water (add a bunch of salt so it doesn’t mold) with a screen on top and an inverted tray on top of that. If you’re handy with the tools, it’ be great to construct a cabinet of screens with a pullout tray on the bottom to fill with water. The humidity gauge on top of the tray actually goes inside the chamber to monitor moisture.
Humidity’s role in alt pro cannot be overestimated. The two processes that don’t seem to much care are gum and salted paper; the others, it make all the difference in the world. A humidity chamber can be nothing more than a tray of water (add a bunch of salt so it doesn’t mold) with a screen on top and an inverted tray on top of that. If you’re handy with the tools, it’ be great to construct a cabinet of screens with a pullout tray on the bottom to fill with water. The humidity gauge on top of the tray actually goes inside the chamber to monitor moisture.
Bad vs Good Chrysotype papers.
Bad vs Good Chrysotype papers. Top row: unsuitable paper for chrysotype. Bottom row are awsome!

Chrysotype

A ligand/gold/iron solution of 5/4/1 proportion was used with 2 drops 5% Tween per ml on less absorbent papers. Paper was left to dry completely to ensure even dryness for even tones. Paper was exposed for 10 minutes UVBL to achieve maximum “black” with two steps merged, humidified for 20 minutes post-exposure, developed in 1% oxalic acid for 5 minutes, and cleared in three clearing baths of tetra-EDTA, sodium sulfite, and tetra-EDTA in that order before a lengthy water wash.

Classic cyanotype

10% ferric ammonium citrate/10% potassium ferricyanide solution was coated on paper and paper was immediately put in a humidity chamber for 20 minutes before exposure. All exposures were conducted at 45 minutes UVBL to get maximum “black” with two steps merged. Three different developments were compared: plain water, water acidified with a couple tablespoons of vinegar per liter, and water acidified with ½ teaspoon citric acid per liter. Development in this acid bath was for ~2 minutes, and the rest of the time in plain water for up to 15 minutes.

New cyanotype

200 ml dilution (100 ml new cyanotype diluted with 100 ml water) + 2 drops 5% Tween per ml for most papers except thin ones was coated on paper and paper was immediately put in a humidity chamber for 20 minutes before exposure. All exposures were conducted at 10 minutes to get maximum “black” with two steps merged. Two developments were compared: water acidified with 2 teaspoons citric acid per liter and water acidified with 2 teaspoons sulfamic acid per liter (note the much stronger acid bath for new cyanotype than for classic). Development in an acid bath was for ~2 minutes, and the rest of the time in plain water for up to 15 minutes.

Palladium

Bad papers for Palladium.
Bad papers for Palladium.

NA2 palladium was used in the proportion of 6 drops ferric oxalate + 6 drops palladium + 1 drop 5% NA2, 2 drops sensitizer per square inch. Paper was coated and immediately put in a humidity chamber for 20 minutes before exposure. 2 drops per ml of 5% Tween were used for less absorbent papers. All exposures were conducted at 10 minutes to get maximum “black” with two steps merged. Developer was potassium oxalate at room temperature followed by 3 clears in di-EDTA, sodium sulfite, and tetra-EDTA in that order before a lengthy water wash.

Salted Paper

Problem papers for Salt printing.
Problem papers for Salt printing. Various degrees of what is called fogging. Stay on the safe side: with all papers, add 15 g of citric acid per liter of salting solution and fogging problems will disappear!

Paper was tray salted with a 2% sodium chloride salting solution in distilled water and dried. 15% silver nitrate was used to sensitize. Tween was not used. Paper was exposed dry. UVBL was 45 minutes to achieve maximum “black” with two steps merged and then lessened to 36 minutes for retests. Two 4 minute baths of 5% salted water were used to remove unexposed silver nitrate before fixing in a normal strength alkaline fixer (Photographer’s Formulary TF-4) for 4 minutes. Then a lengthy water wash (no sodium sulfite bath after fixing was used since step wedges were merely for information and not for archival prints). No sizing was used in the salting solution to create salt’s most paper-picky scenario because size provides a buffer zone between the sensitizer and the paper and makes it less likely that fogging will occur. If fogging of a paper occurred, the paper was again tested with the addition of 15 g citric acid to a liter of 2% salting solution which reduced or eliminated fogging. No toning was used since the goal was to observe paper color not toner color. Plain salting produces a lower Dmax across the board than salt/citric salting (normally I use 20 g ammonium chloride + 20 g sodium citrate per liter of water for my salting solution, with the addition of gelatin). Salted paper prints the most steps on a step wedge than any other process, more than 31 steps of a 31 step tablet, so ES is listed as 3.1+.

Vandyke brown

A view into my paper testing process—multitasking in the bathroom. Over 1300 step wedges were printed for this paper chart.
A view into my paper testing process—multitasking in the bathroom. Over 1300 step wedges were printed for this paper chart.

Vandyke brown was made according to the traditional formula (9 g FAC, 3.8 g silver nitrate, 1.5 tartaric acid in 100 ml water). Paper was coated dry with 2 drops 5% Tween added per ml and humidified for 30 minutes before exposure. All papers were overexposed for 20 minutes to achieve maximum “black” with two steps merged. Papers were developed in two baths of water acidified with ½ teaspoon citric acid (.25%—water should be pH 4) per liter for 2½ minutes each, fixed in 2.5% sodium thiosulfate for 2 minutes and water washed for 30 minutes.

Enjoy printing!

© Christina Z. Anderson 2024. All rights reserved.  See more work in Christina Z. Anderson’s gallery or visit christinazanderson.com.

Multitasking with chemistry. It’s easy to print vandyke brown and argyrotype at the same time, the others not so much as the chemistry required for processing is quite different.
Multitasking with chemistry. It’s easy to print vandyke brown and argyrotype at the same time, the others not so much as the chemistry required for processing is quite different.
Different amounts of texture in cold press papers.
Different amounts of texture in cold press papers.
Bristol is usually the smoothest paper choice (or “plate”). Cold press and Rough are the bumpiest paper choices, but there is a range on how textured a cold press paper is from fine to coarse.
Bristol is usually the smoothest paper choice (or “plate”). Cold press and Rough are the bumpiest paper choices, but there is a range on how textured a cold press paper is from fine to coarse.

 

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Christina Z. Anderson's books
The Massive Paper Chart thumb

The Massive Paper chart

by Christina Z. Anderson

85+ papers tested in the argyrotype, chrysotype, cyanotype, palladium, salted paper and vandyke brown process.
 

The Experimental Darkroom: Contemporary Uses of Traditional Black & White Photographic Materials by Christina Z. Anderson

The Experimental Darkroom: Contemporary Uses of Traditional Black & White Photographic Materials

by Christina Z. Anderson

Learn about a variety of alternative photographic processes. A technical book highly recommended both for beginners and pros.
 

Gum Printing: A Step-by-Step Manual, Highlighting Artists and Their Creative Practice

Gum Printing: A Step-by-Step Manual, Highlighting Artists and Their Creative Practice

by Christina Z Anderson

A step-by-step description of the gum printing process and showcases of artists’ works ranging from monochrome to colorful and from subtle to bold.
 

Salted Paper Printing: A Step-by-Step Manual Highlighting Contemporary Artists

Salted Paper Printing: A Step-by-Step Manual Highlighting Contemporary Artists

by Christina Z. Anderson

The history and the process: from beginner to intermediate level, with step-by-step instructions and troubleshooting.
 

Cyanotype: The Blueprint in Contemporary Practice

Cyanotype: The Blueprint in Contemporary Practice

by Christina Z Anderson

Contemporary Practices in Alternative Process Photography
 

Digital Negatives with QuadToneRIP: Demystifying QTR for Photographers and Printmakers

Digital Negatives with QuadToneRIP: Demystifying QTR for Photographers and Printmakers

by Ron Reeder and Christina Z. Anderson

Fully explores how the QuadToneRIP printer driver can be used to make expert digital negatives.
 
More about paper
The Massive Paper Chart thumb

The Massive Paper chart

by Christina Z. Anderson

85+ papers tested in the argyrotype, chrysotype, cyanotype, palladium, salted paper and vandyke brown process.
 

8 thoughts on “It’s big… it’s huge… it’s The MASSIVE paper chart for alternative processes”

  1. For those who are not familiar with Excel, here are some tips to printing out the Massive Paper Chart. The type in the chart is set to 12 pt so it is plenty big to read but if you were to select File/Print the chart is 225 pages! Hence here are some tips:
    • You can select a column or multiple columns that you are not interested in and choose Format/Column/Hide and only display the process you are interested in.
    • You can Format/Row/Hide and only display the papers you are interested in.
    • You can View/Freeze First Column and scroll right through processes so the paper column remains visible as the processes scroll towards it. However if you try to print it that way it will I think still print the whole sheet. The whole spreadsheet is in 12 pt type so plenty big and if you were to print it out it’s 225 pages!
    • You can View/Freeze First Row and scroll down through papers which is the most handy, really.
    • You can also File/Select Print Area and print out only what you want after certain columns, or rows, are hidden. For instance, if you hide all columns but the paper names and vandyke brown, then select File/Print, that is only 25 pages.
    • But under File/Print choose Scale to Fit and you can make just one process 15 pp long, or less if desired.
    The best way to print the chart is really to Format/Hide columns and rows that don’t interest you. The best way to view the chart is to freeze either the top row or the left column.
    Hope that helps!

  2. Thanks for the detailed reply, Christina. I really appreciate it. That goes in the direction I was thinking of.
    To transfer your examples about processes to paper: you could then try to figure out which papers might be printable with the same negative, analogous to print method, due to their similar ES…

  3. Jo, you are absolutely right. A film step wedge is merely information, first and most to determine a correct exposure time. If a process is short scale, or long scale, linearization will fit the negative into short or long so there is no “virtue” for a process being longer. “Back in the day” people complained about, and characterized, gum printing as being short scale. Casein is worse! Classic cyanotype is not so long either (unless you use it with more potassium ferricyanide proportionately in which case the ES is longer). But they were printing with film negatives and had no recourse. We have recourse. So the step wedge is merely informational at the offset and mostly an accurate mathematical way to exposure time, and the ES is merely telling me something about that particular process, at the very least that certain negatives are probably not interchangeable. It will tell me what my digital negative will look like essentially, whether dense, contrasty, thin, flat, etc. You might think that salted paper negs would work for lumens, but they are too flat. But it also tells me what leeway I have for exposure in a process. Salt has incredible leeway because of it’s exposure scale that will go on and on. For instance, I am working on an historical project at the moment with extremely on/off contrasty lith halftone negs. I cannot print any of the project in cyanotype, either classic or new. I know from ES that salt and vdb would work best, and they do. Palladium also works somewhat adequately. I also know that to print those negs in gum I would have to use different mixtures of gum/dichromate to print highlight and shadow detail. So I use the step first for exposure time, second for added information about that process.

  4. Thanks for the reply, Christina.
    Yes, I am with you and understand the process thus far. I’ll try to reword my question…

    If we linearise the negative using a digital curve, why does it matter, how many steps we can achieve on a Stouffer stepwedge? Even if we had just three squares on the Stouffer with any sort of exposure differences (say, pure black is on step 8, pure white is on step 11 – although that would be 4 steps the way you count if i understood correctly), then we can stretch our entire grayscale into that limited dynamic range by just adjusting the digital negative, right? I agree that it might be harder to do, since the differences in density are going to be closer together for the printer, but unless there are some real physical limitations for the printer (which I’m not sure whether they exist or not), then it should make little difference if we’re printing with a long-scale process like salt or a short-scale process like gum, for example. It’s entirely possible that I’m missing something obvious here, though…

  5. Jo, how long it takes for a process to get max black has actually nothing to do with the negative used, analog or digital, only the substrate the negative exists on, whether analog film or Fixxons digital OHP or Pictorico OHP. The question is how long does the clear area of your negative take to get max black only. So when I print a film step wedge, I back it with Fixxons (and later remove analog step wedge density x.89). Since a film negative is composed of steps which equal 1/3 stop each (.794) it is so easy to calculate an accurate mathematical exposure time by adding (dividing by .794) or subtracting (multiplying by .794) whatever time it was you exposed at. Digital inks do not have the same linear response of accurate 1/3 stops so that is why the film step is only used to calculate exposure in general. You can look at how many steps a process prints, counting starting at one “black” step and then all the way to one white step. Some processes print a lot of those steps, like salt. Some, like cyanotype with no acid development, print half the steps salt does. This does relate to how the digital negative will end up being, but the analog step merely gives exposure time. Linearization comes with a digital step wedge printed in ink increments of 5% density but you can’t be accurate with that digital step wedge unless you exposed it at the correct time, enough yet no more. Linearization then occurs by measuring the densities of the digital step wedge print and plopping those measurements into software that spits out a curve or a profile. So essentially two different things, first finding an accurate exposure and then making the digital negative squish into the density range of the process through linearization.

  6. Christina, this is a fantastic resource! Thank you so much for doing all this testing. Quite incredible, really…

    I also have a question about the exposure scale (which I often see referenced online and in most books of your series of Focal Press books).

    How much does the exposure scale matter in the context of digital negatives? I can see the importance for analog negatives, but with digital negatives, don’t we just adjust the negative to the process through linearisation? I guess, it’s still helpful by indicating how dense a negative is required (i.e. the higher the ES, the denser the negative must be) for a process? I actually started wondering about this subject when I read Don Nelson’s book on kallitypes last week. And this post now seems like the perfect opportunity to ask you about this 😉

  7. Boyce, my humidity chamber is ~95% inside, but the more salt you add you can get it closer to 75%. You may not need humidity in the South at all. I print 31-step tablets for the ES and each step is 1/3 stop or .1 so if the process prints 21 steps that is 2.1. 31 steps is 3.1. 11 steps is 1.1. I hope that makes sense?

  8. Thank you for all that you do. Could you please direct me to or let me know more about the humidity chamber? What is your target humidity? I live in the South where an arid day for us is 60% humidity but much of the year we are closer to 90%. I am trying to understand if I need to humidify.

    Also, could you explain the math behind the calculation of the exposure scale?

    thanks,

    Boyce

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