Wet Contact Printing for Paper Negatives

If you’re in the darkroom and have just developed a negative image, from say a pinhole camera. You wonder how to turn it into a positive image. This an easy step-by-step to how.

Writer / Jan Kapoor
Images / Jan Kapoor

This is a technique I learned many years ago at a pinhole workshop taught by Pinky Bass. It is a very quick way to get a positive print from a paper negative, such as is used very commonly in home-made pinhole cameras.

The following process is done under safelight conditions.

1Process the paper negativeas normal through into the water bath.

2Put a piece of unexposed paper in the water bath.

3Make a sandwichwith the negative face down on top of the emulsion side of the unexposed paper. Put both down flat on a piece of heavy glass or plexi, with the negative on top, face down.

4Squeegee all the water out to make total contact between the two papers.

5Suspend a lamp such as a clamp-on type with a low-wattage tungsten bulb about 18 to 24 inches over the paper. Turn it on and off rapidly. Experimentation will give you a feel for length of illumination and distance of light source from the paper. 1 or 2 seconds would be good to start with.

6Then process your positive image, and hang both positive and negative up to dry.

7The resulting positive print and the corresponding negative.

The best paper to use for in-camera paper negatives is RC paper (Resin Coated Paper), as it lies flat and dries quickly. Be sure to get a paper that does not have the manufacturer’s logo printed on the back.

For the positive prints, you can use either the same paper, or experiment with other papers such as fiber base.

Jan Kapoor is a pinhole artist who also work in several other alternative processes, like cyanotype and platinum and palladium.

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