Thursday, 8 December 2011

How to keep Fiber base photographs flat

This must be one of the most frustrating things about fiber base paper. It comes out of the wash tank like a limp rag and when it is drying it curls up like corrugated plastic but there is no getting away from the fact that photographs on fiber base paper have that something extra and it is worth the trouble in making sure they are flat.

Over the years I have used the cartridge paper and heavy books route to keeping my prints flat. I could use a special machine that dry's the prints using heat but I prefer the slower air dried method.

It wasnt until Dave Miller the founder of the film and darkroom users forum posted an article on his method for ensuring they dry flat, that life with FB paper has become so much easier. A big thank you to Dave for that article, without it I would still be using heavy books and would not be writing this post with my own refinement to his excellent method. My adaptation allows you to print right up to the edge with out trimming.

Equipment needed:

  1. A pane of glass large enough to cope with your largest print size.
  2. Adhesive brown paper tap that is made sticky by water. Available from most art suppliers.
  3. Stick gumed tape to back of print
    Craft knife.
  4. Scissors.
  5. Metal rule/ straight edge.
  6. Cartridge/ blotting paper.
  7. Sponge.
  8. Print squeege or leather.

My adaptation:

First of all you will need to remove any excess water from the print by hanging it for a short while and/or use a leather to dab it away.

  • Place pint on blotting paper before sticking to glass
    Cut a piece of cartridge/blotting paper slightly smaller than the print size.
  • Place on the glass.
  • Then place the photograph picture side down on the blotting paper.
  • Cut to length a strip of gummed brown adhesive tap.
  • Pull the tape tight and stick half the width on to the back of the print and smooth out. Remember that the print will still be damp so the tape will not need to be wetted.
  • Do the same for the other three sides. Once done turn the print over so it is picture side up.
  • sticking third strip of tape to glass
    Again cut a length of tape this time dampen it do not make it wet as it will not stick on contact but slide and fail to stick.
  • Pull the tape tight and stick to the tape at the top of the print half on and half off.
  • Wipe the damp sponge across the glass (again do not make wet as the tape will slide across the glass) and stick down.
  • Lift the print and place the blotting paper under the print and smooth down.
  • Next cut another length of tape for the bottom and do as before but once the tape is stuck to the tape and the glass is damp pull the print tight and stick down. This slight tension will keep the print flat.
  • Do the same for the sides.
  • Leaving to dry over night
    Leave to dry overnight.
  • To remove the prints once they are dry place a metal rule/straight edge along the side of the print and cut along all the sides with a craft knife. This will release the print perfectly flat.


Used craft knife to free picture from glass
When moistening the tape to stick to the backing tape you only need to make it damp enough for it to contact stick - it is important that the whole length has been dampened. Then press it down firmly to the back of the print along its lengths and do the same when sticking tape to tape, otherwise it will allow the print to curl as it dry's, leaving a wavy edge. You can re-wet the print and lay it up again but it is better to get it right first time if you can.

To remove the tape from the glass it can be re-wetted and scraped off or place the glass in a dish of water to soak for about five to ten minutes.It will lift off with ease.

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