Negatives for gum bichromate

I have used just about everything for negatives. I list some examples here, with an example of at least one gum print made from each kind of negative:

  1. Film or paper silver-gel negatives enlarged in the darkroom (callas)
  2. or used in cardboard boxes fitted with a pinhole (backyard) (desire)
  3. or in a large format camera, fitted with a lens (surf series)
  4. or with a pinhole (island)
  5. digital negatives, either on paper or on transparencies. The bulk of my work has been printed from digital negatives of various types. The earliest were printed from a 300 dpi laser printer (apricots) then a 600 dpi laser printer, then after Epson started introducing photo-quality inkjet printers, I've printed negatives on a series of inkjet printers, mostly on paper since my earlier inkjet printers didn't print well on film . My present printer is an Epson 1280 (kids) and my negatives are printed on a cheap generic transparency material.
  6. cliches-verre-- drawings or paintings in reverse (negative) on paper, glass, or plastic film (untitled) (untitled)
  7. photograms (bottles)
  8. photocopies (when I was first gum printing and didn't have a darkroom, I made crude negatives by taking drugstore prints to a copy shop and having them copied (reversed and enlarged) onto transparencies (hat).

I prefer to work with color film, since it offers the most versatility and creative flexibility, but when I switched to large format I also started working more with black and white film, and now use a mixture of 8x10 FP4 and 4x5 and 120 Provia.

For multiple printings I often use more than one negative per print; in the case of tricolors, of course, there are three, but I often use two or three negatives for monochromes as well, to cover the different parts of the tonal range, and often use the separation negatives for tricolor printings to print monochrome with.

A negative on the thinner side prints best, in my experience, but the great thing about gum is that it is such a flexible printing process that with judicious printing you can print just about any kind of negative. Very dense negatives are the most difficult to print well, but I've seen very nice gum prints made from absolutely bulletproof negatives.

For digital paper negatives, I prefer to use Epson Presentation Paper Matte (formerly called Epson PhotoQuality Inkjet Paper). I have a separate page comparing this type of paper negative to a digital film negative and to a different kind of paper negative here.

I have only recently started exploring more sophisticated methods for generating digital negatives; I recommend Michael Koch-Schulte's method for this kind of approach:

Copyright Katharine Thayer, all rights reserved

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