Darkroom: Color Enlarging Paper

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Like their black-and-white counterparts, the number of color enlarging papers available in sheet and roll form is limited compared to the number of offerings that were available before the advent of digital inkjet printers. Even Kodak has reduced its once all-encompassing selection of color enlarging papers to rolls for commercial applications—cut sheets of Kodak color enlarging paper no longer exist.

As of this writing, companies that still produce standard-sized cut sheets of color enlarging paper (8 x 10", 11 x 14", 16 x 20", 20 x 24" and 30 x 40") include Fujifilm, Ilford and ColorTone. These companies, and Kodak, also manufacture rolls of color enlarging paper that, depending on the manufacturer, range from 3.5" to 50" in width and to up to 610' in length.

Most of the color enlarging papers manufactured today are resin coated (RC) or polyester based, and like all color-enlarging media must be handled in complete darkness. Unlike black and white enlarging papers, which offer a fair measure of temperature tolerance when being processed, color enlarging papers must be processed under an extremely tight temperature range throughout the entire processing procedure. While hand processing is quite doable, machine processing is the preferred method for consistent, repeatable results.

Color enlarging papers are available for use with both negative and positive film, although each paper requires a different chemistry and process. Ilford’s Ilfochrome papers are used to make enlargements from transparency films and feature a very wide, rich color palette. These papers need to be processed using Ilford’s P-30 chemistry. ColorTone, Fujifilm and Kodak papers are used to make enlargements from negative films and are processed using the more standard RA-4 chemistry. These papers come in a wider assortment of surface types and generally feature a neutral to vivid color palette.

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