RE: bromoil, anyone?

From: D. Mark Andrews ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 11/14/04-11:40:07 AM Z
Message-id: <>


I'm not usually the discouraging type, but this may be a bigger project then
you think. I hope you have the time to put into it. If we met in a bar and
were talking over beer I would most likely tell you....My experience a
couple of years ago was met with utter frustration. Let me explain. When I
look out there I see two levels of bromoilists. On one end you have David
Lewis--perhaps the most skilled living bromoilist who is very much in line
with the 19th century practitioners--photographic realism of sentimental
subjects. The matrix is inked, layer by layer, with a hog's hair brush--some
layers are so thin you can hardly see them--if you can, then you most likely
applied too much ink and removing it will abrade the paper--toss it out and
start over. The other end of the spectrum is dominated by the majority of
the practitioners who's images are very "muddy" and grainy--pieces of
visible ink. They often apply ink with a roller and a brush--lots of ink.
Interesting enough, this has become the expected look and has lured many to
the process for this exact aesthetic. But it always surprises me since I
haven't seen any historic bromoil images with this aesthetic--bromoil
transfers are close, however. Creating the latter is far less time
consuming, the former takes practice and it may take you hours to get an
image right--whatever that means :-)

There used to be several good paper choices, but IMHO David Lewis' Bromoil
paper is really the best for this type of work. You can purchase it from
Photographers Formulary in Montana.

Historically, a hog's hair brush is used with this process, and in my
experience it works much better then any other. You need a brush with stiff
bristles that has a bounce when you apply them to the paper. I tried the
Williams-Sonoma baster with minimal success. Vintage shaving brushes work
better than new ones which are often made with synthetic materials, if not,
they cost more than a good bromoil brush. I find ebay and my local antiques
store good places to find them for under $5.00. You can order bromoil
brushes from David Lewis directly or B&S.

I had good exposure success, using David Lewis' paper, by overexposing by 40
percent. My workflow was to make a "perfect" print first with dodging and
burning and then duplicate that exact process with the initial exposure to
be 40% more then the "perfect" image. Dodge and burn times were left at
their original times. Make 10 matrices at a time since you most likely will
be tossing may out for overinking, abrading, etc. Uninked matrices will last
years so I find it is easier to make a batch and set them aside rather then
going back into the darkroom. David Lewis claims that he only goes into the
darkroom once a year and produces all the matrices he needs for the year.

Overnight drying worked well for me with an initial pass over the flame of a
gas stove--not too close of course.

If it's not too late to investigate other options, you might consider trying
Photopolymer plates which are contact printed with a negative and then
rinsed in water. The subsequent plate can be inked and sent through a
press--I think you said you were a print maker. I have a couple of pals
trying this technique and are making good progress. The final image looks
very similar to a bromoil transfer to me.

Just so you don't take me for an utter cad, if you send me your address
offline I'll donate to you two bromoil brushes, enough ink to take you into
old age and a box of 8X10 bromoil paper in exchange for a one of your best
prints--your choice :-)


     I know this is hard to believe I can think about something other than
gum, but this week I got the hairbrained idea to use bromoil as my technical
research project for a printmaking class. I was inspired to do so after
seeing Tom Micklin's prints in the traveling portfolio (so Tom, please chime
in here). The hairbrained part was deciding to produce an edition of 10
different prints for the critique.
     Let me say that I have read about bromoil extensively, researching it
and condensing a workflow for my Experimental Workbook, in which is my
"quickie" bromoil method. I tested it way back when, but no students ever
chose to do bromoil, and I was not a printmaker at the time which I now am.
Thus I am a bromoil neophyte.

     I mixed my own bromoil solution and it worked great. This is good.

     First mistake: I knew that Ilford papers are resistant to bleaching,
but did not know if this resistance would entail a longer bleach etch time
in the bromoil solution. Silly me--just because it resists bleaching does
NOT mean it resists etching. I bleach etched for 16 minutes, and all of
those prints (11x14's,) delaminated. It was like bromoiling on top of a
mordancage. I was NOT happy. I should have known this because Ilford is a
WONDERFUL paper for mordancage--it veils very quickly.

     I then reprinted all, using these papers: Ilford MGIV matte, Ilford
MGIV warmtone pearl, Forte Polywarmtone RC, Bergger VCCB. I found out some
stuff in my mistakes. For one, Forte RC was by far the best! I am
surprised. It is glossy, too. Next was the Ilford MGIV matte.

     Question: what are your fave papers, you bromoilists? Not the special
bromoil papers, but regular ones. Do you use glossy or matte?

     Two, since I ruined the first batch of prints and had to redo the whole
process with a time limit facing me, I found that an 8 minute etch was
plenty sufficient, and that I could go right from the etch bath to inking up
with no problem. Thus it wasn't really necessary to dry mount press the
prints in between the bleach/etch bath and printing up as it is said (to
make them ink up better).

     Question: is there a cheapy brush source anyone can recommend? And
brush catalog number? I used rollers for this process. On Forte RC with
rollers you can essentially get back your print to looking just like a
photograph, which...what's the I wanted to try a brush for my
next go around. The local drugstore did not even know what a man's shaving
brush is.

     One more question: do you bromoilists print one stop darker and duller
as a general rule, or something other? Oh, and how long do you think a
print takes to dry? I was thinking of pressing it between baking parchment
paper in the drymount press, to prevent ink from getting on things.

     I guess what I am interested in, really, is any bromoil
tawlk amungst yurselfs...your workflow, your mistakes, anything!
Received on Sun Nov 14 11:40:51 2004

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