Kodak D-85 Developer Test

Testing Kodak D-85 lith developer with Fotospeed Lith paper

Nikon F4, Adox CHS50 Art, Lith print on Fotospeed Lith paper.

For some time, I’ve been meaning to test home-brewed D-85 two-solution developer as an alternative for lith printing.

This is the first print, made from a 35mm negative, on Fotospeed lith paper.
The D-85 formula (available here) contains paraformaldehyde, an unpleasant chemical that gives off a strong odour of formaldehyde when in solution. Good darkroom ventilation is essential, particularly when – as is the case here – you are processing at a higher temperature.

This print was developed at a dilution of 1 part solution A + 4 parts solution B + 10 parts water at 32.5 deg. C. Development time was 10 minutes, with continuous agitation. The image started to appear at 5 minutes and the ‘snatch point’ was not critical, infectious development happening quite slowly.

The developer at this dilution exhausted very quickly. After two test strips and this 8×10 print, the next print had no visible image after 8 minutes. I topped up the developer with a further 1 part of solution A and continued development. This second print required 11 minutes in total, although the tonality was slightly different and the overall image darker than this, the first print. Replenishment with 0.5 parts of solution A may be a better option.

As I have found with this paper previously usng LD-20 developer, the lith effect is subtle and the image colour unexceptional. The paper is also semi-matt, a surface that I’m not keen on and which doesn’t scan well, due to its granular texture. The scan you see here looks better than the print. The colour of the enlarged image closely matches the original print though.
Further tests will be done next using Fomatone MG Classic 131 glossy paper.

This entry was posted in 35mm, Chemical Lith Process, Film negative, Silver Gelatin. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Kodak D-85 Developer Test

  1. Thomas Pindelski says:

    This had me flashing back to your piece on the Formulary and recalling my early fascination with various film and paper developers. My experimentation was limited to studying the difference between processing TriX in neat as opposed to 1:1 diluted D76 (the latter easily the winner for it’s acutance at the cost of more grain – it’s what Hemmings used in Blow Up, I bet) but that in no way lessens my appreciation for what you are doing here.

    And your superbly seen and processed picture made the whole thing great reading and your effort worthwhile.

    In the era of digital, a pixel is a pixel is a pixel is a pixel, with apologies to Ms. Stein. The romance in processing alternatives has gone.

    Thank you for a fine memory.

  2. Brian says:

    Hi Roy,
    That all sounds very complicated, the polar opposite to digital snapping, but it’s certainly worth it.
    A beautiful image that makes one look into the subject, feel its history and appreciate the subtlety of vernacular architecture. It’s like a portrait with all the lines of the face telling a story.

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