We Are Designing & Building a New Ultra Large Format Contact Printing Solution

August 05, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

My New Ultra Large Format Contact Printing System - www.timlaytonfineart.comMy New Ultra Large Format Contact Printing System - www.timlaytonfineart.com We have been working and testing a new solution for making our large and ultra large format contact prints.

We are far enough along now to share some of the details, and we will hopefully be finishing up version 1 of the new design within the next couple of weeks. 

Don't miss an update.  Make sure you follow along in our free analog photography newsletter and our YouTube Channel.

We aim to have a solution that will allow us to make up to 20x24 ultra large format contact prints using UV and variable contrast light sources. 

We love using paper negatives and contact printing them.  We always employ split-grade printing methods for these types of prints, so we needed to factor that into our design.  

We need a strong light source for printing silver chloride emulsions.  These emulsions require about 5X the light of the faster silver gelatin emulsions. 

Also, we love making Platinum, Palladium, and Kallitype handmade fine art prints that require a UV light source. We also make a few different POP emulsions that require UV light. 

Watch the latest episode of Tim Layton's Darkroom Diary Now - www.timlaytonfineart.com/youtubeWatch the latest episode of Tim Layton's Darkroom Diary Now - www.timlaytonfineart.com/youtube

Based on our current three separate contact printing solutions, we had a baseline to think about how we could improve the new system. 

We currently have a bench top UV printer that takes up over 4 feet of linear space, our incandescent light source for our silver chloride takes up another 2 to 2 1/2 feet, and the 45VXL enlarger takes up another 2 to 2 1/2 feet of space.  We need over 8 feet of space to make our various contact prints. 

My New Ultra Large Format Contact Printing System - www.timlaytonfineart.comMy New Ultra Large Format Contact Printing System - www.timlaytonfineart.com In the new system, we wanted to reclaim as much space as possible and improve our overall workflow and work experience.

The new system is a 4 ft x 4 ft square design.  In the center, a 2 ft area will act as the light chamber and diffuser.  That leaves 1 ft on each side of this area, which will be used to store dry chemicals, books, and various things. 

We started testing with a heavy-duty wardrobe box that measured 24"x24"x48".  We knew we wanted to standardize on making 20x24 Ultra Large Format contact prints as our maximum print size, so the cardboard box was an excellent place to start testing some ideas. 

We quickly realized that we needed a diffused light source for the silver chloride and silver gelatin contact prints to ensure the light was even across the printing area. We needed to experiment with various diffusion materials and place them at different distances between the light source and the contact printing surface.

There are no guides or manuals for this stuff, so you have to design, build, and test to verify your ideas.  This is one thing that I love about analog photography.  Your hands are involved in every aspect of your work.

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After a lot of testing, we have a solid plan to use two light sources, our LED UV Black Lights and our Heiland LED cold light head, to make all three types of contact prints. 

In the first version of this build, we can repurpose the UV light source from the bench top printer.  It worked perfectly that the UV lights were already mounted on a 2 ft x 4 ft panel.  We didn't need to change anything other than removing it from the old printer. This panel will slide right into the new system. 

The UV light source needs to be about 6 inches from the contact printing surface for optimal performance, but it needs to be removable when we want to make silver chloride or silver gelatin contact prints.  Our printing time for our platinum and palladium is about 1 minute and 15 seconds. 

We are building a rail system inside the light cavity area that allows us to slide in the UV lights and easily remove them when needed.

We also needed a diffuser between the Heiland LED cold light head and the contact printing surface.  This was the most time-consuming part of the design: getting the best diffuser and figuring out the proper distance. 

The Heiland 8x10 LED Cold Light source is mounted on the base of the cabinet and points straight up.  We have a small frame system to keep the back of the light source off of the bottom.  We mounted the diffuser panel 8 inches above the light source for optimum light diffusion. 

We have been using our Heiland LED cold light head and the Splitgrade controller on our 8x10 enlarger since 2018 to make our big silver gelatin enlargements from our 8x10 negatives.  It turns out that the Heiland's head has enough power to expose silver chloride contact printing papers and be controllable enough to use much faster silver gelatin papers. 

Also, the integrated split-grade technology is an absolute marvel to work with. It eliminates the need to use optical variable contact filters, and the intelligence Splitgrade controller makes the split-grade printing process fast and painless.

I will follow up with a new article and video with the completed system. 

Thanks for following along, and don't miss an update in the future.  Get my Free Analog Photography Newsletter and join us on our YouTube Channel.


16x20 and 8x20 Ultra Large Format by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com16x20 and 8x20 Ultra Large Format by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com My handmade fine art prints are based on four guiding principles: Truth, Justice, Difference, and Identity.  

These core principles run like a ribbon through my artwork from beginning to end.

TRUTH: I see truth as a primary objective when I create a new body of work.  Truth is the one thing that stands the test of time; without it, we have nothing or no purpose. 

JUSTICE: Many injustices in the world compete for our attention.  We must follow our hearts and tell the stories that matter to us, and we will naturally attract people interested in learning more.  People who are not interested naturally self-prune and save us a lot of time and effort. 

DIFFERENCE: I sincerely want to help make a difference in this world, and my artwork is a communication platform to help me work through the process.  Through awareness comes change.  By creating new and authentic artwork and telling the story and issues behind each image, we naturally connect with other people that are genuinely interested.

IDENTITY: When I got my first camera in 1975, everything changed because I realized that I had a voice that was much bigger than myself, and I could inspire and motivate people to make a difference in the world. I have always been drawn to the awe of nature and wildlife, and I feel these issues deeply.  I believe that everything in the universe is connected and has a purpose.  Sometimes this is not obvious, and we must go on a journey to be enlightened.

Ultra Large Format Photography Newsletter by Tim LaytonUltra Large Format Photography Newsletter by Tim Layton



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