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How to Make a Lith Print on Black & White Paper

In Lith Printing black and white negatives are overexposed (usually by two or three stops) onto conventional black and white paper. The paper is then developed in a highly diluted lithographic A/B developer.

The result is a print that nearly jumps off the page because the developer increases the edge-sharpness (or accutance) in the higher contrast areas of the print. Lith prints are also usually warm-toned ranging widely from caramel to burnt-ochre.

Grade 3 papers lend themselves well to Lith Printing, as do papers with higher than average silver content. For the most beautiful results avoid papers with whiteners, brighteners or "built-in" developers.

In application, this technique is exciting for students because it breaks most of the rules of traditional photo processing and forces them to make quick, nearly instinctive choices. Exposures are "a few minutes long," and the print is assessed by eye in the developer. When it looks "about right," it is grabbed out of the developer and thrown into the stop bath.

These interpretive protocols realign the mind to focus on visual aesthetics. That means that, after time spent learning technical printing, making lith prints will surprise students with wonderfully unforeseen results.

The best thing about it is that each print is a unique piece of art that is difficult to duplicate. As a unique work, it is infinitely more individual and personal than a limited edition conventional print.

We recommend Moersch SE5 Master Lith Printing Paper Developer Kit. It is ideal for those just getting started in lith printing.

Other good lith developers are made by Moersch and Arista Premium.