B&W mural printing, short and long of it…

I’m getting old…

I realised this once (again) when I began setting up for a 54/42″ fibre base mural commission for Ash. Garwood.  Ash is currently residing in L.A. so I was flying solo. Usually when Ash is in Australia we tend to work together in the darkroom. I find this direction useful as I can ask questions and to get a feel what the photographer is after. This creates a bond and trust that is helpful when a client is O.S. They trust me to do my best… And you’re only as good as your last print.


Over the last two days I made a print. The process included setting it up, exposure and processing, then toning, final processing and finally drying & retouching.


So getting back to feeling older… Set up for a mural print is a time consuming process, there is no short cut. Anyone who has made a mural will surely agree. It’s has been a while between murals and I really did feel my age, I forgot how taxing on hands the rolling can be.

The first thing on the menu was to aline the enlarger. At max. projection the alignment needs to be as perfect as possible. I used a clever little device recommended by my friend and fellow darkroom printer Sam. B. The PARALLEL by Versalab takes away the guess work of alignment.



Now it was up and down the short ladder for my short legs, sizing up, focusing, measuring again and checking the focus once again. Lock all off. Now the chemistry, about 20 litres in total for the Dev ( an extra litre in a jug for topping up ), Stop bath, Fix and H.C.A.

The exposure tests begin. When the first test print requires the equivalent of four  20″/24″ pieces of paper, you make a lot of tests. I took a punt for the first and estimated an exposure time of 180 seconds @ f16, dev’d in Fomatol P stock, for 4 minutes, stopped for 60 seconds and fixed for 2 minutes using rapid fixer 1:4. Each test takes around 15 minutes including cutting the 42″ test strip from the roll.


As a result, the final exposure time was just shy of ten minutes, including the half stop burn. Time consuming. The processing completed, the print received a decent 10 minutes rinse wash, then 5 minutes through Hypo Clearing Agent.  Another brief rinse in water it’s into the final wash sink for another 60 minutes in H2O. Water is recycled into the garden

12 hours after drying in the morning it was time for the added archival permanence of Selenium toning. Two and a half minutes in the toner at 1:10 dilution, then the wash sequence once again. Wait to dry, then retouching clean up for final display.

Although the Mural process may be challenging, I always feel rewarded once the print is spotted and ready to hang.

The video below will give an idea of the process of rolling the print during processing.

Chris Reid, Laguna.

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