The most frequently used bromide paper for the process is Kentmere Art Document, a fibre based paper. When starting the process, it is the easiest paper to use to achieve a reasonable result. (Unfortunately this paper is no longer made and is difficult to get hold of. See section on available papers)
Prepare a normal bromide print, aiming for slightly veiled highlights and detail in the shadows. Leave a ½" to 1" margin all round the image for handling purposes.
The developer I use to produce the image is the old D163 formula. All the chemical formulae are given at the end of this article. For use, take 1 part of stock solution to 3 parts of water or as required to give the necessary contrast. When using a negative with a lot of contrast, the developer should be used weaker. Use all solutions at 68°F (20°C).
Having developed the print, fix it in a 10% plain Hypo bath for 5 minutes only. Wash the print thoroughly and dry it, usually over night.
Bleaching and tanning
Soak the previously prepared print in clean water for 5 minutes at 68F. Remove from the water and blot off surplus water. Place the print in the bottom of a dish ready to receive the bleach-tan solution. Use 1 part stock solution to 10 parts water at 68F.
Prepare sufficient bleach-tan solution to cover the bromide print in the bottom of the dish. Pour in the solution and keep rocking the dish for a full 10 minutes so that the tanning action is completed. Discard the bleach-tan solution after use.
Wash the print thoroughly to remove all traces of the bleach-tan solution and then fix it again in a 10% plain hypo solution, as before, for 5 minutes. Wash and dry thoroughly.
Applying Ink to Matrix
A dish in which to soak the matrix. Blotting paper and cotton wool.
A sheet of glass, larger than the matrix to be inked.
A sponge and a piece of chamois leather to remove surplus water.
An old handkerchief or piece of absorbent cloth to remove all water from the matrix.
Ink - the thickest litho ink available. I suggest Intaglio Black Lithographic Ink No. 1803.
Brush - a cheap shaving or a decorator's brush trimmed to the shape of a stag's foot or horse's hoof. This can be achieved with a pair of scissors and finished off with an electric razor. (See illustration 1)
A 6" white glazed tile on which to mix and spread the ink.
A small knife or palette knife with which to spread the ink. Artists' turpentine to thin the ink when necessary.
Take some of the ink, about the size of a small pea, on the tip of the knife and spread it in a patch on the tile. Mix well by spreading and removing it with the knife until there is a patch the size of about 1.5" by 2.5”; holding the blade of the knife at about 45 degrees to the tile, gently remove the ink until there is only a thin layer left. Dab the brush on this patch of the ink so that only the tips of the bristles on the brush accept the ink. Now dab the brush on a clean part of the tile. Build up this second patch of ink by dabbing repeatedly from the first patch. Only the tips of the brush should be charged with ink. When applying ink to the matrix, the brush should be used only from the second patch. (See illustration 2)
Soak the matrix for 3 minutes in clean water at 68F (20C). Remove from the dish and place it face down on the blotting paper. Remove surplus water from the back with the sponge.
Place the matrix face up on the sheet of glass and with the chamois leather gently remove the surplus water. Finish off by wiping with the old handkerchief or cloth, folded to form a pad, paying particular attention to the edges of the matrix. There should now be no signs of any water on the matrix or the glass sheet.
Apply the brush, previously charged with ink, to the matrix, starting at the top left and working down to the bottom with a dabbing dragging action, dab-drag-lift, dab-drag-lift. Return the brush to the top of the matrix and once more work to the bottom, working across the matrix to the right hand side. Charge the brush from the second patch of ink on the tile as and when necessary. (See illustration 3 and 4)
The matrix should be coated with a thin layer of ink, looking rather muddy, but with the image just showing through. Now change the action of the brush, dabbing the matrix without dragging. (See illustration 5) The image will start to clean up, becoming more prominent. Continue working with those two actions until no further progress seems to be made.
Put the brush to one side and with a swab of cotton wool, charged with water from the small dish or bowl, wipe over the image on the matrix. The image should now clean up and the highlight areas become more prominent and the contrast increased. Remove all surplus water again with the chamois leather and the handkerchief or cloth. Then resume inking again as before. The contrast should now build up. Be careful not to use too much ink. If the ink on the tile becomes dry, re-spread the surplus ink on the knife, as before, leaving a thin film on the tile. Recharge the brush, as and when required from the freshened patch. A more forceful dabbing will also increase contrast in the image. (See illustration 6)
As the image builds up, specific areas can be worked on. Shadow areas may require more ink, whilst the highlight areas may require lightening.
Brushes and equipment can be cleaned with lighter fuel, petrol or white spirit, but not turpentine substitute. If white spirit is used, leave the brushes for 24 hours to dry out.
Bromoil is a very personal process and success depends on cleanliness, attention to detail, patience and perseverance in the handling of the brush. Don't be disappointed if your first effort is not a masterpiece. Just persevere.
Every Bromoil is an original. No two can be exactly alike.
Gilbert R. Hooper FRPS