Creating a dark film positive is essential to getting a good screen and a good print. If your film is too light, it won’t expose correctly and you’ll lose valuable detail. Sometimes, the film your printer creates isn’t dark enough. How do you solve this issue? Here are three ways to create a darker film.
Photo by Symmetree Clothing
FINDING THE RIGHT PRINTER FOR YOU
Creating a darker film positive used to be relatively simple. You’d buy a printer that worked with a specific RIP software, perhaps use an aftermarket black ink, and that was it. Now, it’s a little more complicated. Due to current supply chain interruptions, getting your hands on an inkjet printer has become more and more difficult.
Each printer is different, and lays down a different black ink density. Manufacturer’s inks (also known as OEM inks) are also designed specifically for each printer set. Some inks, like Epson’s Ultrachrome inks, are designed to have better UV blocking power, but may not look as black on the film. Depending on the printer you have, you’ll need to figure out what works best for you when searching for ways to make your film positives darker.
Let’s walk through three ways to get a darker film positive.
OPTION 1: ADJUST YOUR PRINTER SETTINGS
The first thing you should do when trying to get a darker film positive is to check out your printer software settings. This is entirely dependent on the printer your films are going to. Test your printer settings for best practices on getting the film with the most black ink your printer can achieve.
To achieve the best dark film positive possible, it’s best to use glossy photo paper. Using glossy paper will also typically unlock extra print options. You’ll want to find the best all-black ink laydown settings for your printer. Each printer has different settings, so you will have to experiment until you find what works best for you. If your printer can’t achieve a dark enough film positive on its own, head to option 2 for a solution.
RELATED: THE DARKROOM PROCESS: FILM, EMULSION DENSITY, EXPOSING, WASHOUT
OPTION 2: USE THIRD-PARTY INKS
Another option to get that dark film positive is to convert your printer to an all-black printing system. Plenty of shops use this system, and it’s becoming more and more popular as printers expand their choice of film output printers.
To create an all-black system, you’ll need to find third party black inks that work with your printer. Visit sites like InkOwls to find aftermarket black ink and refillable cartridges that are compatible with your printer.
Note: Purchasing third-party black inks will void the warranty on your film output printer. Make sure that this option is right for your shop.
Photo by Symmetree Clothing
Waterproof film has a water-receptive layer that helps the ink to settle into place and dry quicker. This also aids in film opacity as it prevents the ink from running or spreading on the film.
OPTION 3: DOUBLE UP YOUR FILMS
This might seem easy, but doubling up film really should be a last resort in trying to get a darker film positive. If you’ve ever tried to double up a film, you might notice that it’s very difficult to get the two films completely aligned. If your films aren’t exact, you won’t be able to expose the design properly, and you’ll have to start over.
RELATED: THE BEST WAY TO EASILY ALIGN FILMS ON A SCREEN WITHOUT A TEMPLATE
If your films aren’t perfectly aligned, you won’t get crisp edges like this film. Photo by Symmetree Clothing.
Doubling up films also creates a thicker film.Your film naturally blocks some light anyway, so doubling them up will block even more light. Because of this, your exposure times are going to be about a third longer, and you won’t be able to use an exposure calculator to properly test for proper exposure. If you’re doubling up film, exposing a screen to a solid step 7 won’t necessarily be accurate. You can run into a lot of problems in your darkroom by doubling up film.
One more thing: doubling up film is pretty wasteful. You’re using twice as much film to do one job, and creating two times the waste. There are ways to recycle your film positives, but why not conserve a little ink, film, and money by doing this another way? If you have no other options, you can double up your film, but it’s not recommended.
RELATED: HOW TO RECYCLE SCREEN PRINTING FILM POSITIVES
Photo by Golden Press Studio
Finding the printer and ink that works for you in your budget can be tricky. With so many options, you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for your needs. If you need advice or want a second opinion, give us a call! We’re happy to help you find what your shop needs.