Prints that resemble pen and ink drawings

Artists who helped the early explores of the West left many remarkable line drawings of the region. The simple style of the sketches gave good detail and produced pictures that were very eye-catching. By experimenting with tone separations on litho films and with the proper masking, some very interesting prints that resemble these drawings of the old artists have been producted. A good negative, preferably of a subject that was cross lighted to show the texture, is required. The work that follows in the darkroom is not too difficult for the darkroom technician who has experience with the proper processing of litho film.


An original negative as described above, preferably 4×5-inch.

A contact printer equipped with registration pins.

A negative carrier equipped with registration pins.

A paper punch to punch holes in the negatives that will fit the registration pins.

Litho sheet film, type 3.

Print paper, type based on personal preference. I prefer Ektalure R.


Three tone separation contact prints (positives) have to be made using litho film – one for the deep shadows, one that contains the deep shadows plus the midtones and one that contains all the tones from deep shadow through highlights. To make these positives, punch the original negative to fit the pins of the registration system. Align and punch the litho films as they are used to make the contracts with the original negative.

For the deep shadows expose the litho film just enough to print the deep shadows. The exposure time will have to be determined by trial. The enlarger makes a very good light source and is easily controlled.

For the midtones expose a second piece of litho film in contact with the original negative as before, but add about three or four seconds of exposure time. This should produce a litho that contains the shadow areas and some of the lower midtones.

For the highlights, make another contact using the same original negative on a third piece of litho. Increase the exposure photography tips for antelope canyon time again about four seconds.

When the above contacts have been processed and dried, they will be used to make three more contact prints (negatives) on litho film. Make the contact print of each of the litho positives using an exposure that will give dense blacks and clear, unexposed areas on the negative. Process the contacts in litho developer and opaque any pin holes that may appear.


Place the litho highlight negative on the pins of the enlarger’s negative carrier along with the litho positive of the midtones to provide a mask. Focus the image on the easel photography tips for portraits and make an exposure that will print the lines solid black. Remove the above litho films from the enlarger and replace them with the deep shadow negative. Make a second exposure on the same piece of print paper using the same time and lens opening and process the print normally. The easel cannot be moved between exposures so it is advisable to tape the easel to the base of the enlarger.

If a thinner line in the print is desired, use the highlight litho positive and the highlight litho negative together for the first exposure. When using this pair together it will be necessary to have the film backs in contact with each other. This will increase the distance between the film emulsions and cause some light to be diffused into the clear areas of the negative. This procedures a very fine-line drawing. If the lines with this combination are too fine, a piece of matte acetate, cut to the same size as the litho films and punched to fit the registration pins. can be placed between the litho positive and the litho negative to further diffuse the light. An exposure of this combination will give a thin line that is solid.

With a bit of a patience, practice and darkroom time, you’ll soon be producing prints that resemble pen and ink drawings.

Participate in PSA

Tone line prints, some of which resemble pen and ink drawings, are one of several control processes with which members of the Experimenters’ Group work. In sharing the results of their experiments, members learn from one another. In addition to control processes, members experiment with old-time processes and modern processes and products. Anyone interested in photographic experimentation should write to Raymond Drew, Director of Experimenters’s Groups, 8263 Lucienne Drive, Stockton, California 95212. The yearly membership fee is $3.

Also, the Pictorial Print Division of the American Portfolios include one portfolio exclusively for prints made by control processes. Any control photography tips holding camera processes, including tone line, tone separation, or solarization, may be used. Prints are critiqued by members of the portfolio and by a commentator skilled in control process. Those interested should contact Elwood D. Hannah, Director of American Portfolios, 20300 N.W. Mann Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97231.