- Buy watercolor tape first, it can be bought
from any good art shop selling watercolor paint and accessories.
Watercolor tape is a white or brownish paper tape, having
a single sided glue layer. I am not sure if it is acid free,
most likely not, so in case you are concerned with archival
properties, after drying cut away the sides covered
by the tape. The tape sold is usually 3-5 cm wide and can
be bought on big rolls. Initially, the glue is non-adhesive,
it needs to come into contact with water to develop it stickiness.
- Cut the tape in suitable strips based on the
size of your photopaper. Ensure you have an access 10 cm of
tape (5 cm on each side of the photopaper) for each strip
to properly hold the photopaper.
- Ensure you have a number of glass plates, or
some other perfectly flat plate type base to hold your prints.
If you have any large internal glass window in your home,
than that is perfectly suited for carrying your drying fiber
based prints (do note though that cutting free the prints
with a knife may damage the glass...). If you are not so lucky,
the glass plates of left-over frames will do too. Place the
glass plates vertical, to avoid dust settling on your prints
during the drying process.
- Start out with a well washed finished print
still residing in your washing tray. Take it out of the water
holding it on one corner of the paper. Let access water run
of the paper, until the water stream first turns into a trickling
stream of droplets, usually after a few seconds. Don't wait
longer! The paper still needs to be covered with a uniform
water film for proper drying of the gelatin layer. If you
wait to long, and large droplets form on the paper base, the
droplets may cause visible artifacts on the papers surface.
- With the water film still covering the paper,
place it on the glass plates. Water will immediately start
trickling down, use the tea towel to remove it. You will see
the initially uniform water film slowly reseeding down the
surface of the paper. Channels of water will transport the
access water downward. Don't worry if a few small droplets
remain on the paper. Although some photographers use wash-leather
to remove access water, I don't. In my experience, the few
small water droplets remaining do not leave visible artifacts
on the gelatin layer of the paper*. The entire process of
the access water reseeding from the paper usually takes between
10-15 minutes. In the mean time, regularly use the tea towel
to remove water trickling down the glass plate.
* Note: sepia toned prints are quite prone to
calcareous deposits during drying due to the high pH of the
toning bath. If you have problems with calcareous stains,
it may be recommended to use a dilute stop bath during the
final washing stages as a means to prevent them.
- If an air bubble accidentally has formed between
the paper and glass, you may consider refitting the paper
to the glass. However, in my experience, even large air bubbles
(up to 5 cm radius) will disappear completely due to the shrinking
and tensioning of the paper during the drying process. If
not to bad, I therefore leave the paper to dry without worrying
about the bubbles.
- Now take the strips of watercolor tape when
the water has completely reseeded from the paper. The watercolor
tape needs to be wetted to acquire it's adhesive qualities.
However, be careful, if the tape is to wet, the glue layer
will more or less "liquefy" and become extremely
sticky. If you place it in this state on the glass and leave
it to dry, the tape will more or less "melt" together
with the glass, and it will be more difficult to clean up
afterwards. Also, more importantly, there is a considerable
risk that glue from the tape will seep inbetween the glass
and your print, causing fatal damage if the print needs to
be teared from the glass. So how do you avoid this? Be careful
wetting the tape... Either use a slightly wetted piece of
cloth to wet the glue layer, or use the approach I have found
to be working very fast and reliable: use a plant spray. Set
the plant spray to disperse a fine cloud of droplets. Now
hold a strip of watercolor tape in one hand, and use your
other hand to make a swift, fast movement with the plant spray
along the strip's glue layer at a distance of about 30-40
cm. Make sure you move fast, causing only dispersed droplets
to form on the tapes glue layer. If you move your hand to
slowly, to much water will settle on the tape and again cause
the glue layer to "liquefy". It needs a little bit
of practice and tweaking for proper results...
- With a properly wetted piece of tape, now secure
it along the sides of your photopaper. Start with the top
side, than the left and right side, and finally the bottom
side. Take care that the bottom side is not to wet when taping
it down, if need be, you can use the tea towel to remove a
bit of excess water. For taping, a minimum overlap of 0.5
cm will do, but bigger is of course possible. Ensure proper
contact between tape and paper by pressing the tape slightly
against the paper along the entire side. This should ensure
that the shrinking and tensioned paper will not pull loose
of the tape. Do NOT press the watercolor tape and print to
the glass, as this will increase the risk of unwanted seepage
of glue inbetween the print and glass, with the risk of ruining
your print when it needs to be removed. Use only the very
slightest touch or striking gesture along the tape to get
it into contact with the glass, a bit like you would strike
the cheek of your partner in a loving gesture... Although
you might think this would not be sufficient to hold the paper,
it is! The adhesive qualities of the glue are tremendous when
dried, and increase during the drying process.
- Now leave the paper to dry for at least 16-24
hours. After drying, the paper will be properly flattened
and stay like that. To remove it from the glass: if you've
properly followed my instructions, and the tape's glue layer
has not liquefied, at times it may be possible to pull loose
the tape from the glass by tearing it from one side starting
with a loose corner. This means the entire photo, including
the watercolor tape, will come of the glass in one piece!
However, in most cases, you will need a sharp knife to remove
the photopaper from the tape and glass. Simply cut along the
borders of the photo, just be careful not to damage the glass
if it's one of your houses windows...
- If you've managed to indeed remove photopaper
and tape in one piece, simply cut the tape from the photopaper
using a pair of scissors.
- You may wish to additionally cut away the
parts of the print covered by the tape, either for aesthetic
reasons, or due to the unclear archival status of the tape.
- You're done! Store your print well... the glass
can be cleaned from remaining tape by using hot water.
One last tip:
- If accidently the drying print has freed itself
from the tape or the tape teared up, as sometimes happens,
the drying print is likely to have curled during drying. Don't
panic! You can easily restore your print by removing it
from the glass and than soak it again in water for some time.
Remove the tape still glued to the print (slightly warm water,
hand warm, will help with this). It will regain it's flat
original proportions. Now simply tape it down a second time.