This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Introduction. Gravure effects are produced by closely vignetting, or blocking out, the entire figure in any negative, then printing on large sheets of paper, the figure vignetted in the center with a large white margin around it. After printing, developing and drying, the prints are worked with crayon, either by hand or with an air brush.
1181. The prints should be made on platinum paper of heavy weight. i his paper has a surface that will readily take the crayon sauce, and, therefore, will permit the production of an almost endless variety of backgrounds, from the light fleecy clouds to strong, bold, sketchy, or charcoal effects.
1182. The production of these gravure effects is an operation of some little delicacy, but easy when set about in the right manner. To demonstrate its simplicity, an extremely difficult subject has been selected for illustration. The background is dark, whereas if we had selected a negative with a white background matters would have been much simplified. One will readily appreciate this when attempting to vignette a dark background, as some little difficulty will be experienced in vignetting sufficiently close to eliminate all of the black background. Therefore when making a sitting for the express purpose of producing a gravure effect, use a white background.
Placing The Negative In Proper Position On Plain Glass. Suppose a 5 x 7 cabinet bust negative has been selected from which to produce a gravure print. First, supply a clean 8 x 10 glass and an 8 x 10 printing frame. Examine the glass by glancing along the edge in order that you may see which is the concave or convex side. Next examine the negative in like manner. Then place the negative film side up, on the glass, so that the glass and negative curve in the same way, thereby bringing them into perfect contact. This will prevent the danger of the negative or glass breaking when the back of the printing frame is placed in position and the springs pressed down and fastened.
1184. After having placed the negative in proper position, carefully spacing to produce proper margins - at sides and top about the same with a trifle more space at the bottom - fasten the negative to the glass by sticking with adhesive paper at the corners (See Illustration No. 14.) The next step is to paste over the back of the printing frame a piece of yellow postoffice paper the exact size of the frame. Holding the printing frame towards the light, with the negative towards you, with a soft pencil trace the outline the exact shape of the subject's head and shoulders, and also as much of the bust as it is desired to show. When looking through the negative to the light the shadow of the pencil lines on the postoffice paper is so clearly visible the outline can be easily traced. (See Illustration No. 15.) Next, remove the negative and with a pen knife or small scissors cut out around where you have marked, thus producing an opening in the yellow postoffice paper. This opening, as we have already said, must be the exact size and shape of the head and bust on the negative. In Illustration No. 16 you will notice white cotton placed around the opening cut in the yellow postoffice paper. This absorbent cotton is placed there to prevent light from spreading on the negative, which, if permitted, would cause too large a spreading of the vignette.
1185. A little practice will be required to adjust the cotton exactly right. In order to produce a soft blending effect, the cotton must not be matted close, but applied loosely, so as to filter light at the opening of the vignette,
Illustration No. 14 Fastening Negative to Glass.
See Paragraph No. 1184
Illustration No. 15 Tracing Image on Paper See Paragraph No. 1184.
Illustration No. 16 Placing Cotton Around Image See Paragraph No. 1184.
Illustration No. 17 Blending Vignette with Opaque.
Sec Paragraph No. 1187
Illustration No. 18 Vignetted Print Before Gravuring
See Paragraph No. 1190 being gradually made thicker as it nears the outline of the figure.
1186. Compare the negative in the illustration with this vignette in the printing frame, and note that we have followed the outline of the figure in the negative very closely. This is necessary in order to vignette out the background perfectly.
1187. After you have placed the negative in the frame and clamped on the back, turn the frame over and paste a piece of very fine tissue paper or onion skin over the opening. This will aid in blending the vignette. Again remove the back, hold the frame toward the light, and with a small brush apply a thin coating of opaque to the tissue paper on the edge of the opening. This will still further help to blend the vignette. (See Illustration No. 17.)
1188. If these instructions have been carefully followed and the background blocked out by vignetting, all is ready to proceed with the making of the print. Before placing a full sized sheet of platinum paper on the negative, however, we would advise that a vignette test be made with printing-out proof paper. If you find the vignette spreads too much, or shows too far down on the body, make it vignette closer by placing the cotton closer to the opening; also by painting still closer to the outline on the tissue paper with opaque. When the vignette is correct, place the paper in position and print as usual.
1189. You must be careful, however, that the printing frame is placed at the correct angle, facing the sun squarely. If the frame lays too flat too much vignette over the head will be produced. If turned away from the sun, the vignette will spread on one side more than on the other. If the printing frame is placed close to a perpendicular position, the vignette will show too low on the bust. Place the printing frame at an angle as near to the angle of light with the sun as possible.
1190. The vignetted print when finished should appear like Illustration No. 18, the background vignetted off closely around the head and the ground absolutely white.
1191. The next step is to work in the background. The material required is as follows: A small piece of absorbent cotton, some pumice stone, a stick of crayon sauce (this crayon sauce is a black material wrapped in tinfoil), and a small artist's rubber. To work in the background proceed in the following manner:
1192. Take about one-third of the crayon sauce and crush it to a fine powder in a pasteboard box cover. Mix with the crayon sauce a little of the pumice stone, about one-fourth as much as the crayon sauce. This pumice stone will supply grit, which, when rubbed into the print, will cause it to take the crayon readily. Tack your print to a drawing-board, or any smooth board, then with the absorbent cotton which you should form into a stump, apply the mixture of crayon sauce and pumice stone. Begin first by rubbing close to the outline and gradually work lighter as you leave it. If the line vignetting off the bust is quite sharp, build up to it and blend off gradually. The crayon should not be applied evenly all around, but irregularly, producing sort of a cloud effect. Do not apply too heavily. After having blended in the background, take the artist's small rubber, or eraser, and cut in the catch lights. These are the light streaks of white in the background. Do not cut them in too sharply, as they should have soft blended edges, and be made with one stroke of the rubber.
1193. Illustration No. 19 shows this picture completely finished, mounted in a folder ready for delivery. Illustration No. 20, which represents a plain print from this negative, is shown for purposes of comparison. In Illustration No. 21 is presented a group of gravure portraits, each treated slightly different. Carefully study the illustrations. They will give some idea of the results to be tried for. After a little practice it will be found possible to produce an almost endless variety of effects.
1194. To those who are in the habit of using an air brush, or to a crayon artist, this method of putting in backgrounds will prove very simple. While the effects produced by the air brush are pretty and can be easily produced, you will find that backgrounds rubbed in with the cotton and worked up by hand are much more sketchy and effective.
Illustration No. 20 Plain Direct Print.
See Paragraph No. 1193
Illustration No. 19 Gravured Print Mounted in Folder.
See Paragraph No. 1193
Illustration No. 21 Group of Gravure Portraits See Paragraph No. 1193.
1195. Gravure portraits should be placed in suitable folders, or if mounted, large light-weight mounting board should be used. They are very pretty when embossed, and where heavy platinum paper is used may be delivered unmounted, each print placed in a tissue enclosure.