I have been proofing the first plate with a variety of Charbonnel black inks, which I probably use 90% of the time, plus Gamblin Carbon Black. I had recently run out of the Charbonnel equivalent and tried to buy a 1lb can locally, without luck, so I ended up with the Gamblin, just to see me through a small edition, and I still had it knocking around. It’s OK, but it’s a lot looser than the stiffer Charbonnel version that I’m used to, and prefer.
The Charbonnel inks were Carbon Black, Soft Black and Universal, both with and without modifiers. Over the years I’ve found I’m needing to modify inks much less than, say, 15-16 years ago when I first started using polymer plates. Part of that is due to the ability to control the contrast of the film positive within Photoshop. When I started with this process I was still making film positives with large format sheet film, an enlarger and chemistry in the darkroom – a much harder thing to get right.
The first proofs had great separation in the highlights and mid-tones but the shadows were just a little too deep and black and losing detail. Working with a looser ink gave better separation throughout but the sky was becoming over wiped and too light. I made a second plate, increasing the aquatint screen exposure to lighten the shadows a little while at the same time darkening the high tones slightly. Being the very first image in the series, it’s especially important to get this right as it will set the standard for the remaining prints to match to. After a day of proofing I finally decided on Charbonnel Universal Black.