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Gum printing on wood - an old photographic process

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Project by Scott posted 279 days ago 1665 views 13 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I used the gum printing process to print a photograph onto a pine board. Gum printing is an old photographic process which was first done in the 1840’s, and uses gum arabic and ammonium dichromate as the light sensitive emulsuion. First you print a photo onto a transparency, then spread the emulsion on the substrate, which can be paper, cloth or wood. Finally, you place the transparency onto the emulsion and expose it to the sun for a couple of minutes, then wash it in warm water. In this case, I used one color, but you can expose multiple colors in succession and create realistic color prints.

I also used some old wood to create the frame.

The transparencies are the ‘foils’ that are used on an overhead projector, but you can print onto them from an inkject printer. Called ‘inkjet transparency film’ and available from any office supply.

You can get the chemicals from here (note it is ammonium dichromate NOT potassium dichromate):
http://stores.photoformulary.com/-strse-482/Gum-Arabic-Liquid-14/Detail.bok
http://stores.photoformulary.com/-strse-339/Ammonium-Dichromate*--%28Bichromate%29/Detail.bok

Here is where I learned how. Under the basic steps it shows how to do it for a single color. I wouldn’t bother with the advanced section, all that extra work is not necessary.
http://www.billymabrey.com/tutorials/What-is-a-Gum-Print
To do color, you just create color separations in the software (split into RGB red,green,blue channels), then print 3 transparencies, one for each color. Then you use the opposite color with each transparency, so you use cyan or blue with the red one, magenta or red with the green one, and yellow with the blue one. Then just expose red layer, wash it off and dry, expose green, wash/dry, expose blue and wash/dry.
Here is my color gum printing project: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/95595

-- Scott in North Carolina





16 comments so far

View Gerben's profile

Gerben

102 posts in 989 days


#1 posted 279 days ago

Great effect. The frame really matches the photo.
Doesn’t sound too overly complicated. Might have to try that sometime.
Thank you for sharing.

View Scott 's profile

Scott

154 posts in 900 days


#2 posted 279 days ago

Right, of all the old photographic processes, gum printing is relatively easy.

-- Scott in North Carolina

View oldnovice's profile (online now)

oldnovice

3711 posts in 2001 days


#3 posted 279 days ago

Some of the “old” processes are still amazing to see!

This one looks exceptional! Thanks for sharing your project.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View bake's profile

bake

335 posts in 2310 days


#4 posted 279 days ago

Scott,
This is really cool. I would love to see you do a blog on this process, I’m sure there are a lot of Lumberjocks that would like to try it.
Bake

-- I love the smell of Home Depot in the morning, it smells like.......carpentry. Bake, Bar Lazy U Woodworks, Lehi,UT.

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112016 posts in 2210 days


#5 posted 279 days ago

Very very cool,great job.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View konaman's profile

konaman

75 posts in 2264 days


#6 posted 279 days ago

very cool

View sgtq's profile

sgtq

363 posts in 1309 days


#7 posted 279 days ago

Awesome! Can you explain the emulsion a little more. Do you mix the gum Arabic and ammonium ? Where do you get those?

-- There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. ~William J. Clinton

View sgtq's profile

sgtq

363 posts in 1309 days


#8 posted 279 days ago

And the transparencies? What do you use and where do you get them? Lol sorry I need thing broken down to a low low level ! I love to try this though!

-- There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. ~William J. Clinton

View hoss12992's profile

hoss12992

2597 posts in 526 days


#9 posted 279 days ago

Great job, AWESOME process

-- The Old Rednek Workshop https://www.facebook.com/theoldrednekworkshoptn

View Scott 's profile

Scott

154 posts in 900 days


#10 posted 279 days ago

The transparencies are the ‘foils’ that are used on an overhead projector, but you can print onto them from an inkject printer. Called ‘inkjet transparency film’ and available from any office supply.

You can get the chemicals from here (note it is ammonium dichromate NOT potassium dichromate):
http://stores.photoformulary.com/-strse-482/Gum-Arabic-Liquid-14/Detail.bok
http://stores.photoformulary.com/-strse-339/Ammonium-Dichromate*--%28Bichromate%29/Detail.bok

Here is where I learned how. Under the basic steps it shows how to do it for a single color. I wouldn’t bother with the advanced section, all that extra work is not necessary.
http://www.billymabrey.com/tutorials/What-is-a-Gum-Print
To do color, you just create color separations in the software (split into RGB red,green,blue channels), then print 3 transparencies, one for each color. Then you use the opposite color with each transparency, so you use cyan or blue with the red one, magenta or red with the green one, and yellow with the blue one. Then just expose red layer, wash it off and dry, expose green, wash/dry, expose blue and wash/dry.

-- Scott in North Carolina

View bygrace's profile

bygrace

122 posts in 602 days


#11 posted 279 days ago

Thanks for all the info Scott. That is a really great looking project. I’m sure there is a market for it as well.

-- Andy, Waxahachie, Tx.

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

4929 posts in 1431 days


#12 posted 279 days ago

Very interesting use of an old technique. The sepia tone really gives it the antique look as well.
What strikes me as funny is the discussion about how to get a transparency from a print. Of course, before digital cameras darkroom work was all about getting a print from a transparency, the negative film.

Thanks for posting this.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

View Scott 's profile

Scott

154 posts in 900 days


#13 posted 279 days ago

Yes, the times they are a changin’...

-- Scott in North Carolina

View lightweightladylefty's profile

lightweightladylefty

2639 posts in 2345 days


#14 posted 278 days ago

Scott,

Thanks for sharing such an interesting project. I wish I were 50 years younger so I would have time to try some of these ideas. For now, I’ll enjoy seeing what others can do. Thanks for all the details.

L/W

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View juststeveb's profile

juststeveb

34 posts in 314 days


#15 posted 275 days ago

Gotta try this…love old school stuff

-- we stand behind our work but never under it...(love seeing the look in customers eyes when they hear it)

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