Drying Prints

The more things change, the more they remain the same.  Whether you are doing darkroom prints, and slushing paper through chemicals, or a machine is spritzing  ink on paper, at some point this paper must be dried.

As a kid, I had a ferrotype dryer, which heated up, and had a canvas cloth that stretched across the paper and you ended up with a) a dirty usually contaminated canvas cloth, and b) a glossy (often contaminated) print if you didn’t clean the metal plates.

Later, I used nylon screens that I bought from Zone VI (do they still exist?) – which you stacked on each other.  Eventually, the nylon began to sag, and you needed to put some books or something around the edges to keep the stacked prints from touching, and to make sure they got enough air.

Another common method for drying prints was to hang them on a string.  Nothing simpler.  If you were using fiber paper, and you didn’t weigh down the bottom corners, they’d curl up badly and then at the end you’d still have to flatten them out.

No matter how I dried my fiber prints, I always needed to flatten them out.  For that I had a warmed up mounting press.  That was a hunk of iron.  I’d put the prints,  separated by some sort of clean paper or matboard, and let them sit in the press for a while.  No press, then pressed under books for the night.

So jump ahead a few decades or so and here’s one of the drying methods that I like best:  stick the print by itself in an empty box.  They dry nicely, and of course flat.  You don’t need to flatten sheet paper – but okay – you still need to flatten paper that comes off a roll.

So nothing wasted.  I save the boxes (these are letter size) but the same idea works for any size, and not only will they dry well but they are protected from dust and in my world, cat hair sticking to the ink while it is first drying.  No matter how instant drying – the papers I use usually need to “cure” for 24 hours before they can be safely shipped out.


If you don’t have enough empty boxes, or you are using curled paper from a roll, this works well for me: hinges.  You just buy a bunch of these metal hinges from the hardware store, in various sizes and use them to hold down the corners of the print.  And then, using mat board, you just stack them up.  Keeps everything clean, and also flattens the prints at the same time.



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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City.

2 thoughts on “Drying Prints”

  1. Zone VI Studios has been gone for many years now. I know Calumet was selling a few of their products, but since Fred Picker’s death in 2002, I haven’t seen his products available (except on eBay).


  2. I used the Zone VI enlarger for most of my darkroom days. And I always wanted one of those beautiful Zone VI view cameras; but settled for less expensive Wistas. Seems like a century ago.

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