I have a good number of colour negatives that I've shot over the years. My university also used to have a machine to process colour paper, although that was thrown out. As a result, any photos I wish to print from these negs need to be printed in black and white, however, I have heard from members of our photo faculty that regular paper does not respond well to the colour of the film-stock.

My question here has two parts:

  1. Is there still a manufacturer which makes the proper paper?
  2. Is this paper sold by B&H in NYC?

Setting aside the filtration that you will need to do to try to get the color casts of the color negative into the image... lets look at the density of the negatives - how much light shines through them and how clear they are.

So that I get relatively consistent data sheets, I'm comparing Superia 200 with Neopan 100 - both made by Fuji.

The color film has a dye density that varies with wavelength of light (the colors in the film itself), but you can get an idea of what the density range of the film is:

Superia dye density

The density of the film is going to be mostly something between 0.5 and 2.0. There is nothing that is at 0.0 (clear). And its also not a nice curve by any stretch of the mind. This isn't a problem for color paper - its designed for the dyes at specific densities and wavelengths.

There is also the density curve of each color:

enter image description here

Note there that the density for each color is different, and has a different toe shape.

On the other hand, black and white film is a bit more sensible.

enter image description here

I want to point out that the density range of black and white film is greater than the density range of color negatives. This means that you will have some adjustments to do there.

You will not get the same range on the paper from color negatives as you would on black and white negatives. The information just isn't there.

Next, one of the big gotchas is that the filter to correct for the orange cast to the negatives is very close to the safelight color. This makes it hard to get that information into the paper.

Overall, you are going to end up with a rather flat print with little contrast when printing to black and white paper.

Reading some old forum posts on photo.net such as Printing of color negatives to B&W paper? and Panchromatic paper? (the paper you are after was known as Panalure - discontinued in 2003) there isn't much interest in making the paper and the general consensus is to just scan and print from there.

You can try with various modern papers and various filter packs to see what works best for your negatives. Remember that the wet darkroom is where the interpretation of the negative is done. What works for one person with a paper and a given negative may or may not work for you. You are likely going to spend a (un?)reasonable bit of time trying to get your prints done that way.

Now days, I'd scan it, do the interpretation in photoshop and print on an appropriate printer.

  • There is this question that I think you might be able to answer. Asides from the shameless self promotion, it has one answer, but that person isn't convinced that their answer is full and complete.
    – SailorCire
    Mar 9 '15 at 15:23

At this writing, color paper is still very much in production and very easy to get. Kodak only produces it in rolls, but Fuji and a few other brands still produce it in sheets.

If you're planning to make prints in a darkroom, you should be aware that almost everything about color is different from black-and-white. You will not be able to process color paper using B&W chemistry in a darkroom without the proper equipment, nor will you be able to load color paper into a machine that makes B&W prints and have it work.

There are plenty of places that make prints from negatives. This may actually be a better alternative, because there's a much wider variety of paper available in roll form. This should continue to be the case for quite some time, as the better digital printing equipment exposes paper and doesn't deposit ink on it. If you need more control over what gets printed than those services offer, scan the negatives and process them digitally.

  • 1
    I guess I wasn't clear, I was thinking of b&w paper which is optimised for printing from color negs
    – NoahM
    Mar 8 '15 at 18:02
  • 1
    @Noah: What you would need is pancrhomatic paper, which wasn't exactly common 20 years ago and is probably impossible to find now. You'd also need to do a lot of filtering to counter the orange tint of the negatives because most B&W papers are blind to reds, and even then I doubt the results would be very good.
    – Blrfl
    Mar 8 '15 at 18:19

I am not aware of any currently available panchromatic paper, but the retailer has stellar customer service and is just a call away. If at all available, these papers will most likely have special requirements for darkroom illumination.

I remember that decades ago some labs used ordinary very high contrast B&W paper to print from color negatives. The results were not stellar, but if you have a darkroom, you can try it to see if the quality works for you.

The best option is to scan the negatives and process digitally.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.