Papers for carbon printing

Fine art paper is my favorite surface for carbon printing. It has a subtle quality that other papers, like fixed out photo paper, simply cannot match. However,  printing on hand coated papers introduces a level effort and difficulty that can be discouraging. It's maddening to put the effort into preparing and sizing paper only to find out that the paper won't print well. 

Like my post on methods for hardening gelatin sized paper, this post is a running record of papers I'ver used for carbon printing and how well they have worked for me. I'll also include some reports from others. I'm omitting fixed out photo paper from this list since that's an entirely different animal. If you have an experience, with a particular paper you would like to share, drop me a line.

Arches Auqarelle

This paper was one of my favorite for Kallitypes. It has a nice smooth finish and great wet strength, but, despite being tub sized with gelatin, the sizing seems consistently inconsistent. Spots can been seen when the paper is wet and, although these spots disappear when the paper dries, these areas can often shot up lighter in the final print and ruin it. I think this problem is mitigated if you heavily size the paper with 7% gelatin or greater. However, with thinner sizing you run the risk of an inconsistent printing surface.

Arches Platine

Like Fabriano Artistico I've had great results with this Platine. It's originally designed for platinum printing, and is expensive. However, I've tried it for it's quality and the fact that it is supposed to have internal sizing that will help it dry flat even after multiple washes. This paper is smooth, strong, has consistent sizing, and seems to dry relatively flat even with heavy sizing. While not as heavy as the Fabriano it has good a good weight and feel.

Fabriano Artistico

I've had great results with this paper. I am hard pressed to tell you the specific type, but what i have used is the 100% cotton variety in natural and bright white. I believe this is different than the F5 variety which is only 50% cotton. This paper is smooth, strong, has consistent sizing, and seems to dry relatively flat even with heavy sizing.

Magnani Pescia

I had high hopes for this paper. It's 100% cotton and smooth hot pressed. It's also has a heavy weight and a feel of quality at an economical price. 

Unfortunately, after the rigors of sizing and carbon development, it delaminates and peels into layers - particularly at the corners. it also had a nasty tendency to get creases easily when bent. This problem seemed to be a symptom of the first. The paper seems to be pressed in layers instead of moulded. When the layers start to come apart, the paper can buckle and crease. It's probably great for some uses, but I won't be sing it for carbon again.


I just recently tried Stonehenge again and realized why I stopped using it in the first place. The wet strength is terrible. If you can get it sized and hardened without tearing it, the gelatin will give it more strength, but it's risky and just not worth the bargain price.

Adox Baryita

You can print on it right out of the package. No sizing required and no need to fix out like silver gelatin. However, I wasn't wild about the finish. It yielded what I thought was a rather boring finish. Kind of dull and flat.

For me, Arches Aquarelle had been a trustworthy paper with great wet strength, but here, in a wet print, you can see evidence of inconsistent sizing that can cause light spots in the final print.

For me, Arches Aquarelle had been a trustworthy paper with great wet strength, but here, in a wet print, you can see evidence of inconsistent sizing that can cause light spots in the final print.

Hardening gelatin sized paper

This post is a running record on how I have hardened gelatin for sized art paper. I generally coat my papers with a 10% gelatin solution using an RD-95 coating rod for a .25mm wet hight thickness. To my surprise, I have found coating papers and finding good hardener to be as challenging as making my own carbon tissue. I have currently settled on using formalin as it works wonderfully and is perfectly safe when used outdoors in low concentration.


Know to work well in all ways, but toxic. Formalin hardens perfectly and doesn't leave a cast in the paper or gelatin. For these reasons, I avoided using formalin for a long time, but finally decided to give it a try for my last batch of papers. Following recommendations from others I used a 2% solution of formalin 37. That's a 2% working dilution of a 37% stock solution. I hardened the papers in a tray outdoors and pre-soaked the papers before putting them in the formalin. 

The combination of the dilute solution and soaking outdoors made left almost no odor. So, I felt confident that I wasn't putting myself at risk. I soaked each paper for about a minute and put them on a clothesline to dry. The formalin can be reused. I am not sure how to judge when it would be expended. So, there is little environmental impact. 

The results were perfect. The gelatin was perfectly hardened and there was no change in the color of the paper. The process itself was also very easy. Combined with soaking and drying outdoors for safety, formalin will be my go to solution for hardening from now on.


It's far less toxic than formalin and hardens well, but does produce some yellow stain in the paper. Much of the stain washes out in development and clearing but not all. My method to date has been to put about four drops in 75ml of gelatin, and this works well. I would like to try brushing it on after coating and drying. This would minimize my exposure to it and keep my gear from getting as gummy while coating.


The key is knowing the difference between potassium alum and chrome alum. Potassium alum is relatively harmless. It's apparently the same stuff they put in the little pencils used to stop bleeding from shaving knicks.

However, it does not harden well and is difficult to wash out of paper. So, it can be good for hardening paper that will be used as a final support in a double transfer carbon print. However, when I tried to use it for a single transfer, it hardened the gelatin in the tissue during the mating to the support and ruined my prints. 

Chrome alum apparently hardens well but is far more toxic. I have been told it can also leave a nasty blue cast to the paper.


Never used it, but given it's toxicity, I would probably just use formalin.