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Recreating the Lith Printing Look for Black and White Photos

This post is part of a series called Black and White Photography.
Creatively Converting Photos to Black and White With Lightroom
How to Convert Your Images to Black and White in Photoshop
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

One of the most beautiful of black and white processes

Once upon a time, lithographic developer was used in the graphics industry to create artwork containing no halftones: film with just black or clear areas. Photographers caught on that if they took this developer, diluted it drastically, and used it with photographic papers the result was wonderful and unique images like nothing else they had seen before.

Printing using lithographic developer, or simply "Lith" for short, combined very hard, gritty, dark tones tones with silky soft lighter tones, often with peachy to warm yellow colours in the same print. It was a tricky and mysterious process, with the serious drawback that the chemicals involved could be toxic if not used with care.

Due to the unpredicatble nature of the Lith process, once you had the perfect print in your hand it was often nearly impossible to create an exact copy. This made the prints unique and desireable.

In this tutorial, we will break down the characteristics of Lith prints and attempt to get close to creating a digital version within Photoshop, without the unpredictablity or danger of printing in the darkroom:

  1. Image Selection
  2. Creating The Tones
  3. Black & White Conversion
  4. Getting Gritty With Grain
  5. Adding Digital Bleach
  6. Adding Colour
  7. Finished Image
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