Editing Friday; Lith Prints

It has been another exciting week so much so that I can not wait till next week, when we have a few public holidays here in Poland that create a long weekend.

Today on Editing Friday I am going to look at a Lith Print Effect. A lith print is a photographic printing process that uses standard black-and-white photographic paper with lithographic developer (often heavily diluted standard developer) to produce a print with dark shadows and soft, bright highlights. Tones, colors, and subtle hues different from standard black-and-white print can be achieved.

Example of a Lith Print
Roy Hammans
Chapter House Ceiling, Wells Cathedral

First thing I need to do wastake my image into Adobe Camera Raw where i balanced the image. By this i mean, to make adjustments so the image has both details in the high lights and shadows with a low contrast look. The reason for this is that in the following steps I will manipulate the contrast and if the image is too contrasted already then the effect will not look as good.


In Photoshop I converted my image to black and white using a channel mixer adjustment layer.


Next I loaded two hue and saturation adjustment layers. Setting both to colorize, adjusting the first to a redish hue and the second to a light beige. I set the beige layers blending to overlay.


Creating a new layer I filled it with 50% grey. Selected filter – add noise and I started at around 140. I blurred the new layer using a gaussian blur around 0.4px and set the blending to soft light. This is to simulate grain and the image can look quite gritty now.


Using the layer mask I went Select – Color Range and selected the shadows. Doing this controls how much the grain effect will be seen the final image by isolating it predominantly to the darker tones.


Once the selection is loaded into the layer mask you can feather the mask to make the selection less ridged.


I created a levels adjustment layer and lighted the image by moving the gamma (middle slider) to the left. Untitled-7

As with the noise layer i went Select – Color Range and this time chose the highlights in the image, I then loaded the selection into the layer mask.

this will help brighten the highlights in general, leaving the blacks feeling slightly deeper.


The image has very saturated colour toning and the noise is too strong for my taste. In the final stage I refined the process lowering the saturation of the colour toning by grouping the layers and reducing the opacity. I also reduced the opacity of the Noise layer. I created a dodge and burn layer to dodge in the feather to stop the it from being blown out as it is the focus of the image.
I noticed the blacks were not strong enough so loaded another levels adjustment to pull the blacks in.


Final Image


This is a process that I use from time to time when I feel an image will benefit from it. Really the starting image needs to have strong areas of highlights as well as shadows to make the image pop with the process. With this image I think the process has worked well pushing the focus to the foreground and the branch with the feather caught in it. The background is interesting but not to interesting to pull your eye away from the feather.

There is some banding in some areas that I will need to reduce some more. I also think a tighter crop may also help the image as well but I don’t want to constrain the movement in the image too much.

The toning is OK but in looking at real lith prints the highlights on the feather are too strong. In saying that lith printing in the darkroom was a tricky thing and the results were never perfect so maybe this can be overlooked.

Over to you

Have you ever printed a Lith photograph before? Was the effect similar? Or are you a digital person, Is this something that you would find useful in the future? and do you like the effect? Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below.

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