What is split grade printing?

This is probably the most useful and powerful technique to learn for darkroom printing. It is the technique used by Ilford printers for pretty much all hand prints. Once mastered it will considerably reduce the amount of dodging and burning adjustments that you will need to do.

It involves using a low contrast exposure and a high contrast exposure instead of the usual single exposure.

The contrast scale is numbered from 0 to 5 and the low contrast exposure is usually in the range 0 to 2. This gives the detail in the light parts of the print and most of the mid-tones. The high contrast exposure is usually grade 5 and controls the intensity of the blacks in the final print.

This is the technique that I usually teach on darkroom workshops. It can be used for all types of negatives except very underexposed negatives (thin negatives) which are usually best printed with a single high contrast exposure.

We have a Split Grade Printing Tutorial on the site if you want to have a look.