Beeswax Lavender Oil Print Finishing
I’ve been playing with some different print finishing techniques, intending to meet necessary print protection requirements while avoiding the use of heavy cover glass and those annoying reflections its use introduces. Beeswax Lavender Oil seems to be the best among them.
Most coatings I’ve found don’t work. Obnoxious, sticky, some introduce more glare, all obstructing the original image in some way and degrading it. Or, as with using Museum Glass, extremely expensive and quite heavy. But Museum Glass does get the job done reasonably well.
I researched preserving cotton since the papers I print on are made from 100% cotton fiber. Beeswax Lavender Oil was the answer I came up with. In fact, I found a body of information on using this Beeswax Lavender Oil combination on fine art prints.
At first, I didn’t like the look of Beeswax Lavender Oil on my prints. Not until I got the consistency and percentage of wax to oil ratio where it needed to be applied with warmed wax. I found I needed to heat the print sufficiently after the wax application to melt the wax/oil mixture into the fibers of the paper.
Once absorbed, this result I quite like. The wax/oil mixture increases the dMax visibly, helps widen the dynamic range, and additionally seems to enhance the beautifully sweet glow or shine platinum prints always have in the highlights when the print has good lighting.
To my eye, using Beeswax/Lavender Oil as a paint coating is a positive visual improvement in addition to its normal physical protection capabilities.
I want to see how it ages on a few prints before I adopt it across the board, but I am quite optimistic about what I see. If prints age with this look without seeping or weeping, which it looks as they will, I will change my mounting/framing accordingly.
I’m not the first photographer to try this coating on fine art cotton prints. Not by a long shot; many have used it successfully for 150 years before me, in fact. The literature seems positive overall, and so does the print look, which is what really counts!
With a long eye to the far future, Beeswax is known to have antifungal properties preventing the growth of yeasts and other fungi that could potentially attack the print paper. The antimicrobial activity of essential oils, particularly lavender oil as we use, also prevents the growth of microbial organisms that over time could destroy a cotton rag paper-based print.
The use of the combination of beeswax and lavender oil seems to be a magic mix, giving prints a better visual impact while at the same time providing long-term physical protection assistance.
“Portrait of Barbara Doux & Paul Gero at Santa Monica Pier”
Watercolor toned Platinum/Palladium print
by Chuck Jones and Suzanne Birrell
on 11″x15″ Arches Platine Fine Art Paper,
hand-polished with white Beeswax and Lavender Oil protectant/finish.