What is a C-print?

The term C-Print refers to color prints that are produced in the classic, analogue photographic process. In this process, a color negative is exposed onto Chromogenic photographic paper (wet process paper). This paper contains 3 emulsion layers that are sensitive to either blue, green or red light. After exposure, the image is submerged in a chemical bath, where each layer reacts with the chemicals to create a full color image.

There is also such thing as a Digital C-print, which occurs when digital data is the starting point of the process. Here, a high-resolution image is projected onto the paper with the use of an LED exposure head, and digital signals get converted into light signals, which transmit the image and then react in the chemical bath. Compared to inkjet printing, C-printing allows for a larger range of colors, and can therefore reproduce motifs more accurately. However, analogue C-printing is very time consuming, and digital C-printing is expensive. For these reason, such processes are only carried out in a small amount of well equipped, specialist labs.

The “C” in the name does not stand for “Color”, as is often mistakenly assumed, but traces its origins back to a color photo paper produced by Kodak in the 1950s, which was called “Type C”. Although the name changed to “Kodak Ektacolor Paper” in 1958, the term “Type-C Print” or “C-Print” has prevailed and is still used today when talking about color prints on photographic paper from color negatives. See examples of C-prints in artworks such as Mona Hatoum’s Red Jesus (Venice), 2003, 2005, Ingeborg Lüscher’s Eyes (Claudia I), 1998, or Noa Gur’s Painting on All Fours (part one and part two), 2010.


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