Emulating Kodalith: Going Back to the Future

by | Apr 23, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Back in the film era, Kodalith film was the gateway to working in the wet darkroom to produce antique and lost printing techniques. What’s Kodalith? It’s a extremely high contrast, orthochromatic film that’s primarily designed for making line and halftone negatives for photomechanical reproduction. It has wide exposure and development latitude and was also used making highlight masks to improve the reproduction of important highlight detail when making duplicates from transparencies. Those photographers wishing to try older arcane printing techniques would make contact-sized (often the only way to make prints with these processes) negatives using Kodalith sheet film produced from 35mm or larger format film.

That was then; this is now. Today I’ll show you  a digital way to accomplish a look that’s similar to old processes that formerly required you dunking your fingers or tongs into smelly and potentially hazardous chemicals. Since so many processes required the use of Kodalith, it’s worth a look at a few digital techniques for producing Kodalith-like effects in the digital darkroom.



How I made the color shot: One of my favorite places to make car photographs is the monthly Cars & Coffee events sponsored by the Vehicle Vault in Parker, Colorado. This McLaren was photographed with a Olympus E-M5 Mark I and  M.14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R lens. Exposure was 1/500 sec at f/16 and ISO 400.

Photoshop’s Thresholds (Image > Adjustments >Threshold) command lets you create high contrast images within Photoshop. To identify a highlight, drag the slider to the far right until the image becomes pure black. Drag the Threshold slider slowly toward the center until some solid white areas appear in the image. Or you can drag the slider to the far left until the image becomes pure white then drag it slowly toward the center until some solid black areas appear in the image.

Tip: Photoshop’s Stamp and Torn Edges filters are other ways to create high contract images but Thresholds will also do the same thing. It’s your call.  If there’s interest, let me know and I’ll post something on them in the future.


My book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is still available from Amazon and (I think, anyway) is a fun read. There’s even a chapter on infrared photography. It’s available from them for $33.65 but bargain shoppers can pick up used copies starting at $2.07 as I write this. No Kindle version is available at this time, sorry to say.