Prints toning (practical illustrations)

posted Jul 5, 2015, 10:57 PM by Max Bedoff   [ updated Jul 6, 2015, 4:39 AM ]

  The possibilities of toning are endless. There are plenty of ways to improve a print. Unfortunately, on practice you barely find well-toned sheet. In other words, there are chemicals, there are opportunities, but no results are seen.

  So, let me show you some practical examples, a short preview of a post image processing without photoshop.

  Chemicals used are mostly German, Moersch photochemie. Prints photos were taken under certain conditions, the border of each print is original paper frame. Paper used for all the prints is Ilford ART300.

List of toners used:
  Selenium Ilford (1:10)
  Gold chloride (dilution)
  Carbon toner (1:20)
  Schwefel toner Siena (1:20)
  +Different combinations of those above

Lets move on:

Schwefel toner Siena (1:20) --- 6 minutes exposure.
  Very cool toner, the main feature is that it really separates the shadows making them more detail.
  Worth noting feature of this toner is that the overall tone of the print changes in the direction of lightening,
so that you have to make the print tighter than required by the plot.
  Another nice feature, the toner hardly stinks!!! Except for a light smell of hydrogen sulfide, and does not stain your hands!!! It gives pictorial mood to any plot...

Carbon toner (1:20) --- 5 minutes exposure.
  Interesting toner, gives a very good separation of the plot by diverting warm-cold shadows and midtones in a brownish tint, leaving lights much colder. Furthermore, it allows to achieve very different results at different exposure.
  This toner the same as the previous one is devoid of odor.

Carbon toner (1:20) --- 4 minutes exposure
  Overall picture changing much when decreasing exposure. In general, the print has a cold, "steel" color. Shadows and midtones become richer and more complex.

Gold chloride (dilution) --- 5 minutes exposure
  Print gets a pronounced cold shade, shadows become deeper, denser.
  Visually, the print range expands in the direction of shadows, the total density remains almost unchanged.
  Theoretically, this kind of toning would be a great choice for toning technological subjects, still lifes...

Schwefel toner Siena (1:20) --- 5 minutes exposure
+ Carbon toner (1:20) --- 5 minutes exposure
  The combination of these toners gives the entire print pleasant peach shade. You will need to pick up the plot very clearly, optimally with the large number of soft tones, although graphical plots look delicate and light, and the details more clearly separated.

Selenium (1:10) --- 2 minute exposure
+ Gold chloride (dilution) --- 2 minutes exposure
  Classic combination of toners, really great looking!
  Lovely deep, separated shadows shade of dark chocolate, peach undertones and cold-steel light.
  Everything is fine, except that selenium TERRIBLY !!! stinks and dirty...

Schwefel toner Siena (1:20) --- 5 minutes exposure
+ Gold chloride (dilution) --- 5 minutes exposure
  An unexpected effect, with a properly chosen plot looks great. General noble-terracotta hue is complemented by deep chocolate-black shadows.

Schwefel toner Siena (1:20) --- 5 minutes exposure
+ Gold chloride (dilution) --- 10 minutes exposure
  Increasing gold chloride exposure turns halftones to rich-red tint.

And finally, the original Ilford ART300 paper shade.

Prints toning

posted Jan 30, 2015, 2:50 AM by Max Bedoff   [ updated Feb 3, 2015, 11:15 PM ]

   Prints toning is an ancient process which has been used since the moment of the photography invention. There are many gradations in toning, from making a particular tint to fully color painting.

    The thing of toning is that the tint is applied not to a piece of paper, but to its tonal component - gray metallic silver. Bright areas are the less colored the lighter their tint in the original print.

   I would like to describe a double- or split- toning, with the usage of selenium toner and gold chloride.

   A selenium toner has been known since the 19th century and is almost always used for purely practical reasons. The print acquired a light reddish tint with the minimal exposure to selenium toner solution. But the tint is not the thing, selenium neutralized possibly unwashed fixer, and the print acquired spectacular archival quality.

   With the usage of advanced modern materials, especially with the proper washing of finished prints (for example, using Kienzle Print Washer) there is no necessity in such a manipulation nowadays, however, in some cases selenium toning can make prints' appearance quite dramatic.

   Tint should be applied only on a carefully washed print, as fixer particles may cause unevenness of the tone. The most predictable and reproducible result is obtained if the print was both carefully washed and totally dried.

   What is interesting in the process is that it takes place under the natural light, and the result can be controlled completely and comprehensively.

   As for the concentration of the working solution, each manufacturer indicates its own recommendations. The general one is that for a long timed archival selenium toner is diluted to very low concentrations, from 1/25 to 1/200, but for giving a pronounced shade the recommended concentration is about ¼ to 1/10.

   Prints' exposition solution is especially individual, and it depends on the result you are looking for. One of the features of working with selenium toner is it smells dramatically disgusting, so ventilation is vital, even more, if there is an opportunity, you would better to work with it outdoors.

   Besides, the selenium solution is colorless, but upon drying it gets a dark brown tint. Other inconvenience is that it is washed very badly, so work with it carefully, and wash the dishes thoroughly. And the pleasant thing here is that the working solution in a closed container is stored indefinitely.

   What we get in the end? As a result, we get a shade that (depending on the paper) can be up to chocolate brown (the color of dark chocolate) in the shadows, and pinkish-purple in the highlights.

   In general, due to the fact that silver is partially replaced by selenium, it gets darker brown shade. The dynamic range of print is visually expands, so the viewer have a strong feeling that the amount of detail in the shadows have grown.

   In short, everything is fine and even great with the shadows. Moving on to the halftones and lights. With tones and lights it's not so rosy and beautiful. Halftones seems purple, and lights acquire a pinkish hue.

   It would seem, we have to forget about an idea of toning the print with selenium... but it's actually not so bad! So lets proceed to the second step - the gold chloride.

Gold chloride for the photography purpose is currently produced by the two following companies: Fotospeed and Moeresh photochemie (as far as I know).

   In most cases the solution is supplied fully prepared for use. The solution is very expensive, but can be stored indefinitely and is consumed only as it is absorbed in the prints.

   However there is one thing - you have to work in a clean container with thoroughly washed and dried prints. Violation of this simple rule (caused the reaction of unwashed and not reacted selenium with the with silver) can give unpleasant consequences. It can paint the paper, and ultimately ruin the solution itself, which might serve well for a long time. The solution itself has no color, almost no smell and does not stain dishes unlike selenium.

   Let's move on to the color. The gold toner itself doesn't make shade gold or peach (I've seen such a description several times on the Internet), it actually makes a deep bluish tint in the shadows, which looks great, especially on a paper with warm shade of the substrate.

   Anyway, the gold toned print gets deeper shade, slightly more detailed elaboration in the shadows and excellent archival quality. It was practically noticed that technogenic themed scenes using this toning look fantastically wonderful.

   And now to the magic! Lets review the reasons why in some cases it is possible, useful or even required to use both of these fine toners.

   We have already talked about what is a print tightly toned with selenium. Now let's imagine what happens if you put such a print in the gold toner. Gold will start gradually and slowly replace selenium, especially where it layer is the thinnest, which is in the light areas. As a result the discussed unpleasant shade of pink (which we received as a result of using selenium) disappears and replaced with a noble cold gray. Gradually, it applies to halftones, and they changes from purple to slightly peach shade. Further, you can stop process or continue to preserve the black-chocolate selenium shade only in the deepest shadows.

   The process of toning is very predictable and manageable, and the result is stunning. It turns out almost as if it is Old Masters work. Deep and detailed brown shadows, middle-tones and precious peach cold lights, seemed like illumined by the noonday sun.

   The above examples describes the process itself just as much as a computer monitor may reproduce the depth and richness of tone of a perfect print on a barite paper, ie very tentatively, and a superficially.


   The picture illustrates visual differences of variously toned prints. For the purity of perception prints are lined in a row and shooted as a single snapshot.

   All three prints are made using the same paper (Ilford Art 300, developed by Ilford Warmtone), the difference is only in their tinting.

   Comments to the picture (from left to right):

Print with hipsters:Print with custom bike #1:Print with custom bike #2:
 The original tone paper, some general greenish tint, which is generally quite pleasant. And everything is essentially perfect. Toned with gold chloride. The overall tone of the print is quite colder, while there is a feeling that the shade is slightly lighter. In fact they are not brighter, they are separated and more detailed, although I admit that It's just a barely perceptible. Split toning, selenium is followed by the gold chloride. Visually it looks a little tighter, much warmer, more detailed in the midtones, and across the entire range as well. Bright areas of the print acquires cooler shade.

   As an additional comment, I'd like to notice that both custom bikes were originally (before toning) seemed like two indistinguishable prints made in one step.

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