Selenium 101

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by RobR, Mar 24, 2003.

  1. RobR

    RobR Member

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    Greetings!

    I have reasonably good basic darkroom knowledge and equipment, and my black and white work is now exclusively in 4x5 format. I want to take my print-making to the next step in quality. I have a bottle of Kodak selenium toner, but I've never tried to use it. I understand that it will make my prints look much richer. How should it be used, and what precautions do I need to take with it?

    Thanks!

    RobR
     
  2. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    Hi Rob,

    I use selenium for most of my B&W's and I have found at least in my limited experience that different brands of paper tone very differently. However at this time I use Agfa MG glossy and find that the toning is very predictable and provides a wonderful effect.

    I use the recommended dilutions as per Father Kodak and tone for about 2 to 3 minutes or until it looks about right.
     
  3. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (RobR @ Mar 24 2003, 01:49 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Greetings!

    I have reasonably good basic darkroom knowledge and equipment, and my black and white work is now exclusively in 4x5 format. I want to take my print-making to the next step in quality. I have a bottle of Kodak selenium toner, but I've never tried to use it. I understand that it will make my prints look much richer. How should it be used, and what precautions do I need to take with it?

    Thanks!

    RobR </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    Rob,

    As Eric has said papers respond differently so you really need to experiment to see the effect that you like. One paper that I would suggest that you avoid toning in selenium is Ilford Multigrade IV, my experience is that little happens other than to turn slightly blue.

    Selenium can be used at many dilutions, I have used from 1 part sel to 4 parts water as well as 1 to 9 1 to 12 or up to 1 to 20. I know of many photographers who mix selenium with permawash but I think this to be wasteful as the selenium will then not last for very long. Temperature will also have a bearing on the end result, normally I use it at 20c but have used it at 1 to 4 at near boiling point, the effects are in my view amazing but the fumes from the toner are serious and can be harmful so if you try this wear some kind od mask and work in a very well ventilated place. As a further precaution I always wear gloves when handling prints in selenium.

    When toning your first prints I would suggest you make two identical prints and place one in a tray of water to use as a reference point as the other is toning. Don't continually observe the print in the toner as you are unlikely to notice the subtle changes until you have some experience. The best way to work is to continually compare the toning print with the one in the tray of water. Selenium will affect the darker values first so that is the area to observe at the begining of the toning. If the print is very low key it will dry significantly darker after toning so I always make those prints slightly lighter than I wish them to be to allow for this. This effect is not to be confused with dry down. At this point I must say that I always use fibre paper so the effects could be differebt with RC, certainly I know that RC does not dry down as much as fibre.

    My working practice when toning is to give the print a short wash, 10 minutes, followed by placing it in a hypo clear solution such as permawash as follow the instruction as to how long to leave it in before placing it in the archival washer for 30 minutes. The prints are then ready to tone in selenium immediately or they can be dried and toned at a later date. If you tone later it is advisable to place the dry print in water for 10 minutes before the toning takes place. After toning I wash for a further 20 minutes in the archival washer. Selenium toner will last for a long time so don't be tempted to throw it away after a few uses, I have been known to use mine for up to 9 months or until the toning takes so long that I get bored. I also never tone to time although I know that many photographers do. My thinking is that because the toner affects the darker tones first how can you determine the length of time to tone. I always observe and pull the print when I have the effect that I want. Clearly this gets better with experience.

    Have fun.
     
  4. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    The magazine "Art Photography International" out of England has a really good run down of many different toners. It goes thru many different aspects of toning. Having read the article it seems it's a wrap up of a much longer series of articles around the same subject. Maybe you can get your hands on some past issues in addition to the latest one.

    Good luck,

    Eric
     
  5. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    In my experience with selenuim toning I have found the following

    1. Ilford MG RC seems to change color very little.

    2. Ilford MG FB Warm Tone and Bergger FB Warm Tone the color change is dramatic and in my opinion very pleasing. I tone at 1:9 for up to 5 minutes. The toner is reusable for many sessions, so the time tends to change as it loses it potency.

    3. Ilford MG FB does not have as dramatic a color change as Warm Tone

    I cover my trays with plexiglas so my exposure to the fumes is short. I wear gloves.

    Even though RC doesn't have a color change it is still getting the archival effects.

    Make sure you wash the print thoroughly before toning and again after toning.

    Hope this helps.

    Michael McBlane
     
  6. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Rob,

    I'm on a bit of a crusade concerning selenium toner. First, I believe it is unnecessary to discard it. I mix my toning solution with water (not a wash aid) and never discard it, but replenish it with concentrate from the bottle when toning times get too long (it just takes a little to bring the toner back to life). The toner is filtered through coffee filters before and after each toning session to remove any precipitate. This prevents one from dumping heavy metals into the environment and is more economical as well. I find it ecologically irresponsible to toss active toner.

    Second, I have always printed in two stages, giving my fiber-base prints only the first fix during the actual printing session. I then collect a larger batch of prints to tone and do the toning all at once. My procedure is: pre-soak, second fix and then directly to the toner without any wash or intermediate rinse. This saves time and I have never had a stained print. Pull the print when the tone is right. The other posters are right in recommending you keep a wet, untoned print handy for comparison. Also, I often print a bit less dense, counting on the toning to deepen the blacks to acceptable level. Sometimes, if you are not careful, the toning can unacceptably darken a print. I like quite a bit of tone change and use dilutions from 1:9 to 1:20 depending on paper type.

    Hope this helps a bit. ;^D)
     
  7. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  8. Poco

    Poco Member

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    I've been toning with selenium for the first time recently and have noticed that when I tone to the point of obvious begining color change that the image becomes grainy and a bit mushy in spots where the color change was most apparent. I don't think it's a matter of negative grain being accentuated because I'm only talking 8x10 enlargments from 4x5 and the grain doesn't seem to be as crisp as negative grain. So far I'm only working with MG IV Warmtone.

    So my question to those who tone regualarly, is this normal?

    I've also had problems when going directly from fix to selenium of the selenium bath turning to absolute purple mud. Even filtering after toning leaves a heavily tinted solution. The two problems together suggest (to me, anyway) that part of the paper emulsion is being lifted off in the selenium leaving the print dappled and the selenium screwed up. Could this be the case?

    And one more Selenium question: I've read twice now on Selenium threads that archival benefits are only attained at the point of toning to completion. Could this be true? Is it possible we're all required to produce purple or red prints to achieve the archival optimum?