Sepia toning giving unpredictable brown and purple results
I recently started offering my clients sepia toning as part of my B&W printing business after making some tests with Ilford Multigrade Fiber paper and Forte Polywarmtone fiber paper. In my first test with Kodak Sepia Toner I found that complete bleaching of Ilford takes forever and toning produced a very slightly warmer tone. Forte Polywarmtone produced a very yellow-orange, much fainter look that I didn't like.
In my second test a few weeks later with a new batch of sepia bleach and toner I got what I expected from Ilford Multigrade fiber--beautiful yellowy-brown tones with a little less density and apparent contrast. I figured my first result to be an anomaly and took on my first paid toning job. The results were disatrous!
I fully bleached and toned a print on Ilford MG fiber and the resulting tone was somewhere between brown and PURPLE! I figured the toner was bad from having stored it improperly--maybe a dirty bottle or something--so I mixed up a new batch.
The new batch produced chocolate brown--not a bad look, but not what my client wants. Since then I have tried twice more. Once with the same batch of toner, once with a new batch mixed with distilled water and always get chocolate brown.
Is it a change in the paper? Did I get an old batch of chemicals? Are the planets aligning against me? I've never heard of anyone having such variability in sepia toning!
Take a look for yourself at the samples I'm attaching.
Last edited by Brett Spencer; 12-10-2006 at 08:46 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I can't speak to bleaching and sepia toning, as I don't do it, hopefully someone else can help with that. I did want to suggest you try toning the Polywarmtone right out of the wash in a strong selenium solution, and see if you like that.
Originally Posted by Brett Spencer
Last edited by JBrunner; 12-10-2006 at 09:38 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I use the bleach and redevelop sepia toner with MGIV without much trouble, but since I've not seen these issues, all I can do is tell you how I use it. All of the following are done with dry prints soaked in clean water for 2 minutes before the toning process.
To get rich browns: I bleach fully using full strength part A bleach, which takes about 5 minutes typically. Then I wash for 5 minutes in running water and tone to completion, which take 3-5 minutes approximately.
To get less intensive browns: I bleach until the highlights start to show the bleaching action and then go right to the running water wash. After 5 minutes in the wash I tone for 5 minutes, which results in a nice light brown in the highlights but keeps the deeper shadows black(ish). To keep the shadows black black, selenium tone first for a SHORT time - too long and the sepia bleach will not have much to work with.
To get a very light brown tint: I put the print in the toner first for a few minutes max. Then follow with a 5 minute wash in running water, then bleach fully - maybe 5 minutes - another 5 minute wash in running water, then tone for 5 minutes. The effect is quite subtle and very pleasing with some prints, not so with others.
I strongly suggest getting a copy of Tim Rudman's book on Toning. It is the best reference for all sorts of toning procedures I've ever found, and it's not overly expensive like a lot of photography books are these days. Another suggestion is to use a single negative, print it the same way a three times for each paper you are testing, then tone one fully, one a with selenium and sepia, and leave the last straight. Put all of these in a file that you can pull out for reference later. I have such a file and it is invaluable as a reference when I want to achieve a specific result. The number of prints can grow if you use a lot of different toners and papers, but it is well worth the effort. The key is to use the same negative printed the same way for each so you can see the difference between each version.
Hope that helps...
Last edited by reellis67; 12-10-2006 at 09:14 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: record number of typos, even for me!
Did you use two different manufacturer's toners? With thiocarbamide based toner the colour depends a lot on the amount of "activator" added to the toning bath.
Hopefully Tim will see this thread...
Same developer, same paper, same Kodak sepia toner, same darkroom. I wish I understood!
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If you were using the same batch of redeveloper for this series of prints, that may explain part of the problem. I think that the redeveloper can 'die' after a while, or at the very least, behave differently.
I mix my own odorless sepia toner from the raw ingredients and toss them after session. I get very repeatable results that way. The chemicals are very inexpensive and it is much more cost effective to mix it as you go.
You will need:
For the bleach:
For the redeveloper:
and a base, either
potassium carbonate, or
sodium hydroxide, or
potassium hydroxide, or
All of these bases will give you different results on different papers, but the results are very consistent when you mix it fresh for each session.
I highly recommend Tim Rudman's book. It is the most complete treatment of toning that I have run across.
I would suggest trying Fotospeeds non variable sepia toner ST10. Its the smelly one but will yield the same results, over and over. Lasts a good few toning sessions too.
Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone!
Also look for the Berg Sepia toner kit. I have had good success with using this kit - while not odorless, it is less stinky than the Kodak kit. You can bottle and re-use the working strength solutions from it at a later date, but don't keep it too long.