Does selenium toner really die THIS quickly???
Although I have been printing B/W images for a few years now, I have only recently begun to explore the possibilities of toning. I have succesfully done several sepia tonings, and recently (a few months ago) decided to buy some selenium toner (Amaloco T-60) to test it.
With sepia toning, it is quite obvious when the toner get's exhausted, with increased toning times simply judged by the very visible color change.
Now with selenium toning, things aren't so obvious...
Some papers and dilutions, simply have almost no visible changes at all, made even more difficult if for example split sepia / selenium toning is applied. After the image has been partially sepia toned (removed quickly from bleach to leave metallic silver), a change in the selenium toning bath may not visible at all. Of course, in this case you're only left with the archival effect of the selenium toning (which is actually the main reason I wanted to selenium tone...).
So how do you people judge if your selenium tonings have been successful, and if the toning bath is still active???
This has been bothering me recently and to do some kind of test, I recently tried the following:
- Made some test strips by cutting down a not yet toned print and marked them with 1,2,5 and 8 for toning times in minutes.
- Dumped them in a selenium bath (1:15 dilution of stock Amaloco T-60) that I had used before and took them out of it at the designated marked times.
- Now, to test if the selenium toner was still active, I subsequently dumped the test strips in some fresh sepia toner bleach. Much to my shock :o , even the 8 min test strip bleached away almost completely!!!
The selenium toner at 1:15 dilution was maybe two months old... I had only used it for several prints back than, at least not above the stated capacity, and subsequently stored it in fully stoppered bottles for rest of the time, only to use it now again.
By the way, throwing an "old" selenium toned print (from the first toning session two months ago) into bleach, DID withstand the bleach, so I at least know for sure the selenium toner has been active at some point of time...
I now read somewhere that selenium toner has only a very limited life-time when diluted (don't know why this isn't mentioned in the instruction manual of the toner, as it IS vital with this type of toner), and that at dilutions above 1:19 it should even be considered "one time only"...
Is this true?, and how do *you* judge the remaining activity of the bath??? Do more people use bleach to test if the toner is still active, or do most people indeed throw away the selenium toner after a single toning session? How many prints do you do with a certain amount of toner of your favorite brand?
In short: What is the best procedure to handle selenium toner and to make sure I am actually truely toning and not doing some "phantom" procedure?
Selenium Toner Exhaustion
I get on my soapbox about this subject every now and then, so bear with me...
First, some things you should know about selenium toning in general and for permanence in particular: 1) only completely toned prints are fully protected. This usually means a marked color shift to red/purple brown. 2) Partial toning protects only partially and in proportion with the degree of toning. 3) Toning to increase D-max or to slightly color the print is often only a small amount of toning. 4) (This is important) Every print that you tone takes selenium out of the toner which makes it weaker, resulting in exhaustion (i.e. longer times etc.) 5) Most photographers use a visual approach to selenium toning, i.e. watching the print carefully and comparing it with an untoned print to determine the proper amount of toning. This is usually based on the amount of contrast increase/image tone change that is desired. Toning is usually not done to completion. Finally 6): Different papers tone to a greater or lesser extent depending on their composition. Some papers do not tone at all, papers developed in glycin developers tend to tone less readily, some change to a red brown, some take an eggplant color, some tone quickly, others slowly, etc.
The solution to the exhaustion problem is to simply replenish the toner by adding a bit of stock selenium toner to the toning bath. I believe that it is irresponsible to discard potentially toxic selenium when it is easy to simply replenish and reuse the same solution for years. I have a couple of gallons of selenium toner (in different dilutions for different papers) that have been going well over 2 years each. Absolutely no problems.
Now on to your specific problem: Although I am not familiar with the brand of selenium toner you are using, it seems a rather weak dilution. This means, there is not a lot of selenium in it per volume of water compared to stronger dilutions. This means 1) toning times will be comparatively longer, 2) tone change may be less noticeable, 3) the selenium in the solution will be used up faster (this is what your description leads me to believe that you are experiencing).
Now a couple of questions for you: First, Why are you toning in selenium? I.e. what tone shift are you trying to reach? If you are just toning for "permanence," but not reaching any shift of tone or increase in D-max, then you are not protecting your prints much at all.
Second, How do you know your toner is active? In other words, do you see a shift in image tone or a marked increase in contrast/D-max? If not, your toner may simply not active enough for the time you are toning to make a change or protect your prints. If you don't see a change there is simply no "archival effect" from selenium toning. This has been fairly well established. Unless you want an image change, there is no reason to selenium tone.
1) Don't bother with selenium toning unless you want definite visual effect. Toning for short times in weak toner will not make much difference in the permanence of your prints (this is, indeed, a "phantom procedure" since no toning is taking place). Sulfide (Sepia) toning provides excellent "archival" protection. There is no reason to use selenium for extra protection.
2) The only practical way you can tell your selenium toner is active is if there is a visual effect. No visual change = no toning = no protection. Remember, partial toning = partial protection.
3) Tone with a suitable dilution until the desired visual effect is achieved and then pull the print. If the change is not great enough or the toning times too long, use a stronger dilution (add some stock solution to what you have). Keep in mind that some papers simply don't tone. If you like a tone change, this will factor in to your choice of paper.
4) When toning times become too long, replenish the solution by adding stock. Be careful with this at first, it is easy to add too much. Better to add three or four small amounts than overshoot and have to dilute further...
5) Don't toss exhausted selenium toner, replenish it as described above, and use it for years. Before storage and re-use, filter it through a paper towel or coffee filter to remove any sludge. A black precipitate is normal; it is toned silver that has been dissolved from your print. If you transfer directly from the fix to the toner as I do, this precipitate forms more readily since the toner dissolves some of the fixed, undeveloped halides out of the emulsion. If you wash thoroughly before toning, the precipitate is much less.
Hope this helps a bit,
Thanks for your very thorough answer and good suggestions. It may indeed be plain exhaustion of the bath, and me simply over-estimating the capacity of the toner... A lot of my prints are rather dark, requiring a lot of a toning bath.
As to the effect I wanted to achieve: I was already aware, reading other posts, that partial toning will only partially protect. The first time I toned, on some hand coated liquid emulsion prints that were left over because of major defects in the emulsion layer, I simply choose to fully tone with the fresh toner to test and see the effect. I could see a clear effect in terms of dark / light (dmax) change, but not a marked shift in color as you described may sometimes happen. But of course, such color change is not really relevant, as it depends on all kinds of parameters as you described.
As for the latest prints I have been doing, I was curious to try split sepia / selenium toning. I have had some beautiful results partially toning in sepia, and the advantage of first doing the sepia toning is that it will protect the highlights from being to much affected by the selenium. The subsequent selenium toning could enhance the contrast a bit, which I would have found OK in these prints, but not a must. I was mainly interested to see what would happen, and also to fully protect the prints by converting all remaining silver to selenium toned silver.
Obviously, the latter failed... Well, not a real problem, I still have some beautiful partially toned sepia's.
I am still interested to know if there are other people "testing" their selenium toner using bleach or some other method as I did... For some cases, where the change of color is not so obvious, it might be a guide for exhaustion.
Some papers gobble up selenium, and some don't. 1+15 is not very strong, and if the solution is cold it goes even slower. I usually have two solutions on hand, 1+4 and 1+10. I heat them in a bucket of hot water before using, and keep a heat pad under the tray, too.
I second this. The toner is much less active at reduced temperatures.
Originally Posted by Rich Ullsmith
Are your prints very large? Selenium toner should outlast sepia toner for the same number of prints and time in toner, based on my experience w/Kodak selenium and sepia toners.
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Thanks Rich and Panastasia for the additional comments. I will try to get some more stock of selenium toner and try at less dilution. I'm still curious to see a truely split toned image...