the basics of selenuim toning... : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello All,

I am about to attempt the selenium toning. Can anybody direct me to a good resource site for a brief and simple set of directions. I believe that I just need to mix up some non-hardening fixer to fix, rinse, tone and then rinse and re-fix in hardening fixer....?

that sounds too simple... LOL!

thanks in advance,

paul schuster (poor this xmas due to being thrown into the realestate buying market, so my family better prepare for b&w prints this year)

-- paul schuster (, November 27, 2000


Paul: Nothing difficult about it. This is my method, and it has worked well for years: First process the print normally, fix in hardening fixer for about three minutes, give a short rinse, refix for another three minutes in a non-hardening fixer, then directly into the selenium without draining. I mix my selenium about one part selenium and 16 to 20 parts water or hypo clear. Water works just as well as hypo clear. After a couple of minutes, the prints will begin to intensify, and then the image will turn from a green color cast to a purple brown cast. Pull the print as soon as it begins to turn color. Don't overdo it, as it looks like crap. Give a short rinse in hypo clear and then wash normally. I find it helps to keep another untoned print in a tray of water next to the one being toned so you can better judge the progress. Use a good white light or move outside so you can see what's going on. It should take three to five minutes for it to tone completely. I try to limit the time my hands are in the toner. If you are allergic to chemicals, you may want to use rubber gloves or tongs. I think gloves work better. I have never had a reaction to the toner. You can do several prints at a time by shuffling them in the tray. Don't rub the prints hard until they dry. Pour the toner back in a jug and reuse. It seems to last forever. It may form a precipate, but you can filter that out and just keep on using it. Occasionaly, a particular print looks better toned if you make a slightly lighter print. E-mail me if you have any questions.


-- Doug Paramore (, November 27, 2000.

You first need to decide why you're toning: (1) for archival purposes only, (2) for D Max (maximum black), or (3) to change the color of the print. That decision will determine your toning dilution and times. If for archival purposes only, a very weak dilution will suffice, something on the order of 1 part selenium to 60 or more parts of water for three or four minutes; if toning for D Max, dilute 1 - 9 and determine the toning time by testing. Strange as it may seem, different papers have different times for D Max and when you go beyond the optimum time you acutally lose density. Four minutes is probably good for starters. If toning to obtain that purplish brown look, try diluting 1-4 and test for times. A couple minutes will likely do it. 1 - 9 dilution will also produce the purplish brown look if left in the toner long enough. I've seen pros and cons about combining selenium with hypo clearing agent. I can't remember what they were now but FWIW, I now dilute the selenium with water and do a separate hypo clear afterwards. Personally I've never seen a reason to use a hardening fixer with paper - it makes sense with film, where scratches can't be fixed - but with paper it just prolongs the wash time and if you happen to scratch the emulsion of the print you can always just make another print.

-- Brian Ellis (, November 27, 2000.

Brian and Doug have given good advice, and I have just a couple of points. First, while experimenting w/ toning, maybe on your first print, I WOULD intentionally overdo it just to see what happens. You can't really know whether you've toned as much as you want until you've gone too far at least once. Just keep track of time so you will know next time when to stop. Second, the advantage I've heard claimed for using hypoclear in the toner is basically to save time by beginning the hypoclearing process during toning. The problem with this is that hypoclear oxidizes pretty quickly while, as Doug mentions, the toner can last a long time, so you can't rely on the hypoclearing effect after the first session. I've decided to dilute with plain water. Third, I've gotten into the habit of washing after the first fixing bath, drying, and only toning later after I've had some time with the prints and decided they are probable "keepers." I can also tone a large batch of prints, sometimes the results of several evenings of printing, all at once during the day. (My darkroom takes some time to set up, so this is helpful.) I wet the prints, fix again, and put them right into the toner from the fixer-- essentially Doug's method with a long wait between the first and second fix. I've found this works fine.

-- Chris Patti (, November 28, 2000.

The basics of selenium toning are easy enough to master. There must ba a least as many methods for toning as there are photographers. So here is my 2 cents. properly fixed and washed print placed in Selenium toning solution at a dilution rate af about 1:20 until I notice a change in the blacks. Constant agitation. Try not to let the toner pool on the print. You will notice change in the blacks first. The recomendation about over toning was a good one. I agree you never now what is right until you do something that is wrong. I tone the image anywhere from two minutes to 20 minutes. It all depends on the image. Quick rinse in running water, hypo clearing agent for 5 minutes and final wash. I selenium tone everything I print on fiber based paper, if you do not properly fix and wash the first time around you will get stains on your prints or your whites will turn a dingy yellow and nothing will take that stain away. I do not put the prints in the toner just after fixing because (maybe its the fixer I use)I get too many stains. Keep your hands out of the toner!!! Selenium is not that friendly of a chemical and it is absorbed through the skin. Wear rubber gloves, use tongs and work in a well ventalated area. The previous poster my have not noticed any problems with sticking his hands in the toner but I bet his liver has. Read the print by Adams,or read Barnbaums book or follow the directions from Kodak. I like to work with a more diluted toner and longer toning times, rather than 1:4 for 30 seconds. I can control the toning better. Find the method that works best for you.

-- jacque staskon (, November 28, 2000.

Paul, A few points that I don't think have been mentioned: Selenium toning is very temperature sensitive. I use a dilution of 1:40 @ 75-80 deg. for 1-2 min. Also, there are at least a few papers that will not stain if you go directly into the toner after a long stay in a holding bath. Two that I know of are: Seagull and Forte. (This will greatly simplify your life in the darkroom). Regards, bw

-- Bruce Wehman (, November 28, 2000.

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