Toning question : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi all,

I was in a local gallery and saw a sumptuous prints of a dog portrait that had the most amazing dark chocolatey brown black tone I have ever seen. The owner said that the photographer toned in a combination of Selenium and Sepia. I found the sepia part hard to believe because this tone is usually more yellow brown.

Does anyone have ideas on how to achieve really velvetly dark and warm Brown/black tones. The tone reminded me of really dark chocolate. I will probably use Ilford MG warmtone paper. Selenium alone will give me two much of a purple tone. I would like to use selenium though for archival purposes. So what do you think? Any ideas or experience with this?


-- Scott Jones (, September 22, 2001


The color of "sepia" toning is affected by the bleach that is used. You can make warm tone bleaches, cold tone bleaches, and "normal" bleaches. If you mix your own from the raw chemicals, you also can make different sepia toners that will produce different looks. Toning is also affected by the developer used to make the print, the temperature of the bleach and toner, and, of course, the paper on which it's printed. So there are a lot of variables with toning and it can be very difficult to duplicate exactly what someone else has achieved.

FWIW, I've combined selenium with sepia (toning first in selenium and then in sepia - I've never tried the other way around). For me it's produced some unusual colors, a dark brown in the shadows and some light pinks in the highlights, but nothing that I would call chocolate. Ilford Warmtone paper that is selenium toned can produce a chocolate type look without sepia toning, and maybe sepia toning would accentuate that effect. I've never tried sepia toning it.

If this is something you want to pursue, I'd suggest buying a book called "Creative Landscape Photography" by Eddie Ephraums. He uses a wide variety of home made toners for some interesting effects and provides formulas for a lot of different toners and bleaches. You do need to order the raw chemicals and buy a scale but it can be very rewarding to make your own.

-- Brian Ellis (, September 22, 2001.

Tim Rudman's book (Master Class in Photography) is also recommended, as he does extensive toning procedures. Also, the Fotospeed Ordorless Variable Sepia Toner will give you those tones you are looking for. Finally, Agfa Viridon and Kodka Polytoner (if still manufactured) are combination toners. Hey, go inkjet-you can get any tone you want!

-- David Stein (, September 22, 2001.

Chlorobromide papers toned with sepia toner generally yield a yellow-brown color, while bromide papers toned with sepia are usually a straight brown tone. You might consider trying a more traditional warm tone paper such as Forte Polywarmtone or any of the Bergger CB papers.

-- Steve Wiley (, September 22, 2001.

I've done alot of selenium toning of Ilford warmtone paper and I've seen nothing that looks like purple. When I tone neutral tone papers for long enough there will be kind of a cool purplish tinge, but the warmtone paper, when fully toned in selenium yields a beautiful cool brown tone. The speed at which this will happen depends on dilution. If you are mixing a fresh batch of toner, I would recommend 1 part Kodak Rapid Selenium toner to 8 parts of water and 3/4 of an ounce of Heico wash aid per quart of liquid. You should be able to fully tone in 5-6 minutes.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, September 22, 2001.

Hi Scott, I think I know the dark chocolate tone you're speaking of. I actually got the effect by experimenting also with Ilford MGIV Warmtone. I used Kodak Polytoner 1:4 for 2 minutes and Rapid Selenium 1:10 for 3 minutes, in that order. A print with a lot of density will show a darker brown, I believe. You may also want to reverse the order to see if that's more to your liking. For a warm tone image, I like the overall appearance. I briefly experimented with Sepia, but the results were yellowish brown, rather than a stark brown black which I was going after at the time. Hope this helps.

-- Henry Suryo (, September 22, 2001.

Kodak has a new Fine Art Fiber base paper with a "cream" finish (as opposed to gloosy). I have toned it with Kodak Polly toner 1:4 for 3- 4min. followed by Selenium 1:10 5-6 min and achieved a pretty rich chocolate brown. Give it a try.


-- Michael Reidy (, September 25, 2001.

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