Selenium Toning Dried Prints : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'd like to start selenium toning for archival purposes, and have read previous posts and suggestions by Ansel Adams about it. Many mention a relatively long string of wet sequences I honestly do not currently picture myself having the patience for (until I get an archival print washer, perhaps.)

Personally, it's seems much more realistic to take a batch of "keepers" from previously processed prints, perhaps accumulated over the course of a day or two in the darkroom, and selenium tone them then (ie, after they have already received a hardening fixer treatment, hypo clearing, final wash, and are in the "dry" state).

Can anyone with experience selenium toning a dry, previously processed print please tell me of your procedure? I appreciate it. Andre

-- Andre Noble (, October 06, 2001


I just soak them for 10 min in water after I have enough to tone. They need to be good and wet though. I don't know if the dry, wet impacts archival issue though -- anyhow, it tones them nicely in a batch -- I flip 5 or six prints through at a time outside and take them out as they tone the degree I want. I do it outside because who wants that stuff inside, and you get the good daylight to judge (That is in an always overcast environment -- if you live in sunnyville, I dunno)


-- Dean Lastoria (, October 06, 2001.

Just saw this "Next Door" on the Lusnet button and Printing and Developing -- right to your questoin.


-- Dean Lastoria (, October 06, 2001.

Just saw this "Next Door" on the Lusnet button and Printing and Developing -- right to your questoin.


-- Dean Lastoria (, October 06, 2001.

Dean, "Whew!", I never saw that site before, it appears to be parallel univers to this Large Format Plane. I recognized some spirits over there, but their embodiment was foreign to me. Scary! Lots of uncapitalized words and poor grammar too. Other than absorbing the knowledge from your recommended thread, I'll pretend that site doesn't exist :>)

So regarding selenium toning dried prints, is it best summed: re- soak in water a few minutes, selenium tone, then final, thorough wash? Is there any re-fixing involved as far as anyone knows? Andre

-- Andre Noble (, October 07, 2001.

Andre, I use the Ilford archival fix two-bath fixing method, which means (according to Ilfords recommendations!) one minute for bath 1 and one minute for bath 2 in film-strength rapid fixer for up to 40 8x10s per liter. I normally divide the printing and toning sessions thusly: Printing session consists of develop, stop bath one fix, then wash and dry. After evaluating and choosing the keepers, sometimes after several days of printing, I tone. The toning session consists of a water soak of at least 5 minutes, fixing bath 2 for one minute, and then directly into the selenium toner without an intermediate rinse for the desired time. This is followed by a hypo-clearing bath (Kodak recommends 3 minutes, Ilford 10 minutes, so I leave them in for around 10 minutes while fixing and toning more prints), then wash. This way, you can tone large batches of prints at a time. My bottlenecks are always washer capacity and drying space.

I save and reuse the toner, repenishing it with small amounts of the concentrate when toning times become too long, and filtering out the black sediment using coffee filters at the beginning of each toning session. I have a gallon of toner that has been going strong for almost 2 years now with no ill-effects. This saves dumping selenium into the environment unnecessarily.

Hope this helps. ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, October 07, 2001.

I had a long conversation with David at US Ilford who is the technical support specialist there. I too use the Ilford archival sequence for my prints. That is develop, stop, two non hardening fixer baths for 30 seconds each, 5 minute wash, 10 minute Ilford wash aid, and 5 minute archival water wash. Long after making lots of prints I decide which are the keepers.

David advised me to procede as follows: Resoak in water for two minutes. Selenium tone in your favorite dilution for your favorite time. Use Ilford wash aid for 10 minutes (gets rid of residual thiosulfates) then wash in your washer 30 minutes. He said there is no need to use fixer again at any point in the process.

Hope this helps...

-- Scott Jones (, October 07, 2001.

Scott and Doremus, your processes are approximately the same, save where you divide your "dry step", Doremus, which is what I intend to do as well.

I was just wondering, these fix and wash times seem a little short. Are you refering to RC or Fiber paper in these instructions? Thanks. Andre

-- Andre Noble (, October 07, 2001.

Andre - those wash and fix times are for fiber-based papers. The "new theory" is that minimal time in a high strength fixing bath fixes the image while reducing absorption into the paper fibers. Also the formation of insoluable complex molecule chains may also be minimized. It is an "archival" process that reduces wet time and (hopefully) improves the stability of the final print.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, October 07, 2001.

As mentioned by several people above, you can simply re-wash the print for a few minutes, tone, hypo clearing, and then archival wash. This procedure will work fine “IF” the print was sufficiently washed the first time.

If not sufficiently washed the first time, you have two options. 1) use hypo clearing and rewash to archival standards, or 2) re-fix and go directly to toner from the fixer (see Adams’ book "The Print" for details on this method). Any unevenness in the amount of fixer in the print causes problems in the toning.

-- Michael Feldman (, October 07, 2001.

O.K., great plenty to consider here, including evaluating my current fixer procedures. Andre

-- Andre Noble (, October 07, 2001.

The usual advice is to avoid hardening fixer if you plan to tone a print. This may or may not be one of those photographic myths but since there's no real good reason I know of to use a hardening fix for prints (as opposed to film), I'd forget about the hardening fix in all events and particularly if you plan to later tone them.

-- Brian Ellis (, October 07, 2001.

There seems to be consensus here except on one point. Scott, I would like more info about the fixing times you received from David Carper. I have the Ilford fact sheet "Processing Black-and-White Papers; Fibre-Base" and the recommendations there are for 60 seconds in each film-strength rapid fixing bath when using the two-bath method, despite the fact that the recommendation for using a single bath is also 60 seconds. I suspect that it has to do with what Ilford calls "Optimim Permanence" and capacities. In order to keep the residual silver levels in the fixer solution at 0.5g/liter (the level for ("optimum permanence"), the capacity of the fixer is greatly reduced as compared to the recommendation for "commercial use" of 2g/liter. This is especially noticeable in the one-bath procedure where Ilford recommends only 10 8x10-inch prints (!) per liter of fixer. Using two-bath at 60 seconds each extends this to 40 8x10s per liter. For those of us interested in "optimum permanence", i.e. all of the photographers who sell prints, it would be good for us to heed the capacity recommendations and test residual silver in the fixing bath regularly. I usually toss the fixer long before the recommended capacity is reached, adding my own "fudge factor" to the one almost certainly included by Ilford. Possibly David from Ilford would like to comment on this as well. Regards, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, October 08, 2001.

Hi there:

Answers to two questions posed to me above. My recommendations are for fiber paper. Secondly I was told by David at Ilford that 30 seconds in each of the two baths would be just fine and didn't have to do a full minute in each bath. In reality my total time in the fix is a little longer than this in that I do all my FB prints in a jobo (I know, it's strange, but works great!) so that by the time I pour in, pour out, pour in again, pour out again the total time is probably more like 90 seconds total (45 seconds each bath)just because of the time it takes to change over the fluid. Hope this helps...


-- Scott Jones (, October 09, 2001.

Doris, it always has been a pretty short fix time, in a fresh film-strength/non-hardening fix. In the old Ilford spec sheets & even the " Ilford Monochrome Darkroom Practice" manual (focal press)it was a short fix time. Another good book of that period was Dennis Inch & Lawrence Keefe Jr.'s "The Life of a Photograph" (also focal). Keefe went on (may still??) to work with Light Impressions. They have the archival sequence for fb paper (galerie) with a very short, strong fix. I always thought it was odd when Ilford revised their spec sheets in the paper packs with a 60 sec. fix. It could be just to be on the safe side really, because it used to be listed as a 20 sec fix, with 10 sec. fudge room. Then it moved up to 30 sec each bath. I know that with RC paper, in a processor like an Ilford 2150 (where the fix is basically mixed at a 1:4 ratio, but running at 80 something odd degrees), that the print moves through the rack in close to 20 seconds. Ilford techs have told me that was just right and I would assume that it would be the same for FB, as the big issue there is not with the emulsion, but with the base & residual fix being absorbed. Alot of this stuff changes every few years, so I wouldn't use a 20 yr. old book for the absolute reference. Just look at the requirements for acceptable residual fix levels, changes in toning sequences etc. It used to be that hypo eliminator was recommended by some people...and now HE is a thing of the past, and a little bit of fix left in the paper may be a good thing...

The big problem I would see with using a drum to process this way, might be with making sure the fix was hitting all parts of the print evenly. With the short time, it doesn't leave alot of room for error.

-- DK Thompson (, October 09, 2001.

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