View Full Version : Typical for Alt Process

10-06-2014, 06:53 PM
I'm having a lot of fun playing with gold toners and salt prints. Today I am going to try gold borax followed by gold thiocyanate toners, which Christopher James says will give "deep burgundy" tones. I'm using paper negatives and each exposure is a few hours, so it's slow but it's also fun.

It seems like there is always a lot of contradictory information about alt processes, but I had to laugh when I read about gold borax toners. Look at these:

Christopher James:

Prepare this toning solution at least an hour before use and work with it at room temperature.

Ellie Young:

The toner must sit for approximately 1 hour before use to allow the acidic gold to become active through contact with the alkaline borax. The color should change colour from pale yellow to clear as it becomes active.

Coming Into Focus: A Step-by-Step Guide to Alternative Photographic Printing
edited by John Barnier:

Gold borax toner is only usable for one half hour after mixing.

Wilson's Photographic Magazine, Volume 53:

This bath can be used as soon as mixed.

Talk about contradictions! One source says it won't work unless you wait an hour and another says it won't work if you wait more than half an hour!

I made gold borax toner yesterday an hour ahead of time, and it did tone nicely but not as fast as the gold thiocyanate toner I tried the day before. I could not detect any change in color at all when I made it. The gold thiocyanate toner briefly turned dark then quickly turned clear again when I made it.

Today, I think I'll try using the borax toner right away instead of letting it sit for an hour!

Update, 15 minutes into the toning: I think Wilson's Photographic Magazine wins. Identically exposed print of the same negative (as much as that is possible exposing with the sun ), the borax toner appears to work just a bit faster right after mixing. Coming into Focus is wrong because I successfully toned a print yesterday after waiting an hour. James and Young seem wrong because it is obviously working fine right after mixing, and if anything a little bit better.:)

02-20-2015, 09:31 PM
Ned - everything you read about alt-process work must be tested yourself. The written instructions and recommendations only apply if your conditions are identical, which they never are. I am continually surprised by how long it takes me to get a winner with a process that I have supposedly dialed in. Alt-process printing is not for the impatient nor for the penurious worker.

02-23-2015, 12:22 AM
Absolutely, and also reading can only go so far. In playing with salt prints the last year, I've learned that every salt looks slightly different, every paper, the amount of gelatin, the toning, the depth of printing ( shade and sun ), first wash. All these things produce more or less subtle changes in the final result, and you can build up a feel for them. The cool thing is how each of these things connects you to what you are doing, makes the print part of you in a very fundamental way...