selenium and brown split toning - for the darkroom


TPF Noob!
Jul 18, 2003
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usa. soon to be a euro boy.
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to previsualize the final print is paramount to quality. it is imperative that you understand and be able to use your resources.

the things you will need:
- a negative
- basic darkroom
- printing paper
- extra trays
- rubber cement
- selenium toner
- brown toner

print the negative to the contrast level you desire. you needn't compensate for this particular type of toning. this is the original, untoned print:


it's important for you to know and remember the properties of selenium. selenium toner will first attack your zone 0 shadow values. you will get a slight color shift (depending on the paper used) and an increase in density which appears to be an increase in contrast. selenium toning is influenced by both dilution and temperature. the lower dilution and higher temperature, the shorter the time. for split toning, you only want the selenium to hit the areas that you want selenium toned. a better way to look at it is - you want to selenium tone those areas that you do not want to tone brown. why? because once you selenium tone, you can not tone over it; it's permanent. so how do you accomplish this? one of two ways:

1 - use a dilute (1:15 or so) selenium solution at room temp. immerse the print and pull when you get a color shift in the darkest shadows. immediately wash.
2 - apply rubber cement to the areas that you do not want selenium toned. use your finger to apply and smooth. it dries almost as quickly as you apply it. drop the print in a less dilute (1:7 or so) bath at 80 degrees or so. this will quickly grab the areas of the print that are not covered in rubber cement.

i did the latter (2) for this print. took me all of 30 seconds to apply the rubber cement.

masked print:


recall that i now immerse it into my selenium solution and agitate. this took me about 20 seconds with a 1:12 dilution at around 85 degrees. i pulled the print and put it into the wash. while it was in the wash, i rubbed off the rubber cement. *tip - wear a latex glove to remove the cement. the cement will stick to your glove. it's easy and oddly fun.

here is the selenium toned print:


side by side, original and selenium toned:


notice the density increases:


ok, so we have a selenium toned print that has been washed and dried! now the brown.

brown toner will attack anything and everything equally on a print, except, as you remember, those areas that have been selenium toned. one thing i saved to mention here; selenium takes forever and a day to attack your highlight values, so we will need to protect them here. so now mask any area that you don't want brown toned. i mask only the non-shadow areas as they have been selenium toned. notice that the hair has some highlight values. these will pick up the brown and warm the hair with a nice split.

this is my brown mask:


i have found brown toner to be the most responsive to dilutions and temperatures over other toners. this also means the most fickle of toners. i generally use it at the same dilution and temp as my selenium above (1:12 85 degrees). so now we drop our masked selenium print into the brown toner and agitate. since brown toner is yellowish in color, i generally pull up the print every 15 seconds or so to check on color change. you will have to tilt the print to drain the toner so you can see the color shift of the print. once you get a hair from your desired tone, pull the print and immediately wash as it will continue to tone a bit in the water. same procedure of removing the rubber cement.

here is my split print:


all three side by side:


you have a tremendous amount of control over the process. for example, this test print was over exposed by 1/2 stop and undilute brown toner was applied by brush (disregard the 'crap' at the bottom of the print):



so what now?

dry the print. open beverage of choice. play music of choice.

feel good.

(this is available in pdf format for those that want it)


TPF Noob!
Jul 23, 2003
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Akron, OH
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Gee, thats the type of tutorial that you just cant find out on the web. Chase should hire you to start a feature. Well written and the examples make it very clear. I acctually feel I could split tone now. And I have never toned at all. Thanks Motcon.

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