View Full Version : First attempt at sepia toning

30-Mar-2008, 22:41
Well, I tried my first attempt at sepia toning a couple of prints done a few days ago, in Berg two stage (bleach and toner) sepia. I'm a little disappointed, and a little intrigued;

There were 4 prints total, of two different subjects; all of them came out more yellow than brown. The first print done, a portrait shot, I'm actually happy with. The shot, while lacking in artistic merit (it was really just a quick test shot done to see how my petzval handles), came out ok.

The one I'm a little disappointed in was a shot of the side of a hill and trees; it was fairly low contrast, and I thought the sepia would kick it up a notch (BAM!) but instead it seems to have retained, or even lost some of the contrast in the original scene.

I had two prints of this same neg, one about one stop lighter. The darker print seems to have done okay, but I seemed to have misunderstood something about split-toning. I only bleached to get rid of the highlights, thinking that sepia-ing them, while leaving the darker tones alone would be what increases contrast.

However, while in the bleach bath, it seemed like the denser areas of the print disappeared before the highlights did. I pulled the first print as soon as I saw this happening (the denser areas were around the periimeter of the print) and what ended up happening was that the denser areas toned, but the middle of the image with the lighter tones didn't. I may be doing them in trays that are too small, as these were 8x10 contact prints, and I was doing them in 8x10 trays.

All in all, I'm satisfied at the first baby steps. I'm gonna plan a trip to Yosemite in a few days to try and get some more negs to develop. :-)

I do have to say...I completely understand the love and devotion to the tactile sensation of developing your own film and prints. Especially prints. Watching them come up in developer, under safelight, has to be one of the most magical feelings a person can still have nowadays.

I'll post some scans of the final prints tomorrow morning, in case anyone wants a good chuckle... They're drying right now.


Robert Ley
31-Mar-2008, 09:23
It is probably a good idea to include as much information on the materials that you used if you would like meaningful input. Include the type of paper and manufacturer, the developer and dilution and any other processing information. Toning is influenced greatly by these and other factors. I have found that if you give the print slightly more exposure and get a darker print your sepia toning will work better as you seemed to find. I use Kodak toners, brown, sepia and selenium. Different colors can be obtained by toning in more than one toner such as brown and selenium. You will just have to experiment for yourself with your conditions and materials. By all means let us know how you make out.

31-Mar-2008, 10:50
Robert, you're right. Here is more info if anyone wishes to spend some time on this, along with images for illustration. :)

The neg was fp4+ developed in Pyrocat-HD. Contact printed on Bergger Variable CB style, a double weight, FB, variable Warm, semi-gloss paper, with a tinted base.

The prints were developed in Ilford Multigrade paper developer, water stop and TF-4 fix, washed for 25 minutes after the fix, then allowed to air dry. That was a few days ago.

Yesterday, when I decided to try the toning, the prints were re-wet in distilled water for five minutes each prior to immersion in the bleach bath, of Berg's Rapid RC Sepia Toning Solution. Dilutions were 120ml (1 bottle) of the bleach with the recommended 840ml of distilled water, to make 1 liter of working solution bleach.

The toning solution was the same dilution for the first print I toned (not any of these two prints referenced), but as was recommended in the instructions, when that first print came out toned very strongly, I further diluted the toning bath (bath 2) with another 250ml of distilled water. Both prints had a 10 wash time after bath 1 and a 20 minute wash time after bath 2.

Both bath temperatures were 68-70 degrees for the duration of the toning session.

This first pic, I knew that I was going to split tone, and watched carefully for the light tones to disappear. However, before they did, the darker tones around the perimeter began to disappear, so I pulled early and washed for 9 minutes, then placed in bath 2 for 3 minutes, and washed again for 20 minutes.


Learning from that first print (I hope), I decided to leave the second print in the bleach until the center section of the image was disappearing. I bleached for approx. 2 minutes and pulled to the wash, then toned for 3 1/2 minutes and back in the wash.

Here is the 2nd print, which came out much better in my mind, though still not great. Definitely too yellow for my taste.


I think part of my dislike, or unhappiness may just be the possibility that this shot just doesn't look good sepia toned; thinking about it, due to all of the lighter tones that came through on the print, with detail in all of them thanks to the p-cat, a selenium toning would have been just fine.

My main concern was that the color was not at all what I was expecting. I don't think that the Berg Toning kit was that old, I think I purchased it last year, but the chems were never mixed, and it had never even been opened.

Thanks to anyone who waded through this whole post and throws some ideas at me. I'm loving doing my own developing and am sure that experience and more mistakes (along with all of your help :) )will teach me the corrections I need to make.

31-Mar-2008, 10:57
forgot to add that there was continuous gentle agitation for both bath 1 and bath 2.

Glenn Thoreson
31-Mar-2008, 11:24
I have some of the same toner that's several years old. It still works but the toner step is slowing down. That toner can make a very pleasant brown. I think maybe you should try warming step two to about 85 or so. Give it more time and try letting it stay in there until it looks like what you want.
You can also bleach and redevelop with Kodak Brown Toner. Give the print a very quick bleach. Pull it as soon as you see any action at all and wash it immediately. Stick it in the brown toner and agitate. Pull it when you get what you want. You have to be quick with the bleach, or it be be toward the yellow side, too. The brown toner works much faster by doing this and I've gotten some nice, deep browns. All of this toning business takes experimentation. Good luck to you.

31-Mar-2008, 11:59
Glenn, you may have hit on something there. I seem to recall for the second print (the one that toned more) that when I put it in the wash, which was running water through the sink faucet into one of those cheap print washer trays, that the wash water was substantially warmer (by at least 10 degrees) than the toner bath.

While in the final wash, I distinctly saw the toning increase. I wonder if my toner bath was just too cold. The distilled water that I used had been outside, so when I brought it in it was around 55 degrees. I warmed it up in the sink and thought that I had gotten it to around 70 degrees, but perhaps there was still pockets of colder water in the jug.

I'll have to watch the temperature more carefully next time.



31-Mar-2008, 12:01
would a cold bleach bath affect the bleaching process as well? The water for the dilution for the bleach bath came from the same jug as the toner solution, so if the bleach bath was too cold, how would that have affected the bleaching process?

domenico Foschi
31-Mar-2008, 12:31
I have never used the Berg toner, but I wonder why you wash the print between the bleach and toning bath.
The bleach, especially in warm toned paper, continues its action mercilessly.
I would try to bleach the image, yank it BEFORE you get to your desired degree, immerse it in the toner IMMEDIATLY and then put it in a FRESH fix bath, if you don't the toning effect will keep going and you will end up with a fully toned print.
Warmtone papers act like that.
Does it says to do so in the package?
Also, in my opinion, 25 minutes wash is not enough to get rid of the fixer and it seems like the image is suffering from poor washing as well.
Are the scans a faithful reproduction of the image?

Greg Lockrey
31-Mar-2008, 13:31
I never used Berg Toner's either so I am speaking from ignorance in that reguard. Back in the day when I used to do wet lab processes I seem to remember that I would give myself an extra 1/2 f/stop equivalent exposure if I was going to Sepia tone and another thing I seem to remember was not to use fixer with hardener in it or use Rapid Fixer. Don't know if this has an effect or not though. With Kodak Sepia toner I used to bleach for 1/2 minute and wash for 2 minutes and then place in Step B solution for several minutes and wash for an hour.

31-Mar-2008, 13:47
Domenico, the instructions which came with the Berg toner chemicals stated to do a 5 to 10 minute wash between bleach and toner baths. The scans are about as close as I can make them to real life. I wondered how long I should wash the prints after toning, I guess I should use a hypo as well as a longer wash after printing. I'm assuming that the instructions say to wash between baths to avoid contamination of the toner with bleach. This kit has just two bottles, both 120 ml, of bleach and a toner, and is supposed to be reusable.

Greg, TF-4 is non-hardening, but it is a rapid fixer. I am leaning to Domenico's statement that the prints were not washed long enough to remove all traces of fix.

I guess the easy trial is to use Domenico's suggestion of straight from bleach into toner. Worst comes to worst, I'm out $10 and have to buy another toner kit. :)

Does the print need to be refixed after toning? The Berg instructions just say to wash and dry.

Thanks both of you for your help and input. I'll figure it out eventually...


Greg Lockrey
31-Mar-2008, 13:50
Getting the fixer washed out is very important. You do not need to refix after you tone. The toning replaces the silver and will not fade. I noticed from rereading the thread that you used multi-grade paper (I take it it was an RC paper too). I never had any good luck with using that stuff other than making "proofs". I prefered using "graded" fiber papers when it came to toning. Warm and Neutral papers have varying effects on toning also.

31-Mar-2008, 13:50
Domenico, I take that back...the prints are actually more brownish than the image on my monitor suggests for the second image, and the first image in real life is more of an orangish color...

domenico Foschi
31-Mar-2008, 14:04
I have experience with the Kodak sepia toner, a lot of it, and warm toned paper, if not fixed keeps the toning action slowly but relentlessly.
Even in the toner package I use it doesn't suggest fixing, but I have found it indispensable to use it after having images meant to be split toned that become fully toned.

If you put the print right away in your washer you will minimize the effect somewhat, but it will still tone a little more.
I repeat, I never used Berg, which is a beautiful toner.
Regarding washing between bleach and toner, you could have an intermediate rinse tray which would get rid of the bulk of ferri.
I usually wait to tone until I have a good number of prints, so that I can do the all bulk in a once, which saves me money and time.

31-Mar-2008, 14:26
Thanks for all the great advice, Domenico. One thing I'll mention, although I don't have any idea what difference it would make, but the bleach in the Berg kit states, "contains no Ferricyanide".

Again, I appreciate greatly the time taken to explain things to me while I get the hang of this new (to me) process. I'm actually having dreams about toning prints, how bad is that?! :)

31-Mar-2008, 14:29
Greg, it is actually a Fiber base paper, but it is warm tone FB. Bergger was the manufacturer, and I have to say, prior to toning, I loved the way the paper displayed the highlights of the tree shot. In the original lighter print, the detail is just amazing, with soft gradations even between what I would consider zone 8 and 9. Of course, that could just be a combo of the p-cat hd and contract printing 8x10. :) Still, this is the first paper that I've used that I've seen this degree of detail on.

Robert Ley
31-Mar-2008, 14:38
I would encourage you to try Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner (KST) with your warm tone papers. If the Berger is anything like Ilford Warm Tone, I think that you will like the results. Ilford has just come out with a Selenium toner that you might want to try.

31-Mar-2008, 15:04
i used berg toner quit successfully. i never split toned though.

i found that a darker print toned a bit better. when compared to a light print i liked the look of the darker print after it was toned. i think the lighter may have been reduced in the bleach too much. now when i know i will tone a print i print it darker. i was using kodak RC paper.

i bleached the prints till they were almost white (again, i tried pulling them earlier but i liked them more with a longer bleach) washed them briefly in water and then put them in the toner. i toned them until they looked good ( ie they no longer toned.) then i washed them. no fix. so far so good. they still look nice.

please see my apug gallery fro some examples. most are on page 1, some on page two:



31-Mar-2008, 15:59
Robert, it's being delivered tomorrow from Freestyle. :) Thanks for the suggestion, I'm looking forward to having LOTS of fun toning! So far, i've got the sepia from berg, a blue toner from berg, a gold toner, the selenium coming tomorrow. I can't wait to get some more negs to print!

Thanks eddie, and I must say you have a very nice gallery. I love the old truck photo, At the Orchard. Very nice!

Glenn Thoreson
31-Mar-2008, 16:15
Paul. you don't need to fix the print after toning, but you do need to wash it between steps to kill the bleach and preserve the toner. Follow the instructions that came with it. TF-4 is supposed to wash out faster than acid fixers. If in doubt, wash for 3-5 minutes, then put it in hypo clear such as Perma Wash for a couple of minutes, then wash for 30 minutes before toning. Warming up the toner will really step up the action. You can go to 100 degrees without hurting anything. I wouldn't warm the bleach. That stuff is hard enough to control without warming it. Sometimes, the center of the print will take a little longer to bleach. It may have been that the center didn't absorb as much water when you re-wetted the print. Careful watching and practice will keep it from doing that. 20 to 30 minutes wash should be plenty after the toning is finished. There's no hypo in the toner.

John O'Connell
1-Apr-2008, 07:10
My experiences toning Bergger CB fiber warm with Kodak Sepia Toner result in a similar image tone to the samples you've posted. It's one of the yellowest papers I've ever worked with in sepia. I've never tried split toning with it, but I've noticed some posterization in dark areas on occasion after toning, presumably because the two emulsions bleach/tone differently, so split-toning might be rewarding with it.

I loved that Bergger paper, though. Really nice tone in selenium.

1-Apr-2008, 10:27
I loved that Bergger paper, though. Really nice tone in selenium.

I'm looking forward to seeing it toned in Selenium too, John. :) I really do like the creamyness of the paper when it's untoned as well.

Thanks to all for your advice and encouragement! On to making more negatives!