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Toning in sulphur
Part 2
Direct and indirect sulphur toning with MT4 Siena and MT5 Sepia on Ilford paper.


Ilford Multigrade IV



SE6 Blue without toner


MT4 Siena 1+20 for 1 minute


MT5 Sepia 1+10 for 3 minutes


Compared to other papers, Ilford MG IV reacts rather slowly to all sorts of toning. Apart from selenium toning - which is hardly visible on this paper if you used a neutral tone developer - all other methods of toning lead to the expected results. It just takes a little longer.
MT4 Siena: The usual characteristic of polysulphide toners, to go on toning while in the rinse water, is noticeable here as well; even if not to the same extend as with warmtone paper. With short toning times the shadow densities rise in a cool tone. The highlights show little change at first, but will tone onwards until dried down.

MT5 Sepia: Used directly without bleaching, the shadows turn cooler while increasing in density. Even with a strong toner solution (1+10), the highlights adopt a warmer tone only when toning time exceeds 2½ minutes.

Direct sulphur toning does not necessarily give a brown tone with just any paper. Even if only a small change in colour is visible, the protecting effect on the silver is there. With suitable neutral- and coldtone emulsions, sulphur toner can also be applied exclusively for archival purposes. Similar to selenium, maximum black can increase immensely. In contrast to selenium though, even with short toning times the highlight densities receive a stabilizing effect.

The first two prints allow us to compare tone values and image tones.




MG IV neutral tone developer - no toner



MT1 Selenium Toner 1+50 for 5 minutes



MT5 Sulphur Toner 1+10 for 3 minutes



Bleached after toning in 1+20 for 90 seconds


On this paper the image tone turns even cooler. The increase in density of the shadows is higher than with selenium toner. After bleaching the toned print, it is visible to which extend silver has been transformed to silver-sulphide. The print is not yet fully toned, but the protective effect is considerably higher than with selenium toner in a similar dilution for the same duration. With selenium the upper mid tones would not have been reached (compare to Toning in sulphur - part 1 and Toning in selenium part 1).





In the example above I only want to demonstrate the (invisible) effect of the toner. The print lost its archival permanence. Bleaching the (as yet untoned metallic) silver produced an (unstable) silver-salt - in this case silver bromide. Silver bromide can be reduced to silver or silver sulphide not only by developing and toning, but also by environmental gases that have an (uncontrollable) "toning" effect over time.

This silver bromide must either be dissolved in a fixing solution or transformed to silver sulphide by repeated toning. Doing so, the densities increase again and the hue turns darker.

Speaking of direct toners, a stronger shift in colours is achieved with MT4 Siena. If a continuous brown tone is desired, tone until the print looks the way you want it. After rinsing for 5 times (meaning changing the water in a dish for 5 times), stop the toning process in a sulphite solution. This prevents toning from proceeding in the rinse water. Short times of toning of between 30 and 90 seconds, give cold brown hues. Longer toning times result in redder tints.



MT4 Siena 1+40 for 3 minutes - stopped in sulphite



MT4 Siena 1+40 for 1 minute + toning in rinse water


Using the same dilution as above, if you only tone for 20 to 60 seconds without stopping in sulphite solution - so that toning can go on in the rinse water - you get a split tone. The highlights turn slightly red and the shadows greenish cold.


Multigrade IV "toning indirectly in sulphur"

You bleach for a long time in a highly diluted solution or for a short time in a strong dilution. If you bleach totally, meaning until even the deepest shadows have vanished, you loose contrast, just as you do when toning in odourless thiourea. If you only bleach until you reach the mid tones or at least leave the shadows unbleached, you keep the density of the blacks and with it the original tonal impression of the picture. If for example you bleach until you reach the higher mid tones, the bleached areas will immediately be "re-developed" in the toner. If you stop the toning process after about 20 seconds, the shadows remain little impressed. Depending on the dilution of the bleach, the edge between toned and untoned areas is still quite pronounced. Only with longer times of toning will there be a change in colour of the shadows with smoother transitions. If you want to rule out any formation of an edge or if you want the highlights to look as little yellow as possible, you can pre-tone with selenium or sulphur. Toning in a strong selenium toner for only a short time protects only part of the shadow densities. After bleaching, only the shadows with decreased density remain in a red tint. The rest is accessible for the sulphur toner. If you pre-tone in sulphur-sodium for a short time, all tone values remain visible after bleaching.

If you tone in selenium 1+10 for a slightly longer time of 5 minutes, and bleach the remaining silver almost completely, you are left with a picture of selenium, which extends to the mid tones.




Bleached (after selenium toning) 1+10 for 60 seconds



Followed by MT5 1+10 for 45 seconds


Subsequent sulphur toning, results in a red-brown tint that reaches from the shadows to the mid tones. The highlights that have not been reached by the selenium toner appear warm-brown to yellow.



Indirect toning (without pre-toner) in MT5 Sepia




Bleach 1+20 for 60 seconds




Bleach 1+10 for 60 seconds




Toner MT5 Sepia 1+10 for 60 seconds



Toner MT5 Sepia 1+10 for 60 seconds



Ilford Multigrade Warmtone

Of course, all methods described above are also possible with all other papers. In some cases the results will look a lot different from what you see here. A good example for a different reaction to sulphur toning is Ilfords warmtone paper. Because of its fine grain, any toning process is a lot faster than with MG IV. The colours are more intense with a wider colour spectrum.




left: MGW with its typical greenish-warm tone

If you allow onward toning in the first rinse water, direct toning in MT4 Siena results in an intensive hue.

Direct toning in MT5 Sepia only increases the densities. The highlights turn cooler.

More colourful results can be obtained in this toner after bleaching.

Compared to MGIV, MGW reacts a lot quicker to bleaching. So you either have to increase the dilution or shorten the duration.



MT5 Sepia 1+10 for 5 minutes



MT4 Siena 1+40 for 30 seconds



bleach 1+20 for 30 seconds
MT5 for 1 minute




bleach 1+40 for 60 seconds
MT4 1+40 for 15 seconds





MGW bleaches a lot quicker than MGIV. A dilution of 1+20 is already too strong to allow controllable bleaching. You would reach the mid-tones after only 30 seconds and the shadows after 60 to 90 seconds. If you want to achieve a more subtle hue by means of indirect toning in MT5, use a bleach dilution of 1+40 to 1+80 to obtain bleaching times of between 30 and 60 seconds.

Prior toning does not result in a significant change in colour. The densities increase slightly and the shadows appear less red.

MT5 1+10 for 5 minutes, bleach 1+20 for 30 seconds, MT5 for 1 minute






In higher dilutions (1+80 and above) and shorter times (15 to 30 seconds) only the highlights will be bleached completely with smooth transitions to the mid-tones. The highlights only receive a whiff of colour.

Bleaching for longer durations even in a weak bleach solution, the mid-tones and shadows will be slightly bleached. After toning in MT5 the areas that have been completely bleached appear yellow. Towards the shadows the tone turns greenish.

Bleach 1+80 for 90 seconds
Toner MT5 1+40 for 30 seconds



For comparison: an example of carbon toning.

The effect of direct toning in this (sulphur-selenium) toner is essentially different from both MT4 and MT5 toners.

Similar to MT5 you get an increase in maximum black at first. The hue turns cooler. After about one minute the tone shifts slowly towards aubergine. From highlights to shadows the tone stays uniform up to toning times of 3 to 4 minutes.

After that, especially in a higher dilution, the highlights turn warmer towards a red-yellow tone and the shadows turn to a warm brown.

MT2 Carbontoner 1+15 for 3 minutes


Toning directly in MT4 Siena or indirectly in all sulphur toners, MGW shows a tendency towards split toning if developed in neutral or coldtone developers. This characteristic becomes more intense if you print with more exposure and in a slow working developer. The slow working developer Catechol SE20C for example needs an overexposure of more then one stop, in order to show full gradation when used as the only developer. However, it is enough to combine it with SE1 Sepia in two bath development - overexposing it slightly with subsequent toning in MT4 Siena - to achieve a dual tonality that is different from the one with normal development and toning.

So far all toning examples have been developed in a neutral tone developer (SE4 Neutral). It is not unimportant, which developer was used before toning. It is up to testing, whether you are better off with a warmer or a cooler developer in a particular case. With some toners the differences can be so small that you will only see them in direct comparison. In MT4 differences will be visible right away.





Two bath development Catechol/Sepia
Toning in MT4 Siena 1+50 for 20 seconds

A condition to accomplish this colour is either an extremely high dilution of the toner of between 1+100 and 1+500, or -as in here- a short duration in a dilution of 1+50 with subsequent rinse water toning. In the first rinse water the toning process is not stopped but only slowed down by diluting the toner that is still in the emulsion. The print stays in this bath for a minute or longer. Consider that this toner is still active in a dilution of 1+1000. In order to obtain reproducible results, also note down the duration of rinse water toning. Afterwards change the water in the dish for 2 to 4 times until no clouding is visible anymore. Then rinse thoroughly. While rinsing and even while drying, the image tone will still change. Before the first water bath the colour is still uniformly brown.

© Gerhard Fuhs



If you want the tints of highlights and shadows to be further apart, you have to increase the amount of exposure and the second developer has to be further diluted.





© Gerhard Fuhs