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Toning in sulphur
Part 3
Direct and indirect sulphur toning on MCC






The new version of MCC - manufactured under the ADOX label - differs from the Agfa-MCC only in the colour of its base. The slightly creamy tint has been altered to a pure white base-colour. If this is to stay will ultimately be decided by the consumer. For my taste, the paper gained in brilliance by that step. As a consequence, in the same developer especially the highlights come out cooler. All control over the image tone by choice of developer remains the same. This also applies to all toning techniques.





Infra-red photo on Efke in Finol

Left the untoned print, developed in SE4 Neutral




MT4 tones faster and more intensive than MT5. Despite a higher dilution and a shorter time of toning, if toning was stopped in a sulphite bath the results are hard to separate.

MT5 Sepia 1+10 for 4 minutes



MT4 Siena 1+40 for 45 seconds

After watering for only two times the toning process was stopped in a 10% sulphite bath.

Below you see how far toning would have progressed, if we had not stopped the process.



MT4 Siena 1+40 for 20 seconds

Toning progressed in water for 1 minute before the print was rinsed for 30 minutes.

This print was toned for a shorter time in the same dilution. Allowing rinse water toning resulted in a red-yellow cast up to the mid tones and blue to blue-green shadows. If you either dilute the toner more or leave the print in the toner for a shorter time while leaving it for a longer time in the first rinse water, the split effect will be more intense.



MT4 Siena 1+40 for 90 seconds - stopped in a sulphite bath

Toning in the same dilution for 60 to 70 seconds, results in a continuous dark brown colour. After that time the tone becomes more red.

This print was toned for 90 seconds and rinsed briefly. Then the toning process was stopped in a sulphite bath.



Carbon toning gives cooler tones. In the early stages of toning a shift towards blue-black is observable and maximum black increases. After around 30 seconds the colour shifts towards magenta. Even with toning times of more than 8 minutes, shadow densities do not decrease (on this paper in strong toner solutions). This is to be taken into account when printing. If carbon toning is envisioned, highlights as well as shadows have to be a bit lighter.

MT2 Carbon Toner 1+15 for 4 minutes



Indirect toning

All toners that have a direct impact on the silver can also be used for indirect toning (after bleach). However, the image colour always tends towards an unpleasant yellow tone. Bleached identically, MT5 produces the least degree of yellowing.




Bleached in 1+40 for 30 seconds
MT5 Sepia 1+10 for 60 seconds



Bleached in 1+40 for 30 seconds
MT3 Vario in dark configuration for 30 seconds


Where the use of sodium- or polysulphide toner is no advantage over odourless thiourea - when toning indirectly - the choice is easy. Here it turns obvious that toning in sodium sulphide goes beyond the bleached areas. With increasing time of toning the shadows will also be affected. Thiourea toner, however, cannot tone the remaining metallic silver, but only the areas where it finds silver salt (in this case silver bromide).


Pre-toning: toner - bleach - toner

Continuous red brown hues from highlights to shadows can be achieved by pre- toning in sulphur- or selenium toner. If you want to avoid the smell of sulphur toner, you can use selenium toner to achieve a comparably wide spectrum of red- brown to yellow-brown colours in combination with thiourea. As selenium toner works from shadows to highlights and protects the silver from the bleach, the time of toning determines how far the toning process is extended from the highlights into the mid tones. The colour intensity is controlled by the degree of dilution. Strong dilutions for a short time tone only the shadows. Only with longer times of toning the highlights are reached as well. Colour saturation is high. After bleach, there is only little bromine silver left for the sulphur toner. Nothing is left to turn yellow. Only the reduced density - due to bleaching - will be re-increased. With longer times of toning in stronger dilutions, the highlights will be reached a little later, but the shadows will not be completely toned. After toning in sulphur the colour will be less red.

Once more I want to point out that the selenium toners of all manufacturers that I know of contain thiosulphate, so that you have to rinse thoroughly before bleaching. If you use an alkaline fixer, you don't need to rinse between fixer and selenium toner. After using a sour fixer you should rinse for around 10 minutes.











Example: MT1 Selenium 1+10 for 2 minutes

The shadows show the typical tone of selenium. After bleaching, you see that the lower mid tones have only just been reached. The highlights have completely vanished.

If you tone the bleached areas in sulphur, you will still get a slightly yellowish tint.

MT3 Vario sulphur toner (thiourea)
dark configuration "E" (see part 1)
for 30 seconds

In contrast to normal indirect toning, the pre-toned shadows also receive a reddish brown tone.




Example: MT1 Selenium Toner 1+10 for 6 minutes

After about 3 minutes, in a strong dilution you get a split tone. The shadows appear red and the densities that have not been fully toned separate clearly in a cooler colour. The progress of toning is easy to judge. Only when the highlights change from initially blue to the red of the neighbouring densities, will they remain after bleaching. After 6 minutes not all the silver has been transformed to silver selenide. After re-halogenation, the small rest amount can be toned in thiourea.



After bleaching, the changes in colour and brightness are so minimal that they are only visible on the wet print.

To the left: treated with Photoshop to demonstrate the state of the print before drying.




MT3 Vario configuration C mid brown

In contrast to pure selenium toning, saturation in colour increases slightly and maximum black remains as it is.




Pre-toned in sulphur sodium

left: MT5 1+10 for 4 minutes

below left: bleach 1+80 for 90 seconds

below right: MT3 Vario in dark configuration


Whether the second time in a sulphur toner is in sodium sulphide or in thiourea is of no importance for the result, so that I chose for the odourless option.






Over-toning in selenium





Instead of as a pre-toner, selenium can also be used after sulphur. Depending on the duration of toning, the greenish shadows, which have only been slightly toned, adopt a more or less intense tone of selenium. In this example, toning was in a dilution of 1+10 for 5 minutes. Not only the shadow densities got affected, but also the highlights received a reddish tint.