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Polychrome development Part 1: Lith + Siena basics
In a couple of publications in recent years I described opportunities of developing in colour on black and white paper.

The principles of coloured development

By means of overexposing and developing in highly diluted, slow developers with only one (!) developing substance, warm-brown to red-brown image tones can be achieved. You can increase the colourfulness of the image tone, by increasing exposure time. The higher the degree of overexposure, the higher a developer dilution is necessary. However, extremely diluted developers cannot generate the complete tonal range, the light tones are coloured and finely differentiated, but it is impossible to produce the black tones of the shadows. This problem can be solved by two bath development with lith as first developer.

The Polychrome-Kit includes two components of a Lith Developer and a concentrated Glycine Developer of low alkalinity, as well as a starter-solution (potassium-carbonate + anti-fog), an ammonium chloride solution to control the image hue and Lith D as an optional anti fog solution.

Preparation of the working solution

Use the suggested dilutions stated in the instructions included in the Kit, until you obtained some experience of your own.

The lith developer has to be made up stronger (approximately 1+7 to 1+15) than with pure lith printing. The deep shadow areas shall not start emerging at the end of the developing process, but already after 2 to 5 minutes. Mid-tones and highlights shall only be slightly visible and will be developed further in the second developer bath.

The second developer is to be composed out of three different ingredients. The pH-value of my Glycine Developer Siena is so low, that it has only little capacity to develop, when diluted with water. The carbonate solution is used as an activator. How much of it you require depends on the desired effect. As a general rule, the ratio between developer and activator should be between 2:1 and 1:1. Without adding ammonium chloride, no outstanding colourfulness is to be expected, even with weak developer dilutions. Carbonate and ammonium chloride in equal parts give reddish tonalities. An excessive surplus of carbonate generates dichroitic fog, which has to be suppressed by adding anti-fog solution (Lith D). A surplus of ammonium chloride results in yellowish hues. It is advisable to begin with only a small amount of ammonium chloride (about 50% of the amount of developer concentrate used in the working solution) and to add carbonate only in small quantities, until the desired image tone is reached.

Both developers Lith and Siena have to be adjusted in their effect to the quantity of light used during exposure. Depending on the degree of dilution, an overexposure of one-half to fife stops is necessary. Since filtration absorbs a huge amount of light, without much benefit to the lith printing technique, it is advisable to use white (unfiltered) light during exposure, to keep exposure times to a minimum. In some cases it can be sufficient to take the exposure time of a filtered conventional print and use it without the filtration for the lithprint.

First of all, the exposure time for the first developer is to be determined. The quantity of light that generates the dark shadows while in the lith developer after 2 to 5 minutes is to be used for the second developer as well. The dilution of the second developer is to be chosen, as to fully show the light and mid tones after a developing time of 1 to 3 minutes. Only when the test-strips in both developers (with the same exposure time!) yield to the desired densities, can the two bath development lead to the wished for result at first go. If the print looks too dark, either slightly shorten the exposure time or make the working solution of the second developer be less strong.

Examples from a workshop, photo Edgar Zieser

Test prints of Lith and Siena respectively.

Two bath development: exposure time and developing times as above.

For a start into this developing technique I recommend the use of either Fomatone or Kentmere Kentona papers. Fomatone can be developed to colourful hues between yellow and purple. Irrespective of the choice of dilution for the second developer, the shadow areas generated in the Lith developer will appear greenish.

First developer in all three examples: Easy Lith 1+15 for around 4 minutes of developing time.

Left picture, second developer mixture: Siena + ammonium chloride + potassium carbonate 50:25:25:1000 for yellowish tones.

Picture in the middle, second developer mixture: 50:40:40:1000 + 10ml Lith D.
More overexposure results in reddish mid tones and highlights.

Right picture, selenium toning shifts the colours of the shadows towards magenta. The print will turn a lot darker and ought not to show maximum black prior to toning.

If the highlights appear obscure due to excessive overexposure or a rise in density of base&fog occurred because of a high dosage of ammonium chloride, bleaching the highlights (bleach dilution of 1+100 to 1+200 for 15-30 seconds) prior to toning can be a remedy.

The frequently asked question of how negatives should look like for lith- and polychrome techniques, is easy to answer. Of course you cannot go wrong with the "perfect negative", but it is not a must. Most challenging negatives, even those unprintable ones can be put on paper with this technique. The following examples should make that clear.

Using two bath development with lith allows manipulation of the contrast of different parts of the negative separately. For example, if a negative covers a contrast multitude - for reasons of underexposure and overdevelopment - often filtration and burning and dodging are not sufficient.

In the example below the sky is very dense. The amount of light needed to show all the details in the sky would completely blacken den shadows.

Negative by courtesy of Jon Boner.

Above right, printed conventionally; below, two bath technique with lith. All possibilities of contrast control through split filtration were used. Yellow filtration was used when dodging the lower part; the sky was burned in with mid gradation. To split the shadows even further, the first developer was lith (1+10) and the second was SE1 Sepia developer (1+15). Exposure time was chosen for the Sepia developer to render the highlight details. Developing time in both developers was 2½ minutes, respectively. Since the print was -untypical for lith- not overexposed, the slow lith developer was only able to start developing the shadows, without giving them full density. The second developer will darken those densities instantly, without destroying the details. The mid tones and highlights take the usual time to develop.

For polychrome development in lith and Siena exposure times have to be significantly longer. All interventions stated above were applied in here as well. Only the yellow filtration was dropped for the stronger unfiltered white light.

Magenta filtration was used for the shadows and unfiltered light for the light areas. Burning in the sky had to be done mostly with magenta filtration to keep the contrast in the light areas.

This is what a polychrome print typically looks like before drying. It must be pointed out, that the print will appear darker and more colourful when dried.

The dried print before toning.

If you don't like the green to blue-green shadow tints, Selenium toning is the way to go. If the toner is diluted to 1+25, only the darkest shadows will be further deepened during the first half minute. After that the shadows slowly turn to a warm red and later magenta. With lith and polychrome printing silver density in the light tones is not very high, so that the toner has little impact there. On top of that selenium toner always reaches the lighter areas only after a longer time of toning.

MT1 Selenuim toner 1+25 3min


MT1 Selenium toner 1+25 6min