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Toning with Selenium
The diverse opportunities to use selenium tone have been discussed in detail on previous pages, so I will confine myself to the basics of its effects.

All selenium toners start their deed in the shadows - on any paper! Warmtone papers with their fine silver grain tone quicker than bromide-silver paper.

The increase in density of the shadows is stronger with warmtone papers than with neutral- or coldtone papers. This is clearly visible with polychrome prints, where the shadows show a green-black tone of low density instead of maximum black, because of the high content of bromide in lith developer.

Select VC Lith+Siena MT1 Selenium 1+10 4min
© Patrik Budenz


Left: Lith+Catechol Fomabrom Variant selenium toned
Right: bleached to observe the effect of the toner

Neutral- and coldtone papers have to be toned a lot longer than warmtone papers in the same toner dilution to establish a colour shift. This does not mean that the toner is less effective, it only means it is less visible. This is due to the structure of the silver grain. A transformation of metallic silver to silverselenide definitely takes place, even if it does not lead to red-brown hues. Selenium tone is not made for brown toning. Irrespective of the paper used, the image tone will turn cooler at first. The effect always starts in the shadows. Toning through to the highlights can take a while even with strong toner solutions. Warmtone papers allow you to judge the effect a lot easier, because the paper reacts a lot quicker to toning. In the beginning the shadows turn darker. After that, the silver colour changes towards reddish shades. At the latest when the colour shift reaches the midtones, the shadows change towards magenta and auburn and loose their density. Coldtone papers seem to react in a completely different manner. Shadow density increases here as well, but when toning for a longer time the image tone shifts towards a cool magenta and mostly does not loose shadow density until toning is stopped. An effect is there, even if - to an untrained eye - it is visible only in direct comparison to an untoned print. The silver stabilizing effect of selenium toning is overrated most of the time. At least with warmtone papers, for aesthetical reasons, the toning process is usually stopped too early to achieve a stabilizing effect. When the shadow colour shifts, the highlights have not been thoroughly toned! Using bromide silver emulsions the protective effect of selenium toning can reach the highlights before the shadows split into unpleasant hues.

How much impact selenium toning has, even with short toning times, is obvious when bleaching the untoned silver, retransforming it to silver salt. To demonstrate this I bleached a print that had become too dark. Toning times were the same for both prints. The aim of toning was to deepen the shadows and to slightly cool down the overall image tone. Through bleaching, you loose everything but the pure image of selenium. With a dilution of 1+10, toning for 2 minutes, the toner reached the higher mid tones on this paper (Fomabrom Variant).

Fomabrom graded paper Lith+Siena

Selenium toner MT1 1+10 4min

Polychromeprints on warmtone papers tone a lot quicker than those on neutral bromide-silver emulsions. To allow controlled toning of the shadows, the toner dilution should be 1+20 or diluted even further. If you want to reach all tones, use 1+10.

Kentmere Kentona (new emulsion) SE15 Polychrome (Lith+Siena)
toned in MT1 Selenium Tone 1+10 for 5 minutes.

Select VC SE15 Polychrome (Lith+Siena)
MT1 Selenium 1+20 2:30min

Select Ivory SE15 Polychrome (Lith+Siena)
MT1 Selenium 1+20 1:30min

Kentmere Kentona (old emulsion) SE15 Polychrome (Lith+Siena)
MT1 Selenium 1+30 2min