Wolfgang Moersch Photochemie
Am Heideberg 48
50354 Hürth

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Toning in Selenium and Gold

Paper: Select VC/ Forte PW14

Top left: without toning, soft without deep blacks in the shadows
Top right: after toning in MT1 Selenium Toner 1+10 for 1:30 minutes
Below left: after toning in Selenium and MT10 Gold Toner for 3:30 minutes, wet print
Below right: after drying

Caution! Selenium Toner contains thiosulphate. The print has to be thoroughly rinsed before toning in Gold.



If a blue image tint is to be achieved by toning in gold, the untoned print has to be warm and low in contrast. Gold toner brings immense density to the print and uses a lot of toner substance. For that reason inexpensive selenium toner is used where there is a lot to do - in the shadows. When toning warmtone paper in strong working solutions for short toning times, all densities increase. The shadows, however, will be affected over-proportionally. After rinsing the print, gold toner is used to get the desired luminosity. While drying, the hue shifts to a cooler blue with higher density. You have to take this increase in density into account already when printing.

If the print looks too dark after toning and a more filmy appearance is desired (like in the winter landscape to the left), you can reduce the silver that was still not reached by the toner. For that purpose we do not take the irreversible "Farmers reducer", but bleach and fix in separate baths. If bleaching was too strong, you can redevelop. To achieve a directed effect with bleaching, you have to be familiar with what the toner does. Selenium toner works its way from the shadows to the highlights. Generally speaking, gold toner affects all densities simultaneously, but the highlights are fully toned prior to the more silver containing shadows. You can make use of these two different qualities to reduce mid tones - if they happen to be too abundant - or to achieve a clear blue without any cast of magenta, with strong gold toner solutions.

To control bleaching, the bleach bath should not be very strong. Dilutions between 1+40 and 1+100 allow enough time to observe the process.

After bleaching combined with selenium and gold toning, especially the mid tones appear lighter. The colour has not changed a lot.

If you put the print into fixer - after a short rinse - it lightens even more and an immediate shift to blue occurs. Here as well, while drying, the densities increase again slightly, although not to the same extend as with gold toner without bleach.

Selenium + Gold
© Gerhard Fuhs

If gold toner is used for a short time only - after pre-toning in Selenium - the highlights react with a slightly reddish cast. In order to prevent toning to reach purple and blue, the print has to be taken out already after about 30 seconds and rinsed in plenty of water. Take into account that Gold toner keeps toning in the rinse water for a while. If the toner reacts too quickly, it can be diluted further. In a 1+10 dilution of 200ml, one 24x30 print can be toned.

Pure gold toning

Vergleich der WirkungsweiseComparing different gold toner formulations. Here my Gold Toners MT6, MT9 and MT10.

Polychrome print on Select VC
From left to right: no toner - MT10 for 1 minute - MT9 for 1 minute
© A.S.C

Short toning times allow us to observe the differences between these gold toners. Longer toning times result in an intensive blue tone in mid tones and highlights (after two bath development in Lith + Siena).

MT9 tones from highlights to shadows with a clear edge.
MT10 tones all densities simultaneously, starting with a cool reddish cast.

In the beginning MT10 is slower than MT9, but reaches the shadows earlier. If you want a homogenous image tone, MT10 is the better choice.

With increasing time of toning, the hue turns cooler and reaches the shadows as well. Right picture: 9 minutes.
If you want the highlights to keep a touch of warmth, use sulphur toner prior to gold toner.

Polychrome prints have a higher density in the highlights than pure lith prints. So there should be enough silver for indirect toning.

In diluted bleach (potassium ferricyanide/ potassium bromide) only the highlights are delicately bleached and then toned in thiourea (MT3 Vario) adjusted to a lighter or middle range tone. In contrast to sodium toner and polysulphide toner, thiourea only tones the bleached areas.

After rinsing, tone with gold (MT9 or MT10) to the desired intensity. If you use a strong sulphur toner solution as pre-toner, with increasing duration in gold toner, a bright reddish tone emerges. When pre-toning was less intense and gold toning was shorter, the hue stays more subtle (see picture above left).

MT6 Nelson Gold Toner

MT6 has a special position. In contrast to the other two gold toners, cool shadows with bright yellow highlights appear already with short toning times.

Fomatone MT6 Nelson Gold Tone at 38°C for 3 minutes

With longer toning times the print remains multicoloured, but starting from the shadows onwards the result appears cooler.