how to make prints archievel : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

I would like to learn more about making prints more archievel. I have heard that toning goes a long way to help. Any advice on which toners to use to NOT change the color of the paper, only improve the archievel quality of the print?


-- Sam Carleton (, May 09, 2002


The idea of archival processing is to get prints to last as long as possible with no degradation of the image. You'll find chapter and verse in Wilhelm's book on the care and preservation of photographs. Keep in mind that one person's eternity is another eyeblink. Having said that...

Two issues to begin with. Life of the substrate (i.e., paper, canvas, wood panel etc). So, if you're painting in watercolors, you want an acid free paper etc. With photographic materials, typically the manufacturers of printing papers do a decent job on this front.

Second issue: ensuring the image lasts as long as the substrate. In photography, this means ensuring there is no degradation of the image. Reasons for image degradation can run the gamut from chemicals left over in the print from improper processing, atmospheric pollutants etc. In general, silver combines with other stuff like sulfides etc. Other silver compounds ten to be more stable. Therefore, toning to change the silver to another, more stable silver compound (e.g., silver sulfide or silver selenite) is beneficial.

In general, toners change image color. Selenium takes image color towards the purple end of the spectrum while sepia will take it towards the yellow brown end. Some folks tone briefly in selenium for enhanced balcks without a tone change. The evidence suggests that for archival protection, you need to take toning to completion i.e., partial toning will leave the untoned silver susceptible. Your best bet for getting no tone change is to use a cold tone paper (typically bromide papers like Oriental Seagull etc) and tone in selenium. The tone change is minimal. There is also a product called Agfa Sistan that is supposed to help with archival issues (without tone changes) but I'm afraid I know very little about this, having never used it. Hopefully, someone will chime in on this.

It is also worth keeping in mind that all of this is just part of the archival issue. Prints need to be processed well (remove residual hypo, toned etc). In addition, make sure you use appropriate mats etc. Michael Smith had an article in View Camera about how drymounting provided better protection from atmospheric pollutants and also discussed a board made with microchamber technology etc.

Wilhelm's book is very good reading on these issues.

Good luck, DJ

-- N Dhananjay (, May 09, 2002.


There are a number of sources for good information on the subject. Photo Techniques magazine published a series of articles by Ctein on this subject several years ago. The information from that article appears in Ctein's book "Post Exposure."

Steve Anchell's "Variable Contrast Printing Manual," also contains a good deal on archival processing.

Ed Buffalo's Unblinking Eye WEB site also has an article on toning and archival processing. There are many other WEB sites with similar info and I suggest doing a search on B&W photography, etc.

Archival means different things to different people, sufice to say that it should mean more than 100 years. To achieve an archival print, you should first start with fiber paper, not RC. If the print is developed, fixed and washed properly, then toned and washed again, you should end up with a relatively stable print.

The best toners for archival processing are sulfiding toners (i.e. Sepia, or brown toners) but gold and selenium also render prints archival. All toners will affect print tone, but used properly and only with certain papers, can selenium yield the least/no change.


-- Pete Caluori (, May 09, 2002.

As Pete said, I have an article on Archival Processing on my site. (I should note that it doesn't seem to display in Netscape.) There is also a brief article by Liam Lawless entitled Testing Gold Protective Solution that might be of interest.

My only comment is that even with Gold Protective Solution you don't start to see real protection until you see a change in image color. (Liam says color starts to change at around 5 minutes with GP-2--the best protection he was able to document was at 10 minutes with GP-2.) I have seen some gorgeous tones from a thiocarbamide sepia toner, and at some point would like to do an article on it--but it won't be any time soon. Sulfiding toners like sepia and brown probably offer the best protection, but image color is radically transformed.

Several conservators I have spoken with have emphasized that the most critical factor in archival preservation is print storage conditions, which of course are usually beyond the control of the photographer.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, May 09, 2002.

Sorry I misspelled your name Ed!

Regards, Pete

-- Pete Caluori (, May 09, 2002.

Pete--that's okay. My ancestors couldn't spell.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, May 09, 2002.

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