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Toning B&W Prints

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The toners described here are suitable for both prints and black & white slides. As well as staining prints (which is their intended use), they are also capable of staining fingers, table tops, etc. so it is best to wear gloves or use tongs.

  1. Sepia Toner
  2. Iron (blue) Toner
  3. Copper (red/pink) Toner

For the metallic toners(iron & copper) I have prepared a number of stock solutions which I simply mix together and dilute to give the various formulations which I then use for one session and discard. This ensures that my chemicals are fresh.

Sepia Toner

This is the classic sepia toner, presented here in its odourless form which used Thiourea instead of sulphide. The toner is capable of creating a range of brown tones which will give an old-fashioned look to photographs. When used sparingly it is effective, but if overused it can become a cliche or gimmick. I have noticed that this toner modifies the contrast of the print slightly and can increase the amount of detail in shadow areas, which can come in very handy in some situations.

Three solutions are required. The first is the bleach, which converts the silver image to silver bromide. The second solution is the toner itself. It converts the silver bromide to silver sulphide, which is the brown colour. The third solution may be added to the toner to vary the brown tone obtained.
(Note: when B&W photographs are exposed to the air, any airborne pollutants will attack the silver in the image, which will lead to discolourisation caused by irregular patches of tarnished silver. A sepia toned image has no metallic silver present because it has all been converted to silver sulphide, so should last longer than an untoned print.)


Potassium Ferricyanide (red crystals) 10g

Potassium Bromide 10g

Water to 1 litre


Thiourea 10g

Water to 1 litre

Additive: Tone Modifier (CARE: wear gloves and safety glasses)

Sodium Hydroxide 5g

Water to 100ml

When toning prints, pour sufficient of the bleach into one tray, and sufficient toner into another. Some sodium hydroxide solution may be added to the toner (trial and error is needed here, but about 10ml is a good starting point), more hydroxide gives darker browns. Place the print in the bleach until most of the image has faded - this will probably take 1-2 minutes. Wash the print well then place it into the toner. Leave the print in the toner for 1-2 minutes, then remove and wash thoroughly in plenty of water.

Iron Toner

This is my version of the blue print toner, which traditionally consists of Ammonium Iron Citrate, Potassium Ferricyanide and an acid. A number of different acids may be used (such as Acetic or Citric), so if you don't have sulphuric acid, don't be afraid to experiment. Similarly, I couldn't get hold of Ammonium Iron Citrate, so I use a mixture of Potassium Citrate and Ammonium Iron Sulphate.

The toner is mixed immediately prior to use, from pre-prepared stock solutions as follows:

Solution required Amount

Potassium Citrate (20% w/v) 10ml

Potassium Ferricyanide (10% w/v) 10ml

Ammonium Iron Sulphate (10% w/v) 10ml

Sulphuric Acid (10% vol) 20ml

Water to 500ml

The above mixture is poured into a developing tray (double up all the volumes if more solution is needed to cover the prints). The prints should be left in the toner until the desired tone is obtained, then washed thoroughly in plenty of water. After a print has been toned, it may be lightened by immersing in a dilute borax solution (about 1-2%).

Copper Toner

This toner replaces the silver in the paper with metallic copper, which gives the image a red/pink colour. With some papers, the effect can be similar to a sepia tone. Two of the solutions used are identical to ones used in the Iron toner above, so if you have already tried the iron toner, then you only need one extra chemical to make this one.

Solution required Amount

Potassium citrate (20%) 10ml

Copper sulphate (10%) 10ml

Potassium ferricyanide (10%) 10ml

Water to 500ml

Mix the chemicals together in the order given, and pour into a developing tray. 500ml is sufficient to tone up to 5 10x8 prints. More solution can be mixed if larger prints are to be toned. Alternatively, the toner may be applied with cotton wool (the same applies to the iron toner), but this may leave streaks on the print if the toner isn't applied evenly.

ID-11/D-76 Film Developer

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The standard published versions of ID-11 and D-76 are identical, and is reproduced below. The off the shelf versions are slightly different, but work in much the same way. Development times should be identical. It can be found in many books and internet sites. It is close enough to the off the shelf version for the same developing times to be used.

Water @ 40°C 500ml

Metol 2g

Sodium Sulphite 100g

Hydroquinone 5g

Borax 2g

Water to 1 litre

Dissolve the chemicals in the order listed. Ensure that each chemical is dissolved before adding the next.

ID-11 is designated as a general purpose fine grain developer, and is suitable for virtually every B&W film. Development times for it come with nearly all films. Although the developer may be used full strength (where it is poured back into the bottle and re-used, with an increase in development time for the next film) it is easier to use diluted, where it is treated as a one-shot developer. The most commonly used dilutions are 1+1 and 1+3. If times aren't given for diluted developer, then a good starting point is:

For 1+1, multiply the time in stock developer by 1.4
For 1+3, double the time in stock developer.

One problem with the formulation above is that it will slowly increase in activity over several months of storage (apparently because of oxidation of the hydroquinone. This increases the alkalinity of the developer). One possibility (which I haven't tried) is to use 8g of Borax and 8g of Boric acid. This should give sufficient buffering to keep the developer activity constant. Another solution would be to keep the developer and borax separate. This lowers the alkalinity of the stored solution, which should reduce the rate of oxidation of the hydroquione. If the developer is always used diluted 1+1, then two solutions may be prepared: one containing all the above ingredients except the borax, another containing 2g/litre of borax. Mixing equal volumes of these together will give the working strength solution equivalent to 1+1.


This is another variation on the above formula, but without the hydroquinone. This removes the problem of increasing alkalinity.

Water @ 40°C 500ml

Metol 2.5g

Sodium Sulphite 100g

Borax 2g

Water to 1 litre

In use, the developer is identical to the standard ID-11/D-76

B&W Transparencies

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There are a few black and white transparency kits available, ranging from buying pre-paid Agfa Scala to kits of chemicals designed for reversal processing ordinary black and white negative film to give slides. They all follow a similar processing method - develop the negative, dissolve the developed image, and develop the remaining silver halide to give a positive image.

See more ....

If you don't want to mix the chemicals from scratch, or if you can't obtain any of the chemicals required, then it is possible to obtain B&W slides by other means:

  • Exposing Ilford XP2 at EI50-80 and developing in standard E6 transparency chemicals. This will give slides with a green cast.
  • Processing Kodachrome in E6 chemicals.
  • Exposing onto a duplicating film, eg. Eastman 5302

Reversal developing

The first stage is to develop the image on the film. The developer used here needs to give higher contrast than a normal film developer, otherwise the slide will look incredibly flat. The usual way is simply to use a print developer, with the addition of some sodium thiosulphate. Most print developers are suitable - I use Ilford Multigrade here because I also use it to develop my prints.
The next stage is the bleach/clear. This removes the developed image (which is a negative), so the remaining silver salts can then be re-exposed and developed to give a positive.


Ilford Multigrade 100ml

Sodium Thiosulphate* 25ml of 10% w/v solution

Water to: 500ml

*Approximate figure - optimum amount to be determined by experimentation. The effect of the thiosulphate is to lighten the developed image - it removes a small amount of density from the film so that the maximum density isn't too high but it also lightens the image.

Bleach & Clearing bath

There are two types bleach & clearing bath which may be used. The first is Potassium Dichromate/Sodium Sulphite, the second is Potassium Permanganate/Metabisulphite. Out of the two, the potassium permanganate option is less toxic, but can stain quite badly. Both will need to be handled with care.

1) Dichromate bleach/clear. The bleach and clearing bath solutions may be re-used. The bleach is exhausted when it changes from orange to green. The clearing bath starts off colourless and turns green after use; it is exhausted if it contains a hint or orange.

Water 500ml

Potassium Dichromate
CARE: Potassium Dichromate is toxic. 9.5g

Sulphuric acid 120ml of 10% vol. solution

Water to 1 litre

Clearing Bath

Sodium Sulphite 50g

Water to 1 litre

2) Permanganate bleach/clear. The bleach is prepared from 2 stock solutions because the acidified permanganate does not keep long, and needs to be prepared fresh.

Stock Solution A: Sulphuric acid 10% volume

Stock Solution B: Potassium Permanganate 4g/1 litre

Working strength bleach:

Stock A 500ml

Stock B 500ml

Clearing Bath:

Sodium or Potassium metabisulphite 25g

Water to 1 litre


  1. First Development, 6½-7 minutes @ 20°C (re-use the developer for stage 8)
  2. Water rinse, 3 changes of water (instead of a stop bath)
  3. Bleach, 3 minutes (normal agitation - 4 inversions per minte)
  4. Water rinse, 15 seconds.
  5. Clearing Bath, 2 minutes (normal agitation)
  6. Water rinse, 2 minutes (several changes of water)
  7. Re-expose the film to light - at least 2 minutes under bright light. For best results, remove the film from the spiral (if there is sufficient illumination, and the spiral lets light get to the film, then the film may be left on the spiral).
  8. Second Development, 7 minutes @ 20°C (re-use developer from stage 1, then pour away)
  9. Water rinse, 15 seconds (just like a normal stop bath)
  10. Fix, 3-5 minutes (An acid-hardened fixer may be used to help protect the emulsion)

An alternative to re-exposure and re-development is to use a highly active developer to redevelop the remaining silver halide without any need to expose to light. One to try is:

Sodium Sulphite 50g

Hydroquinone 10g

Sodium Hydroxide 10g WEAR GLOVES AND GOGGLES!

Water to 1 litre

Leave out step 7, develop for about 10 minutes, then proceed to step 9.

Wash, 20-30 minutes as normal.

An alternative to continuous running water - using 3 changes of fresh water:
Pour in water, invert 5 times. Pour out.
Pour in water, invert 10 times, leave for 5 minutes. Pour out.
Pour in water, invert 10 times, leave for 5 minutes, invert 10 times, leave for 5 more minutes. Pour out.
Final rinse - 1 minute with distilled water or tap water with a wetting agent.

Duplicating film

Another way of producing B&W transparencies without having to buy extra chemicals is to use a film such as Eastman 5302 Fine grain release positive film. This is designed to give a positive image by having a negative 'exposed' onto it, in a similar way to producing a B&W print.

Making the exposure

The emulsion on Eastman 5302 is similar to a fixed grade paper - and is insensitive to red light, so it can be handled under a safelight. This means that it is possible to contact print a normal negative onto the film. Test 'prints' would be required to find the correct exposure in a similar manner to making normal contact prints.

Another way of exposing the film is by loading the film into a normal film cannister (the film is available in 100 foot rolls, so a bulk loader is necessary), and re-photographing the negative using a slide duplicator. This is the method which I use - the film speed needs to be set to about EI 6, and bracketed to get the best results.


After exposing, the film can be loaded into a standard daylight tank and developed as normal. Any print developer should be acceptable, used at it's normal dilution. I use Ilford Multigrade for my standard darkroom work, so I tried this at the 1+9 dilution. Development times of 10-15 minutes produced acceptable contrast. It should also be possible to develop in a tray, but the lengthy times required mean that the darkroom would have to be free of any light leaks to avoid fogging the film. After development, stop, fix and wash as a normal film.

It is possible to tone the film, just like any normal B&W print. Monochrome transparencies can look a little flat when compared to colour slides, and toning can sometimes improve the final effect.

Back to Film Developers

Mixing Photographic Chemicals

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My interest in mixing photographic chemicals started as a possible way of saving money. I realised that it would be cheaper to buy the raw materials and mix them together myself that to buy pre-prepared developers. Of course, the saving would be minimal - the chemistry is probably the cheapest aspect of photography. The cameras, lenses, film and paper are all much more expensive. The black and white film I use costs me between £2-4 per roll, and the off the shelf developer is the equivalent of about 20-30p per roll. Home made developers cost between 10p-20p per roll, and at the rate I use film (1 or 2 rolls per months on average, sometimes 3 or 4) it will obviously take me many years to save up for that nice macro nikkor I'm wanting.

So now I've established that for a hobby-photographer like myself, the cost saving is miniscule, why do I bother mixing my own chemicals? The effort is much greater because each ingredient needs weighing out - it is so much easier to buy a packet or bottle from a shop. Some photographers like to be in control of every aspect of their art, and it gives them the full control they crave. Not me though - I am still happy to use off the shelf chemicals from time to time (I always use bought fixers and paper developers - Ilford Multigrade in 5 litre bottles is much cheaper and more convenient than and paper developer I could ever make). I suppose my reason is that I like to tinker with things. Mixing my own chemicals give me more choice in which developer to use. I can use obscure or specialist brews. I can make enough of a formula to test one film, and if I'm not happy with it, I haven't wasted money on a whole bottle of chemical.


Some photographic chemicals are toxic. Always take care when handling chemicals and wear suitable protective gear, such as gloves and safety glasses. If you are unsure about what safety precautions to take, consult someone with chemical handling experience. All the formulas here are presented for information only, and come without warranty. Use them at your own risk.

Warning over.

Ok, providing you are sensible and preferably have some experience in handling chemicals, there should be no real problems. Another thing to note is to dissolve the ingredients in the order given in the method, otherwise some of the chemicals will not dissolve correctly. Always store solutions in an air tight bottle.

All of the recipes here are ones I have used myself. If you need more information about photographic chemistry, there are a number of books and web sites available which cover the subject in more detail than I have here. My aim isn't to teach chemistry, merely to share my experiences and favourite formulas.

The Formulas themselves:

D-23 (normal and two bath)
ID-11 (and variations)
B&W Transparencies

Other sources of information:

  • The Darkroom Cookbook, by Steve Anchell
  • The Film Developing Cookbook, by Steve Anchell and Bill Troop (both books by Focal Press)

D-23 Film Developer

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D23 film developer has been around for many years. It has to be the simplest developer you can get, being composed of only two chemicals dissolved in water. As well as using it as a developer in it's own right, it can be used as part of a two bath developer.

  1. Mixing D-23
  2. Normal use of D-23
  3. Two bath development

Mixing D-23

Water @ 40°C 400ml

Metol 7.5g

Sodium Sulphite 100g

Water to 1 litre

Dissolve the chemicals in the order given. Ensure the metol is completely dissolved before adding the sodium sulphite. To avoid too much oxygen dissolving in the developer (this will reduce the shelf life), stir the mixture instead of shaking.

Normal use of D-23

Developing times for D-23 are very similar to ID-11/D-76. As a rough guide, I would increase the development time by about 10%. I would recommend the developer was used one-shot, diluted either 1+1 or 1+3 with water. Where no development times are given for diluted developer, multiply the time for 'stock' (full strength) developer by x1.4 and use the developer diluted 1+1 with water.

Two Bath Developer

Possibly the main advantage of using a two bath developer instead of a traditional single bath is the increased contrast range that the film is able to record. This means that if a scene has plenty highlight detail which needs to be captured, and also deep shadows, then it is possible to record both with a single exposure. There are a number of two bath developers available, both as commercial brews and as published recipes. The one presented here is almost certainly the simplest to prepare, and should be as good as the more complicated developers such as the various divided D-76 recipes around.

The formula as shown came from an article by Derek Watkins and was published in Darkroom User, 1997 issue 2.

Part 1:

Prepare 1 litre of D-23 as above.

Part 2:

Prepare 1 litre of a 2% w/v solution of borax (aka sodium tetraborate).

To use:

Expose the film as normal - the developer gives full film speed. Once the film is in the developing tank, pour in part 1, tap the tank to dislodge any bubbles, and invert 4 times. Then invert the tank once per minute. Most films need 4½ to 6 minutes in the first solution - more time may be given to increase the contrast. About 15 seconds before the end of first development, start to pour the developer back into the bottle, then start to pour in the borax solution. Gently invert the tank once per minute, for 4 minutes. Discard the borax solution, then stop, fix and wash as normal.


The negatives obtained from this developer have low to normal contrast and appear thinner than those obtained from most normal developers. There is plenty of shadow detail, and bright highlights don't burn out as much as usual.

This was taken on Ilford HP5+, developed for 4½ minutes in the first bath and 4 minutes in the second. The only light present came from the church windows, and the metering was left up to the camera - no spot metering or exposure compensation was used. This is a straightforward scan from the negative, and no image manipulation was used - no dodging or burning.