Tips for Printing Salt Paper and VanDyke Brown

Silver Nitrate Tips

Testing your distilled water for Salt Paper or VDB prints

  • Before dissolve silver nitrate the best practice is to test the distilled water. By pouring 20-30 ml of distilled water in to plastic glass and add a few crystals of silver nitrate salt. If the solution became clear that is means that water is good for use but if solution turns milky then the water isn’t suitable.

Applying Sensitizer to Paper

Any solution containing silver nitrate should only be applied in a dim lit room without any kind of fluorescent light.

Sizing Paper with Gelatin

  1. Use gelatin in the salt solution to bring sizing to print which in turn give finer and more sharper results.
  2. The gelatin should be completely be dissolved. Apply the solution onto a good quality watercolor paper and let it dry.
  3. Now you’re ready to print.

For other sizing options such as arrow root – check out Jill Enfield’s page on alternative photography.

From another perspective – painting watercolours: “How sizing of watercolour paper dictates paint behaviour”

Hot or Cold ? – Papers

Hot press paper:

  • smooth surface finish
  • colours are brighter
  • less absorbant
  • good for precise brush detail

Cold press paper:

  • textured bumpy surface
  • colours are more flat
  • more absorbant

Taken from Water Color Affair

I currently use a Hot Press – ‘Daler and Rowney Sytem 3 Arclyic paper’ which I find robust to use and works well with VDB and Cyanotype. To buy papers in Europe/UK

Making Your own Step Wedge for Digital Negatives

Printing Out Process

Print out in the shadow not in direct sunlight for the best details in highlights and shadow for VDB and salt paper prints.


Vandyke, like kallitype and platinum/palladium, gives richer tones if coating and drying is carried out in conditions of high humidity, at least 50% RH in Sandy King’s experience. If the room conditions cannot be raised to an acceptable RH the paper can be moistened before sensitising by holding it over a kettle of boiling water for a couple of minutes.

Source: Sandy King Photography

VDB Problems –

Before Fixing for Salt Paper / VDB

  • Wash the print off in tap water to clear off the unexposed silver.

Hypo Clear Solution

Use Hypo Clear before fixing the a VDB or salt paper print. Hypo Clear is simply sodium sulfite. To finally finish the print add 20g of sodium sulfite per litre of water.

Why ? Removes leftover hypo in your prints and negs which can damage them over time.

How ?
Hype Clear Agent aids in the archival process, based upon ion exchange: ions absorbed onto a solid film or paper can be replaced by ions of a solution such as those found in the Hypo Clear solution. The net effect is that the absorbed thiosulfate ions of the hypo (difficult to remove by a water wash) are replaced by sulfite ions (readily removed by a water wash). Hypo Clear does not decrease the total number of ions absorbed on the paper, it merely exchanges those ions originally on the film or paper with those of the Hypo Clear. Washing after the use of Hypo Clear is imperative.

Fix and 30 minutes washing.

Note: for film emulsions which are thin is less likely that the hypo is absorb into the substrate. Hence it’s not required for these kind of media.

Hypo clear can be sent down the drain without any worries.

Salt Paper Process

A Salt Print Process and Contemporary Art Project by Borut Peterlin

Lomography Alternative Processes: How to Make Salt Prints

Andrew Laverghetta – Salt Print Demonstration

Finishing Print

Wax with bee wax and lavender oil

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