Traditional Kallitype Printing
A brief introduction
Adapted from Dick Stevens’ Formulas
by Dick Sullivan
The Kallitype process dates to the late 19th Century. Often considered
to be the poor cousin to the platinum print, it has not received
the reputation that it truly deserves today. This may be in part
due to the suspicion that it is not permanent. It is true that very
early Kallitypes made before fixation was understood may have quickly
faded, but my own suspicions are that they may be more permanent
than many have suspected. Let me digress for a moment on this important
The Kallitype was without a doubt a very popular
process in the 1880-1920 period of time. Many articles were published
on how to make them. I have read more than one complaint published
during this period that scoundrels were submitting Kallitypes into
juried competitions disguised as platinums. Platinum printing was
then, as it is today, an expensive proposition. I believe that this
complaint was probably justified and I don’t doubt that such
chicanery was occurring.
I would also note that vintage Kallitypes from
this period are rare today. I’ve asked a number of curators,
photo historians, dealers and collectors about this and they all
concur on this point. Interestingly too, is that they don’t
see a lot of faded and discolored Kallitypes lurking about like
albumens have a habit of doing.
This leads me to my supposition:
1. Many Kallitypes were made in the Classical Period c. 1880-1920.
2. They were to the eye, indistinguishable from platinotype (platinum)
3. Few exist from this period today
I propose that most are still masquerading as platinum prints. Since
the only way to determine the true pedigree of the print is to subject
it to very expensive x-ray spectroscopy or chemically damaging testing.
I think most dealers, curators, and collectors find it easy to just
assume they are platinums and just let it be at that. Since platinum
prints are deemed more collectable and valuable than lowly Kallitypes,
there is an incentive is to label them as such.
Carlos Gasperinho of Lisbon Portugal is dedicated
Kallitype printer drove his car around sunny Lisbon with a Kallitype
print in the back window for a year and a half to test the archivalness
of Kallitypes. He has reported that he took the print down as he
felt the point had been proven. It was still unfaded..
Making the Elegant Kallitype
Take equal parts solution of:
Solution "A" (10% Silver nitrate solution)
Solution "B" (oxalic acid free 20% ferric oxalate solution)
1 drop of 50% Tween 20 ™ per emulsion for an 8x10 print may
be used as a spreading agent and surfactant..
Use about 24 drops of each Solutions "A" and "B"
per 8 x 10. The amount may vary according to the paper used.
Advanced printers may adjust the contrast with small additions of
2% ammonium dichromate. If one drop is too strong dilute the solution.
In a dimly lit room, coat paper with either a brush or coating rod.
The paper should be liberally coated but not running wet.
After coating, allow the paper to sit for about 1 to 2 minutes.
The Tween 20 ™ will help even the coating out and pull it
into the paper
Dry under gentle heat. A hairdryer works fine or you may just let
it air dry naturally if you are not in an extremely moist climate.
Contact print under sunlight or a UV light source. Print times are
about 1 to 2 stops faster than traditional palladium and about the
same speed as the Ziatype. There will be little print out image
so timing will have to be done by trial and error or test strip.
Kallitype prints will bleach in the fix, so either tone before fixing
or overprint by a stop or two. These are the only effective solutions
to the bleaching problem.
Place in the developer of your choice for at least one minute. Image
will appear immediately so this must be done quickly, or else watermarks
may appear. Holding the print in your hand over a tray and pouring
the developer from a pitcher while dropping the print and quickly
rocking the tray works well for some printers.
Fix in dilute sodium thiosulfate of 25 grams to 1 liter of water.
Water should be somewhat near the 68 degrees F. range as too warm
will accelerate the bleaching. Fix for only 15 seconds and then
quickly place in a tray of fresh water. This amount of fix will
be sufficient for fixing 10 8 x 10 prints. It should be discarded
after each printing session.
Rinse in the fresh water for 30 seconds or so, then clear for 3
to 5 minutes in a bath of EDTA Tetrasodium of 20 grams to 1 liter
of water. The EDTA may be reused until approximately 20 8x10’s
have been cleared.
Wash for 5 minutes and dry on archival blotters or screens.
Kallitype prints may be toned with any of the noble metals. Toning
is one way to keep Kallitype prints from bleaching during the fixing
process, however, there will be color shifts and you will lose the
prints original color. Toning will also increase the permanence
of the Kallitype print.
To 1 liter of water add 5 grams of citric acid.
Add to this mixture either:
5 ml of gold chloride 5%
5 ml of standard palladium solution No. 3
5 ml of standard platinum solution No. 3
After development and a thorough wash, place
print in toning bath. Tone until desired color is reached. The noble
metal salt in the toning bath will become depleted. A black deposit
will appear in the bottom of the tray, which is silver that has
been replaced by the noble metal. You may now fix, clear, and do
the final wash. If a sufficient toning has been done, the print
will not bleach back.
One of the joys of handcoated photography (come
might call it a curse) is the fact that there are many different
opinions and ways to make the various kinds of prints. Beginners
will probably be better off ignoring these side issues as they may
be confusing, whereas the advanced printer might find them illuminating.
Carlos Gaparinho's notes on his preferences
with Kallitype printing.
1.) I do not like Dick Stevens' formulas. I prefer much more concentrated
solutions of ferric oxalate and silver nitrate. Images are a lot easier
control and much more fade resistant. I use ferric oxalate solutions
2.) Ammonia is a very important part of the fixing bath. I fix for
minutes and the fading is very slight. No more than one stop, which
easily compensated by the drying down process.
3.) The only historical formula that somewhat resembles mine was published
by Nelson C. Hawks in "The Camera Craft" of 1916 and republished
"Photo Miniature" of January 1922. If you remove the potassium
oxalate as a
saturated solution you will end up with Fe. Ox. at 47% and silver
nit. at 17%.
4.) I tone most of the Kallitypes that I sell. Pt, Au or both. Final
is determined by the toner and by the initial color of the Kallitype,
depends not only from the developer used but also the sensitizer.
same sodium acetate developer and changing the relative quantities
Ox and Silver Nit. I can get from sepia to deep black.
5.) I use only one drop of dichromate (potassium works better) per
print. I change the dilution of the dichromate to change the contrast.
6.) The drying process is VERY important. The print must be surface
then quickly dried back and front with a very hot hair dryer.
7.) Print in my car hasn't changed in about 1 1/2 years. I finally
it. Point proven.
Variations in the Kallitype Process
Some brief notes by Peter Marshall (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the early 1840’s Sir John Herschel
was the first to exploit the light-sensitivity of iron(III) salts
in the production of photographic prints from negatives. In the
presence of light, iron(III) is readily reduced by suitable reducing
agents to give iron(II) . Herschel demonstrated a number of methods
by which this iron(II) could then react further to produce a visible
image by reducing metallic salts. He demonstrated that silver salts
gave an image of silver (an Argentotype or Kallitype print), similarly
platinum or palladium salts gave platinum prints, and gold gave
gold prints or Chrysotypes. The iron(II) could also be used to produce
a brown copper(I) oxide image by reducing copper(II) compounds.
Herschel also introduced the Blueprint or Cyanotype, where the iron(II)
in combination with hexacyanoferrate(III) ions forms the highly
coloured complex Prussian Blue.
The iron salt used was normally combined with
a suitable reducing organic anion - such as oxalate , tartrate or
citrate necessary for its reduction in the presence of light. Often
these anions were used as their iron ammonium salts, which can normally
be readily crystallised. For many purposes it is not actually necessary
to isolate the pure iron compounds and they can often be prepared
more cheaply and conveniently as solutions. Although iron(III) oxalate,
for example, is readily available it can be made (see Appendix)
cheaply and easily as the 20% solution normally required in Kallitype
or platinum chemistry. Two methods are given here, one is much simpler
but has the possible disadvantage of producing a solution which
also contains nitrate ions. Recent work by Mike Ware on an improved
Kallitype process (the Argyrotype process) identifies the presence
of oxidising anions - such as nitrate - as a major weakness of traditional
methods. Such ions tend to oxidise the silver image, thus reversing
the process by which it was formed and dissolving it as silver(I)
ions. I have however used the solution prepared by this simple method
with success for both Kallitype and platinum prints..
[Incidentally, according to the literature,
blue prints may be made using the cheaply available iron(III) chloride
and potassium oxalate/oxalic acid mixtures in place of the more
expensive iron salts normally specified. Still having a large bottle
of the green iron ammonium citrate I have yet to investigate this
Many earlier investigators applied themselves
to the improvement of the iron/silver (Kallitype) process and countless
variations exist. These were often minor and sometimes accidental
- several much copied accounts include incorrect transcriptions
of earlier work and mistakes in converting weights and measures
occur frequently One major reason behind these experiments was a
desire to improve the image quality, in particular to match the
properties of the much more expensive platinum process. James Thomson
in the early years of this century claimed to have produced results
which very closely resemble platinum prints, and it was this that
lead me to repeat his methods. His use of sensitisers with little
or no silver also offered considerable economies. - the silver containing
developer could be reused and only small amounts of silver were
wasted in processing. I have made a number of prints following (with
minor variations) his methods achieving good results on various
papers. As Mike Ware6 suggests, the use of a surfactant such as
Tween 20 could control the absorption of solutions for best results
on some surfaces. Possibly the gum Arabic in older formulae - such
as Thomson’s - performed a similar role. Increasingly as I
worked with his process I began to suspect that in the earlier years
of the century Thomson had arrived at solutions to many of the problems
that those working with the process in its current revival are still
attempting to solve. Another advantage of the older methods is that
they seem generally less sensitive to variations in the paper used.
A further spur to experimentation with the
Kallitype was its notorious susceptibility to fading. As Mike Ware6
has again clarified, the permanence of Kallitype prints depends
largely on the removal of all residual iron compounds. Alkaline
developers- such as the buffered borax/tartrate mixtures in common
use - are likely to produce insoluble iron(III) hydroxide that is
impossible to remove. Dallas Simpson gives details of a complex
and ingeniously buffered silver developer to reduce this possibility.
Using potassium sodium tartrate (Rochelle salts) without borax as
developer would also be expected to improve permanence. Thomson’s
method - outlined below - uses a simple mildly acidic developer
and this was yet another reason for my attraction to it. Depending
on the nature of the sensitiser and also on the moisture content
of the paper, the Kallitype process may be largely a printing-out
process thus eliminating the need for a developer (or using water
as ‘developer’) and prints produced by such variations
(eg the Van-Dyke process) are also more likely to be permanent.
Similarly it is probably best to avoid the
alkaline thiosulphate solution often recommended as a fixer - neutral
(and very dilute) sodium thiosulphate does the job well. Acidic
fixers should also be avoided, as bleaching of the image may occur
under acidic conditions. Following fixing and washing, dilute citric
acid may help to remove yet more of the residual iron salts. Gold-toning
of the silver image - using conventional gold toners - should also
give some protection to the image. Platinum toning was also used
in the past and presents no problems other than the cost of the
toner. Selenium might also be worth experimenting with, although
some preliminary tests I did were not encouraging..
The majority of the superb vintage platinum
prints from the golden age of platinum were on mechanically coated
paper which was available in many variations and surfaces from 1879
to 1941. Commercial production of platinum/palladium paper was restarted
in 1988 and the currently available (for example from Silverprint)
Palladio paper is a very fine example of such a material.. Unless
you find the fairly smooth paper on which it is coated too bland,
there is now little incentive to coat one’s own paper.. In
contrast, Kallitype was always a process for experimentation (Nicol
himself briefly attempted to market a commercially produced paper
but this was rapidly withdrawn because of its impermanence.). Any
Kallitypes still visible are virtually certain to have been made
on hand coated paper, often by workers who had their own individual
ideas for combating the problems inherent to the process. To print
Kallitypes you have always had to make your own paper and processing
solutions; that some vintage prints are still in good condition
with no signs of fading proves that it was possible to use the traditional
processes with success.
All normal safety precautions for handling chemicals should be observed
in attempting the preparation and use of any of the following. In
particular, attention is drawn to the poisonous nature of all soluble
oxalates. Materials data sheets can be obtained from the suppliers
of all chemicals which give details of the hazards involved.
FERRIC OXALATE (IRON(III) OXALATE)
SOLUTION : SIMPLE METHOD
I suggested and used this 20% ferric oxalate solution when assisting
Terry King with workshops some years ago. We used it successfully
in place of ferric oxalate in a number of formulae. Like most ferric
oxalate solutions in old formulations it contains a small amount
of oxalic acid.
iron(III) nitrate nonahydrate 8.5g
potassium oxalate monohydrate 5.8g
oxalic acid 0.25g
In subdued light, dissolve in distilled water to give 20 ml, store
at least 24 hours before use. Keep in brown bottle.
This solution contains nitrate ions which may cause some solution
of silver images to dissolve in some processes.
FERRIC OXALATE (IRON(III) OXALATE)
This is a well known method, published (with slight variations)
in various sources.
Carry out in subdued or safe light.
Dissolve 42 g ferrous ammonium sulphate [(NH4)2Fe(SO4)2.6H20] in
the minimum quantity of distilled water. (You can also use the cheaper
ferrous sulphate, [FeSO4.7H20), in which case 30 g are required,
and the water should be acidified with a little dilute sulphuric
acid before dissolving the compound.)
Dissolve 13.0 g oxalic acid in about 100ml water and add to the
ferrous sulphate solution. Allow the precipitate to settle, decant
off the clear solution and discard. Add distilled water stir, allow
to settle and again decant. Repeat 3 further times.
Add a further 7.5g of oxalic acid in about 70 ml of water to the
Add 30% hydrogen peroxide solution in small
portions with stirring until clear green solution is obtained there
is no effervescence on addition. (The amount required is very variable
as the peroxide solution deteriorates on keeping.) Test for the
presence of ferrous compound (see below) and continue addition as
necessary until a negative test is obtained.
Make to 100 ml for use.
TEST FOR FERRIC OXALATE SOLUTION
To 5 drops of the ferric oxalate solution add 1 drop potassium ferricyanide.
Anything more than a slight blue colour shows the presence of significant
amounts of ferrous compound, and more peroxide should be added.
SOURCE OF ALTERNATIVE PROCESS GRADE
Ferric oxalate can be obtained from specialist suppliers of materials
for alternative processes, in particular:
BOSTICK AND SULLIVAN
PO Box 16639
Santa Fe, NM 87506-6639
Hours: 9:30 am-5pm
Dick Sullivan can be contacted by email as
They will send catalogues on request and ship items to the UK. As
a guide, 100 gm bottle of ferric oxalate
powder is currently $47.00.
Ferric oxalate from non-photographic suppliers
may contain too much iron(II) to be suitable for photographic purposes.
SILVER DEVELOPMENT KALLITYPE PROCESS
This is taken - with minor changes - from the article by James Thomson
in The Photo-Miniature, Vol. VI Dec 1904, No. 69 ; amounts have
been converted into metric units. The instructions have been rewritten
for clarity. Like all such formulae, it should be regarded as a
starting point for experimentation rather than a stone tablet. The
copper(II) chloride was probably intended to remove any iron(II)
present as an impurity in the ferric oxalate and may probably be
omitted without loss of quality, although, as mentioned above it
may also form some copper(I) oxide as a part of the image..
[This sensitiser may also be used to produce
platinum prints by using a platinum containing developer in the
place of the silver developer given here.]
Kallitypes produced by this process can be
difficult or impossible to distinguish visually from platinum or
platinum/palladium prints, although they may lack the long-term
permanence of these.
To a brown bottle, add in order given without
water 14 ml
ferric ammonium citrate 1.67 g (I used the green salt, although
Thomson probably used the brown.)
ferric oxalate 1.0 g *
copper(II) chloride 0.54 g
potassium oxalate 2.21 g
gum Arabic 0.67 g
(* or use only 9 ml of water and 5 ml of the 20% ferric oxalate
solution prepared as above.)
Then add a solution of silver nitrate
(1.0g) in 15 ml distilled water, followed by 1.0 g of oxalic acid.Leave
in darkness for 24 hours. Stir well and then filter through cotton
or glass wool to remove only any gritty particles (the yellow heavy
sediment is necessary to the process.)
Coat the paper with the suspension using a
brush, wetting the sheet as quickly as possible without leaving
any pools. Allow to surface dry, then use low heat (30-40°C)
to complete drying. For smooth hard surfaces you may need to apply
a second coat . (Adding Tween 20 might be worth investigating in
Expose until only the deepest shadows are visible
and immerse face down in the developer, turning over immediately
to see that there are no air bubbles.
DEVELOPER STOCK SOLUTION
Water 100 ml
silver nitrate 9.25 g
citric acid 2.32 g
di-sodium orthophosphate 0.46 g
(Na2HPO4 - 12H2O may be listed simply as sodium phosphate or as
dibasic sodium phosphate. The equivalent potassium compound may
also be used - half the mass will be needed.)
For working solution, add 13ml of this solution
and about 0.2 g of oxalic acid (for blue-black tones, increasing
this goes towards brown-black) to 100ml water. The stock and working
solution should be stored in brown bottles. Both keep reasonably
well. The developer given for Satista below is probably a suitable
alternative if di-sodium orthophosphate is not available.
Development should be complete in about a minute
but may be continued longer if needed.
Rinse for a minute or two in clean water (avoid
alkaline water - tap water may need to be made neutral or slightly
acid by the addition of a very small pinch of citric acid.) and
then fix in very weak plain hypo (3 to 4 g in a litre). Wash and
In view of Mike Ware’s comments on causes
of fading in the Kallitype it might be wise to investigate the use
of a further hypo clear or citric acid bath or baths after fixing
and a short wash to remove any residual iron salts from the paper.
In 1913 the Platinotype Company patented the Satista process , an
attempt to produce prints resembling platinum but containing a much
smaller amount of platinum together with the less expensive silver.
Marketed the following year, this does not seem to have been particularly
successful commercially, but was apparently still available until
the early thirties.. Thomson also published the formula below for
those wishing to make similar prints - it differs from the patented
formula in using a silver developer. Figure 1 - despite the inadequacies
in reproduction - suggests the delicacies in tone available in prints
made by this process. The original is a cold black and virtually
identical to a pure platinum print made from the same negative,
although the separation of mid-tones is possibly slightly better.
There is no fading visible in this print after over four years (unfortunately
this cannot be said for some of the Kallitypes I made using the
borax/Rochelle salt developer.)
Potassium chloroplatinite 1.0 g
20% ortho-phosphoric acid 6.5 ml
water to 65 ml
[To avoid any chance of expensive mistakes,
the formula of the platinum compound is K2PtCl4 and it is the salt
used in traditional platinum printing.]
Given the high cost of platinum compounds you
may wish to prepare the diluted acid solution without platinum and
only add the platinum compound as required for use.
This sensitiser may also be used for platinum prints - a platinum
containing developer is then required rather than the silver developer
given below. It enables platinum prints to be produced using approximately
one half to two thirds the normal amount of platinum per print
It may also - without the platinum solution
- be used for Kallitypes.
Ferric oxalate solution (20%) 5 ml
water 20 ml
ferric ammonium citrate (green) 1.0g
potassium oxalate 1.0g
platinum solution (see above) 0.5 ml
potassium dichromate solution (5%) 0.05 to 0.5 ml (alters contrast)
gum Arabic 0.5 g
Stand for 24 hours before use.
STOCK DEVELOPER SOLUTION
Water 48 ml
silver nitrate 4.0 g
citric acid 1.0 g
oxalic acid 1.0 g
Use 1 + 7
Processing is exactly as for the Kallitype
above, although the developer formulation given differs slightly
- probably either could be used for either process.
I have also experimented with various other developers containing
silver for both the Kallitype and Satista sensitisers above, including
silver ammonium carbonate and other similar solutions. However,
being alkaline, their use is probably not to be recommended. The
buffered ammoniacal silver tartrate proposed by Dallas Simpson7
would appear to be a more suitable choice for rod development. A
syringe (without needle) is used to deposit a small amount of developer
along one side of the print, outside of the picture area. A lightly
held glass or acrylic rod is then used to draw this across the print
- a similar technique to the coating of prints using a rod. A suitable
rod can be made from a piece of glass tubing or rod roughly 10 cm
longer than the width of the print, bending it at 90 degrees about
4 cm from each end. The volume of solution used has to be great
enough to avoid any noticeable weakening of print values due to
developer exhaustion as it crosses the print. The syringe can be
used to remove excess solution from the print for re-use with replenishment
if greater economy is desired.
I have also produced gold prints by similar
methods, but was unable to get really satisfactory or reproducible
results - the prints tended to a rather pale lilac.
Although I have carefully checked the details,
some errors may have crept in (my own laboratory notes are sometimes
very difficult to read for a start!). If you find any errors or
have any comments or suggestions or corrections I would like to
know and would hope that these could also be published here. I hope
that the information here encourages others to experiment with the
Kallitype and helps them to produce the results they want. Sometimes
in all the concentration on details and procedures we can forget
that this is what really matters.
Cyanotype Toning of Kallitypes
From Judy Seigal
As for Carlos's mention of blue kallitypes -- they're easy enough
(as are blue VDB's) by blue toning, using your regular cyanotype
formula. Take 10cc solution A, 10 CC solution B, about 70 cc of 28%
acetic acid and 20 or so ounces of water. (I did that from memory
check formula before consigning your best prints to the waves.)
Making Oxalic Acid Free Ferric Oxalate
You will need:
Solution "A": 2.5 grams of silver nitrate to 25 ml distilled
Solution "B": 10 grams of ferric nitrate to 25 ml water.
1.) With 100 ml of ferric oxalate solution in a small beaker or cup
make your initial test by taking 10 drops of the ferric oxalate solution
and placing it in a small shot glass or plastic taco sauce container.
2.) Add a drop or two of the silver nitrate. If a yellow precipitate
forms in 15 seconds, there is free oxalic acid. The yellow precipitate
is silver oxalate.
3.) If you get the yellow precipitate, then add a few drops of the
ferric nitrate and stir for about 30 seconds.
4.) Repeat steps 2 and 3 until no precipitate is formed.
Kallitype Print, 8.5x11in, Print made in early 70's. I believe I
did not clear it properly. I was new to the process and was operating
on sketchy information in an old encyclopedia of photography.
There appears to be some staining in
the upper left corner, but there is no fading in the image, which
is supposed to be the problem with Kallitypes.
Dick SullivanLast modified: January 11, 2003