Darkroom Digest: Platinum Printmaking - A Chemical Introduction

June 11, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Platinum Printing Work AreaPlatinum Printing Work AreaSubscribe to my free Newsletter and never miss another article or update.

Read exclusive articles, both technical and creative, and view fine art portfolios in the Darkroom Underground Magazine.

Subscribe to the Tim Layton Fine Art Darkroom Photography Chronicle and get all of my articles in a beautifully curated eBook every year.

Explore my Learning Materials that include video workshops, eBooks, and quick reference cards.

Learn more about my Fine Art Platinum and Platinum/Palladium Printmaking.
The platinum printmaking process is considered to be a developing-out process.  The image appears when the developer is applied to the sensitizer that was coated on your paper and exposed to the UV light spectrum.  

All platinum prints must be hand coated with sensitizer by the photographer because there are no modern platinum papers available.  The developing-out process is based on the work of William Willis Jr. who made the first platinum print in 1873.

I think most photographers will find the exquisite tonal rendering of the full range of values from deep blacks all the way through brilliant highlights to be an eye-opening experience. Once you see a platinum print in person, it changes how you look at all prints moving forward.   

Get my Free Darkroom Newsletter and never miss an update again. Subscribe to my annual Tim Layton Fine Art Darkroom Chronicle and receive all of my articles curated into a beautifully formatted PDF eBook every year.

THE PLATINUM PRINT VIA THE DEVELOPING-OUT PROCESS

  • The photographer mixes together a sensitizer solution with equal parts of Ferric Oxalate and Platinum Salts.  The sensitizer is painted onto a suitable sheet of paper.  Papers choices can range from watercolor papers to more modern options such as vellum, rice, silk, and others.  Paper quality and choice are critical in the platinum printmaking process.    
  • When the sensitizer is dry, a negative is placed in contact with the prepared paper so the emulsion side of the negative touches the sensitizer.  This negative/paper sandwich is then exposed to ultra-violet light.  A faint image is then visible after a period of time.  
  • The exposed paper is then immersed in the developer that reveals the full image.  
  • The developed print is then sent through a series of water and chemical baths to remove all of the unwanted chemical byproducts so the image will be permanent.  
  • The print is then washed for a period of time, dried, and ready for presentation. 

The printmaking process relies on two metal salts.  An iron salt, Ferric Oxalate (C6FE2O12) is mixed to a dilution ratio of typically 27% with distilled water. The Platinum Salt, Potassium Chloroplatinite (Cl4K2Pt) is sometimes called Potassium Tetrachloroplatinate (II) and it is typically mixed as a 20% solution.

VIDEOS 

Overview of My Platinum Printmaking Process

Artist Proof Review of 3 Platinum/Palladium Prints

 

Making ACEO Platinum Histograph Heirloom MiniaturesTM

St. Francois Mountain Pure Platinum Artist Proof Review

HOW THE PLATINUM IMAGE IS FORMED

Coating platinum sensitizer on paperCoating platinum sensitizer on paperSubscribe to my free Newsletter and never miss another article or update.

Read exclusive articles, both technical and creative, and view fine art portfolios in the Darkroom Underground Magazine.

Subscribe to the Tim Layton Fine Art Darkroom Photography Chronicle and get all of my articles in a beautifully curated eBook every year.


Explore my Learning Materials that include video workshops, eBooks, and quick reference cards.

Learn more about my Fine Art Platinum and Platinum/Palladium Printmaking.
The final image consists of pure platinum, but there is a lot that has to happen before this occurs.  The iron in the Ferric Oxalate is sensitive to ultra-violet light and this is where the magic happens.  

For the purpose of explaining the platinum printmaking process, iron has two states, ferric and ferrous.  These two versions of iron behave very differently and it is this difference that should be understood because it is the basis of all platinum printing.  

The iron in Ferric Oxalate is in its ferric state.  First, there are three characteristics that should be understood about the ferric state.  1 - it is soluble in water, 2 - it works well with the platinum salts, and 3 - when it is exposed to ultra-violet light, it changes to its ferrous state.  Many people think the platinum salts are light sensitive, but it is the Ferric Oxalate.  

Iron in its ferrous state is always trying to return to its ferric state as soon as it can.  The most obvious example is when it reacts with the platinum salts.  Before this reaction can occur, it must be dissolved via the development process.  When I pour my developer onto my exposed print, the iron salt is rapidly dissolved to its ferrous state, which then reacts to the platinum salts, and then it can return to its ferric form.  

This reaction process releases particles of pure platinum metal that is laid down on the paper medium to form the image.  One of the reasons platinum prints have a unique depth to them is because the platinum metal is literally suspended on the paper.  There is a direct relationship between the ferrous iron and pure platinum metal.  The more ferrous iron present, the more platinum that is laid down on the paper, which is why the areas of the print that receives the greatest amount of ultra-violet exposure are the darkest on the print.  

This reaction also creates undesirable by-products that must be cleared and removed from the print for maximum archival performance.  This is accomplished by rinsing, clearing, and washing the by-products away.  Platinum prints that are properly processed can last indefinitely.  

Get my Free Darkroom Newsletter and never miss an update again. Subscribe to my annual Tim Layton Fine Art Darkroom Chronicle and receive all of my articles curated into a beautifully formatted PDF eBook every year.

ADVANCED CONCEPTS

Coating Hahnemühle Platinum Rag with platinum sensitizerCoating Hahnemühle Platinum Rag with platinum sensitizerSubscribe to my free Newsletter and never miss another article or update.

Read exclusive articles, both technical and creative, and view fine art portfolios in the Darkroom Underground Magazine.

Subscribe to the Tim Layton Fine Art Darkroom Photography Chronicle and get all of my articles in a beautifully curated eBook every year.


Explore my Learning Materials that include video workshops, eBooks, and quick reference cards.

Learn more about my Fine Art Platinum and Platinum/Palladium Printmaking.
Some contemporary fine art printmakers mix 
platinum and palladium for a number of reasons typically rooted in creative choices associated with the tone, density, and contrast of the print.  It is also easier to make a "good print" when mixing platinum and palladium, and this is often a driver for some.  

I routinely create pure platinum prints because I love their aesthetic attributes and collectors typically place a higher value on pure platinum prints.  The pure platinum process is more demanding and I believe it is worth the effort, as long as it meets your creative vision for your work. 

The choice of developer, paper and a wide variety of local variables such as ambient temperature, relative humidity, and technical acumen have a big impact on the creative and technical outcomes of a pure platinum print.  

I have worked very hard and kept copious notes over time to be able to have a highly controlled pure platinum printmaking process that allows me to create consistent and reputable high-quality fine art prints.

Get my Free Darkroom Newsletter and never miss an update again. Subscribe to my annual Tim Layton Fine Art Darkroom Chronicle and receive all of my articles curated into a beautifully formatted PDF eBook every year.  View my learning materials for darkroom and large format photographers that include video workshops, eBooks, and quick reference cards. Purchase copies of the Darkroom Underground Magazine.

-Tim Layton 

Tim Layton
Darkroom & Large Format Photography
Platinum Histograph Heirloom Prints & MiniaturesTM

 


Comments

No comments posted.
Loading...

Get my Free Darkroom Newsletter and/or my Wildlife Photography Newsletter and never miss an update again.

 


Media & News Updates


 

Support This Blog

Subscription Options

 


Popular Articles

 

 

 

Subscribe
RSS
Archive