Silver & Gold

Vandyke Brownprint & Argyrotype Processes

Vandyke Brownprint, VDB for short, is an eminently easy and affordable silver process resulting in rich sepia toned images and archival quality cooler tones when gold salts are introduced. VDB is only ever so slightly more expensive than Cyanotype, and only ever so slightly more complicated from a processing point of view.

Dr. Mike Ware’s circa 1991 Argyrotype print out process is the go-to process for clean, deep, archival quality silver sepia prints, overtaking VDB for clarity and Kallitype in process. With the introduction of gold or palladium salts a rival in quality and richness to the vastly more expensive platinum / palladium (Pt/Pd) process is found. One of the major enhancements over VDB and Kallitype is ease in clearing image highlights without staining – a real nuisance where deep lush shadow areas of an image bleed into delicate highlights, desecrating the print. The other major benefit of this chemistry is its colloidal silver stability in both wet processing and dry print archivability - the silver simply has a much lower chance of ‘rusting away’ due to the sulfamated silver and mildly acidic working conditions used in the process. Overall, the Argyrotype characteristic exposure response and processing steps very closely match VDB to the point of treating both the same in terms of the printmaking process.

Gold toning is a wonderful process for these silver print methods. The gold metal will replace the silver within the print, starting with the highlights and going down into the shadows, making everything cooler, moving towards the blues/purples/grays. Metal replacement gold toning will also make the resultant image more archival as it replaces the environmentally sensitive silver. Split tones can be created by partial toning (less time in the toner solution) where only highlight areas are allowed to cool, leaving the more dense earth tones to become richer.

Example of silver sepia pritns from family B&W negatives:

The Family

Gallery of images, Silver & Gold, for the Vandyke Brownprint process:

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