Elizabeth Graves tries out the Kallitype printing kit from the Photographer’s Formulary and gives us a couple of good tips.
It will happen to you. You will be out taking photos and as your image comes into focus in the viewfinder, an uninvited thought will pop abruptly into your head. That thought will be…
“…I bet this would make a GREAT kallitype!”
Yes, a kallitype. You’ve stared at the lovely brown and black images in the kallitype process gallery, and now you have an image which would be gorgeous in subtle brown and black tones. However, you aren’t yet ready to commit to bulk chemical purchases for a process you haven’t tried. Kallitype formulas abound, and most recipes for this developing-out process involve at least five separate chemical solutions. What should you do?
The answer is the Photographers’ Formulary Kallitype Printing kit. This modestly priced kit isideal for trying out this delightful process. The kit provides enough chemicals to print about 30 4″ x 5″ images, clear instructions, and enough options to satisfy the curiosity of any alternative printmaker.
As with most alternative processes, kallitype requires some advance preparations. You’ll need a few hours to read the directions and safety precautions,examine the 9 separate substances that come in the kit, and follow the provided recipes to prepare numerous solutions using distilled water. The sizing solution requires several minutes of cooking. The sensitizer solution works best after it has aged a few days, so plan ahead!
In addition to the kit, you’ll need:
- containers for the liquid solutions, including a light proof container for the silver nitrate
- liquid measuring tools
- gloves to protect your fingers from silver nitrate stains and the effects of dichromate
- shallow trays for developing your prints
- your favorite printing paper
- either a fine brush or rod to coat the paper.
For development, you’ll also need a way to heat some of the solutions.
If you choose to size your paper, you’ll need to coat it and allow it to dry in advance. When the size has dried, it will be ready for a coating of sensitizer and several hours of drying in the dark.
After contact printing your image, you’re ready for one of the best things about this kit: it comes with THREE developer recipes. Brown, sepia, black and tones in between are all possible through mixing the developer components in different proportions. Each of these developers can also be modified by the addition of dichromate (included in the kit) to increase contrast.
After several minutes of development, each print must soak in a clearing bath, receive a water rinse, soak in a fixing bath, and then receive a lengthy water wash (or hypo clear rinse followed by shorter water wash).
Though the instructions note that the sensitizer is slow, exposures with both transparency and vellum negatives printed cleanly in well under 10 minutes on a sunny day here in San Francisco. You’ll need to print test strips to establish your local baselines: under exposures wash away; over exposures turn muddy and gray.
The photographs displayed here are printed on unsized Fabriano Classico paper, developed without dichromate, using the 3 developer recipes as provided. The top one is the Brown developer, the middle one the Black developer and the image to the right is the Sepia developer. This absorbent paper makes soft, graphite-like black prints; engraving-like brown prints; and split-toned sepia prints with grays and browns intermingling in the midtones. A wide range of effects are readily available just by changing papers, using either the provided arrowroot sizing (for browner tones) or separately purchased gelatin sizing (for blue-black tones) and by adding a few drops of dichromate to the developer. Toners to increase the permanence of kallitype prints are also available.
With so many options to explore, the Photographer’s Formulary Kallitype Printing kit is a convenient, efficient and enjoyable way to experiment with kallitypes.