Satista prints

A description of the Satista photographic print process – a variety of platinum and palladium printing invented by William Willis.

Writer and Photographer / Marek Matusz

Always be careful when handling chemicals. Read the health and safety instructions.

Paper for satista printing
Figure 1: Exposed Print with Silver Nitrate Solution on the Edge.

Satista prints refer to a print that is a composed of a mixture of silver and platinum. This is a very old process, invented by William Willis. The process described here varies in details from that is published in Senstive Photographic Paper and Process of Making the same by William Willis (1,120,580). The process was intended to be more economical then platinum printing, but being able to produce results that looked like pure platinum prints and being as permanent.

Please make sure that you understand all safety aspects of the process. Papers that wok for me are: Arches platine, Bergger COT320 (from Bostick and Sullivan). This process requires negatives that are typical for iron-based processes.


Sensitizer: Ferric ammonium oxalate, 40% solution, standard platinum solution used in platinum or platinum – palladium printing (20% K2PtCl4). This very concentrated sensitizer will crystallize on the surface of some papers. Recently I have been using about 25% FAO solution.

A standard sensitizer formula for an 8×10 print is as follows:

  • 1 drop of Pt solution
  • 25 to 30 drops of FAO solution.

The process

Figure 2: Development by the Push Rod Method.
Figure 2: Development by the Push Rod Method.

I coat with a push rod for small size papers, brushing works well for me for 8X10 or 11×14.
The amount of platinum is not very critical. You can use more platinum, for example 4 drops, I have also used as little as 1 drop of 5% platinum solution (talking about economy now!). More platinum will give blacker print, less platinum tends to give browner prints. I have also used palladium in a sensitizer in place of platinum. Gives a different print tone, but works as well.

Dry very well for consistent results. For best results there should be no moisture left in the paper. One nice thing about satista prints is that dry, sensitized paper will store for weeks. Slightly moist paper will also print well showing a faint image upon exposure.

Printing is very fast. Any UV light source will do. I have a bank of six 20W BL lights and a typical time might be 2-6 minutes. There is no visible image after exposure so test strips are necessary.

Develop in 4% silver nitrate solution. Silver nitrate will store indefinitely if made with distilled water and stored in the dark. Silver nitrate is toxic and will stain black any organic material that it comes in contact with. Wear gloves for all the operations involving silver nitrate.

Figure 3: Left Side Untoned Print, Right Side Palladium Toner.
Figure 3: Left Side Untoned Print, Right Side Palladium Toner.

My development method is the same as coating method (see Figure 1 and 2). Tape the exposed print to a piece of flat glass placed in a tray. With a plastic eye dropper pour about 4 cc of silver nitrate solution on the edge of the print and using the push rod spread it evenly over the entire print in one single pass. Remember that there should be an excess of developer or else uneven development will take place.

On some papers you can move the developer a few times, but some papers do not take it well. This is fairly simple once you practiced it. For larger pieces a flat bottom tray filled with a solution of silver nitrate might be more practical. Let the print sit for a minute or two and wash the print with water until the milkiness is gone, say 5 minutes.

Clear the print in Na4EDTA solution or Kodak clearing bath, wash some more. My clearing bath is 20 grams of Na4EDTA and 20 grams of citric acid/liter of solution. Several prints can be cleared in this solution. At this point you could do gold or palladium toning. Satista images tone well with gold, platinum or palladium toners.
See example in Figure 3 for palladium toning and Figure 5 for gold toning. Residual silver is removed in 10% sodium thiosulfate bath. Images do not bleach, but there is no reason to soak them very long. Wash well after thiosulfate bath.

Figure 4: Platinum Seeded Satista Print
Figure 4: Platinum Seeded Satista Print
Figure 5: Gold Toned Satista Print
Figure 5: Gold Toned Satista Print

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