Chrysotype : A Contemporary Guide to Photographic Printing in Gold book cover
1st Edition

A Contemporary Guide to Photographic Printing in Gold

ISBN 9781138345003
Published October 28, 2020 by Focal Press
214 Pages 176 Color & 11 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Chrysotype is about photographic printing in gold on paper. This 19th century printing process, modified for contemporary use, provides artists with an affordable way to produce permanent prints in gold. By using film or digital negatives, striking hand-coated prints can be created in monochromatic hues ranging from pink, violet, magenta and purple, to green, blue, grey and black.

Chrysotype offers a how-to guide for intermediate practitioners with illustrated examples and simple explanations for each stage of the chrysotype process. The book is divided into three sections: history; preparation and how-to; and the work of contemporary artists using chrysotype.

This book includes:

  • A concise account of the invention and modification of the chrysotype process, including early discoveries about gold and colour and the significance of moisture for printing in gold
  • How to set up your workspace for printing, including useful equipment and materials
  • Advice on safe chemical practice
  • A step-by-step guide to creating suitable digital and film negatives
  • Guidance on paper selection and how to successfully coat paper
  • An overview guide to creating a chrysotype print
  • Step-by step directions for creating the chrysotype solutions
  • An explanation of mixing ratios and solution volumes that control contrast
  • An illustrated explanation of the effect of humidity on colour, including split tone colours and ways to control humidity
  • Step-by-step directions on post-exposure hydration to lengthen tonal range and lower contrast
  • Step-by-step tray processing directions
  • Advanced techniques such as handling translucent papers, additional chrysotype formulas and procedures, and alternative developing agents that support longer development, colour formation and remedy problems that affect image quality
  • Troubleshooting chrysotype printing, including advice and photographic examples
  • Illustrated profiles of contemporary artists making chrysotype prints, including their methods and tips

Chrysotype serves to inform, encourage and challenge a new generation of alternate process practitioners and a growing chrysotype community, from the newly curious to the experienced professional.

Table of Contents


Introduction to chrysotype


Chapter 1, Early experiments with gold and the chrysotype invented and reinvented

The ‘Ingenious and Lively’ Elizabeth Fulhame

Herschel and iron-based printing in gold

Experiments with Gold and Iron

Herschel’s chrysotype process

Herschel’s chrysotype prints

Nanoparticle gold and colour

New Chrysotype


Chapter 2, Preparing for printing

Safety first

Chemical safe handling, storage and disposal

Work spaces and lighting

General consumables

General equipment and materials

Equipment and materials for making negatives

Analogue film

Digital negatives

Equipment and materials for coating paper

Optional items for coating paper

Equipment and materials for controlling humidity (pre and post exposure)

Equipment and materials for exposing the print

Making a basic contact printing frame

Equipment and materials to process and dry prints

Optional items for processing and drying prints

Equipment to make and store the chemistry for Version ‘S’

Additional items for Versions ‘M’ and ‘P’


Chemicals for Version ‘S’


Humidity control


Useful measurement conversions



Chapter 3, Preparing the negative

Film negatives

Film development

Creating a large format film negative with PMK developer

Working formula

PMK Development Process


Using a transmission step wedge

Masking the negative

Digital negatives

Creating a basic digital negative


Chapter 4, Paper choice

Paper Types

Surface finish




Size and weight

Paper additives

Impact of paper additives on chrysotype

Sizing – application and type

Internal (‘engine’, ‘body’ or beater) sizing

Surface (‘Tub’, ‘External’) sizing

Impact of sizing on chrysotype colour

Papers for chrysotype

Paper handling and storage

Paper treatment

Decalcifying paper

Procedure for removing calcium chloride

Sulphamic acid decalcification process

Surface-sizing paper with hardened gelatin

Gelatin hardening process


Chapter 5, Overview of the chrysotype process

Overview of the steps to create a chrysotype print

A quick guide to getting the common chrysotype colours

"I want a pink image."

"I want a split tone image."

"I want a blue image."

Chapter 6, Making and mixing the sensitiser.

Version ‘S’ – sodium method

Chemicals, equipment and materials

Preparing stock solutions for Version ‘S’ sensitiser

A. Ligand solution (1.4 molar)

B. Gold solution (0.35 molar) – Option 1 Sodium Tetrachloroaurate

B. Gold solution (0.35 molar) – Option 2 Hydrogen Tetrachloroaurate

C. Iron solution (1.4 molar)

Tween® 20

Version ‘S’ mixing and contrast controls

Contrast control and volume ratios

Working out the volume of solution

Advanced section

New Chrysotype Version ‘M’

Chemicals, equipment and materials

Preparing stock solutions for Version ‘M’ sensitiser

A. Ligand solution (1.4 molar)

Differences in use between Versions ‘M’ and ’S’

New Chryostype Version ’P’

Chemicals, equipment and materials

Preparing stock solutions for Version ‘P’ sensitiser

A. Ligand solution (1.4 molar)

B. Gold solution (0.35 molar) Hydrogen Tetrachloroaurate

C. Iron solution (1.4 molar)

D Sodium hydroxide solution (14 molar)

Version ‘P’ mixing and contrast controls

Contrast control and volume ratios

Working out the volume of solution

Chapter 7, Coating Paper

Chemicals, equipment and materials for coating paper

Glass coating rod

Items for making a glass coating rod

Making a glass coating rod

Brush coating

Coating the paper

Which side of the paper to coat?

Helpful coating tips

Rod coating method

Brush coating method

Coating translucent ‘vellum’ paper

Chapter 8, Regulating Paper Humidity

What is relative humidity?

The effect of humidity on chrysotype colour

Low humidity 9–35 %

Intermediate humidity 36–65%

High humidity 66–100%

How to regulate humidity

Timed Air Drying

Extended Heat Drying

Regulated humidity chamber

How to construct a humidity chamber

Salt humidity chamber

Silica bead humidity chamber

Water hydration chamber

How to use a humidity chamber

Chapter 9, Exposing and Processing the Print

Exposing the print

Exposure time and print-out

Exposure time and ligand to gold ratio

Humidity and extent of print-out

Hydration after exposure

Steaming and print-out

Steaming procedure

Localised breathing

Processing the exposed print

Standard developing agents and colour

Development characteristics, time and temperature

Clearing baths

Chemicals, equipment and materials for processing prints

Processing procedure

Advanced section

Testing potential developing agents

Colour intensification

The salts of the standard developing agents

Chapter 10, Troubleshooting chrysotype

I can’t get ‘that’ colour again

The print looks ‘grainy’

The image highlights are stained red/purple

The print has ‘speckles’ in the shadow areas

The print has dark ‘measles’ marks

The print has white splotches

I can’t get an even coating

Brush coating

Rod coating

The sensitiser disappears after one or two coating passes

The paper turns yellow or orange after coating

My print is too dark

The negative looks ‘thin’


Post hydration

Developing agent used

My print has too much contrast

A higher ligand ratio

The negative is too dense

Choice of developer

The image is faint or lacks contrast

Parts of the image look ‘blurred’


Chapter 11, Contemporary chrysotype artists

Giorgio Bordin

Bianca Conwell

Wendy Currie

Miguel Duarte

Danielle Edwards

Mark L Eshbaugh

Esme Ann Everingham

Aileen Hubbard

Tony McLean

Pradip Malde

Marek Matusz

Mike Ware




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Leanne McPhee is an award winning Australian fine art photographer and researcher with works held in public and private collections in Australia, China, Italy and the United States. She has demonstrated expertise in a variety of alternative photographic processes, particularly chrysotype and salted paper printing. McPhee is a regular contributor to national and international symposia, delivering hands on workshops and has published both technical and creative works. To see her work, visit


'Chrysotype is a complex process with many variables yielding different results. This book corrals those variables into a clear path to a certain result'

Jim Patterson

'Leanne McPhee has written an outstanding volume on the chrysotype process for photographic printing in pure gold, which can produce beautiful prints in colors ranging from pink to purple to brown, black, or blue. The book covers the history of the process along with very detailed and thorough practical instructions, and includes contributions from contemporary chrysotype artists to show the wide variety of excellent work that can be produced.'

Mark Severson, Chemistry Professor and Alternative Photographic Process Artist