1st Edition

Chrysotype A Contemporary Guide to Photographic Printing in Gold

By Leanne McPhee Copyright 2021
    214 Pages 176 Color & 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Focal Press

    214 Pages 176 Color & 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Focal Press

    214 Pages 176 Color & 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Focal Press

    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.


    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


    NOT or CP


    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

    [INSERT xx.2 HERE]

    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




    Chemical Information


    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 leannemcphee.com.

    '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