Introduction to Argyrotype Process

After experimenting with cyanotype (aka blue print) and lith printing in the Creative Vision class at ELAC, I decided to experiment with another siderotype on my own time by reading up on Christopher James's Book of Alternative Photographic Processes and the Vandyke notes online at In case you are wondering what siderotype is, it is a group classification for any chemical photographic printing method based on iron. Iron creates the image which is then converted to another metal offering different tones and levels of permanence. Examples include:

  • platinum (platinotype offering a deep black)
  • palladium (palladiotype offering a deep brown)
  • gold (chrysotype ranging from muted grey/black to blue, green, violet, red and pink)
  • silver (argentotype)

All siderotype prints are contact printed and wet-processed. A silver or digital negative with the correct density is created.  A piece of paper (ideally 100% cellulose) is coated with a sensitizer composed of gold, platinum, silver or other material and then dried.  The negative is contact printed onto the paper using ultraviolet light. The paper is variously given humidity, processed in distilled water or chemical baths, and then washed in water to remove everything but the metal or pigment constituting the image. The entire process takes from one to three days to produce a finished print depending on the process and available equipment.

After reading the intricacy of various processes available, I came upon Argyrotype process which is derived from the Argentotype, Kallitype, and Vandyke processes of the 19th Century. Besides factoring in the chemical expense, the enticing points of this improved process devised in 1991 by Dr. Michael Ware, include greater simplicity, improved image stability and longer sensitizer shelf-life. From thereon, sprung the long journey of exploring and understanding the different aspects of this Argyrotype chemical--from testing exposure time and calibrating curves based on different types of tested paper to understanding the humidity factor of the paper which would ultimately affect the contrast and color tonality of the final print making each one unique.

Early Stages of Argyrotype Testing

Changes in Color Tones During the Process


Mercury Vapor Exposure unit