More Fun with Ferric Silver: Four Argyrotypes

And what, you rightly ask, is an argyrotype? Well… SOOOO glad you asked! I’ll save you the trouble of running to Wikipedia and just quote them here:

Argyrotype is an iron-based silver printing process that produces brown images on plain paper. It is an alternative process derived from the argentotype, kallitype, and Van Dyke processes of the 19th century, but has greater simplicity, improved image stability, and longer sensitizer shelf-life.[1] It was developed by Mike Ware.[2]

While this process may not have the permanence of other processes such as platinum or palladium printing, it is much less expensive and more user friendly. The core resource used is silver sulphamate (NH2SO3Ag) which can be prepared on site from sulphamic acid.[2] The sensitizer used is very slow, so printing must be by contact with a large format negative, using an ultraviolet lamp or sunlight.

As with most alternative processes there is room for manipulating the process to achieve different effects, and since the image is produced on plain paper many drawing or print making processes can be combined with the original image.

In other words, it is a process for printing images using iron-silver salts. Like so many alternative/historical photographic processes, the light-sensitive liquid is applied to paper, dried, and exposed to some kind of image matrix. This can be objects, drawings, traditional “negatives/positives”, or a mix of any and/or all of these. That latter is what I’ve been exploring.


Four argyrotypes, hot gold-toned, two on Hahnemühle Platinum Rag postcard, one on Silberburg 140 g/m handmade watercolor paper, one on Terschelling 300 g/m watercolor postcard paper. Photogenic (manually produced), digitally-produced negatives, and hybrid (combined digital and manual) negatives. Digital output from laser printer. “Hot gold toning” refers to using a gold toner that has been heated warmer than the usual working temperatures, in this case I warm the toner to 35°C. The toning is often done to lend greater permanence to the image by replacing silver particles with gold particles. This toning is a common practice with kallitypes and includes toning with platinum and palladium salt solutions.

I’m fascinated by how this particular process is responding to the drawn lines on the laser printer output, as compared to the kallitypes. Even under magnification, the lines resemble traditional intaglio lines, but without the impression that comes from running the plate through the press. This is especially obvious in the first and third images below.

And many thanks to Carol Boss HahnemühleMike Ware, and Wolfgang Moersch for resources and inspiration. And there are not enough words to describe my inspiration and loving support from the woman who, through her own work with this process, inspired me to actually give it a try myself: Annemarie Borg.


Silberburg 140 g/m handmade watercolor paper. Yes, I’m making fun of Kodak safety Film… hand “drawing” on laser printer transparency material.


Terschelling 300 g/m watercolor postcard paper. This is best described as being a digital “collage” as part of the image is from a digital photograph (JPG) and the other is from a “drawing”  (using ProCreate on an iPad), combined in Photoshop and printed on laser printer transparency.


Another photogenic drawing, this time printed on Hahnemühle Platinum Rag postcard (an aside: Hahnemühle Platinum Rag is an extremely dependable, consistent paper for doing alt-hist processes… yes, I am shamelessly endorsing them). Those spots are not stains, such as we see in kallitypes due to poor clearing, but are inconsistencies in the transparency that gave very different  density in the print and so toned very differently than the rest of the image. The “plate tone” effect is also a result of the transparency itself. I’m using a very inexpensive laser printer (Brother HL 1212W, to be specific), so the quality of the transparency toner layer can be, errr, “inconsistent”?



The most “photographic” image of the four — it comes from a digital photograph made on an iPhone 8+, output from the laser printer. Again, it is printed on Hahnemühle Platinum Rag postcard paper.

So until next time, a bientôt!

Author: alfonsoelsabio

Citoyen du monde: Photographer, librarian/archivist/academic, musician, and writer... I've lived in, or visited, every state in the US except South Dakota and Hawaii.

One thought on “More Fun with Ferric Silver: Four Argyrotypes”

  1. It worked and I’m in xxx Lovely to see the work on here now and great detailed explanation on the Argyrotype process…More to come I know! Speak later… Annemarie

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