Process 3 : Van Dyke Brown

The name of this process has been derived from the similarity of its brown tinted print color with that of the brown oil paint color which was named after the Flemish artist, Van Dyck.

Resident artist Tashi has chosen to research and practice this method of processing for the residency period of 2 months.

Chemicals :

Observe precaution, wear gloves and mask.

  • Part 1
    • 33 ml Distilled water
    • 9 grams ammonium ferric citrate green OR substitute
    • 18 grams ammonium ferric citrate brown
  • Part 2
    • 33 ml distilled water
    • 1.5 grams tartaric acid
  • Part 3
    • 33 ml Distilled water
    • 3.8 grams silver nitrate

*Silver nitrate burns and cause brown stains on a mere touch. Stains won’t be evident until exposed to UV light. Using caution is advisable.

Add part 2 to part 1, and slowly add part 3 as you’re stirring. Store solution in darkness in a tightly lidded glass bottle and age for a week. Solution keeps stable activity for years after ripening period.

Printing :

To print a Van Dyke you require a negative of desired size (preferably large format negatives are used), a substrate for coating and printing and a UV light source ( sunlight or bulbs). Water color paper is a good substrate but material like metal, glass etc can also be used (the coating is trickier here).The substrate is coated with solution under tungsten light, air dried, and coated a second time if desired for a stronger image. The negative is placed on the thoroughly dried coated substrate, and is then weighted with a piece of glass.

The glass negative substrate sandwhich is then exposed to UV light. A good starting point for printing time is to check a region of your photo that is very light but should still show some tone or detail (a highlight), and note how long it takes to register this detail, and print as long again.

Processing :

Soluble iron and silver compounds are removed by washing and re washing the image in changes of water. If the washing water is slightly acidified it helps remove the iron compounds with much ease as it is more soluble in acid (citric acid/vinegar/pineapple juice will also do the work of acidic substitutes).

A weak alkaline fixer of 5% sodium thiosulphate and a teaspoon of houselhold ammonia per litre is the combination for a good fixer. The alkali prevents rapid bleaching and slows the fixing. Fixing must be done until the whites appear clear.

Use a fixer clearing bath of sodium sulphite to help remove residual fixer, and give the print an extended wash fitting the absorbancy of the substrate, around 30-45 minutes for absorbent papers, or 5-10 minutes for gelatin sized tile or glass.

Air dry the print without heat. High heat will change the color of the print to more neutral and weaken the shadows.

The outcome :


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