Van Dyke – Working Formulas

Today I made my first Van Dyke print! Before posting this image I’ll write down the formulas and methods I used to pull this off.

I used the method described in the book of Richard Farber “Historic Photographic Processes”. The sentences between “…”  are exact quotes from that book.

The sensitizer consists of the following:

Solution 1
35 ml Water
10 gr Ferric Ammonium Citrate
Stir well until dissolved.

Solution 2
35 ml Water
1,5 gr Tartaric Acid
Stir well until dissolved

Solution 3
35 ml Water
4 gr Silver Nitrate
Stir well until dissolved

Add solution 2 to solution 1. Stir well. Add solution 3 and stir well.”

This is the solution used to coat the paper with. Keep it in a cool and dark place as it’s sensitive to light. This amount is said to make around 100 4×5″ prints. When kept in a fridge it should keep for about a year.

The paper is being coated under a safelight which you apply on the paper using a brush or a rod. I used one of these:

Make sure you mark your brush well and use it ONLY for this purpose to prevent contamination!

Today I only coated the paper once but it is said that a double coat gives for more rich blacks. Will try that next time. After I coated the paper I left it to dry in my dark darkroom to the air. As I don’t have a contact frame (yet) I used an empty Ilford b+w paper box where I placed the dry coated paper in, placed the negative on top, closed it and brought it out to the light. There I opened the box and the exposure started. The weather was not all on my side as the exposure time went all the way 36 minutes while the literature mentioned times from 5-8 minutes, of course depending on amount of light and density of the negative used.

After the exposure time I put the lid back on the box, took it inside the darkroom and placed the sheet in a tray of gentle running tap water under a safelight. They mention it should be in this tray for about 1-2 minutes or until you see the milkiness go away. I couldn’t see the latter so I just kept it in there for 2 minutes. I then placed the sheet in a tray with a Sodium Thiosulfate fixer of a 4% strength. The recommended time is 5-8 minutes of fixing, I left it in for about 7 minutes before putting it to the final rinsing bath.

Because the fixer gets exhausted pretty fast it’s recommended using a two-bath fixing system.
“Fix the print for 3-4 minutes with regular agitation in each fixing bath. After 5 to 8 prints have been fixed, exchange the second bath for the first, discard the first and add a new second bath. Since most of the work is done by the first bath, the second remains fairly fresh to remove any remaining silver compounds.”
I only used a single fixing bath as I didn’t have that many coated papers to try and seeing that the weather wasn’t going to be my friend that day, I’m glad I saved some of that fixer 😉

The two steps I have left out this first time is the hypo clearing bath and the toning bath. After the fixing bath rinse the print a little and put it in a hypo clearing bath. You can use the Kodak Hypo Clearing bath or make a solution of 1% Sodium Sulfite (cheaper and just as effective). Keep the print in there for 3 minutes with continuous agitation. Then you have to wash the print for half an hour. Leave the print to dry, air-dried or blow dried with gentle heat.

And then there’s the toning part. Unlike other POP-processes the Van Dyke is best toned after fixing to keep it from staining. The toners I want to use in the future are gold toning and selenium, the ones I already use for other processes. Toning leads to a deeper color and improves permanence of the image.

Anyway, I’m having fun and this WILL be continued! 🙂


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