The Texas Chrysotype Revolution
The Process
The Process
The Manual
The Manual
The Prints
The Prints
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The Videos
The Artist
The Artist

The Largest Chrysotype Ever Printed

Only possible with ammonium ferric ferrous oxalate, the "magic iron" of my dream almost three years ago made reality. This giant image is formed from elemental gold, deposited on the dry paper with the surfeit of ferrous iron in 36 ml of ammonium ferric ferrous oxalate mixed with 24 ml of 10% gold chloride.

The negative for this print was an inkjet transparency, prepared with tremendous dedication by Bobby Valentine of Bobby tolerated my destruction of the first negative trying to wet mount it on a sheet of 3/8" acrylic, and my obsessive-compulsing over two further negatives before he riddled out what the hell it was I wanted in my negative.
The frame was a simple construction with a sheet of acrylic glass and 9 crossbars held on with gate clamps. Fifteen corks on 2" screws allowed me to adjust the pressure precisely on the back of the paper, keeping it from pulling away from the negative. Instead of wet mounting, I simply stretched paper and negative taut and taped each separately against the acrylic.

Clearing started in a 10' diagonal wading pool in my dim workroom and finished in my bathtub. I furiously drained and refilled the tub, mixing in at different points: bleach, nitric acid, dithionite, tetrasodium EDTA, and hydrochloric acid (it's one clean tub now!).

The subject is the most sacred building in the western hemisphere: The Alamo. (Photo Credit: Kary)


Consequent to a shortage of Arches Platine, I reluctantly resorted to printing gold on Arches Aquarelle hot-pressed paper, which is sized with gelatin. Seeing the tremendous quality of Electrumtype Kary images, I printed a Texas Chrysotype using 10% gold, and AFFO prepared with 7 drops of 1% C added to 10 ml of ammonium ferric oxalate. The printed out image was purplish-brown, sufficiently deep in tone as to appear warm gray and warm black. The overall quality is comparable to a platinum print. On a hunch, I mixed up a weak -- 1% -- solution of nitric acid. I immersed a print (3 drops of Au/3 of AFFO-7:1%C) in a first bath of that 1% nitric acid. Almost instantly, the image turned gray, with some purple/dark lavender staining.

The smoothness of an image can be even further enhanced by reducing the number of drops of 1% ascorbic acid added to 10ml of 40% ammonium ferric oxalate. As few as 3 drops of C can be used. If a contrast boost is desired, 26% ferric oxalate serves perfectly without graining.

Conclusion: By printing gold on hot-pressed gelatin-sized paper you can print Texas Chrysotypes largely distinguishable from platinum only by some purple staining (usually near the edges of the image area). You can alter the tone of the image with a very weak nitric acid first bath: you may or may not find this step desirable. Clearing is the usual water/tetrasodium EDTA/water/sodium sulfite/water/tetrasodium EDTA/water sequence. The gelatin seems to want to hold the iron in, so you may need to use a stronger (double-strength) and longer sodium sulfite soak. If for some reason that does not suffice, an overnight bath in 7% tetrasodium EDTA and 2% sodium dithionite will clear the iron from anything. I have not needed this, yet; a strong sodium sulfite bath has sufficed to clear yellow staining.

Arches Aquarelle is gelatin-sized in the factory and is both more readily available and less expensive than Arches Platine. Further, you can purchase hot-pressed Arches Aquarelle in rolls as wide as 51". Combine the above Texas Chrysotype formula with Aquarelle and with a 3000 DPI drum scan from an 8x10 FP4+ negative and a 4'x5' inkjet transparency made with an Epson 11880 or other wide format inkjet printer and gold prints finally are ready to astound the world with their beauty. (Tip: you'll need to construct a really, really, large and heavy contact frame.)

Kary with Martini Glass, 4x5 Texas Chrysotype, AFFO-7:1%C, on Arches Aquarelle.

Sizing paper with gelatin

There are many superb papers you can size with gelatin: The primary consideration is that the paper have a hard, smooth yet still fibrous surface, in other words, hot-pressed.

The only materials you need for sizing are a tray, Knox clear gelatin (available in the baking and/or jello section of any large grocery), and an optional hardener (alum, chrome alum, glyoxal, or formaldehyde).

You can buy my manual for the formula or you can read section #3 in Jill Enfield's excellent article on sizing/subbing papers, totally free (I would post the information here, but it is from copyrighted material):


Electrum is a naturally formed alloy of gold and silver. Using Richard Sullivan's Extravagatype and Marek Matusz's platinum Satista variant as a starting point, I have succeeded in printing a gold-silver (electrum) image. The quality is very high.

The lovely Kary contact printed from a 4x5 negative in gold and silver. 1 drop Au 10%, 5 drops AFFO (AFO with 7 drops 1% C), on Arches Aquarelle hot-pressed paper, 1st bath 1% nitric acid to change the brown tones to black and gray.

The Electrumtype Kary dispenses with ferric oxalate or ammonium ferric oxalate. Instead, I use either ammonium ferric ferrous oxalate (AFFO) or ammonium ferric ferrous citrate (AFFC), with 10% gold, and 4% silver nitrate as the developer. The AFFO yields a gray-scale image typically with some purple staining around the edges of the image; the AFFC yields a red-brown image (rather like a uranotype) that mercifully dulls in the clearing to a milk chocolate brown. A 1% solution of nitric acid (available in gold test kits, from motorcycle repair shops, and from chemical suppliers) turns the brown to black. I have been too busy to tone images in any of selenium, gold, platinum, palladium, etc. I intend at some point to begin coating my still damp images with gelatin (with glyoxal or chrome alum added as a hardener) in order to preserve the rich quality that degrades somewhat (the "powdery" bane of all prints made with the iron processes) on drying down.

Papers successfully tested at this time are Arches Platine (for gray scale with purple edges, which can be mitigated with an initial bath in cold 2% sodium sulfite), Arches Aquarelle (highest quality), Clearprint 16 pound vellum (gray scale) and Canson Colorline White cellulose paper (for gray scale with lavender edges). Undoubtedly, though not yet tested, Arches 88 paper will work if sized with gelatin, as will Revere Platinum also size with gelatin.

Basic Formula
  1. Prepare AFFO by adding 7 drops of 1% ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to 10 ml of 40% ammonium ferric oxalate. Cap bottle tightly and shake it for about 15 seconds, minimum. Alternatively, prepare AFFC by adding 7 drops of 1% ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to 16 ml of 25% ammonium ferric citrate. Cap bottle tightly and shake it for about 15 seconds, minimum.
  2. For a 4x5 or 5x7 contact print, count 5 drops of the AFFO or AFFC into a shot glass.
  3. Add 1 drop 10% gold. Note: you can almost certainly use a weaker dilution; I have not yet tested that.
  4. Swirl solution and brush onto any paper suitable for my Texas Chrysotype process (AFFO-based): Arches Aquarelle yields the highest possible quality with rich tones, high detail, soft contrast and strong 3-dimensional spatiality. Arches Platine and Clearprint 16# rag cotton vellum work in the rag cotton papers; Canson Vidalon vellum and Canson White Colorline work in the cellulose papers, for example.
  5. Allow paper to dry in dark place.
  6. Place a strong negative in contact with the paper, and place all in a contact frame.
  7. With either AFFO or AFFC you want a weak print out: with AFFC a ghostly image with slightly stronger dark areas through the mid-grays but highlights still weak. With AFFO, the image may almost look completely printed out, but will appear rather soft with blown highlights from roughly zone 6 to 10. A test strip is in order for precise results. The good news is that if you do overprint, you may be able to bleach the print in the fixer.
  8. Wearing heavy rubber gloves that go as high as possible, (see my Youtube video on my presentation at the APIS for the kind of gloves I wear), mix 5 ml 4% silver nitrate with 5 ml corn syrup. Or just pour out 7 ml 4% silver nitrate. (I dissolve my silver nitrate in warm water, 90 to 100 degrees, to get it to clear). The gloves protect your skin from the silver nitrate, which will turn any organic material it touches black. Not right away, but over several days. Black skin will eventually return to normal -- after a week or two. Pour out the silver-corn syrup just outside the image area and use a wide brush or a squeegee to push the solution across the print. Results are near instantaneous. Take care to spread the silver nitrate evenly across the paper. Any irregularity will result in a lighter area in the image.
  9. Optionally, for prints on gelatin-sized paper such as Arches Aquarelle, immerse the print in a 1% solution of nitric acid. A stronger solution will dissolve the silver. Be ready to remove the print once the brown tones are sufficiently gray and before purple staining becomes too extensive.
  10. Wash in running water for 5 minutes.
  11. Soak in fixer prepared by adding 1 drop at normal strength to 20 parts of distilled water. Fix for no more than 4 minutes. If you print is too dark, extending the fixing to 5 or more minutes will lighten the image by removing silver. Be prepared to immerse the print in water as soon as it reaches the desired degree of lightness.
  12. After fixing for 4 minutes max, wash in cool running water for 5 minutes.
  13. Soak the print in 10% Tetrasodium EDTA for 15 minutes, then running water again for 30 minutes.

Fountain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. 4x5 Electrumtype Kary on Arches Platine.

Please feel free to contact me with ideas and/or questions:

The Texas Revolution in Gold

The Texas Revolution in Gold, the Texas Chrysotype, is a new formula for printing photographic images in gold. It differs from other chrysotype processes in that: Preparing the solution for a Texas Chrysotype involves adding from 3 to 8 drops of 1% ascorbic acid solution (Vitamin C) to 10 ml of 40% ammonium ferric oxalate. The result is a light-sensitive chemical composed of ammonium ferric-ferrous oxalate, which replaces the old plain ammonium ferric oxalate for printing out gold (as well as platinum and palladium). Fewer drops convert less of the ferric iron to ferrous iron and thereby reduce contrast, smooth tonal transitions, and minimize grain; more drops convert more of the iron to its ferrous state and increase grain and contrast. The printing process is as simple as coat paper (preferably Arches Aquarelle hot press or other hot-press paper sized with gelatin) with gold and ammonium ferric-ferrous oxalate, dry the sensitized paper thoroughly, contact print by direct examination, and clear the iron from the paper.

The Karytype

The Karytype was the first new iron-based printing process in exactly 100 years, since Willis patented the Satista print. With the Karytype, you do not add gold to platinum to introduce violet undertones to the image; rather you mix gold and platinum in varying proportions (generally greater than 50% gold) to print out a gray-scale image that exhibits the synergy of the two metals interacting with each other. A Karytype exhibits the strong Dmax of gold (the Texas Chrysotype is very different from the 19th century based Chrysotype S), and gold's luminous glow in areas of strong microcontrast complements the wide tonal range of platinum and its delicate highlight gradation. I printed my first Karytype in the quest to find the correct combination of the noble metals (since no one of them alone sufficed) to reproduce the loveliness of a series of negatives I had exposed of my beautiful model, Kary. With gold-platinum, her personality and luminescent presence, the expressive intensity of life force she exudes, appeared for the first time ever in any photographic print I had seen of her. The model Kary after whom the Karytype is named.