Salted Paper Experiment; Photogenic Drawings!

This process, for me, is the newest and greatest thing that I have discovered!

This process was developed by William Henry Fox Talbot around 1839 and used until Albumen came along, (which we will be experimenting with later in our course).  The negative process was created to produce such images between the years of 1835 and 1839.  A salted paper print can be created using a “calotype negative” or the calotype process, as was discovered and further explored by Talbot.  As was shown from our experimental process below, this technique has the potential to create very white highlights with strong contrast. (In our experiment we used plants and shapes, rather than actual photo negatives, which are supposed to create much sharper images).

Salted Paper Print

by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877)

National Media Museum/ Science & Society


Below:  You can see the strong sharpness that is possible with such a process.  This photo was made with Fennel, so in cases such as this you may need to use a glass plate to keep the objects flat.

Image: [Wild Fennel], 1841-1842 salted paper print Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art,  Gilman Collection, Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew W. Saul Gift, 2005

[Wild Fennel] 1841-1842

Salted Paper Print

Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection

Purchase, Mr. & Mrs. Andrew W. Saul Gift 2005


Below:  Here is an image that shows how a calotype negative can be used to produce an image. (Meaning what should be lighter is light and what should be darker is dark, rather than the processes above.) The image on the left is the negative and the image on the right is what it produces when put over sensitive paper and exposed to light.

BBC News Online

From the British Library’s Photographic Collection, 19th c.

Salted Print Printed From Negative: by Talbot: Oak Tree in Winter



This is a process that depends on every aspect of the process working together in order to turn out correctly.  Through our previous experiments we reached the conclusion that the best solution, (or best that we had the ability to perform with in a short amount of time), was the following:


[All of the experiments below used

-Strathmore Cold Press: Watercolor Paper

– 2% NaCl (table salt)

– 12% AgNO3 (silver nitrate) (2 coats)]


We worked with what seemed to be two aspects of how the salted paper process works.  In one trial we tested how color film worked with or against light exposure.

->[This process needs to be done in a low light room with little sunlight (just enough to see so that the paper does not start exposing.)]

->[Before application we taped the papers to a flat board in order to avoid bubbling of the paper due to the wetness of the solutions.]
step1->Cut Strathmore square appx 6″ x6″

step2->Applied one coat of salt (NaCl) evenly with 12ml pipette and applied with foam brush.

step3->Dried with hair-dryer on low

step4->Applied one coat of silver (AgNO3) evenly with 12ml pipette and applied with foam brush.

step5->Dried with hair-dryer on low

->(repeat steps 4 & 5 to apply the second coat of silver needed)
While we were working on the applications we were also cutting out 6″ x 6″ squares of cellophane, one red, one yellow & one blue.  We cut out a star shape from the center of each piece in order to have our “negative space” where we could see how the sun would react without the influence of the paper.

step6->Take the paper with cellophane over it outside, this solution allows the reaction to happen rather quickly, keep it out for about 1 minute appx.  Some will turn quicker than others, you are looking for the area exposed to turn to almost a black color, (ours were rather dark purple). Then bring bath inside to the dark area.

step7->You will need 4 buckets.  Drop the images in a water bath, (all baths just enough water/ hypo to submerge them fully), then 2 separate baths of a solution called hypo at 10%, and then a fourth bucket containing the last bath of water.  Each image bath should stay in the bath for an approximate 3 minutes, ( you can put more than one image in the bath at a time, as long as they can all be fully submerged and moved around).  Through out these 4 baths you will also need some sort of tool to move them around and try to get off all of the undeveloped silver.

step8-> You will leave the images in a continually running bath of water for appx. 1 hour to remove any residue left. [ If you do not include this step you have a much better chance of the image further exposing.]

This was our experiment to determine how the colors reflected or let light through.  The individuals with a stronger background in photography seemed to understand this aspect more, but I feel i learned a lot simply from the reactions we saw in our experiment.

Below are the images we were left with after we completed this process:


Above: Showing a bit of the application process- after application of second silver nitrate coating.

Below: Showing the star shapes taped over the salted paper.  This image was taken with in the first 5 seconds in the sunlight.


Above:  After exposure of about 1 minute we brought them back in and prepared them for the hypo bath by stripping them of the tape and cellophane.

In our conclusion of this process we found that the image (on the bottom left) created using the blue cellophane.  As you can see more light was able to pass through the blue color.  We could see very little difference between red and yellow, but I would have to say that the red seemed a little darker, less reflective of the sunlight rays.


With this second half of the experiment we explored objects and their effects and the reaction upon the paper.  Here we did something more like Talbot with using a real object, most likely pressed with a glass plate to reduce the movements and shifting of the objects and then exposed them to the sun. (We did make a mistake and one of the object blew off, if you look closely you can see on one of the papers a faint lightening of one area that had potpourri on it 🙂

This was my favorite part of the experiment because we actually got a chance to see how the different proportions and strength of the solutions effected the outcome.

Below are the image created using potpourri and a wood cut image of a flower:

Above: the wood cutting and potpourri used in our experiment to lay on the photosensitive paper.

Above: In the process of exposure, this too was very quickly that we saw results, for this I would say we left it out a little over a minute to get a more crisp image.

Above:  We were recording the images and their dark color before we put them in to the hypo bath.  Don’t worry if you think they are darker than your liking, they will lighten immensely once they are put in the baths.

Above: Closer image of the exposed image before the bath solutions.

Above: Our final prints!




We all enjoyed this one so much that we divided up the results to keep.  I also decided to make a second batch of them for myself!  Below is a little bit of what I created again, a more linear composition.


***Although, just as a warning, we were told to keep these final images out of direct sunlight exposure due to the fact that even after the water and hypo baths they may still be slightly light sensitive.***


Here are a few Videos that I found that struck my attention, may you all will find them interesting too!

I noticed that in the title of this video said “cyanotype” when I was searching for more information on our salted paper process; cyan meaning a greenish blue originating for greek word kyanos or dark blue.  I was wondering what this was so I watched the video, and was thinking that maybe its just the same process, but using a substance that changes what would typically be a black, (or in our case the dark purple), and instead makes it blue?  How is this possible, it is very cool!  One this I did notice was that his solutions “A” & “B” are a yellow color, wierd?  He does use watercolor paper though, obviously we made the right choice, that is a good paper to get a good reaction!

****If any of you have any explanation of how exactly this works, please leave a comment!!****



This guy is awesome! Check it out!!!!!  This man owns a company called Homemade On Pelican Bay, he is actually making money off of these process from 19th c. photography!  He also is using the cyanotype process that was seen above.  You can see as they scan over that he is exploring all the the ways to create images such as negatives, and simple object overlays.


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