Photographic Facts and Formulas

Nelson Gold Paper Toner (Kodak T-21, GAF 223)

Nelson Gold Paper Toner (Kodak T-21, GAF 223) produces rich tones that vary from just a hint of warmth to rich sepia browns. The depth of the tone depends upon the duration of time the print remains in the toning bath. The toner is useful in portrait photography where it can be used to diminish the impact of cold black tones. Toning can be stoped any time btween 5 and 20 minutes. Final images are permanent and are formed by a combination of silver sulfide and gold. The toner keeps almost indefinitely ansd its capacity is extended by adding small amounts of gold chloride solution. The toner is relatively inexpensive per print. One liter of solution is used to tone about 300 to 400 8×10 prints (with replenishment), depending upon the tones desired. The satisfing results of this toner has made it a popular toner over the years.

Potassium persulfate is an oxidizer. It can supply oxygen to a combustible material, thus increasing the risk of fire. Clean up any spilled solid oxidizer with lots of water. Never dispose of excess solid oxidizer in a wastepaper basket. Wash it down the drain with lots of water. Silver nitrate is both an oxidizer and a caustic. In addition to being a potential fire hazard, it can cause skin burns. As with any oxidizer, clean up any spilled solid with water. If you wish to dispose of solid silver nitrate, wash it down the drain with water. If solid silver nitrate should come into contact with the skin, a chemical burn may result. Wash the area with cold water followed by soap and water. Treat any wound in the same manner you would treat a heat burn. When spilled on the skin, dilute solutions of silver nitrate will cause the skin to turn brown. The brown color is due to silver metal bound to the protein of the skin and cannot be washed off. While there are chemical methods for removing the brown stains, the best procedure is to just let them wear off. Gold chloride, like silver nitrate, is a caustic and can cause skin burns. In dilute solution, gold chloride will stain the skin purple. The purple stain cannot be chemically removed. The only procedure for removal of the spots is to let them wear off. If you are concerned with finger stains, we strongly urge you to use rubber gloves, such as Playtex gloves, when working with this toner.



To prepare Stock Solution A, two solutions (called Solution 1 and Solution 2) will be prepared first then mixed. You will need two temporary containers. One container should have a capacity of 1 liter and the other temporary container should be able to hold 16 ml. You will also need a storage container.


Chemical Amount Units
Water (125°F/52°C) 750 ml
Sodium Thiosulfate (anhy*) 30 g
Potassium Persulfate 30 g
Cold Water to make 1000 ml

*Sodium thiosulfate, pentahydrate, can be substituted for the anhydrous form. Use 240 g, place the warm water in a temporary mixing container, add the thiosulfate, stir until it dissolves. Add the persulfate and stir vigorously. The solution should turn milky white. If it does not turn milky white, then the water was not warm enough. In such a case, warm the solution until its temperature is greater than 125°F/52°C. Pecipitation of the milky white material is normal.


Chemical Amount Units
Water (68°F/20°C) 16 ml
Silver Nitrate 1.3 g
Sodium Chloride 1.3 g

Solution 2 is mixed in a container that is different from that of Solution 1; the two solutions will be mixed in a subsequent step. Place the water in the container and add the silver nitrate. Stir until all of the solid dissolves. All of the silver nitrate must dissolve before the sodium chloride is added; otherwise, solid silver nitrate will be trapped in the solid that forms. Add the sodium chloride. A white precipitate will form. Stir vigorously.

Combining Solution 1 and 2. Both solutions must be at room temperature (68°F/20°C) before they are combined to make Stock Solution A. Stir Solution 2 vigorously to disperse the solid throughout the solution, then pour all of Solution 2 into Solution 1. Stir the combined solution to ensure thorough mixing. A precipitate may or may not be present in the final solution. Transfer the combined solution along with any precipitate (if present), to the storage container.


Stock Solution B is a gold chloride solution and should be prepared in its storage container.

Chemical Amount Units
Water (68°F/20°C) 52.5 ml
Gold Chloride 0.25 g

Gold chloride is deliquescent and rapidly absorbs atmospheric moisture. The solid may have liquefied by the time you receive it. Since you will be transferring it to a water solution, prior liquefaction is not detrimental. However, when gold chloride liquefies, some of the liquid clings to the cap of its container. Because of the small amount of gold chloride used in this kit, it is imperative that all of the residual gold chloride in the vial be transferred when you prepare Stock Solution B. Measure the correct volume of water needed in a graduated cylinder. Place a plastic funnel on the Solution B container. Using an eye dropper, add some water to the gold chloride vial, then wash the contents of the vial into the container with additional water. Wash both the vial itself, the cap threads on the vial, and finally the cap. When gold chloride is present in the wash water, it will be yellow. When you are convinced that all the gold chloride has been transferred, pour the water remaining in the graduated cylinder into the Solution B container. Cap and shake (or stir) the container to ensure the solution is homogeneous.

Mixing the Working Solution
To prepare the working solution, one-half of Stock Solution B is added to Stock Solution A. The remaining one-half of Stock Solution B is used as a replenisher for the working solution. Add 26 ml of Stock Solution B to 1000 ml to Stock Solution A: Measure the correct volume of Stock Solution B and in a graduated cylinder and poor it into Stock Solution A. Be sure the container of Stock Solution A will hold the combined volumes. Cap and shake (or stir) the resulting mixture to ensure it is homogenous. Set the working solution aside until a precipitate has formed and settled. An overnight standing should be sufficient. Do not use the working solution until the sediment has formed.

Before toning, a wet, freshly-fixed print should be washed a few minutes. Dry prints should be soaked in water. For best results, use two prints; one to be toned and one for comparison. Very carefully decant the working solution into the tray. Do not pour the sediment in the working solution into the toning tray. For proper toning, the working solution must be maintained at a temperature between 100°F/38°C and 110°F/43°C. If you do not have a special warming try, use the two-tray procedure for warming. Place hot water in a large tray and float the toning tray on the hot water. Add additional hot water to the large tray as necessary. Place the print to be toned in the solution and tone to the desired hue. When the desired tone has been reached (5 to 20 minutes), rinse the print in water; fix the print for 5 minutes; and finally wash the print for at least one hour. When the toning session is complete, return the working solution to its storage container.

Exact measurements cannot be given. In general, about 4 ml of Solution B should be added to the working solution after fifty 8×10 prints have been toned. For example, when toning to a warm brown, add 4 ml of gold solution after each fifty 8×10-inch prints or their equivalent have been toned.

Tone in ordinary sepia. Wash well, then immerse the print in any of the gold toners. The resulting color ranges from reddish-brown to bright orange, depending on the depth of the sepia tone and the length of immersion in the gold bath. Prints intended for this treatment should be dark and contrasty. Refixing and re-washing is recommended.

Nelson Gold Print Toner, Kit No. 06-0120, Photographers’ Formulary (800-922-5255).
Photo Lab Index, Section 15, Supplement No. 172, p. 60.
The Darkroom Cookbook, Stephen G. Anchell, p.158.

Polysulfide Paper Toner

Polysulfide Toner is a brown toner similar to Kodak T-8. The toning bath contains potassium polysulfide (liver of sulfur) and sodium carbonate as an alkali. Polysulfide Toner, like Hypo-Alum Sepia Toner, deposits silver sulfide on the image. The difference between the two toners is the depth of the brown color that results. Polysulfide Toner gives a rich, dark-brown tone while tones obtained using the Hypo-Alum Sepia Toner are much lighter. Both toners give permanent images. Polysulfide produces slightly darker sepia tones than the redevelopment-sulfide toner, Sepia Sulfide 221. Toning with Polysulfide Toner takes about 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature. The chemicals in the kit are used to prepare 1 liter of working solution, which has a capacity of about 35 8×10°s. Sodium carbonate can be used to partially rejuvenate the spent solution. The working solution is stable for extended periods of time.

A split tone effect with deep blue shadows and brown highlights may be obtained by first toning in Polysulfide Paper Toner (Kodak T-8), followed by an iron toner such as Blue Toner (GT-14), Iron Blue Toner, Iron Green/Blue Toner, or Ferricyanide-Iron Blue Toner (IT-6).

Unusual effects of mixed tones of blue-black shadows and soft reddish highlights can be produced by using prints which have been partially toned in a sulfide bath without initially bleaching the image. Polysulfide Toner may be used to carry out this type of sulfide toning. The well washed print is then toned in Gold Toner (GAF 231), Gold Toner (Ilford IT-4), or Gold Thiocarbamide Toner (Ilford IT-5) where the sepia tone will change to reddish brown and then to red.

Red tones may be obtained on prints that have been first toned in Polysulfide Paper Toner (Kodak T-8), followed by Gold Toner (Ilford IT-4), where the sepia tone will change to reddish brown and then to red. Prints intended for this treatment should be dark and contrasty. Refixing is recommended.


Potassium Polysulfide is a powerful photographic fogging agent because it releases hydrogen sulfide. It is also considered to be a dangerous chemical unless it is used correctly. Potassium polysulfide should be used with considerable care. Do not allow it or its solutions to come into contact with acid or acid solutions such as a stop bath or a fixer. The polysulfide will react with acid to release hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a foul smelling and poisonous gas. Potassium Polysulfide and its solutions are caustic. Do not allow them to come into contact with the skin because they can cause a chemical burn. If contact should occur, wash the area first with cold water followed by soap and water. Dispose of solid potassium polysulfide or a solution of potassium polysulfide down a drain. First, run cold tap water down the drain for about 5 minutes to make sure no acid remains in the drain trap. Place the solid or pour the liquid into the drain pipe. Finally, run tap water down the drain for at least 10 minutes.

You will need a 1 liter (or larger) mixing bowl and a 1 liter storage container.


Chemical Amount Units
Water (68°F/20°C) 750 ml
Potassium Polysulfide 7.5 g
Sodium Carbonate (mono) 2.5 g
Water to make 1000 ml

Place the water in a mixing bowl and add the potassium polysulfide. Stir the solution to dissolve the solid. Next add the sodium carbonate and again stir the solution to dissolve the solid. Finally add sufficient water to bring the final volume up to 1000 ml. Be sure to stir the solution after adding the water ensure it is homogeneous. Transfer the toning solution to its storage container.

One liter of solution can be used to tone approximately 35 8×10 prints. As the bath approaches depletion it will turn cloudy.

Add 2.5 g of sodium carbonate to a partially spent toning solution and stir to dissolve the solid. The rejuvenated bath will have only about 1/3 to 1/2 the capacity as the fresh bath.

The toner works well on all papers except Kodabromide paper. The print should be well developed, washed and wet. Immerse the print in the toning bath (68°F/20°C) for 15 to 20 minutes. Rock the toning tray during toning to wash the print with fresh solution. The final hue will depend upon the length of time the print is in the bath. The length of toning time can be reduced to about 3 minutes by increasing the temperature of the bath up to 100°F/38°C. Wash the print in running water for about 30 minutes. During washing, wipe off any scum on the with a wet cotton swab.

Photo-Lab-Index, Section 15, Supplement 172, p. 63.
Polysulfide Print Toner, Kit No. 06-0190, Photographers’ Formulary (800-922-5255).
The Darkroom Cookbook, Stephen G. Anchell, p.163.

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