An Alternative Mix Between Photography and Printmaking
You don’t necessarily need a darkroom or professional equipment to make your own photo prints – salt printing is a relatively easy but nevertheless spectacular technique to produce your own images. The best thing is that you can make them with the power of the Sun! This is as organic as it gets. Dundee is supposed to be the sunniest of Scotland - get the most of the Spring sunshine, and make your own prints by following the method below.
What you will need:
- Salt - Silver nitrate - distilled water - paper (optionally sun print paper, but it actually does work on regular paper as well) - light source (like the Sun or light table) - fixative - brushes - interesting objects or paper cuts you’d like to print - gloves - plastic tray
Preparing the Mixture:
You will need two solutions. First, you mix 2.0 gm Sodium Chloride (table salt with Distilled Water) to make 100.0 ml. After that, mix 12.0 gm Silver Nitrate with Distilled Water to make 100.0 ml of solution. (Dark glass works better for the silver nitrate solution because it is more sensitive to light)
The Method - Step by Step:
After you have prepared the solutions, first you need to find a dark room (with relatively less source of light) where you should prepare a string to hang your paper to dry. Next, you take however many pieces of paper you want to print and gently cover them with the salty water. You want to cover them evenly, but you shouldn’t soak them! Leave time for them to dry. (At this point, it’s a good idea to mark the back of the paper, so you don't forget which side you’re wanting to work with) The next step is to stroke the dry paper with the silver nitrate solution. Since this mixture makes it possible for the patterns to appear on the paper after exposure, you want to work in an environment that's as dark as possible. Again, apply the mixture evenly on the paper, but you won’t need too much. Also, one thing to keep in mind is that silver nitrate can stain your skin; therefore you might want to wear gloves for this part. Once again, you must to hang the paper up until they are completely dry. In order to get clearer results, you should use the paper as soon as possible after drying. While the paper is drying you can gather the objects you wish to use – the best results come from using flat things such as feathers, pressed flowers, leaves, different fabrics or paper cuts. Be careful to keep your paper in the dark until you are ready to expose them to the light – keep them in a folder or cover them with some fabric. If you are using the Sun, try to keep the paper away from direct sunlight while you place your objects onto the paper – after you’re done, leave the rays and chemicals to do their job! Using the Sun, of course, can be tricky. You may have to experiment with the exposure time, not to mention unwanted clouds and other natural occurrences – but this is part of the fun: you can never know how your print will turn out, thus you will probably get unique prints each and every time.
After the exposure is finished, you need to rinse the paper – you can do this simply by placing it under running tap water. The next step is to fix the prints – for that, you will need to freshly prepare the fixer (10% solution of sodium thiosulfate (hypo) with 2 grams of sodium bicarbonate to each litre. You should leave the prints in the fixing solution for around 3-6 minutes. Optionally, after that you can also put the prints into a clearing agent for another 3 minutes . When it’s done, rinse in water, and hang it up to dry.