Van Dyke Brownprints

Materials and Equipment
Simple Step-by-Step Instructions
Detailed Instructions:
Stock solutions
Special Effects
Van Dyke brownprint

on orangey paper (~20k jpeg)
photograph © wendy mukluk
Van Dyke brownprint

(24k jpeg)
photograph © wendy mukluk
Van Dyke brownprint

on gray paper (~20k jpeg)
photograph © wendy mukluk
Van Dyke brownprint

(~30k jpeg)
photograph © wendy mukluk


back to top of page

Materials and Equipment needed

back to top of page

Simple Step-by-Step Instructions


Mix one part silver nitrate solution with two parts ferric ammonium citrate and tartaric acid solution.


Coat and dry paper in subdued light.


Expose approx. 15 minutes in bright sun; approx. 100 units with arc light or platemaker; or leave sitting out most of the day in room lights or outside on a cloudy day. Times are approximate; make test prints first.


After exposing, develop in running water a few minutes until water runs clear instead of milky, and the image is visible.


Fix with agitation for about 5 minutes. Save fix -- it can be reused a few times.


Wash in running water for about 20 minutes.


Dry flat or hang up.


Clean up: Rinse out cups, brushes, spoons, trays, etc. Wipe up spills. (otherwise things will have permanent brown stains)

back to top of page

Detailed Instructions

Stock solutions:

Mix 4 stock solutions:

  1. Solution A -
    ferric ammonium citrate 9 grams (or 0.3 oz)
    water 33 ml (or about 1 fl oz)
  2. Solution B -
    tartaric acid 1.5 grams (or about 0.05 oz)
    water 33 ml (or about 1 fl oz)
  3. Solution C -
    silver nitrate 3.8 grams (or about 0.13 oz)
    water 33 ml (or about 1 fl oz)

  4. Fixer -
    sodium thiosulfate 50 grams (or 1.76 oz)
    water 1 liter (or about 1 qt +1 oz)

    Fixer -
    sodium thiosulfate anhydrous 32 grams (or 1.12 oz)
    water 1 liter (or ~ 1 qt +1 oz)

Tap water may be used, but use distilled water for best results.

Combine Solutions A and B, the ferric ammonium citrate and tartaric acid. This will keep for months.
Keep Solution C separate until use.

* Label all containers clearly.*


When ready to print, combine two parts of the A+B soultion with one part C. Mix only what will be used that day. About 20 ml or 1/2 oz of sensitizer solution makes five to ten 8"x10" prints, depending on coating technique, type of paper, atmospheric humidity.

In subdued light (darkroom, indoors with lights off, shades closed, away from direct sunlight), pour or drop solution onto paper with eyedropper or plastic spoon and spread evenly with brush. A wide foam brush works well. One coat is all that is necessary. Two coats may result in dull, silvery or chalky images, which may or may not be desirable.

Let coated paper dry in subdued light. Paper may be stored in total darkness up to a few days, although for best results, use it the same day. A fan or blow dryer may be used to speed up drying.
back to top of page


Place negative on dry coated paper, tape edges to hold negative in place if necessary (especially in multiple exposures), cover with glass or put into a print frame, and expose to light. The negative can be face up or down, just however you want it. A print frame keeps the negative evenly in contact with the paper during exposure. Hinged wood and glass print frames are available commercially, and are convenient to use. A simple "print frame" can be made by placing your paper and negative on a board or flat folded cloth in the sunlight and covering it with a piece of glass or plexiglas. Commercial platemakers and blueprint machines have rollers or vacuum systems that keep the negative evenly in contact with the paper.

Sunlight, ultraviolet lamp, arc light, commercial platemaker, sunlamp or other ultraviolet light sources may be used.

Exposure varies depending on lighting, negatives, coating techniques and other factors. Try 10 minutes in bright sun or 75 units in violet arc light to start. The print will turn yellowish brown or brown when exposed. Shorter exposures result in orangey-brown final prints; longer exposures result in dark brown prints. Any of these may give the final results you might want, so experiment and make test prints to find the correct exposure.
back to top of page


Immerse exposed print in water (tray with agitation or running water) for about 5 minutes, or until image has finished coming up and water running over print is clear, not milky or yellowish. Image will turn reddish brown or darker brown in water. Handle prints carefully while wet; the brown image can be partially rubbed off.

Fix in fixer with agitation for about 5 minutes. Image will turn darker, colder brown. If the image fades, the fixer is too strong, or the print has been left in the fixer too long. Remove print and wash; and either dilute fixer before immersing next print, or don't leave subsequent prints in the fix as long. The fixer can be reused several times. One way to test ithe fix is with a scrap of unprocessed film. Time how long it takes for the film to clear in the fixer. If it clears in a minute or two, the fixer is still good, but if the film just languishes without changing opacity, throw the fixer out.

Wash in running water for 20 min to 1 hour.

Hang or lay flat to dry.
back to top of page


Another recipe:

Solution A -
ferric ammonium citrate 6 grams (or 0.2 oz)
water 33 ml (or about 1 fl oz)
Solution B -
tartaric acid 1 gram (or 0.03 oz)
water 33 ml (or about 1 fl oz)
Solution C -
silver nitrate 2.5 grams (or 0.09 oz)
water 33 ml (or about 1 fl oz)

Fixer -
sodium thiosulfate 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp (or 24 grams)
water 1 quart (or about 950 ml)

Mix and store and use as above.
back to top of page

Small amount:

ferric ammonium citrate 1.8 grams (or ~1/2 tsp)
tartaric acid 0.3 gram (or ~1/8 tsp)
silver nitrate 0.76 (or ~1/8 tsp)
water 20 ml (or about 2/3 fl oz)

back to top of page


Use any paper that can stand soaking, such as many watercolor, etching, and charcoal papers, commercial offset cover stock, or heavier sketchbook pages.
If unsure, test a small paper sample by soaking it in water at least an hour, or overnight, then pick it up and turn it over several times. If it tears easily or falls apart, it is unsuitable.
Colored papers may bleed or fade.

If the paper is very absorbent or unsized, size the paper first:
Mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch or arrowroot with a small amount of cold water to evenly wet it, then add 1 cup boiling water. Brush evenly on paper. Let dry.
Spray starch may also be used to size paper.
Many commercial papers do not need sizing.
If unsure, make a small test print. If sensitizer immediately soaks into the paper or if the image is very faint or looks like it sank under the surface of the paper, sizing is needed.
Put sensitizer on same side of paper as sizing.

back to top of page


Continuous tone or line negatives and positives may be made in a copy camera or by projecting small negatives or slides in an enlarger onto sheet film on the easel. Any graphic arts film, line film or copy film may be used, such as Rapid Access, Kodalith, LPD4, QPD4, Kodak EL. See the high contrast film page for more details. These may be obtained from a lithographic supply company.
Process film according to manufacturer's instructions, OR for continuous tones on high contrast film, use a diluted paper developer such as Dektol (1:1 or even more diluted, such as 1:4 or 1:10), or use halftone screens when making the copy negatives.
When making large negatives in an enlarger, it may be necessary to project onto a wall or floor, and to make an easel. Use a big piece of cardboard with the film size drawn on it, and some masking tape to hold film if necessary.
Ortho films require a red safelight. Red cellophane may be used over a yellow darkroom safelight.

back to top of page

Other methods for making negatives:

back to top of page

Special effects:

back to top of page

For more information:

L. P. Clerc, Photography Theory and Practice,
Pitman Publishing Co., NY, 1954 (a technical book)

Links to Alt Photo sites and supplies on Oatmeal Box Camera main page.

back to top of page

return to oatmeal box cameras & alternative photography page
back to [PICTURE-centipede] the Wendy Mukluk home page
last update 8-4-03