It probably looks like I have an obsession with toning – I don’t. Not really. Among all the reasons that I love working with cyanotype, the bright blue color isn’t one of them. So, I have to tone my images. Though I like the shades of black/brown/purple that I get from toning, I’m always looking for a toner that won’t stain the paper and ruin my highlights.
So far, I’ve been pleased with basic toners like green tea, coffee, and black tea. Tannic acid works well – when I can get it to work. It’s also expensive. I don’t use tannic acid much these days. The biggest problem with all of these toners is they all stain the paper really badly, tannic acid a little less.
I’m happy to say that my recent test of Wine Tannin looks good. I won’t say it’s the holy grail of cyanotype toning, but it barely stained the paper. The dark shadows still have a hint of purple like the tannic acid, but the results seem to be more reliable and easy to replicate. Unlike tannic acid, it dissolves quite easily into a water solution. No clumpy blots and endless mixing.
That’s probably because of where I bought it. Wine tannin is, like the name implies, designed for micro brewing. As I understand it, it’s produced from wine skins. Added to a home-brewed wine, it adds a dryness and tang that I would assume is naturally found in a traditional crushed grape wine procedure. Not that I’m any expert on wine brewing! But, it is intended to be mixed into a wine/juice solution, so it stirs in easily.
Tannic acid, on the other hand, is produced from wood chips. I would assume from woods rich in tannin like oak – as I understand it, you can tan hide in an oak stump filled with water. It’s sold at Photographer’s Formulary, where I get my cyanotype supplies, and it’s in a chemical form that doesn’t mix well with liquids. It’s also pretty strong compared to wine tannin.
Wine tannin comes in both liquid and powder form – I was only able to find a local source for the powder form.
- 1/2 oz. powered wine tannin
- 1 Liter of filtered water
- About 1 Tbsp washing soda (sodium carbonate – not sodium bicarbonate, that’s baking soda)
- 1.5 Liter water
Several different toning methods work well with the wine tannin, but I had the most luck with a variation of Christopher James’ #3 black toner because of my double emulsion coat.
- Pre-wet the image
- Dunk the image into the toner solution until the highlights go tan – about 5-10 minutes.
- rinse for 5 minutes
- Bleach the solution until the shadows go purple – not too long, about 30-60 seconds
- rinse for 5 minutes
- Dunk the print in a weak hydrogen peroxide solution for about 30 seconds
- return the print to the toner until the shadows go black, about 15 minutes
- final rinse for 10 minutes
Bleaching a print seems to be required with this toner – always a delicate operation because you run the risk of losing highlights and shadow density if you go too far. I theorize that because you tone the highlights first, the tannin binds to the iron and resists bleaching while the shadows are broken down enough to take the toner.
Just came across this post. Thanks for the info. I just got a little jar of wine tannin and now I know what to do with it!! 🙂
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I like the the colour that your wine tannin gives. I did some a while back using tannin with ammonia but also used tea, coffee and my old favorite red onion skins! http://julietevansphotography.com/gallery/cyanotypes/