From platinum to silver gelation, cyanotype to gum bichromate; from making photographic prints with leaves or with oil paints; this is our series to introduce you to a wide range of photographs made by hand.

The Bromoil Print

A Bromoil print is made by first creating a silver gelatin (darkroom) print, then bleaching away all of the pigment leaving a pattern of gelatin on the paper. This gelatin slowly collects lithographic ink that is carefully applied to the paper with a stippling brush action over a course of numerous layers. The ink sticks to the gelatin, but is brushed or washed away from the paper, resulting in the final unique image.

Bromoil is perhaps a dying art. It is a tricky process, and papers suitable for bromoil are increasingly hard to find, and the only other option is to hand coat one’s own silver gelatin paper.

Bleaching the Silver Gelatin Print for Bromoil

After the silver gelatin darkroom print is made (which is an entire separate process which we’ll visit another time), the print is re-soaked in water before putting through a bleaching solution containing the following:

  • Copper Sulfate
  • Potassium Bromide
  • Potassium Dichromate

Bleaching takes about one minute, then the print is thoroughly washed in water for a short time, then put in fixer for an appropriate amount of time, and then washed again for about 30 -40 minutes to remove and bleach and then allowed to dry and harden.

Inking the Bromoil Print

Once the bleached prints are thoroughly dried, they are soaked again in tepid to luke warm temperature to allow the gelatin left on the paper to swell.  But the print surface must be bone-dry or the ink will be repelled by the water.

When the paper has been properly prepared, lithographic ink is applied with brushes in a stippling kind of motion, or with a roller.  A combination can be used to both apply ink and clear the highlights.  The ink sticks more to where the gelatin is thicker, as determined by the original silver gelatin print.  The video below shows one approach to this process, but there are many.

Bromoil is a time consuming and somewhat elusive process.  Very few people have mastered this process, and techniques and materials to do it are becoming increasingly scarce.  There are few, if any, photographic papers still in production that are ideal for this process.  Truly a unique and different approach to photographic prints.

Bromoil Tools
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