A first experiment with split toning

I'm not sure where I got the idea, but this past year I started rolling around the idea of trying to split tone a carbon print. I'm not eager to print multiple tissue layers like a color carbon separation. Printing separations simply doesn't sound like much fun. If I'm going to go through that effort I might was well go all the way and do color carbon.  What got me excited is that I might get the effect I want with a simple technique.

If I could coat a single piece of tissue twice, each at half of my standard coating height, I could use different pigments for each layer and get different tones for the shadows and the highlights. Since carbon hardens down deeper in the shadows, the base layer could, for example, be a colder darker tone and the second layer a warmer mix using a tint like raw umber. When applied to the final support, in a single transfer print, the flipped carbon layer would place the exposed portion of the darker colder layer on top in the shadows. Conversely, the highlights would print using just the warmer tone layer from the top of the tissue. I suppose a similar technique could be envisioned for double transfer where the layers are reversed in order on the tissue. By extension, one could also imagine coating a tissue more than twice.

 Approximately 6x10 inches on Fabriano Artistico 

Approximately 6x10 inches on Fabriano Artistico 

The first thing I had to determine is if I could successfully coat a piece of tissue twice and produce something I could produce a quality print from.  I wondered, for example, if the first layer would immediately melt into a black gooey mess? Would the two layers sufficiently bond? If I am coating the tissue with a coating rod, would the grooved rod leave streaks in the first layer?

So, how did the experiment go? Well, to my surprise, adding the second coat to the tissue was amazingly simple. I seemed to have more than enough time to get an even coating of gelatin glop and the coating was smooth.   

The tissue printed normally and my first print, the one in this post, was a reasonable success. The effect of the different pigments was not as pronounced as I had expected. However, my next step will be creating a tissue with a denser base layer, e.g., more black pigment, and tweaking the top highlight layer.

I still have some work to do to determine if multiple coats are worth my while. However, apart from all the technical details, I like the first print and it is enough for me to carry on with the experiment.