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Toning (virage, virage) describes a technique of coloring photos (or film material). The result is her through the black and white photograph in which the black appearing silver in chemical was transferred paths in colored compounds. The current use of the term refers to the general coloring of photos - in most cases digitally.

Black and white photography
Sepia toning by EBV

Toning types

Apart from toning a photo digitally, there are basically two options for chemical toning:

Direct toning

The toning is applied to the fixed and watered image.

Indirect toning

Toning is preceded by a bleaching process. Typical bleach baths consist of red blood liquor salt ( potassium hexacyanoferrate (III) ), sometimes with the addition of potassium bromide .

Types of toner (chemical)

The most popular form of toning is sepia toning , known from many old black-and-white photos that, strictly speaking, are not black and white, but brown and white. With sepia toning , the silver in the photo paper is converted into silver sulfide with sodium sulfide . These sulfur toners are also known under the generic term (poly) sulfide toners. Toning takes place in two stages. First, with a solution of potassium hexacyanidoferrate (III) (red blood liquor salt) and potassium bromide, the image silver is converted into silver bromide , which then reacts with the sulfide to form silver sulfide. Since these polysulphide toners are very poisonous and dangerous for the environment, but also have a very strong odor (rotten eggs), they are increasingly being displaced by the odorless thiourea toner (urea, in which the oxygen atom has been replaced by a sulfur atom). Originally, the reason for sulfur toning was less an aesthetic than a practical one. The silver sulfide formed during sulfur toning is much more stable than the finely divided silver and the images toned in this way are absolutely archival-proof and very durable

In addition to sulfur toning, there are a number of other colors for which there are ready-made preparations that you can also make yourself

  • Blue and green toners
  • Brown and red toners
  • Gold and platinum tinting is usually used ready-made

Blue and green tones are tinted using iron salts, red tinting with copper salts and selenium tinting with selenium. The color shift that occurs during selenium toning, depending on the type of photo paper, is of subordinate importance - primarily the ability of the selenium toner to significantly increase the blackness density in the shadow areas of the positive and thus to further increase the brilliance of the photographic print is desired.

More expensive, and therefore rarer, variants are gold and platinum tinting. Carbon, cobalt and copper toners offer further options.

Toners can produce very interesting color effects through multiple toning with different toners and optional intermediate bleaching or reverse development (ie again in developer).

The toners can be prepared yourself, ready-made toner chemistry is offered by manufacturers such as Tetenal, Kodak and Moersch Photochemie.

Toning in movies and as a dramaturgy

In the black and white film era, toning (or viragging) was initially a cheaper and faster alternative to time-consuming post- coloring, but also allowed a dramatic language of colors that differed depending on which monochrome color was used in a scene. The toning could change between several colors. In this sense, the black and white image known today was rather the exception for a long time. The negative strip loses its toning due to frequent playback, so that only the colorless material remains.

In general, the following color language had developed in the context of the film strip coloring:

  • Blue - outside, at night
  • Sepia - inside, at night
  • Orange - scenes by lamps or candlelight
  • Pink - peace, balance, joy, inner state of mind
  • Violet - special color of the night (more dramatic)
  • Red - love, wickedness and violence

Printing technology

Scumming in the printing process describes the phenomenon that the actually non-printing areas of a printing plate transfer color and a color tone is created in normally unprinted areas of the paper. In offset printing, this error occurs due to oxidation of the aluminum printing plate after long machine downtimes or insufficient preservation by gum arabic from archived printing plates.


  • Werner Kamp, Manfred Rüsel: From dealing with film. 1st edition. Cornelsen, ISBN 3-06-102824-2 .

Web links

See also

Individual evidence

  1. a b c A question of good tone or: Archival Tonungen Thomas Wollstein March 2001 accessed on August 17, 2020
  2. Blue and green toners Karl Neumeier accessed on August 17, 2020
  3. [1] Karl Neumeier accessed on August 17, 2020