Pradip Malde with Mike Ware, Routledge/Focal Press, 2021 – order the book
This section of the site serves as a resource and supplement to the book. Platinotype: Making Photographs in Platinum and Palladium with the Contemporary Printing-out Process is a detailed reference and studio manual, carefully designed to be accessible to both novices and experts. 418 pages are extensively illustrated with instructions as well as reproductions of some of the finest examples of traditional “development” and contemporary printing-out platinum-palladium prints.
Three Sycamore Samaras (Acer Pseudoplatanus)
Quarry Garth, Troutbeck Bridge, Lake District, England, October 21, 1988.
Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Fabriano 5) from original 8×10 inch negative.
Platinum/palladium prints are renowned for their persistent shadows and nuanced highlight values, for having a distinctive appearance, and perhaps most famously, for being the most permanent of photographic printing methods. The process was invented in 1873 by William Willis in Kent, England. It soon became a very popular printing method and was widely used up until the late 1930s, and along the way was profoundly influential in shaping the aesthetics of photography. Having almost gone defunct by 1937, it regained popularity as an ‘alternative’ process in the 1970s, and interest in platinum/palladium prints and printing has steadily grown since then. It is considered to be the premier process for photographic printers, sought after by collectors, and has been reputed to make connoisseurs sit down in a faint from visual bliss.
All of this is fine, and I certainly strive for these qualities and properties in my prints. But amidst the awe and respect, the history and hype, the chemical magic, and endless alternative-process tinkering are this one, simple, but hard-to-articulate fact: the platinum/palladium process has a particular and peculiar language of tones, surfaces, and structural depth. It is this language that captivated me on my first look at Frederick H Evans’ gorgeous prints and has shaped my work from that point on.
Evans only made platinum prints. Most contemporary prints contain a mixture of platinum and palladium, or just palladium. See the following paragraph about describing the process. Unless otherwise stated, all my platinum-palladium prints are made from a 1:1 mix of platinum:palladium. More specifically, the prints are made from a mix containing equal numbers of molecules of each of the two metals (an equimolar mix of the two salts, ammonium tetrachloroplatinate and ammonium tetrachloropalladate). The resulting prints are as close to being platinum-palladium prints in equal amounts as possible.
I make prints on 100% cellulose (often also described as ‘rag’, but the terms are not synonymous) papers using printing-out* version of the process, where ammonium salts of platinum and palladium are combined with ammonium iron oxalate. After exposure to Ultraviolet, the prints are processed in a series of clean-working and environmentally safe solutions of clearing agents (EDTA disodium salt, sodium metabisulfite and EDTA tetrasodium salt respectively) and finally washed in water and air dried.
The Name: Prints from the two precious metals may be made with platinum, palladium or a mixture of both. I prefer to use the term ‘platinum/palladium’ as a general way of denoting all recipes using either one or both of these metals.
The hyphenated form, ‘platinum-palladium’ is used by me to describe a print made from a combined recipe of platinum and palladium salts, where the greater portion of metal in the finished print is platinum, or platinum and palladium are present in almost equal amounts. By this logic, prints, where palladium is the predominant ingredient, should be called palladium-platinum. Most contemporary prints made with a combined recipe are rendered from a predominance of palladium and should, strictly speaking, be described as suggested here. Many people also refer to prints made with platinum or palladium as ‘Platinotype’ and ‘Palladiotype’ or when combined, as platino-palladiotypes. etc. Finally, the chemical symbols for platinum and palladium are Pt and Pd respectively, and I occasionally use these as a shorthand for the full names.
Summarized, complete set of instructions on how to make printing-out platinum/palladium prints
Equipment, Materials, and References for Platinotype
A list of sources for equipment, materials, and further references. This is a Google Sheets document that may be sorted by column headings and searched for any text. Suggestions for updates may also be submitted via the Comments tool.
Complete Platinotype kits of sensitizer, processing chemicals, and paper are internationally distributed by Cone/Inkjet Mall
Customized one-person workshops are offered, in person or remotely. Please contact Pradip Malde for more information.
The next group workshop will be offered at Cone Studios, Vermont, in August 2023.
What people are saying about Platinotype: Making Photographs in Platinum and Palladium with the Contemporary Printing-out Process:
“…a truly indispensable book for anyone looking to dive into the storied waters of platinum/palladium print-making in 2021… also, it’s a lovely read.” Ben G. Amazon review
“It is thorough and exhaustive, with very few possible questions remaining. On my first attempt to print, I coated two sheets of paper. Both were successful, though the second one had a better exposure – and that was it. The tiniest bit of wiggle room for error and individual conditions was all that was left. I was on my way. Pretty remarkable, really.” Firelight, Amazon review
“This book provides the most authoritative resource on how to make Platinum Palladium prints, to the highest standard. The printout method is regarded as the ultimate and most archival of the platinum printing methods, and the author (along with Mike Ware) is the lead authority on this printing method in the world. The book offers clear and full instructions on how to make these magnificent prints, as well as giving deep insight into the materials and processes involved. This book is the definitive resource. You simply won’t need any other resource.” David Slijper, Amazon review
*The version is also referred to as the “Malde-Ware” process. This sounds like shameless self-promotion, but that is not the intention. The name has been arrived at from the work of a remarkable team of experts working with the American Institute of Conservators in 2014. It goes against my and my longtime collaborator/guide and friend Mike Ware’s sensibilities, but they had to find a name that clearly identifies this variant from other recipes. We spent over a decade, starting in 1981, researching and reformulating the recipe, which we called the ‘Ammonium System’. This ‘ammonium’ process is a modernized, printing-out version of the traditional recipes that does not require a developer, and has some advantages over the more widely used ‘potassium’ process. We do not claim to have invented a new process, but rather to have reformulated and updated some aspects of older processes, to have clearly identified most if not all the parameters that affect the process, and to introduce more efficient and safer working methods than those employed in traditional approaches (i.e. EDTA clearing baths, sodium metabisulfite, glass coating rods and hydration controls). I still prefer calling this variant ‘the Ammonium System’ – it seems to roll off the tongue more easily.