Mordant toning / dye toning


Mordant toning or dye toning is a special case of toning whereby the silver image is replaced by colored compounds. Soluble dyes attach to a colorless (silver ferrocyanide) or nearly colorless (silver iodide) silver salt obtained by bleaching. Dye tones on colored ferrocyanides as described above are also reported in the historical literature.

Dye toning was introduced to broaden the range of toning colors. Judging from the surviving examples, it seems that dye toning is less stable than metal toning. It is also more prone to leaking, the diffusion of the colors into the untoned, brighter areas.

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Original Technical Papers and Primary Sources

(1925*): Agfa Kine-Handbuch. Berlin: Actien-Gesellschaft für Anilin-Fabrikation, Teil I pp. 79–81; Teil III pp. 7–15. (in German) [* year estimated] View Quote

Bennett, Colin N. (1926): Film Toning by Mordant Brightness of Colour and Permanence of Tones. In: The Bioscope, 1053,LXIX, Dec., p. vi. View Quote

Clark, Arthur B. (1917): The Mordanting Action of Metallic Ferro- and Ferri-Cyanides. In: The Journal of Physical Chemistry, 21, pp. 776–784.

Didiée, L. (1926): Le Film vierge Pathé. Manuel de développement et de tirage. Paris: Pathé, pp. 135–138. (in French) View Quote

Eastman Kodak Company (1918): Tinting and Toning of Eastman Positive Motion Picture Film. Rochester NY, pp. 16–17, 26–28. View Quote

Eastman Kodak Company (1927): Tinting and Toning of Eastman Positive Motion Picture Film. Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak, on p. 25 View Quote, on pp. 32–34 View Quote, p. 35 View Quote, pp. 35–36 View Quote and on p. 36. View Quote

Fischer, Rudolf (1913): Toning Bromide Prints. In: The British Journal of Photography, 60, p. 712. View Quote

Namias, Rodolfo (1909): The Conversion of Silver Images into Those of Lead and Other Metals and the Use of the Compounds as Mordants for Obtaining Prints in Different Colours. In: The British Journal of Photography, Colour Supplement, 3, pp. 68–69.

Ives, F. E. (1923): Color Toning of Cinema Films. In: American Cinematographer, 3.11, February 1923, p. 13 and p. 22. View Quote

Secondary Sources

Eggert, John; Heymer, Gerd (1937): Der Stand der Farbenphotographie. In: Veröffentlichungen des wissenschaftlichen Zentral-Laboratoriums der photographischen Abteilung Agfa, pp. 7–28, on p. 21. (in German) View Quote

Famulener, K. (1939): Some Studies on the Use of Color Coupling Developers for Toning Processes. In: Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, 4, pp. 412–418, on pp. 412–414 and on p. 417. View Quote

Genaitay, Sonia; Dixon, Bryony (2010): Early Colour Film Restoration at the BFI National Archive. In: Journal of British Cinema and Television, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 131–146.

Ledig, Elfriede / Ullmann, Gerhard (1988): Rot wie Feuer, Leidenschaft, Genie, Wahnsinn. Zu einigen Aspekten der Farbe im Stummfilm. In: Elfriede Ledig (ed.): Der Stummfilm. Konstruktion und Rekonstruktion. München: Schaudig, Bauer, Ledig, pp. 89–116 (= Diskurs Film. 2.).

Lehmann, Erich (1923): Zur Anfärbung kupfergetonter Silberbilder mit organischen Farbstoffen. In: Die Kinotechnik, 21/22,5, 1923, pp. 489–491. (in German)

Oliveira, João S. de (2002): Black-and-White in Colour. In Roger Smither (ed.): This Film is Dangerous. A Celebration of Nitrate Film. Brussels: FIAF, pp. 117–122, on pp. 119–120. View Quote

Read, Paul (1998): Tinting and Toning Techniques and their Adaption for the Restoration of Archive Film. In: Luciano Berriatúa et al. (eds.): Tutti i colori del mondo. Il colore nei mass media tra 1900 e 1930. = All the colours of the world. Reggio Emilia: Diabasis, pp. 157–167, on p. 159 View Quote

Read, Paul (2009): ‘Unnatural Colours’. An introduction to colouring techniques in silent era movies. In: Film History, 21.1., pp. 9–46, on p. 15 View Quote, see list of mordant and combined tones on pp. 39–45. View Quote

Ryan, Roderick T. (1977): A History of Motion Picture Color Technology. London: Focal Press, pp. 21–22. View Quote


Read, Paul; Meyer, Mark-Paul (2000): Mordant Dye Toning. In: Paul Read and Mark-Paul Meyer: Restoration of Motion Picture Film, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, pp. 188–191. View Quote

Contemporary Reception

Bolbert, H. (1921): Due nuovi processi di viraggio. In: La Rivista Cinematografica, II,1, 10 gennaio 1921, p. 58 published in Grifo, Marco (2006): Dal film colorato al cinema a colori. In: Michele Canosa, Giulia Carluccio and Federica Villa (eds.): Cinema muto italiano. Tecnica e tecnologia. Volume primo. Roma: Carocci, pp. 196–197. (in Italian) View Quote