What Is Palladium Printing?

Palladium and platinum printing (platinotype process) was the dominant printing method from the 1890s to the 1930s. Both metals are considered “noble” metals because they resist oxidation and are very stable, making them the  most archival prints possible. Initially platinum was used in the process, but it became very expensive in the early 1900s. During World War I, Great Britain declared it a strategic metal and its use in photography was forbidden! The palladiotype process, using palladium instead of platinum, was introduced in 1916. Palladium prints have a longer tonal range, a warmer tone, and deeper blacks than platinum. The process requires contact printing a negative the size of the final image under ultraviolet light. A wide variety of papers can be used.

To create the palladium print, I make a 16 x 20 negative transparency from either a scanned 8 x 10 negative or a digital capture. I then coat translucent vellum paper by brushing on the palladium solution. After exposing the paper and transparency to ultraviolet light, I develop the paper in warm (100 degrees) potassium oxalate. The combination of heated development of the palladium coating on translucent vellum produces a brownish image that resembles parchment—an allusion to the passage of time. The hard paper surface yields exquisite detail and an etching-like effect, thus partially denying the image's origin as a photograph and emphasizing my interpretative rather than documentary intent.