High level Instructions for Making a Tintype.

Posted by Brian Cuyler on Jun 28th 2019

High level instructions for making a tintype.  I recommend supplementing this with a workshop and or YouTube. 

1.Pour a puddle of collodion onto the plate the covers about 1/3 of the area of the plate. Flow the collodion from corner to corner to cover the whole plate with collodion.

2.Drain the excess collodion off of the last corner into a catch bottle. Rock the plate side to side to eliminate crep lines in the collodion.

3.Allow the collodion to set. You can check a corner with your finger or look for an “alligator” pattern to form on the surface of the collodion. The time varies with temperature and humidity. It can be as fast as 10 seconds, or longer than 40 seconds.

4.In the darkroom - Insert the plate into the silver bath in one continuous motion to avoid getting hesitation lines on the plate. Leave in the silver bath for about 3 min. Some agitation every minute will help uniformity.

5.Remove plate from Silver bath. Wipe the back of the plate and blot the edges. Allow the excess silver to drain off of the plate. Place the plate into the plate holder.

6.Expose the plate. The open time varies by temperature and humidity, but you will have several minutes minimum before the plate begins to dry out.

7.In the darkroom – remove the plate from the plate holder. Over a tray pour developer over the plate in a uniform motion to cover it quickly and uniformly. Try to use enough developer to cover the plate, but not so much that most of it falls off the edge of the plate. Keep the plate level with the developer on the plate.

8.Watch as the image develops When you start to see detail in the shadows rinse the plate with water using a uniform flow. Keep rinsing until the surface of the plate is water break free (the water no longer beads up in the surface).

9.Place the plate into the fixer and watch the image develop. Leave it in the fix until the heavy edges clear. Keep it in the fix at least 3 min.

10.Rinse for at least 10 minutes. Running water or successive trays will work.

11.Air dry or force dry. A toaster oven at 200 degrees F will dry plates quickly.

12.Apply the varnish to the plate in the same technique as the collodion. After draining the excess, quickly blot the edges and heat the plate to set the varnish. Try not to let the varnish start to dry before heating. This can result in an uneven finish and gloss level. A toaster oven at 200 degrees F works well as a heat source. It is much safer than an open flame.


a. The collodion may get thick over time. You can add a 190 proof alcohol and ether at a ratio to 1:1 to thin.

b.Dilute the UVP developer 1-part Dev to 1 to 2 parts water. Shoot for development times of about 15 seconds.

c.Sun your silver bath and filter the black precipitate that form. Frequency depends on use.

d.Filter anything that develops solids in the solution.