Gum Bichromate Process

Of the several different process that I learned throughout the semester, I would have to say gum printing was my favorite. There is something to be said about spending hours and hours on one single print. Watching your hard work come to fruition after so long a time is gratifying. Successful prints become precious. Even the not so successful prints are ones I will hold on to. I greatly enjoyed the manipulations that can be made by using a brush throughout the process.

Gum Bichromate Printing is a manual technique of photography invented in the 1850s that uses watercolors and a contact printing frame or vacuum exposure frame is used with an ultraviolet light source such as a mercury vapor lamp, a common fluorescent black light, or the sun to render an image. The gum printing process helped artists establish photography as an accepted medium of creative expression over 100 years ago. Gum bichromate is a 19th-century photographic printing process based on the light sensitivity of dichromates. It is capable of rendering painterly images. Gum printing is traditionally a multi-layered printing process. Though successful prints can come from a single layer. Any color can be used for gum printing, so natural-color photographs are also possible by using this technique in layers.

Sizing paper is necessary if you are printing more than one color or multiple times with the same color to build up density. If your paper is not sized it’s also advisable to size the paper to help minimize staining. A gelatin size coating prevents the unhardened dichromate from permeating the paper fibers. Without sizing, the paper will change shape between layer printings.

Some historical artists who used gum bichromate printing.

Robert Demachy, Une Balleteuse, 1900




Hugo Henneberg, Motiv aux Pommern, 1902




Hans Watzek, Sheep, 1901






Contemporary artists still use gum printing such as Bill Mabrey.


Beach Birds, 2006.


One Way on Jackson Street, 2008.

One Way On Jackson Street


Lindsey and Maisy, 2006

Lindsayand Maisy




Another current artist is Robert Wulfert.


3D Tractor



3D Out Front Door





Jim Larimer

Hill Top, 2007



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