Albumen is the clear 'white' of hen's eggs, and is used to hold the light sensitive salts used to make a print on the top of the paper surface. They can be regarded as a development of the Salted paper print, and there is some overlap between the two processes.
- Was the dominant printing process from early 1850s to around 1890
- Prints were produced from same-size negative by contact printing
- They require a long-scale negative (typically a density range of 2.0-2.5)
- Albumen prints usually have a gloss or high gloss surface
- They usually show some faded areas and yellowing of highlights
- The prints always, or almost always, have some fine crazing ('craquelure') on surface
- They are usually on very thin paper (and often show creasing)
- Prints are usually brown, brown-black or purple-black, not neutral or cold black.
- Prints may be mounted or unmounted.
Albumen prints - Current use
Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in albumen printing, although only on a relatively small scale.
As well as modern images, albumen printers also make new prints from old negatives. The long scale of most nineteenth century negatives means that they do not print well on conventional modern printing papers, and may also make them difficult to scan.
However a gelatine printing out paper has been produced by Kentmere in recent years which enables older long-scale negatives to be printed more easily than by using albumen paper.