Saturday 1 June 2019

Cyanotype: Sun Printing Tutorial

We've had some lovely sunny days here recently (it doesn't always rain in Manchester!) so I took the chance to make some cyanotypes... 
I did a short cyanotype course a couple of years ago but this was my first attempt at home.

Cyanotype is a type of photographic process that uses special chemicals that react with sunlight. It's also known as blueprint because of the beautiful deep blue colours it produces. It's a very old technique, invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842. 

If you'd like to try cyanotypes you'll need:

Cyanotype chemicals (Ammonium Ferric Citrate and Potassium Ferricyanide)
Gloves (it's important to wear them when using the chemicals)
Brush (for coating your papers)
A reasonably good weather forecast!
The chemicals can be bought online: I bought them in 2 separate bottles which you mix together yourself. The mixing is easy to do (equal amounts of each), and means you can make just the amount of solution you need and save the rest for another day!

The first step is to coat the papers you're using with the cyanotype solution (remember to wear your gloves). This is best done in a fairly dark room, because as soon as it's exposed to sunlight the paper will start to develop. 

Quick tip: Bear in mind that the paper you use needs to be rinsed under a tap at the end of the process, so it's best to avoid using papers that are too thin. 

You can save some of the papers if you want to - once they're dry they can be stored in a dark place until you're ready to use them.

Once your papers are dry you can prepare your picture: I've mainly used leaves from my garden but you can use anything you think would make a good image: lace, doilies, keys, ribbons etc. Semi-transparent items can give interesting results, but really the fun of this process is the trying things out and seeing what happens!

Quick tip: You can also make cyanotypes with photograph negatives (example below) or drawings on transparent paper. Basically any dark areas on your original will end up pale on your cyanotype.
Once you're happy with your arrangement, place a sheet of glass on top (to keep the item in good contact with the paper and stop a breeze spoiling your image!), put it out in the sunshine, and wait for the magic to happen! 
Depending on the amount of sunlight the process can take between 5-20 minutes: once the paper has changed colour it's ready to wash. 

Bring your papers inside and remove the objects. This is what mine looked like before rinsing (I actually quite liked them at this stage!): 

You then need to wash your papers under running water for a few minutes to remove the chemicals and reveal the final blues: ta da! 

Quick tip: if your papers have curled up after washing, once dry they can be placed under a heavy book to flatten them again. 

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