This process involves two stock solutions that are mixed together and coated on watercolor paper. After the paper dries, a large negative is placed over the paper and placed in the sun or a UV light source, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the day, time of year, cloud cover and density of the negative. The cyanotype print is washed in plain tap water and dried in the air. Unlike traditional prints, the texture of the watercolor paper adds interesting tonal qualities and creative dimensions to the printing process. Many 19th century processes, like Cyanotypes are making a comeback with the fine art photographers. You can see modern versions of this antique process in many art exhibits and museums around the country. This current revival of alternative processes is more than a trend. I think the attraction for these old processes is the physical involvement during the printing processes, allowing photographers to use our hands, eyes and intuition when printing. This hands on technique is much more satisfying than simply pressing a print key on a computer.
Solution A:Weigh 25 grams of Ferric Ammonium Citrate and dilute to 100 mls with Deionized water.
Soultion B: Weigh 10 grams of Potassium Ferricyanide and dilute to 100mls with Deionized water.
Mix equal solutions of A and B. We'll call this 50/50 mixture Solution C. Simply paint Solution C on watercolor paper with a dry paint brush. Allow the paper to dry in a dark room. Place your negative over the dried and treated watercolor paper. Put a piece of glass over your negative and watercolor paper so the registration is true and place outside in the sun for approximately 15 minutes. (You'll have to experiment with this exposure time as it is dependent on the time of day, the time of year, and your location). After 15 minutes, place the paper in a solution of 1% Hydrochloric Acid and agitate for 10 minutes. Rinse the paper for 10 minutes with Deionized water, hang and allow to dry.
You can purchase the chemicals for making cyanotypes at B & H photographers Formulary Liquid Cyanotype Printing Kit. Here's the link:
Many photographers limit themselves to digital technology, but I find it exciting to combine digital methods with photographic processes from the distant past. You can either take photos using a large format camera or make contact prints using your digital images and converting the image to a negative using Photoshop and printing them out on transparent film using an inject printer.
I have experimented with printing cyanotypes on fabric as well. Natural fibers like silk or cotton work the best. Unfortunately cyanotypes don't hold up well when the fabric is washed as the phosphates from detergent create a basic solution in the wash and tend to fade out the cyanotype. I had great visions of creating fabulous quilts using this process, but they would have to be quilts that could never be washed. I have attached a .jpg file of a piece I did on cotton fabric. I tried my hand at stitching around the outline of the cemetery angel. I also tried adding gold thread "hair" to a cemetery cyanotype , but wasn't happy with the way it turned out.
I also tried printing cyanotypes on pages torn from a 1939 Sheet Metal Handbook. I have an entire architectural series of images printed on this vintage paper.
I am fascinated by both the simplicity and the alchemy of the Cyanotype process. This old process has changed the way I take photos. While composing a photo, I am also considering which printing technique best suits the image. My subjects are the oddities of roadside Americana and the crumbling graves of persons long gone. You may find me lurking about cemeteries in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. I am enamored of the brush strokes so typical of cyanotypes and the moody blue color intensifies the sense of loss in my cemetery images.
With Gravest Diggings, Jane Linders
Jane Linders Jan 2011
Cyanotypes, also called sun prints, are one of the oldest photographic printing processes dating back to 1842. Sir John Herschel developed this first silver less photographic process using only 2 chemicals and the sun as a light source. These sun prints are decidedly low tech as the final image of a cyanotype appears only with the aid of sunlight as a light source and water for a developer. This inexpensive, simple and permanent process was used for the blue print process for copying architectural plans, hence the name "Blue print." With a combination of digital methods and old time chemistry, cyanotypes yield photos that have one foot in the digital age and another foot 150 years in the past.