how to make cyanotypes

what are cyanotypes?

cyanotypes (blueprints) are camera-less photographs created by exposing light sensitive material to light, then fixing the image. the light sensitive material is made by combining two chemicals called ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide then painting it onto thick watercolour paper. prints can be exposed by the sun or exposure units and are then processed in water.

once paper is exposed and processed, the result is a white silhouette of an object against a cyan background.

how do you make a cyanotype?

you can make cyanotypes using pre-coated paper, or mixing the chemicals yourself and painting them onto a thick watercolour paper in the dark. for remote class assignments, you will be sent pre-coated paper. both sides of the pre-coated paper are able to be exposed and processed, so play around with both sides before developing your paper in water.

here is a copy of the instruction guide that comes with your sun printing kit:

here’s a video from the George Eastman Museum on how to make cyanotypes from home:

generally, you’ll want to expose your paper on sunny days. cloudy days = less sun which means longer and less consistent exposure times.

contact printing

here are some examples from photo technician Paul MacDonald using 2D materials (20 min exposure) and 3D materials (10 min exposure) to make contact cyanotype prints:

processing experimentation

playing around with processing will yield interesting results. document your cyanotype in every step of the process. sometimes you may find you liked the result better prior to processing.

use your dslr and shoot in raw to ensure you have good documentation and can print them large later on if you’d like. here are some examples of cyanotypes documented before fully processed:

introducing other chemicals or unique weather situations to your prints may create interesting results as well.

shadows don’t always work

keep in mind that items not in direct contact with the light sensitive paper may not appear when processed. depending on the strength of the light, shadows may not turn out at all. it’s a good idea to make some tests and process your cyanotypes a few at a time so you can see what is working and if you need to change anything.

digital negatives

it is also possible to create your own digital negatives by printing inverted high-contrast images onto transparent paper, like the ones used for overhead projectors. here’s a tutorial of how to create a digital negative:

good luck!