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Prints At A Show

Posted by on 23 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Cyanotype, Vandyke Brown

Recently I had a display of theatre photographs from 30 years (1979-2009) – basically photos taken on b&w and color negative film (and some digital shots) and shown as inkjet prints at a gallery. In the show there were a few prints that I made with alternative techniques, namely some pigmented Vandyke browns and a cyanotype.

The set of the three pictures below is from The Bourgeois Gentleman by Molière.

Monsieur Jourdain, a bourgeois. Pigment toned Vandyke brown print on COT320 paper.

Madame Jourdain, his wife. Pigment toned Vandyke brown print on COT320 paper.

The Music Master. Pigment toned Vandyke brown print on COT320 paper.

The picture below is a cyanotype print – originally made for the poster for The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter.

The Birthday Party. Cyanotype on Guarro paper.

Adding Color

Posted by on 09 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Cyanotype

Cyanotype is a fun and easy method to acquaint oneself with alternative printing processes, but the blue color may not always be the most desired for a certain image. Fortunately, the print’s color can be changed by toners and hand coloring, or a cyanotype can be combined with a colored inkjet print.

In platinum printing it has been used a method by Ron Reeder and Dan Burkholder, among others, to add color by an inkjet printer. The same method can be used with cyanotype – the inkjet print can be the underlying layer on which the cyanotype will be printed, or it can be printed over the finished cyanotype.

Nowadays many inkjet printers use high quality and permanent pigment inks, so the final combination print should keep well. Also the inks are more or less waterproof – they will stand the wet processes necessary to clear cyanotypes.

There are two image samples below – the first one is the inkjet print for the background, and the second one is the final print, where cyanotype is printed over the inkjet. Maybe we could call prints like this “Pigmented Cyanotypes”.

This is the inkjet print before cyano overprinting. I used some warm colors, hoping them to contrast with cyanotype’s blues and blend to form totally new hues. I was going to use a simple means of registration for the inkjet print and the negative, so I printed registration marks on the corners of the print and the negative. The image was blurred in Photoshop, so the registration doesn’t need to be extremely accurate.

Jalo Porkkala: In Times Past, pigmented cyanotype.
The inkjet print was then washed in water (to remove all soluble inks), dried, and overprinted with cyanotype.

The inkjet was printed with an Epson R1800 (UltraChrome inks), and basically the inks seem to be insoluble in water, except for the black ink which bleeds a little – you can notice that from the registration marks which were printed with black ink only. The inkjet image itself, printed quite light and with no black, doesn’t seem to change in the water bath. So it may be unnecessary to wash after inkjet printing – practically you could coat the cyanotype right over the inkjet print, after some drying time.

Here’s another one – a reddish brown underprinting and a cyanotype on top:

Jalo Porkkala: Psycho, pigmented cyanotype.

Cyano Exercises

Posted by on 06 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Cyanotype

After defining the correction curve we finally got to make some cyanotype prints from digital negatives. The chemistry was the classic cyanotype, and the negatives were made with an Epson R1800 on Agfa CopyJet transparency. We printed mainly on Somerset 200g paper using the sensitizer as single coating.

This is how our basic cyanotype print from a digital negative looks on Somerset paper.

You can also tone cyanotypes to different shades of brown, reddish or black (neutral gray). There is a wide selection of toning formulas in Christopher James’ Book of Alternative Photographic Processes, for example. We toned a few prints with a well-known two-bath brown toner, made up of tannic acid and sodium carbonate (washing soda).

A cyanotype toned with tannic acid / sodium carbonate method. In this print the brush strokes were masked away with red masking tape attached to the negative. (BTW, I guess this picture of an old tree is gradually becoming my “standard” image, printed with different techniques for comparison…)

The tannic acid toner also can produce some nice split tone effects.

But you can use cyanotype for other things besides just printing photographs – actually the early pioneers, Sir John Herschel and Anna Atkins, used it for copying drawings and making photograms, too. You can also combine it with other techniques. As an example of a way a printmaker may use cyanotype, see Pirkko’s work below. Many of these were made with sensitizing and processing the paper multiple times, exposing image elements separately each time, and combining with other printmaking techniques. Clicking on images will open them larger in a separate window.

Pirkko Holm: Map 2, multiple coated cyanotype.

Pirkko Holm: Under The Water, multiple coated cyanotype.

Pirkko Holm: The Travel, multiple coated cyanotype and etching.

Pirkko Holm: The Blue Swan, polymer gravure and toned cyanotype.

Tests in Blue

Posted by on 15 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: Cyanotype

Testing cyanotype papers by exposing with UV-light.

We took eleven different watercolor and etching papers that we were able to find in our school’s paper stock, and made a few exposure tests using the traditional cyanotype process (blueprint), with a view to finding a standard exposure to produce the maximum “black” for each paper. At the same time we examined the suitability of these papers for printing cyanotype, and compared the blue tones the papers could produce.

The classic cyanotype is known to work almost on any paper, and mixing of the sensitizer is simple enough: you only need two chemicals to make two separate stock solutions. This time we didn’t mix them by ourselves but used ready-made solutions by Hopeavedos, a Finnish supplier. We coated the papers with a mixture of the two solutions (see the formula at None of the papers were given extra sizing.

As we expected, there were no great differences in tone or sensitivity between the sensitized papers. The exposure times to produce maximum tone density varied from 6 to 10 minutes when exposed with our UV-exposure unit from one meter distance. All samples were exposed in a vacuum frame, partly covering the sensitized areas with blank Agfa CopyJet transparency, hoping to find out something about its UV-transmittance properties.


Below are the results of our little paper survey – we scanned pieces of each paper showing maximum cyano density plus the uncoated paper base (samples shown approximately life-size). In conclusion, our experience is that all of these tested papers could be used successfully in the traditional cyanotype printing. However, there are a few papers that print better than the others.

Arches Aquarelle 300g

Very good paper for cyanotype. Can produce intensive blue. Nice surface texture.

Canson Montval 300g

Both tested Canson papers are our long-time favourites. Prints and clears well.

Canson Tradition 300g

More textured than Montval. Slightly deeper blue, towards ultramarine. Also the smoother back side works well.

Fabriano Accademia 200g

Very hard, white and smooth paper. Works well when not over saturated with sensitizer.

Fabriano Bianco 285g

Velvety surface, a little difficult to print. Touching wet prints tends to leave marks.

Guarro Casas 250g

Very white base, prints deep rich blue, clears well.

Guarro Casas Cream 250g

Both Guarros are excellent cyanotype papers, this one has warmer cream hue.

Hahnemuhle 300g

Etching paper, maybe a little too soft for cyano, but it works. You can easily abrade the wet surface though.

Somerset 200g

Our first favourite from this set. Although not one with highest max densities, it is easy to coat, predictable and attractively textured.