I will sketch out here summary of a workflow for making a Vandyke brown print from colorized digital negative.
I started with a digital camera file, the picture was taken with a consumer 9.1 megapixel camera, Fuji FinePix E900.
Image processing was started with opening the JPEG file in Adobe Camera Raw (yes, you can do that with CS3), so adjustments could be made without destroying data too much. There was a small noise reduction made, and the image was then opened in Photoshop in 16-bit color mode, which was used at subsequent stages.
At the next stage the picture was straightened and cropped slightly, and converted to grayscale mode using Photoshop’s Channel Mixer, so the content of each color channel in the final grayscale image could be adjusted. There are three separate Curves adjustment layers on top of the background – they adjust the tonality of the whole image, plus its lower and upper part separately. Moreover, on top of these there is a Levels adjustment layer to darken slightly the upper part of the sky.
After adjusting the grayscale image was done, the correction curve that was created earlier with ChartThrob, was applied. The curve makes the image look too light and washed-out on the computer display.
The image was inverted to negative and flipped horizontally, and then filled with the defined UV-blocking color. This colorized, negative image was printed on transparency with an Epson inkjet printer, to obtain a digital negative for exposing the Vandyke paper.
A sheet of Guarro Casas Cream paper was sensitized by coating it with Vandyke solution, dried and exposed to UV-light in contact with the negative, using the standard exposure time that was defined earlier. The print was then processed and dried to attain archival quality.
In my opinion, this Vandyke brown print, better than the unprocessed digital camera image, corresponds to what I “saw” when the thunderstorm was rising and the sun illuminated briefly this lonesome tree on a plain in Painted Desert, Arizona. I chose Guarro’s Cream paper to carry the image – reasoning its warm tone will support the idea about the golden sunshine against dark thunder clouds.
Ferric Ammonium Citrate: 9.0 gm
Distilled Water: 33.0 ml
Tartaric Acid: 1.5 gm
Distilled Water: 33.0 ml
Silver Nitrate: 3.8 gm
Distilled Water: 33.0 ml
These solutions were combined to form the Vandyke sensitizer. After a few sensitizing tests we also added Tween-20 wetting agent to the sensitizer, one drop of it per each 10 ml of sensitizer, because we noticed it will make it easier to coat the paper evenly and quickly.
Our standard exposure time was 150 seconds with our UV-exposing unit – we used that exposure for all paper tests below. Just like in cyanotype (see previous posts), all our papers seem to work also in the Vandyke process. However, we noticed small differences between the papers, which led us to divide them into two categories – we call these “Premium” and “Regular”.
Guarro Casas papers belong to our Premium category – they print beautifully, and they come in two varieties, white and cream. White yields nice chocolate brown tones, while the cream stock adds almost golden glow to the print. Our favourite cyanotype paper – Somerset – works well also with Vandyke, and, surprisingly, Hahnemuhle etching paper, in spite of its porosity, prints very well. All these papers were tested without adding any extra sizing.
We also tried double coating, with the paper drying in between (the upper part of the first sample on left (Canson) has been sensitized twice), but we gave up on that, because there was no significant difference compared to single coating.
The tone range of Vandyke Brown is long – printing a Kodak T-27 step tablet confirms that. When making digital negatives for Vandyke it may be hard to get densities high enough with an inkjet printer. We can try colorized negatives, finding best hues to block the UV-light (see previous posts).
Below is a Vandyke print of the RNP-Array color chart mentioned in previous posts. The upper chart is printed from an Epson Pro 3800 transparency, and the lower one, for comparison, from a transparency made by an inexpensive HP Deskjet F2100 series printer (both were printed on the same type of transparency material). We can notice that HP inks cannot build enough UV-density, so you cannot use this printer with its inkset to produce proper negatives for Vandyke process. Instead, there are some Epson inks (upper part of the print) which work well with digital negatives, especially hues from red through yellow to green.
The first color we chose for UV blocking was orange (255,156,17), but when contact printing a ChartTrob step tablet on Vandyke paper and calculating a correction curve, we found it quite strange looking to our eyes (very flat, with extremely contrasty shadows), so we didn’t try it in actual Vandyke printing.
Instead, we chose another blocking color, red this time (255,15,15) – the curve created looked a lot better now, and we also used it with making some test prints.
This is our first try with the new correction curve – the print’s midtones are somewhat low in contrast, so we corrected the curve manually, and the next print (below) is more like what we were after.
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”.
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:
In conjunction with the project Vedos a group of art students got acquainted with some alternative photographic processes. They created digital negatives, tried toning contemporary silver gelatin prints, and made prints with silver liquid emulsion and cyanotype. Here you can view some of their work.