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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 alternativephotography.com). 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.

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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.

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Arches Aquarelle 300g

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

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Canson Montval 300g

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

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Canson Tradition 300g

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

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Fabriano Accademia 200g

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

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Fabriano Bianco 285g

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

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Guarro Casas 250g

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

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Guarro Casas Cream 250g

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

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Hahnemuhle 300g

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

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Somerset 200g

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