Cyanotype Fun

I’ve been dabbling in what is referred to “alternative processes” and I have succeeded in making a couple of cyanotype prints.

On one level it’s quite simple, but to get a really good print requires some care. I thought I would describe the process by showing one result, which is which is my first reasonably successful effort.

Here is the original digital image, captured in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. a few months ago:

"The Way Up", National Cathedral, Washington, DC

Since cyanotype printing is a contact printing process – in other words requires a negative the same size as the print – a negative had to be made from the digital file by printing on clear film. In this case, I used Pictorico OHC (overhead projector film.) Here is the file from which the digital negative was printed. Note that the images is flipped so when it is placed over the paper, the printed side is down in tight contact with the paper.

Digital Negative

Once I had the negative, it was time to prepare the paper. The cyanotype paper emulsion is hand coated on the paper. The digital negative is then contact printed by exposure to an ultraviolet light source. About the best UV source available is the sun! So after about three minutes of exposure bright sunlight on a clear early winter day, I had an image. The image is already “developed” on the paper from exposure. To finish, the print is only washed in plain water to wash away the unused emulsion.

And here is a scan of the final print:

"The Way Up" Cyanotype Print

If nothing else, it’s an interesting departure from the high-tech processes of digital imaging. I have no intention of giving up my digital camera, but this kind of process creates a different kind of image that can be quite elegant in its own way.

~ by Rsmith on December 11, 2009.

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