cyanotype how-to (re-posted from several years ago)

Cyanotype how-to

I've had a few new requests for a tutorial on how to make the cyanotypes that I like to work with. I studied photography in College, so I do have some background knowledge, but I think this is a very easy medium anyone could use. It is easy for the children to do, even very young children. We made some at summer camp just now, and it was fun.
Here is some background information;

I have never had any trouble with the chemicals in cyanotype printing. Of the two, (according to Wikipedia), one (potassium ferricyanide) can be mildly irritating to the eyes and skin, and the other (amonium ferric cirtrate), is a food additive present in the Scottish drink irn-bru

Now, the easiest way to start would be to buy a sunprint kit, which has ready-to-expose paper or fabric. Sometimes these are sold as blueprint kits; it is all the same thing. For use at my school, I wanted to be able to control the cost and the size of the photos we made, so I elected to buy the chemicals and paint them on the paper or fabric myself.

You can buy dry chemicals and mix them with water yourself, which is a bit cheaper, but the easiest thing I found was the blueprint kit from ROCKLAND COLLOID CORP (you can shop around for the best price).
This contains two light tight bottles of chemicals, which are then mixed in equal parts to make the cyanotype emulsion that I (or some students) could paint onto nice paper or cotton fabric.

The chemicals are light sensitive, but not so much as the film we are used to. Dim inside light didn't seem to affect the chemicals as liquids or when painted onto a surface.

So, here is the step by step
1. mix the chemicals following package directions
2. In a darkened room, paint onto washed cotton cloth or paper (I used some acid free construction paper, tried drawing paper and muslin. Remember that the paper will be washed hard, so it should have some weight to it. A cheap sponge brush worked well for painting on the chemicals, though serious artists might not like this.
3. Let dry (keep out of light -under a table, covered with a cloth works)
4. Decide what the pictures will be. You can make photograms like Man Ray, or draw on transparencies and use them like negatives. Printed transparencies work, too, but this is essentially a black and white process, so reduce pictures to grayscale or black and white for printing. Remember that the image will be a negative of the thing you lay down on it -black areas will be white on the print.
5. Bring the paper into a bright sunny spot (I carried the paper in a cardboard tube to protect from sunlight). It takes longer on a cloudy day or in shade.
6. Place negative or objects on the paper. The emulsion is a nice green at this point. The exposure starts right away. Watch for the background turning darker blue. You have to judge when the background is right, and pull everything out of the sun before the parts you want to be white get exposed.
7. Rinse paper under a hose or in a sink until all the green chemical washes away, and the water runs clear. The unexposed green areas should now be white.
8. Let dry (We hung the paper on a clothesline indoors -this is my friend Shannon)

Now, you can paint or draw on the cyanotypes, cut and sew them, or just enjoy them as they are!


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Anna! Cyanotypes are beautiful, and there is so much flexibility in what is printed - I can see them being used to compliment a wide range of topics!


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