The Cyanotype Process – An Alternative photographic print

Cyanotype is a UV sensitive contact printing process invented in 1842 by an English scientist John Herschel. Cyanotypes are photographs that appear blue and white due to the use of potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate to photosensitive paper. He used them to reproduce notes and diagrams – resulting in blueprints! Anna Atkins, considered the first female photographer, used the cyanotype process for documenting ferns and seaweeds in her Photographs of British Algae: CyanotypeImpressions in October 1843.

Process of printing in Following steps:

1) To begin the process, two solutions are prepared for the two-part sensitizing process which in the following measurements:  

∙ Ferric Ammonium Citrate and Distilled Water.

∙ Potassium Ferricyanide and Distilled Water

2) Mix Solutions: Combine equal amounts of both solutions from one of the above recipes.

3) Sensitize surface: soak paper, fabric or any bisque ceramic ware in a tray of combined solutions or apply with a brush. Be sure to make some test strips for later use in testing exposure times.

4) Dry coated material: Dry away from light. A clothesline can be hung over an old tub or layers of newspapers to catch drips. A hair drier or fan can be employed to shorten drying time. The dry coating should be bright yellow.


This process is a dark room process but you can work under the red light till the time it’s drying. Wear a mask and rubber gloves for safety purposes. 

5) Printing: Cyanotype is a negative process – areas, where light does not hit sensitized material, will remain white. Contact print by placing negative on your sensitized material. Expose to strong sunlight or UV light until the high values are a little too dark and the shadows have begun to reverse. You can use test strips to test light to determine the best exposure time.

6) Washing and Developing: Wash in running water until the yellow residue is gone from no exposed areas. The print will still be a weak, silvery blue. As it dries it will oxidize and turn blue.

7) Drying: Drying the artworks in strong sunlight. That is why summers are best to carry out this technique!

Cyanotype prints on a different material:

Paper is the material which is commonly used for printing material from centuries. There are varieties of paper which we can also use for cyanotype like, a handmade paper which has a different texture or colour paper. Same as a paper, cloth and Bisque Ceramic ware can also be also used to achieve different effects.

Krupa Mistry, Lecturer, Lifestyle Accessory Department, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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