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The Cyanotype Process – An Alternative photographic print

July 18, 2020

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

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

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
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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