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In black and white dark room photography there are many processes called alternative printing processes. These involve doing something with chemicals that alters the initial image in some way. These alternative processes are somewhat experimental as they involve trial and error to get the best results. Many of these techniques involve changing the color of an image through toning chemistry. There are blue prints also called cyanotype or sun prints. There are also brown tone prints known as Van Dyke Brown prints. These use different chemicals, but similar processes as cyanotype. There are also Sepia prints which involve bleaching a black and white image and then tinting it to brown tone. This technique was very popular in older photographs especially.
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The cyanotype is an interesting way for us to explore this phenomena. Here is a bit more information on the cyanotype process and history.

"The Cyanotype, which is also known as ferroprussiate or blueprint was invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842, when he discovered that ferric (iron) salts could be reduced to a ferrous state by light and then combined with other salts to create a blue-and-white image. Not long after, Anna Atkins, one of the few women in photography during that century, published the first book with photographs instead of illustrations, "British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions" Cyantype is a contact print process and you will need a negative the same size as the size of the print you want. A cyanotype with a blue image on a white background is obtained using a negative transparency. In order to obtain a pale white image on a blue background, a positive transparency must be used. Cyanotypes are created with a simple solution of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. If you don't want to find your own chemicals, Freestyle carries an excellent all-in-one kit for you. The cyanotype emulsion is sensitive to ultraviolet light. Therefore either sunlight or another UV light source must be used for exposure. For consistent results, a UV light box is recommended.


Check out the link here for details about an exhibit of cyanotype imagery and the process used by the artist.

Examples of Cyanotype Photograms

Because we're limited in our ability to use chemicals in this class we are going to use paper and fabric that has already been pre-coated with the chemicals necessary. You will need to prepare the following to create a successful Cyanotype print.


1. Shoot photographs that are rich in contrast and interesting in terms of strong subject matter. These could be portraits or still life or landscape imagery. The images you shoot should exhibit one of the compositional techniques we've explored and should also play around with the idea of available light. (natural light coming in from a window)

2. In Photoshop duplicate the background layer and rename it contrast. Then spend time in Photoshop adjusting the levels or curves to create the best contrast for your image on this new layer. Crop the image if necessary to get the most perfect composition. Really ask yourself if all elements in the frame are necessary to the interpretation of the image.

3. In Photoshop duplicate the finished high contrast layer and call it negative.

4. Go to the IMAGE- Adjustments- invert (shortcut command i) This will create the negative image of your print.

5. Close the eye of the other layers so only the negative layer is showing. Save your file as lastnameCyanNeg

6. Create a digital negative printed on transparency film.


7. Gather and bring in objects that have interesting shapes that could be flattened photogram-style to be printed with the digital negative. For example feathers, dried flowers, lace. These items are flat enough to fit on the glass and will have an interesting textural affect on the final print. They can be sandwiched with your negative or printed by themselves.

8. Get the digital negative transparency and go to the back of the classroom in the dimly lit area. Arrange the sensitized paper in the contact frame printer. Place the digital negative on top of the sensitized paper along with any objects you wish to layer and print with the image. These could form a border or not.

9. Close up the contact frame and insert into the black plastic bag. Carry it carefully outside and expose in the sun for 10 minutes or until you see the paper turn a greenish tone, with the areas of the negative being a darker blue.

10. Put the frame back into the black plastic and bring it to the art room sink. Wash in the trays set up there in running water until the rich cyan blue shows and all of the yellow chemical is washed away.

11. Set the print on the drying rack to dry thoroughly. If the image appears too, light and washed out it is possible it wasn't exposed long enough or that you exposed the paper prior to putting into the frame.

12. Once the print is dry you may need to iron it lightly with a warm iron to flatten more. We will mount these for display.