Creating cyanotype prints is a fun thing to do on a sunny day.
What is Cyanotype?
Cyanotype, also known as photograms, blueprints or sun prints, is a 19th-century alternative photographic printing process. Instead of a camera, sunlight (UV light) is used with a simple chemical process to print the image.
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- Cyanotype Chemicals: Ammonium Ferric Citrate & Potassium Ferricyanide. Available in a convenient set such as Jacquard Cyanotype Sensitizer
- Gloves & and apron
- Paper or fabric — I used watercolour paper (choose paper that can be bathed in water without disintegrating). Cyanotypes can be printed on any natural paper, cloth or fabric. Cotton, linen or silk are all excellent choices.
- A Hake Brush
- Binder clips or for larger pieces Spring clamps
- Clear glass or plexiglass – I took the glass out of a picture frame
- A sturdy piece of cardboard the same size as the glass
- Pressed botanicals or other flat items that you want to print
- or Transparency Acetate and a negative photo
- Stir stick
- Measuring cup or a chemistry measuring cylinder
- A small mixing container
- Washing trays
- Hydrogen Peroxide
1. Prepare your workspace & mix the Cyanotype chemicals:
- Select a workspace that has subdued lighting. Enough light so you can see what you’re doing but not bright enough to start to develop the solutions. Begin by laying out all of the materials. Cover your work surface and protect your clothing with an apron. Put on a pair of disposable gloves.
- Add water to the chemicals according to the instructions on the bottles. Distilled water can be used if you have it, this will keep longer.
- Mix equal parts SOLUTION A and SOLUTION B to create the cyanotype sensitizer. Only mix the amount of solution you immediately need as it doesn’t keep well. 10 ml of each is a good amount to start with.
2. Coat your paper with Cyanotype Solution:
- With a brush evenly coat your cyanotype solution onto the paper.
- Leave the paper to dry in the dark – I recommend coating the paper the day before you want to use it.
- Watercolour paper may start to curl up, don’t panic it should flatten itself out when it dries.
- Once dry, you can give it a second coat of solution if you desire.
- Keep the treated paper in the dark until you are ready to use it.
3. Plan your Cyanotype prints:
Print Botanical Photograms
A photogram is a print made by placing objects on a sensitized surface. Photograms may be made from any object that blocks the light—plants, leaves, stencils, cutout paper shapes, string, lace, doilies, etc.
Collect and press flowers and leaves to create a botanical photogram print. Use both dried pressed flowers as well as flattened green flowers for different effects. Save dried botanicals in a binder and use them again in a future art project.
Print Photographic Negatives
To use a photo for Cyanotype printmaking you first need to make a negative image. Invert images with a program such as Photoshop or you can Jacquard’s Negative Generator on this page. Print your negative image from your printer onto transparency acetate. You can also make prints by drawing directly on the transparency acetate with a marker.
4. Print Your Cyanotypes:
- Place your dry treated paper face up on a ridged board/cardboard
- Arrange your pressed botanicals or negative image on top of the paper
- To hold the paper and photo negative/objects tight during exposure, sandwich it with a piece of glass or acrylic plexiglass and clamp the glass in place
- Expose the sandwiched plate to sunlight or UV light. Exposure times can vary from a few minutes to several hours, depending on how intense your light source is.
5. Wash your Cyanotype prints:
- Place the prints in a tray of water to rinse off any unexposed chemicals
- After a minute or two pour off the water and refill the tray with clean water. Wash for at least 5 minutes, changing the water periodically.
- Add a splash of hydrogen peroxide to the bath. Put the print in again and watch the blues intensify.
- Air-dry the prints
- Place any prints that may have curled up while drying under a heavy object, such as a book, to flatten.
Cyanotype printmaking is a lot about trial and error. Experiment and vary different factors for different effects. For example, the duration of exposure, time of day/year, type of paper or fabric, use of dry and green vegetation, layer items between two panes of glass, or give the paper two coats of solution.
Use Your Cyanotype Prints in Encaustic Painting
Now that you have a collection of beautiful blue cyanotype prints you can incorporate them into your encaustic pieces. I haven’t yet used any of my cyanotype prints with encaustic. I look forward to using my sun prints created this past Summer in the months ahead—I will update this post with finished encaustic cyanotype artworks.
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2 thoughts on “Create Beautiful Cyanotype Prints To Use In Encaustic Paintings”
I have tried using my cyanotype prints with encaustic and I find the prints are so dulled under the wax. Curious what others do!
Hi I’m looking to buy teabag paper in rolls so I can pull monotypes off the gelli plate and Roland hot box. And then apply them to my encaustic panel. Haven’t seen it gor sale on Amazon. But I know somewhere they can b purchased. Thanks susan silver brown.