Cyanotypes

Lisa Shea Photography

How Cyanotypes Work The cyanotype was one of the earliest forms of photography. With a cyanotype, you mix together equal parts 8.1% potassium ferricyanide and 20% ferric ammonium citrate. This creates a blue colored liquid. You now paint the paper, fabric, or whatever else you're using with the liquid. You have to have something that will absorb the liquid for this to work. So a thick paper like drawing paper works well. The paper (or fabric or whatever) is now sensitive to light, so you keep it in a dark envelope.

When you're ready, you need to put something between the sun and the paper to create the image. Often you can use natural objects like ferns or leaves. You can use yarn or pencils or other objects. You can use hands or feet. If you want to get more complicated, you can create a setup so the sun (or other light) shines through a film negative. That way it exposes the paper just like it would regular film.

The parts the sun touches initially lighten - but with a rinse these sections are what will become a rich blue. Anywhere the sun touches becomes blue. The sections of the paper or fabric which remain in shadow (hidden by the objects or the dark parts of the negative) will remain the surface's natural color.

How Cyanotypes Work When you're done exposing the paper - usually about 10-20 minutes depending on how strong the sun is - you then rinse off the rest of that liquid with water. Adding a bit of lemon juice helps with the color. You need to rinse away the rest of the liquid so that the entire paper doesn't eventually turn blue. That leaves behind an image with the parts the sun touched in blue and the parts it didn't touch still the natural color of the surface.

You can make your own cyanotype paper or fabric quite easily. You can also buy paper and fabric on the web from all sorts of sources, if you want to give it a try more easily. Enjoy! This is a fun way to be artistic and to connect with a type of photography which began in the mid 1800s.

Gears Cyanotype
Collection of Gears Cyanotype

Cinnamon Fern Cyanotype
Trio of Cinnamon Ferns Cyanotype

Cyanotype Christmas Cards
Cyanotype Christmas Cards (23 total)

Make the World Better
Cyanotypes are amazingly fun works of art which can be made by pretty much any age group. Whether you're six or one-hundred-and-six, there'a cyanotype style for you! It can be incredibly simple, for beginners, or beautifully complex, as you develop skills.



Anna Atkins and Cyanotypes
Anna Atkins is hailed by many as the first woman photographer, primarily due to her work with cyanotypes and photograms. She forged a path in both scientific and artistic fields in a time when most women couldn’t vote or go to college.



Lisa Shea Photography - main page

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