The cyanotype process step-by-step
01 Take a shot
Almost any kind of image can be used to make a cyanotype print, but we found the simplicity of an arum lily worked well. We used natural daylight from a window to light the flowers from the side. To create a dark background we used a sheet of black velvet, which absorbed the light and cut out unwanted reflections.
These chemicals must be used with caution and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. They may be harmful if swallowed and may cause irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Protective clothing, gloves and goggles/safety glasses should be worn at all times. Please read the guidelines on this issue’s Video Disc before you start.
03 Find a UV source
The light-sensitive emulsion we’re using is only sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light, so you’ll need a nice sunny day to make your exposures. If the British weather is gloomy, a back-up will be useful: we invested in a small UV sun lamp for around £40, so if the sun went in we could carry on working. UV lamps are also useful during the long winter months. Make sure you protect your eyes from the light source.
04 Prepare the work area
If you’re doing this at home, make sure you thoroughly prepare your work area. Remember, you’re using toxic chemicals that are not only dangerous but will also stain surfaces blue. Make sure there are no pets or children around while you’re handling the chemicals. Lay down old newspapers to cover your work surfaces and ensure you clean up properly afterwards.
05 Locate your chemicals
You’ll need specialist raw chemicals for this process, such as ammonium ferric citrate (green) and potassium ferricyanide. Naturally, these aren’t the sort of thing you can get at a local shop. However, there are specialist online photo stockists, which have equipment and chemicals for alternative photo processes. The staff can usually offer good advice as well. There’s also a wealth of dedicated websites, blogs and forums for photographers interested in this niche area of photography. Try Alternative Photography, for starters.
06 Store the mixture
Once you’ve mixed your chemicals, you’ll need three brown bottles to store them in. The brown glass will help prevent the chemicals from being altered by daylight. Keep your bottles and raw chemicals in a dry, cool, dark and locked cupboard, out of the reach of children.