How to make your Cyanotype print
01 Tweak the tones
First, you’ll need to prepare your photo. Open the image masterclass_start.jpg from the PhotoPlus Video Disc. Go to Image > Adjustments > BlackAndWhite. There are lots of colour sliders in this box, but you only need to move the green slider to about +180%. This will lighten the stem a little. Click OK.
02 Final edits
To make fine changes to the tones, create an Adjustment Layer by going to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves. Create a curve that makes the midtones lighter. You’ll need to preserve the details in the lightest part of the flower, so don’t go too far. Use the Dodge and Burn tools from the Tools palette to tweak the tones in isolated parts of the image.
03 Create a negative
To turn your Background layer into a negative, go to Image>Adjustments>Invert. The tones will be instantly reversed: everything that was dark is now light, and vice versa. You’ll be making a contact print, so as well as reversing the tones you’ll also need to flip the photograph so that it appears the correct way round. This reversal will be particularly noticeable if there’s text in your image. Go to Image>RotateCanvas >FlipHorizontal to make the change.
04 Make a printout
Now it’s a case of printing out the negative. We’re working with a specialist Digital Contact Printing film made by Fotospeed. It’s basically a transparent sheet of film that has a specially developed surface on one side that’s slight tacky to the touch and will hold the inks without letting them run. Once the negative is printed, leave it for a few minutes to ensure it’s dry.
05 Mix the chemicals
First, ensure that you’re wearing your protective gear. Use accurate scales to measure 65g of ammonium ferric citrate (green), add water to make 250ml and stir. Once it’s dissolved, pour the liquid into a brown bottle and label it ‘Part A’. To make ‘Part B’, use 23g of potassium ferricyanide and add water to make 250ml of solution. Store this in a brown bottle.
06 Apply to the paper
When you’re ready to coat your paper, combine equal amounts of Parts A and B, then mix them to create a light-sensitive cyanotype emulsion. The emulsion is only sensitive to UV light, so you can keep a normal tungsten bulb on, but make sure that no daylight gets into the room. Use a large, soft brush – a Japanese Hake brush is ideal – to coat your paper.
07 Dry the paper
We coated multiple sheets of paper with the mix in one session and after they had dried we stored them in a light-tight box. Ideally, you should leave them flat to dry. However, if you’re in a hurry (which is not recommended when completing this project) you can use an ordinary hairdrier to hasten the drying process.
08 Get registered
Take the negative that you printed out and place it face down on the coated paper. Use a contact printing frame – which you can buy from specialist photo suppliers – or alternatively use a piece of glass and a couple of bull-dog clips to prevent your negative from slipping during the exposure process.
09 Make an exposure
Now it’s time to make an exposure. If it’s sunny, go outside and leave the frame in direct sunlight. You’ll need to experiment with the time – the intensity of the sun, the quality of your cyanotype mix and the density of your negative will all affect how long it takes. However, it’ll be minutes rather than seconds (try 10 to 20 minutes as a starting point). It’s magical to see the emulsion change colour from light yellow to blue/grey in front of your eyes. If there’s no sun, use a UV lamp.
10 Hang out to dry
Once you’ve made your exposure, all you need to do is wash the print in running water for a few minutes. This will take away the unexposed chemicals, leaving the exposed areas a deep Prussian blue and the unexposed areas white. This is called a ‘printing-out’ process (see Phrase Book, left), so you don’t need any photo developers. When all the unexposed emulsion has run clear, hang your finished print to dry.
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