How To Make Cyanotypes, a step by step guide

People have been asking me how I make my cyanotypes, I know we are all cooped up for the next few weeks or the foreseeable future, and maybe you are looking for a new activity. Cyanotype is an alternative photographic process, you can read all about it on my past blog post here. Basically a cyanotype is a contract print exposed in the sun, instead of in a darkroom. The images in this post are mostly just utilitarian, to show the process, but you can see some of my other finished cyanotypes here, and you can see how much I love adding gold leaf to them these days!


Step one is to mix Part A and Part B of the chemicals together in a bowl. The chemical mixture is then painted onto watercolor paper. This needs to be done in a light tight space. I use my basement to mix and paint on the chemicals. The paper then needs to dry in a light tight space as well, I have repourpsed our food dehydrater into a paper drying station. I leave the paper with the chemicals painted in the food dehydrater for at least overnight.


I mainly stay with pressed leaves, flowers, feathers, and actual negatives. I have a series called HumanNature that can be seen here. My HumanNature series was created in-camera on film. I use either a Mamiya 67 or a Microcord camera both of which are medium format film cameras. The negatives are small, The Mamiya negatives are 6 by 7 centimeters, and the Microcord negatives are 6 by 6 centimeters.

Small negatives can be used to make cyanotypes, but I wanted to make larger prints. To do this I converted the scans of the images I have as positives, back into negatives, and then had them printed on acetate at Paradise Copies. So far my acetate negatives have been 7-inch or 11-inch square. The negative is then placed on top of the (dry) painted paper and covered in glass. This is placed in the sun until I think it has had enough time for the correct exposure. (think is the main word, it is all a guessing game, but you get the hang of it after a while.)


The same process is followed if I am using pressed leaves, flowers, or feathers. I take the dried paper out of the food dehydrater and place it on a board which is covered with glass, and brought out to the sun. All work is done in the basement until I am ready to bring the paper to be exposed by the sun.


Once I believe the image has had enough time exposing in the sun, it is then brought inside and washed in water in my sink. The images only become the classic blue color when they are washed, prior to that they are green.


I hang the images to dry on the handy-dandy metro rack in the kitchen. It really is weird to live with me I guess; many times people have to move cyanotypes from the sink so that they can actually make food. Or they have to move cyanotypes off of the kitchen storage metro rack so that they can get to the almonds. Gold leaf has to be brushed off of the table in order to eat, the food dehydrator can no longer be used for food… but we manage! If you use these directions and make your own cyanotypes, please let me know! I would love to see your creations!


You can see some of my finished pieces on privious blog posts as mentioned above, the posts can be found here and here.