Easy digital negatives for cyanotype


Learning to make really high quality digital negative takes a lot of time to learn and trial and error we are limited for time in this course–so once you become interested in a technique or process after trying it the first time then you can try to perfect it– Dan Burkolder is THE GURU of digital negative making–here is link to his site his book is out of print–but lots of info online and he does have tutorials that are very helpful http://www.danburkholder.com/Pages/main_pages/Digital_Neg_Info/Digital_Negatives.html

You can download copy of book–or order hard copy –but this is the resource if you find this technique is for you and you want to be able to have greater control over your digital negatives. http://www.king-cart.com/cgi-bin/cart.cgi?store=danburkholder&cart_id=6343.30390&product_name=NEW+Inkjet+Negative+Companion&return_page=&user-id=&password=&exchange=&exact_match=exact


-Pictorico TPU-100 Premium OHP Transparency Film for Inkjet (8.5 x 11″, Letter, 20 Sheets)  http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/544997-REG/Pictorico_PICT35009_TPU_100_Premium_OHP_Transparency.html

It come larger too more expensive and remember that the uv light at school can only accomodate 11×14–I suggest you all buy a package and share it to reduce the costs. See this link at b/h photo for more sizes: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=pictorico&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search=

Some suggestions for watercolor papers for cyanotype–go cheaper so you can experiment more–


watch this video to understand difference between cold press and hot press watercolor–strokes and application of emulsion appear differently on them depending on what you’re trying to achieve in terms of texture and coverage:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLddZ7rcx4c#t=194

I would recommend starting out with Arches hot press watercolor paper and 140 g

Cold press watercolor paper has texture. Little bumps and grooves holds in the water and pigment. It really sucks up the water pretty quickly. Cold press is a good choice when you want to convey texture in your subject.

Hot press  is super smooth. No texture with this paper. This paper doesn’t suck up the water as fast as the cold press, allowing you to play around more, like re-wetting edges of pigment.

Might be nicer to suggest texture with handmade papers like Japanese rice papers or the ones that are inlaid with flowers–NY Central Art supply should have good selection–and you could cut them down to size you want. Think perhaps too of creating several images that you could connect to one another in a grid or sequence or pattern.

This list of papers from alternativephotography.com   extremely detailed and helpful too

Cyanotype process:

Arches and Fabriano papers seem to be favourites amongst many cyanotype artists and Buxton and Hahnemühle are also recommended, but keep sending in your favourites.


  • Arches platine, cranes platinotype and buxton work well for any iron processes. (by 2 anonymous contributors).
  • Arches Platine, Arches 90# hot press watercolor, Rives Lightweight (from Edwardo Aites).
  • Arches hot pressed watercolor paper (from Ivy Bigbee and Ken Sinclair).
  • Arches RKB
  • Arches 140 lb. Hot Pressed paper works very well (from Randi DeLisle).
  • Arches Aquarelle
  • Bergger COT-320 (soft graduation), Arches Platine (soft graduation), Fabriano Artistico grain fine and grain satine (hard graduation) (from Kai Hamann).
  • BFK – Rives (from Wendy Currie).
  • Buxton; Fabriano 5; Silversafe; Cranes cover and parchment (for the New Cyanotype process).
  • Buxton paper for cyanotype I process – a wonderful paper to work with, though, sadly, not inexpensive (from Diana Bloomfield).
  • Canson Sketch: The BACK side of Canson Sketch 120gsm White fine grain paper (from Ole Tjugen).
  • Canson Moulin du gue CP – rag paper (from Wendy Currie).
  • Oliver Wattez's cyanotype printed on Clairefontaine paper.Clairefontaine – grain 224 g/m2; both sides tested, the rough and the smoother; tested with cyanotype classic solution with solution A stabilized with a few drops of formol. Paper exposed with Ultra-Vitalux bulb at 40 cm for 5 minutes approx – not a perfect solution because the bulb produces an irregular flow of light with an higher level of UV light in the center of the beam; negatives were a polyester transparency negatives for hi-resolution inkjet printers;
    Processing: rinse with cold water and then rinse with white vinegar (1 part of vinegar with 3 parts of water) and finally rinse with water again (from Oliver Wattez).
  • Cranes AS8111
  • Cranes Crest Parchment
  • Fabriano Artistico hot works pretty well (from Barbara Maloney).
  • Fabriano Hot Pressed (from Wendy Currie).
  • Fabriano 5 (from Andrew Parnell).
  • Fabriano 100/100 paper, with Mike Ware’s cyanotype II, it gives the richest toning, other papers tested with less nice results, also Buxton which is excellent but more expensive (from Manfred Raida).
  • Fabriano 100 percent cotton paper, hot press, 140 lb. But cheaper papers often work also – try several (from Karl P. Koenig).
  • Fabrics: Silk – beautiful sheen although a softer cyan with v.pale blue highlights.
    Raw silk – deeper blue but softer image due to the texture of the material.
    Cotton Poplin – thin cotton gives a deeper blue with clean highlights.
    Twill – A thicker cotton which gives excellent results. Has a long tonal range from the deepest blue to clean white highlights (from Wendy Currie).
  • Hahnemühle etching paper (from Neal Oshima).
  • Kozo rice paper – made from mulberries. This is a delicate & translucent paper with a good wet strength. Dry thoroughly to ‘rest’ the paper before toning. (from Wendy Currie).
  • Royal Watercolour Society 300gCP; Hahnemuehle Photorag inkjet paper; Hahnemuehle Torchon inkjet paper (from Malcolm Raggett).
  • Rives BFK and stonehinge (from Nan Wollman and an anonymous contributor).
  • Stonehenge HP 245gsm (from Wendy Currie).
  • Strathmore Bristol – Very smooth surface that holds up to wetting well without roughing. Produces full tonal range and quite sharp prints. Somewhat slow printing allows for more control of exposure and more repeatable results (from Randall Ellis).
  • St. Armand Canal white – works beautifully and requires no acidification. Somewhat more absorbent than the better-known papers. (from Eben Ostby)
  • Whatman Watercolour
  • For the blue I go for, my favorite is Stonehenge and some Hahnemuehle. A must is to try the cheapest brown paper used to wrap boxes and big enveloppes; not the dark brown , but the orangier brown ones. Can be stunning (from Henk Thijs).
  • Both cyanotypes and VanDyke brown prints I make on either Arches bright white 140lb. cold press or white Rives BFK. Both processes work well on these papers. The main difference is the Arches paper has a prominent texture, while the Rives BFK is smooth textured. I find that exposure times are slightly longer when using Arches for VanDyke browns than with Rives BFK. Van Dyke solution is more likely to streak when coating on Rives BFK than with Arches (from Tyler Hewitt).
  • Watercolour paper (from Jo Mills)
  • Most every watercolor or printmaking paper I’ve used works. My favorites: Fabriano Artistico 180lb hot pressed & soft press in bright white or traditional white; and hot pressed 300 lb Fabriano or Arches. I’ve used 100% rag printmaking papers and watercolor papers with excellent results. Not only that, the cyanotype images are still fresh 25 years later. (from Rebecca Bushner).
  • Both cyanotypes and VanDyke brown prints I make on either Arches bright white 140lb. cold press or white Rives BFK. Both processes work well on these papers. The main difference is the Arches paper has a prominent texture, while the Rives BFK is smooth textured. I find that exposure times are slightly longer when using Arches for VanDyke browns than with Rives BFK. Van Dyke solution is more likely to streak when coating on Rives BFK than with Arches (from Tyler Hewitt).

Doesn’t work:

  • Canson Sketch: The FRONT side of Canson Sketch 120gsm White fine grai. paper (from Ole Tjugen).
  • Fabric that doesn’t work is synthetics (from Wendy Currie).
  • Papers buffered with chalk (calcium carbonate). Avoid chalk-buffered papers for processes using ferrioxalate sensitizers (precipitates calcium oxalate and hydrolyses the iron(III)).
  • Kentmere Classic II (from Malcolm Raggett).
  • Arches cold press (from Ivy Bigbee).
  • All water color paper (from Nan Wollman).
  • Anything under 70lb wrinkles too much when wet, some kozo papers are hard to work with. I try to avoid sized paper (from Rebecca Bushner).
  • Man-made fabrics like bandages or packing materials (from Jo Mills)


To create a digital negative:

  • Using graphics/photo editing software, create the artwork that you want to cyanotype, sized appropriately for the piece of knitting. The finished will be the same size as the negative.
  • Convert the image to grayscale.
  • Flip the graphic from left to right, so that any lettering is now backwards. You do this because when printing, the negative will be placed face down, ie. ink-side down.
  • Invert colors to make it a negative.
  • Print the finished graphic onto inkjet transparency film.

Another version: Just get some Pictorico Premium Overhead Transparency Film (OHP). Then, open your image in photoshop and, if it’s not already in black and white, then convert it using mode function. Once you have a black and white image and have adjusted the levels, brightness and contrast to your liking, invert (or reverse) the image. Using an inkjet printer, print the reversed image onto the OHP film at whatever size you want the final image to be and you are done. Since this is a contact printing technique whatever size you make the negative will render the same size on the printing surface.

A bit more complex and good directions:

Very good video that will help you out in photoshop with orange color negative that many like.

Pictorico transparency film is recommended by many practitioners as it has a gelatine and ceramic coating which has superior ink holding properties to standard OHP material, but feel free to experiment with other manufacturers as this isn’t as widely available as it used to be. Look for a good quality overhead transparency film from a respected manufacturer.

Select the image that you wish to make a negative and go to Image>Adjust>De-saturate. Next you need to turn the image into a negative. Do this by going to Image>Adjust>Invert. To alter contrast go to Image>Adjust>Levels. In levels adjust the Output with the bottom sliders from 0 to 255 to about 20 to 210 (fig 1). This is a starting point and you may find that, after experimentation, other settings suit your images better.

You could print the negative at this stage but I recommend filling the image with another colour. Rather like the orange mask used in colour film negatives – using your software’s fill command. This allows for a denser negative as the additional colour adds ink.

From the Toolbox select the foreground colour icon. The colour picker box will open. In the C.M.Y.K % section change the settings to C=0, M=50, Y=50, K=0 (fig 2). This will produce an orange colour in the Foreground Box similar to the orange cast found in colour negative film. Click OK. Now go to Edit>Fill. Select OK (fig 3). The image will turn completely orange (fig 4). Next go to Edit>Fade Fill. A dialogue box will open. With the Mode setting left at Normal – slide the Opacity slider until it reaches 40% (fig 5). Click OK. You may want to experiment with the percentage but 40% is a good starting point. Save your work.

The final stage is to flip the negative image horizontally (fig 6) – if you fail to do this your image will appear as if in a mirror.

fig 1
fig 2
fig 3
fig 4
fig 5
fig 6

Finally print, at your printer’s highest resolution onto your OHP transparency. Handle the negative carefully by the edges and hang it up to dry and harden away from dust.

Paper: Whilst practically any paper can be used to make a cyanotype print most photographers favour using a quality acid free watercolour paper of about 300gms in weight. The beauty of the cyanotype process is that you can experiment with differing paper surfaces and tones – try an off-white/cream or ivory paper.

Lighting Source: Traditionally the sun was used as the light source but an artificial UV source may prove to be more controllable. I uses a small facial sauna. This ‘mini-sunbed’ has the dual advantage of being a constant source of UV and of having a built in timer. This allows for more accurate and repeatable exposures.

Printing Frame: A rim-less clip frame, of the sort used to display posters, can be modified for use as a cyanotype printing frame. Cut the backboard of the clip frame in two about half way and tape these two parts back together with heavy-duty tape to form a ‘hinged’ back. The frame can be opened as normal to load your paper and negative, and then clipped back together, using 4 large ‘bull-dog’ clips, to hold the two in register while you make your exposure. To check the progress of the print, simply remove 2 clips from the top half and ‘open’ the hinged back. The remaining clips ensure that the negative and paper stay in register.

More complicated and using Burkholder’s curves (he wrote a book on how to make digital negatives which is a popular resouce) see directions at this link: http://faculty.cooper.edu/willia/pages/digital_negatives-compilation.html

another resource: http://masteringphoto.com/how-to-make-a-digital-negative/

for advanced photoshop users refer to this link for curves to download: http://www.alternativephotography.com/wp/negatives/curve-corner-photoshop-curves


Once I see your results I would like for you to take some of your cyanotype prints a step further and tone them with teas and also add some hand coloring to them or perhaps if you’ve worked on fabric then embellish them (beads-buttons) or sew them–quilt them.  I like both of these links!! Please look!



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