Holger Wieborg (


I want you to watch this video it covers exactly how you can make the digital negative quickly and easily and some tips for making cyanotype. You will get a monochromatic blue tone image-different values–Iron based print similar to salt prints which have brown hue and that is silver based.

Review: About the Digital Negative

-Scan negative or digital image–Choose high resolution image with good contrast and value. Cyanotypes do not render great midtones but are contrasty in nature–When you bring image into Photoshop convert it to grayscale, (under mode), then invert image (image-adjustments-invert) then flip it (select all-edit-transform-flip horizontally) so it will be proper orientation.

-Make sure you create a negative that is dense (dark enough) and contrasty. This can be a challenge. You need to make it denser than you think you need to! What looks good on the screen won’t look good on the transparency printout! Best way to do this is to increase contrast and lower brightness so you have nice dense negative. Simple method –Do this,( image-adjustments-brightness/contrast and adjust sliders accordingly) OR better yet, use shadow/highlight adjustment and adjust accordingly. Once you get it looking good–print it out on high quality setting onto transparency film at the size of your purchased film. Have your negative size match your paper size or you can combine smaller negatives if collaging.    this is another how to on making digital negative a bit more advanced.   a good overall tutorial

Review: About coating and exposing the paper-trouble-shooting!

-You are using Photographer’s Forumulary Cyanotype kit they have powder and liquid-it will be mixed for you and you don’t need a lot to coat your paper-this is what is being mixed:

Mixing chemicals  this is the directions Peter has for kits there

The cyanotype is made up of two simple solutions. You must use DISTILLED WATER for best results.

  • Potassium ferricyanide and Ferric ammonium citrate (green) are mixed with water separately into dark brown bottles and they are uv sensitive when mixed.
  • The two solutions are then blended together in equal parts. You have 3rd container that gets equal parts of both solutions. Once mixed into working solution they must be used right away-separate mixed solutions A and B once mixed up don’t keep long either but put them in dark storage bottles if you’re attempting it.

Materials Needed:

-Digital Negative made according to directions above and reviewed in the video

-drafting tape to secure you paper to clamping board

-Watercolor paper or handmade paper hot pressed 140 lb or heavier–the plexi they have with clamps only accomodates 11×14 under uv light–but if using the sun to expose you could go larger but you will need to get non uv plexi glass and clamps

-tray large enough to hold your paper to rinse with water

  • Preparing the canvas
    • You can apply the solution with a foam brush for more even coverage or a brush for more streaky coverage. Coat both directions horizontal first and then vertical.
    • Use rubber gloves and an apron or an old shirt to work in. If you have the space, choose an area where you can spread out. Ordinary light bulbs or tungsten light is safe to use, but UV light will affect your prints. Some fluorescent lighting may also affect your prints–it’s best to work in subdued dim dark incandescent area.
    • Paper, card, textiles handmade papers or any other naturally absorbent porous material is coated with the solution and dried in the dark or dried with blow dryer in the dark to faciliate faster drying time.

    Printing the cyanotype

    • Objects or negatives are placed on the material to make a print via contact printing method in LOW LIGHT and then placed into light source–otherwise you could fog paper paper and lose contrast and highlights.    A digital negative will be sandwiched between glass or non uv plexglass any actual object could go on sheet of glass and then placed on exposed material or directly in contact with it. The cyanotype is printed using UV light, such as the sun, a light box or a UV lamp.  If doing them at lab you will us UV light if working larger you can do them on your own with sun–coat them there and bring them home (you must expose them within 1 day) in a dark lightproof transport. -Do not need enlarger or darkroom–you will expose with sun or uv light
    • Paper usually turns to white or washed out blue when it’s often ready to be taken apart and washed.
    • Are you using the negative correctly? (i.e. facing the paper on the correct side – for digital, ink-to-emulsion works best.) Side that ink printed on should go against emulsion!  Remember, cyanotype is part of the paper and the paper “tooth” becomes part of the image.  If the paper is particularly rough, try sizing it before you coat with emulsion for a clearer image. You can size it with soak in vinegar but remember it needs to be completely dry before you coat it with cyanotype solution.
    • Exposure times can vary from a few minutes to several hours, depending on how strong your lightsource is or the season where you are printing.  It is best to do a test print to avoid guessing. Some people like to rush oxidation and put it in a diluted bath of hydrogen peroxide to intensify the blues–a capful per 32 oz of water.

    Processing and drying

    • After exposure the material is processed by simply rinsing it in COLD water-agitate it by rocking it back and forth. This removes any unexposed chemicals from print. Be careful when picking up the prints: a wet cyanotype will smear emulsion if you touch it.  A white print emerges on a blue background. When the print has been exposed, process your print by just rinsing it in cold water. The wash also removes any unexposed chemicals. Wash for at least 5 minutes, until all chemicals are removed and the water runs clear. Oxidation is also hastened this way – bringing out the blue color. The final print can now be hung to dry or placed on drying screen and air dried. If you plan to tone your prints, let them age/harden for at least 24 hours before you tone.

-You should bring in some foam brushes or Japanese hake or pastry brushes to apply emulsion to your material–don’t use brushes with metal on them it can interfere with chemicals. Do not use stretched canvas that has gesso treated on it–but untreated canvas or 100% cotton or linen no synthetics for material can work. Paper see–list of recommendation for watercolor or Japanese rice paper or inlaid handmade flower papers–or other textures. Think about how minimal or complex the image is in comparison to your selected base. Untreated Porous surface works best.

-If using material it must be 100% cotton or linen or canvas without any prior gesso or treatment.

-Try to use hot pressed watercolor paper rather than cold.

-If print is too dark expose for less time if print is too light expose for more time. If print washes away you left it in water too long -or didn’t use distilled water.

Troubleshooting issues

  • My entire print washed off in the developer, what did I do wrong?   You didn’t expose long enough for the image to fix.  Try a few test strips with stepped increments to find the best printing time.  Don’t be surprised if your printing time is long for a really dense negative.
  •  My image has far too much contrast: You need to adjust your negative.  For ortho film, use filters when printing (it’s been a while, I think you make a super low contrast negative.)  For film negs, try vinegar.  Lots of vinegar.  For digital negatives, read this blog post.
  • My coated paper is dark green/blue/anything but light green when I go to print: dark green usually means contaminated chemicals.  Blue means it got wet – high humidity will do this, or bagging before the print is fully dry. Best case, recoat and try again.  Worst case, you need to remix your chemicals and be super careful to avoid contamination.
  • Why does my print look washed out? Different papers will produce different color tones of blue.  Try Canson Montval – avoid cheap art papers because they will have more chemicals in them that interact with your emulsion.  Also try double coating for deeper shadows.  As in all photography, if your negative isn’t perfect, your print won’t be either.  Make sure your contrast on the negative is perfect. 
  • My image is blurry! Is your negative completely squashed against the paper?  Did it move during printing?  Are you using the negative correctly? (i.e. facing the paper on the correct side – for digital, ink-to-emulsion works best.)  Remember, cyanotype is part of the paper and the paper “tooth” becomes part of the image.  If the paper is particularly rough, try sizing it before you coat with emulsion for a clearer image. 
  • My print stained.  What went wrong? Proper washing is key.  Sometimes your rinse water will react to the emulsion – if this is the case, let it sit in a filtered water bath for a while longer.  Make sure you never reuse your developer – always prepare fresh water/vinegar for each print or risk a blue stain.  
  • Ack! My negative is dusty/shows fingerprints!  I usually wear light cotton gloves when working with my digital negatives.  If I notice a problem, usually the gloves will clean the negative without damaging it.  Dust/fur/brush bristles in the emulsion are far more a problem for me – duplicate prints are a good idea, especially if you plan to tone.  
  • My cyanotype print faded after a few months.  Cyanotypes like a slightly acidic environment, and sun will fade the print.  Shove the print into a book for a few days and let it sit: it should come back to its normal color.
  • I hate the flatness of my prints.  Is there anything I can do to make them shiny? Yes!  Try brushing a half-and-half diluted solution of acrylic gloss medium on a finished print.  This works really well with toned images, bringing out the shadow depth.  If you’re using a single coat of emulsion, try adding a tiny bit of gloss to the emulsion before you coat.  Mix well, or you’ll get streaks – you may have uneven toning issues with this method as well.
  • Why can’t I just mix up  the entire solution instead of mucking around with solutions A and B? Because it’s light sensitive and it starts to degrade about a day after you mix it.  Best to keep them separate – they last for years.  Just remember to lightly swish the solutions before you start pouring – some chemicals settle to the bottom.

History and artist inspiration about the cyanotype process

See this gallery on for cyanotype artists for inspiration.

some good example here:

The cyanotype, also known as a blueprint, is considered among the easiest of all the historical methods. Dating from 1842, this classic Prussian blue process is a great place for both beginners and accomplished artists alike to explore. Cyanotypes are economical, permanent, have few pitfalls, and are versatile in that a variety of toning effects are possible.

Some background History on the Cyanotype Process:

-1842 Sir John Herschel (1792-1871) Inventor of cyanotype process in 1842 precurser of modern blueprint process, discovery of permanent way of fix images to be seen in white light, sodium thiosulfate fixer as solvent of silver halides in 1820, after trying it in 1839, told Daguerre and Talbot about it. English mathematician, astonomer, chemist, and photographer/inventor. He did most of his photography related work between 1839-1844. He coined the term, photography (light/writing) in 1839, used terms negative/positive, and snap shot. He contributed to color reproduction, noting that rays of different parts of spectrum imparted their color to photo paper, originally discovered platinum process on basis of light sensitivity of platinum salts and later developed by William Willis.

Study of lace, by Sir John Herschel  1839.

-Anna Atkins (1799-1871)British, Botanist/photographer, first to use photogram illustrations in illustrated self published book, British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions, 1843 with 424 photos issued in parts over 10 years. She learned from Talbot and Herschel (cyanotype), her book preceded Talbot’s 1844 Pencil of Nature. Women were not encouraged at the time to be scientists, however, botany was acceptable field, and she established photography as an accurate medium for scientific illustration. She owned camera, yet, made cameraless direct contact photograms (shadowgraphs as they were known then), Talbot’s photogenic drawing technique.





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