How To Make Cyanotypes
Step by Step Video
If you’d like to try the process yourself, I made a video showing the step-by-step process I use to create prints.
My Cyanotypes on Pinterest
The History of Cyanotypes
Cyanotypes are a photographic technique that uses a dye and a negative to create a positive image. The process was invented by British astronomer and chemist John Frederick William Herschel (1792 – 1871).
The cyanotype process was seldom used until the 1880s when it was used to create inexpensive proof images. Architects and engineers used the process to make copies of design plans. We know them today as blueprints.
The technique can also be used to capture gorgeous botanical images. I can’t think of a better way to create art from your home garden than to make sun prints from plants and leaves found in your backyard.
Why I Wanted to Try This Fun Technique
I’ve always wanted to make sun prints, but I never got around to it. Luckily, a friend of mine made a series of sun print cards for her Etsy shop which inspired me.
Sun prints are created by placing objects on light-sensitive paper. When the paper is exposed to sunlight, it creates a brilliant cyan-blue image.
The First Book to Use Photographic Illustrations
In 1843, a woman named Anna Atkins began playing around with cyanotypes to capture images of her native Britsh seaweed collection. Over the next 10 years, Ms. Atkins would publish versions of her photo book for friends. The book was titled Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. It’s considered to be one of the first books illustrated with photographs.
I found it completely inspiring that a woman in 1843 was the first person to use this newly developed photographic technique to document her botanical collection. The historical significance of the books she published can’t be understated. If you are interested in seeing Ms. Atkins’ original images, they can be viewed online at the New York Public library.
Contemporary Art and Artists to Check Out
The Center for Photographic Arts in Carmel, CA recently opened the exhibition, Winter Blues: Contemporary Cyanotypes, curated by Center Director Ann Jastrab. Running through April 5th, the exhibition features the work of Diana Bloomfield, J.M. Golding, Brenton Hamilton, Barbara Hazen, Max Kellenberger, Heidi Kirkpatrick, Meghann Riepenhoff, Paula Riff, Leah Sobsey, and Brian Taylor.
Materials for the Best Results
The process is super easy, requires just a few materials, and the end result is a beautiful piece of art. I spent a couple of days experimenting with different types of paper and printing techniques and found this is what worked best for me.
Ideas of How You Can Use this Process to Make Your Own Gifts and Artwork
Sun prints can be used to create art prints, table clothes, and clothing. You’re only limited by your imagination. This technique is perfect for making artwork. Take a look at the list below to find inspiration for your next project.
Find Inspiration on Pinterest
Sun prints are fun to make. I’d love to hear if you give this process a try. Hit me up in the comments below and let me know what you made. If you send a photo, I’ll add it to my Pinterest board.
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