Basic cyanotype advice needed please...

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by vickersdc, Dec 31, 2009.

  1. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    Hi,

    As I've now finished making my printing frame, I want to start using print-out paper to 'convert' my glass negatives to a positive print.

    I've ordered the Potassium Ferricyanide and Ferric Ammonium Citrate, but wherever I look, I find differing quantities required.

    In my c1900 book 'Everyones Guide To Photography' it uses...

    Potassium ferridcyanide 75 grains (4.85g)
    Distilled water 1oz (28ml)

    Ammonio-citrate of iron 96 grains (6.2g)
    Distilled water 1oz (28ml)

    In the text from the site that is supplying the chemicals they use 2:1 Ferric Ammonium Citrate: Potassium Ferricyanide, and on the Alternative Photography website they use 25g Ferric... to 10g Pot Ferr..

    What sort of ratio do you recommend? Does it matter that much? What affect does changing the ratios have on the final print?

    Thank you in advance,
    David.
     
  2. Loris Medici

    Loris Medici Member

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    The most standard(!) - an oxymoron since there's no standard Ammonium Iron(III) Citrate to begin with... - formula is 20% Ammonium Iron(III) Citrate for A and 8% Potassium Ferricyanide for B. OTOH, 25% for A and 12% for B will yield a much stronger/denser image, but with a considerable speed loss. (2/3 - 1 stop) Mix small amnt. of each variation and see which one works best for you.

    BTW, definitely consider New Cyanotype if you want an even denser image with smoother highlights. (But it's slightly harder to mix and you have to use purest papers - or acidify otherwise unsuitable papers beforehand...)

    Regards,
    Loris.
     
  3. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    google 'the new cyanotype process' by dr. mike ware. A lot more senstive mix.
     
  4. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    Bit late to reply to this but all of mine have been the 25g ammonium ferr. citrate to 10g pot. ferri. traditional cyanotype mix (per 100ml of deionised water). Speed isn't everything and I've not found as many problems with the traditional formula as Dr. Ware has so I don't think it's fair to poopoo the traditional formula outright.
     
  5. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    Thanks for the reply Heather; I wanted to use the traditional formula anyway! I might just go ahead and use the one that's in my c1900 book; as for speed, slower is better as far as I'm concerned :wink:

    Cheers,
    David.
     
  6. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    I thought that after the help I had received, I would just post a cyanotype image that I've just dried out. I used 4g of Potassium Ferridcyanide in 14ml of distilled water, and 7g of Ferric Ammonium Citrate in a similar amount of distilled water.

    The print received roughly 8 hours of exposure(!) - no sunlight here in the UK at the moment! So it was a cloudy day all day, and the print really needed longer - perhaps another day?!

    Anyway, here it is, with all its faults.

    [​IMG]

    This is actually the third print - the first one was not developed for nearly long enough and the images just washed away! The second worked much better, and I tea-toned that one and stuck it into a photo frame as it was the first successful cyanotype print! So the image above is of the third one attempted.

    I've just coated another sheet of paper with a 50/50 mix of malt vinegar and water to see if the increased acidity improves the image.

    Thanks,
    David.
     
  7. Vaughn

    Vaughn Member

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    Good on you!

    If any or all of the image "washes away", it usually means that the cyanotype chemicals did not have a chance to seep into the paper. This often happens when one uses a well-sized paper and/or when one hits it with the hair drier too soon. All the chems are sitting on top of the paper surface where they can get washed away -- the image should be in the paper where the paper fibers can grip the chems and hold them there.

    Two light coats (allowing the first to dry) might help too. Something else to play with!

    Vaughn
     
  8. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    Hi David

    If you continue to have problems and get frustrated i would suggest you try the pre made Cyanotype II solution (Mike Ware version) that is avaliable in the U.K. For me personally i was able to achieve much more consistant results with this formula and see less of the image going down the plug hole! The solution is more sensitive than the original and exposures should be much less that 8 hours. Good Luck



     
  9. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    That just looks a bit underexposed to me. And an underexposed cyanotype will just wash out, like you describe.
    Buy a "philips facial solarium" on ebay or something. Prop it up (face down) with some books at either end then put your printing frame underneath it. It is really a worthwhile buy and you can occasionally find it for cheaper than the UV tubes if you were to build your own. Be sure to wear decent sunglasses or UV light protection goggles when working with it (and I tend to leave the room while it works too). My exposure times for about an inch away from the paper (once you take into account the printing frame underneath the paper) are around 8-10minutes usually. No banding when printing that close because it has a reflective backing which scatters the light evenly and because I don't work any larger than 4x5 film :D
     
  10. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    I use such a philips facial browner, bought it from the local 2nd hand store for 3 euro.
    It takes 55 seconds with the new cyanotype process.

    I did build a wooden frame around it so that i do not get the UV light in my eyes.
     
  11. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    Hi Heather and Willie Jan,

    Whilst I know you are right, and that using a UV lamp makes things quicker and more repeatable (and the Cyanotype II process can produce a 'better' image), I am trying to recreate what would have been achieved about 100+ years ago by following my old book from around that time.

    Since moving to LF with the FKD and making paper negatives, and now with making my printing frame and using some medium format negatives to play around with cyanotypes, I've rediscovered the joy of photography! I left the digital camera scene a while ago as that just left me cold, but this alt process scene is just wonderful - it's about recreating and rediscovering these processes, and making an image; I'm not that fussed if the final image isn't a work of art, but to me, it's a lot better than a digital image! There's something of 'me' in these alt process images.

    Cheers,
    David.
    PS: Hopefully I'll be able to report back on my attempts to slightly acidify the paper.
     
  12. banana_legs

    banana_legs Member

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    David,

    I found that my cyanotypes were really inconsistent; test strips usually exposed and washed fine, but the full print would sometimes fail for no apparent reason. After much trial and error, I found that sheets of paper from the same water colour pad were not guaranteed to behave the same, so I started making and sizing my own paper (it is cheap, but hard work and takes lots of practice!)

    The results were very interesting though and I have come to the conclusions that it is primarily how the paper is sized that matters most, not the acidity of the paper itself. I have made paper that is quite acidic, and also quite alkaline and although it does change the final colour of the print slightly, it is the sizing that determines whether all the blue floats off or not or whether you can wash out the yellow stain.

    Even if you apply multiple layers of a cyanotype-friendly surface size to a sheet, there will still be some influence of any other sizing processes in practice. The best approach is to try lots of different types of papers and find the ones that work best for you; price is not always a good guide either as some of the modern 'expensive' papers can be terrible for cyanotype! If you find a good art supplier, they may be able to supply quite small sheets of paper at reasonable prices.

    Having made my paper from scratch, the best size I have found so far is just 3 coats of either unhardened gelatine, or slightly hardened with up to 3% alum (3% weight/weight with the dry gelatine). The results must be pretty close to what Herschel saw on the paper he had available; really dark blues from only a single coat of solution and no washout of the blue either.

    A good exposure on a pure gelatine size looks generally yellow/green with the shadow areas being a pronounced dark green; if the shadows solarise to grey then the image is very over exposed. With some modern papers, I have to expose far longer to get most of the image to the grey/brown look and not a hint of yellow before it will develop properly.

    Best regards,

    Evan
     
  13. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    Hello Evan,

    Thank you for your post, lots of great info there, and quite interesting that you make your own paper. I too started making my own paper over the festive period but have not got around to using it yet... by sheer fluke the mould & deckle are the right size for the printing frame that I made!

    One of the reasons that I have not used it so far, is I really wasn't sure if it would stand up to the washing process; I'd be so disappointed to have my paper dissolve on me after I'd waited hours and hours for the image to appear! My paper has quite a rough surface to it, but I think that with the right image that might look quite nice. PS: What do you use to make your paper? Do you use photographic gelatin, or food gelatin (and if so, do you increase the quantity of gelatin?).

    Best wishes,
    David.
     
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  15. banana_legs

    banana_legs Member

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    David,

    I recycle copier paper, so it comes out with the odd fragment of lettering on the surface which makes it rather different from anything you can buy. I shred the paper and then blitz it in the blender with boiling water; the really hot water seems to prevent any issues with the existing paper sizing and also separates the fibres well. I then add some PVA glue (from the builders merchants) to the pulp as an internal size for the paper; a reasonable amount of PVA glue does not seem to bother the cyanotype process but helps enormously with the wet strength of the waterleaf paper (i.e. no other sizing applied).

    I apply 3 layers of 3% gelatine solution as size and then print. The gelatine is just normal food grade I get from the supermarket. Adding a little alum does thicken it and raises the melting point which makes washing easier as the paper is stronger. A typical size mix is 1x15g packet of gelatine in 450ml of water, bloom and then melt and then dissolve 0.5gram of alum in 50ml of water and stir into the gelatine. I melt the gelatine in the microwave and apply it to the paper when it has cooled as much as possible but without setting. The most difficult part is the first layer of size as the paper is really fragile when wet with the gelatine; the paper is quite robust for the other two layers.

    I only wash in cold water as the paper usually falls apart in hot water. I have done multi-layer gum prints on the paper too with lots of soaking so it is surprisingly strong. I have ironed really wrinkled sheets face down onto a cloth so that I do not get gelatine on the iron and that helps get the negative close to the paper. I also make my paper quite thin; for 38 sheets of A4 copier paper made into pulp, I get on average 32 sheets of 10"x8" paper out.

    Best regards,

    Evan
     
  16. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    Thanks for the info; you are doing well with getting 32 sheets from that! I made my paper particularly thick, using about 4 sheets of A4 copier paper to get ONE sheet that was 6" x 8"!

    I've got plenty of PVA knocking around here - it never occurred to me to throw some into the mix. Also, when I made my paper I blended it using cold water, rather than hot... so that's something else to try. I've also got plenty of gelatin knocking around as well, from coating glass plates - I think I may be in for a busy weekend :wink:

    Cheers,
    David.
     
  17. banana_legs

    banana_legs Member

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    David,

    The trick to working with thin sheets is to not get the pulp/water mix too thick when you put the mould in, also I turn out the sheets onto 'J cloths'. I actually use the supermarket own brand - Tesco's blue/white "all-purpose cleaning cloths" is I think how they are labelled, they are thin and fibrous sheets which seem to work well for supporting the paper during drying and sizing. I stack the sheets I make, 12 at a time, and put a board top and bottom and then stand on it to squash out as much water as I can. I then separate the cloths carefully and hang them to dry with the sheet of 'pressed pulp' attached. I then peel the paper sheets off the cloths when dry.

    For the first coat of size, I put a sheet of paper onto a cloth and paint the size on with a soft brush; the paper goes back looking like pulp again, but just about holding together. I then put a dry cloth on top, turn the whole sandwich over, and then separate the wet sheet from the now damp cloth. I then turn the sheet back so it has the sized-side upwards onto a 3rd cloth (again turning as a 'sandwich') and leave it to dry. I damage very few sheets this way. I did try tub sizing where you float the sheet of paper onto a tray of size but the carnage that results in trying to get the wet paper out was far too depressing.

    When the 3rd size layer is almost dry and the paper has only a little dampness in it, I stack a the sheets, about 6 at a time, and then press them between two boards using a heavy weight until they are dry; this makes them pretty flat and easier to contact print onto. When the cyanotype emulsion is applied, the paper cockles a bit, but seems to dry flat ok ready for the exposure. I leave the emulsion to soak in a bit (often right through the paper) and then dry it with a hair drier.

    Have fun and remember to hold the top of the blender on tightly otherwise it is papier mache on the ceiling!

    Evan
     
  18. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    I'm thinking that in order to keep everything 'Victorian', I might try sizing with Arrowroot and see what happens...

    I too use those 'J-cloth' things, they seem to work well in this type of application. I'll have to do some experimentation with the pulp/water mix then, as my stuff is like cardboard :wink:

    Cheers,
    David.
     
  19. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    Where I live there are windmills that produce there own handmade paper from lombs. Maybe a tip if you want to spare time...
     
  20. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    Help! For this cyanotype I first coated the paper with a 50/50 mix of malt vinegar and water (which I then let dry, before coating with the Potassium Ferricyanide & Ferric Ammonium Citrate).

    I also allowed a longer exposure than the previous cyanotype, which has improved the actual image, but there is extensive blotchiness in the brushed border area (See the cropped image for better detail).

    Why has this happened? Was it the vinegar / water solution? Was it the length of exposure before washing? (The blotchiness had appeared before washing). Where might have I gone wrong with this?

    Main image:
    [​IMG]

    Cropped view of the brushed border:
    [​IMG]
     
  21. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    I admire the amount of effort you are putting into this. Since you want to keep with the old methods I don't really have any suggestions for you on technique. I would suggest taking care of the pH of the paper when you are making it instead of afterwards if you determine pH is the problem. Also copier paper is more than likely made out of wood pulp I would imagine. A cotton based paper would probably work out much better. I hope this helps just a little. Good luck.
     
  22. banana_legs

    banana_legs Member

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    David,

    Was this a sheet of hand-made paper or commercial? Try to fix as many variables as possible with the experiment to see what is influencing your print. How about taking a sheet of paper and coating half of it with the vinegar mix (e.g. the top half) and when it is dry, coat with the cyanotype mixture. Then place the negative, but cover say the left half of the image with a few layers of kitchen foil to make sure it is dark. Expose the image for the shorter time you have used in the past, then remove the foil and expose the extra time needed to match your last exposure.

    You will now have 4 experiments on one sheet of paper; all of which use exactly the same paper, exactly the same cyanotype mix and also are all washed out for the same time in the same pH water. If the two vinegar quadrants show the mottling effect then the pre-wash is the culprit. If all quadrants show it, then the paper, the cyanotype mix or the wash water are to blame etc.

    My guess is that it is an interaction between the vinegar and the sizing. If it is handmade paper, there may be some effect of the original size in the paper that has been pulped; if the additional exposure causes the mottling, it may be the old paper size causing a faster response in some areas than others, the effect would be present at the shorter exposure but not as noticeable.. As I mentioned before, I have found that the pH of the paper itself does not seem to make much difference, it is the materials used for sizing that can have a dramatic effect. For example raw gelatine as a size seems good; adding 3% alum is also good and the paper is stronger. Adding 20% alum (not uncommon in some old papers) will make the print turquoise, increase the printing speed by almost a stop (hence why it could be an old size issue) and you may never wash out the yellow stain.

    Do you know what the paper has been sized with? You previously mentioned arrowroot; I found using a coat of boiled flour as a final starch size on top of the gelatine makes coating the paper an absolute dream and the blue goes really dark, however the paper curls really badly and while trying to get it flat, the size can crack and flake off.

    Best regards,

    Evan
     
  23. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    Thanks for all the ideas / information Evan; this particular paper is commercial stuff and I'm not sure what it is sized with to be honest. I've just coated another two sheets, but this time I added 1% citric acid to the sensitised solution as I recall reading somewhere that it can help with dealing with this sort of issue.

    Just in case anyone else is reading this, it just be worth mentioning that the citric acid powder must not be added directly to the sensitised solution. I mixed 4g of citric acid to 10ml of distilled water, then added 0.5ml of this to 55ml of sensitised solution, before brushing it on the paper.

    I'll see how this goes over the weekend. By the way, the arrowroot was what I am intending to use this weekend if I get a chance to make some more hand-made paper. That's actually where I want to be - printing cyanotypes on my own paper.

    Thank you,
    David.
     
  24. BBMOR

    BBMOR Member

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    Hey
    after develloping (water) add some drops of a diluted 3% peroxyde solution (who is harmless) but this will oxidise the rest of the Fe in a nice dark blue Fe complex much more stable

    jm
     
  25. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    That's what I've been doing anyway - after washing, I put some normal household bleach into a litre of water and pour it over the paper; you can watch the image darken down as you pour it over. However, I believe that you would achieve the same thing just by leaving it for a few days to oxidise normally.

    I've just tried toning the blotchy image - and it actually reduced the obvious blotches :smile: I'll scan it in when it's dry and add some details too...
     
  26. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    As promised... this is the same blotchy cyanotype after toning in tannic acid & sodium carbonate. It seems to have improved the contrast too, which I'm rather happy about!

    [​IMG]