Contrast Control with Cyanotype

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by TheFlyingCamera, Mar 29, 2006.

  1. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I tried making a print yesterday in cyanotype. The neg is an 8x10 neg that was developed for pt/pd printing. When I printed it in Cyanotype, my highlights were WAY blown out when I had reached good dmax on my borders, and the shadow areas were starting to block up. Is there some way I can alter the contrast in the cyanotype print, or do I have to make my negs for it specifically?
     
  2. Shinnya

    Shinnya Advertiser Advertiser

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    Did you happen to use pyro-base developer for the negative?

    My understanding is that Cyanotype will require more contrast than Pt/Pd...

    Warmly,
    Tsuyoshi
     
  3. TheFlyingCamera

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    Yes- it was a pyro developer for the neg. The print I made had TOO much contrast...
    my shadows were already starting to block up while my highlights were detail-less and badly blown out.
     
  4. Shinnya

    Shinnya Advertiser Advertiser

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    I think that is why. Negatives developed with pyro do not work with Cyanotype.

    It is not that I have tried a lot, but mine did not work at all, and could not figure out why. Later, Sam Wang mentioned that they do not on alt-mailing-list.

    I guess you need to make negatives again.

    Warmly,
    Tsuyoshi
     
  5. donbga

    donbga Member

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    You maybe SOL on this one. The only thing I can think of is to add 40% citric acid to the sensitizer before coating. Add 1 to 2 drops for every 2 ml of solution. You may also wish to couple this with development in a 2% solution of citric acid.

    You can also develop in a 1:5 dilution of white vinegar. Dump the solution after every print to avoid highlight staining. This will probably increase your exposure time. Also consider coating with 2 parts A to 1 part B.

    You didn't mention what paper you are using.Different papers have different scales.

    My 2 cents,
     
  6. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Not true. However overly stained negatives are to be avoided for all UV based processes.
     
  7. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Well, Sam Wang is a good friend and colleague, and one of the best cyanotype printers in the world, but it is not correct that pyro negatives do not work with cyanotype.

    The issues are these. 1) Cyanotype is a very slow process, certainly the slowest of all of the popular altlernative processes. Typically, exposures take at least twice as long with cyanotype as with vandyke. So even if you print with traditional negatives exposures will be very long. And 2) the stain, especially if there is any over-expousure or if the film has a high B+F from age or heat, will add even more time to the exposure, perhaps doubling it.

    So, bottom line is that pryo negatives will make great cyanotype prints, but exposure times could be very long.

    Sandy
     
  8. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

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    I am also busying myself with some cyanotypes right now, so this is how far my knowledge goes:

    Pyro negs perfectly work, but, as Syndy stated, take long.

    It is, as far as I know, not possible to print with traditional cyanotype a tonal scale as long as with pt/pd. You have to overprint, highlights get washed away. For long-scale negs therefore Mike Ware's New Cyanotype process is perfectly suited. (It also gives much shorter exposure times, and has better contrast control)

    As for contrast control: printing on acidified paper (1% acetic, oxalic) enhances the tonal scale (and gives deeper blues), as does an acid first rinse. Double coating seems to give somewhat more contrast in the highlights, adding tween 20 helps the emulsion to stick on paper. Finally, paper choice: some papers seem to keep more steps than others.
     
  9. Shinnya

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    Thanks everyone,

    I will try much longer time with those negatives.

    Warmly,
    Tsuyoshi
     
  10. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    For my first foray into Cyanotypes I was using Arches Platine. I have some socorro and some COT 320 to try as well...

    To reiterate, I was having no problem achieving a good dense dmax. To get detail in the highlights and not have acres of paper white showing in the white area of the image, I was getting blocked up shadows that were going too dark and losing detail.

    I'm using the B&S Cyanotype kit. Where can I get the Mike Ware kit?
     
  11. donbga

    donbga Member

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    B&S may have it is well as Photographers Formulary, but it is very easy to make yourself.

    From what you describe you need a softer tonal range and just switching to the Ware formula will most likely give just as contrasty or more contrasty results. Why not try the citirc acid first.
     
  12. John_Brewer

    John_Brewer Member

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    I would try acid in the first water bath, it's the easiest and cheapest option to experiment with to reduce contrast. I use acetic acid, (because I have a lot of it), but other acids like citric work well too or use white vinegar. Different papers have different tonal scales as Don has said too. Sizing and adding or omitting Tween also affects contrast.

    J
     
  13. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

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    (Btw, in my first comment I seem to have repeated some of your suggestion; I overlooked your first post)

    The Ware process gives a considerably longer tonal scale than normal cyanotype, you can even print negs which work as salt prints, or Pt/pd pop. Its tonal scale is just as rich as any platinum print might be, and the darkest blue is very nearly black, giving the picture a richness and luminance which may be achievable - or nearly so - also with normal cyanotype, but only with special precautions, making the process more complicated as its reputation would have it.

    In my view, New cyanotypes have two disadvantages: 1) the process is very sensitive to the paper base, and generally more difficult to coat, 2) - I think, though I have only made one or two very preliminary tests - they don't tone as well as normal cyanotypes.

    Mike Ware gives very good instructions on his website, though I use hydrochloric acid instead of nitric for the first bath, because it is easier for me to get (he used to recommend this also, but changed it).