Cyanotypes?

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by wiseowl, Dec 28, 2006.

  1. wiseowl

    wiseowl Member

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    I'm interested in trying my hand at cyanotype, I've never done any alternative processes before so it's a little daunting.

    I'm considering getting the Fotospeed kit as a starting point, can I ask your views on this? Does it represent value for money, are there better ways to get started and if not what are they. (UK based.)

    Also, what should I aim for in a negative, normal, high or low contrast/density etc.

    Any links to information also welcomed.

    Thanks

    Martin
     
  2. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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  3. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Purchase the required chemicals seperately, they are inexpensive. I personally prefer the traditional cyanotype formula over Ware's. Everyone crows about the DMAX you get with the Ware formula but you can get a very good DMAX with the traditional formula by using 2 parts A to 1 part B.

    Use a good quality paper for best results.
     
  4. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

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    Get the chemicals from somewhere and mix them yourself.

    May I refer you to my website (see below) for some instructions/hints? Look into the "technical issues". I will be ready to explain/ answer further questions.
     
  5. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    Cyano is probably the easiest. Don't be daunted. If you have ever made something in the kitchen from scratch, you can do this.

    Just don't sit a neg on a wet surface. Let it dry first. :smile:
     
  6. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    And be sure to use a non-buffered paper. Unlike most other processes, Cyanotypes need an acidic environment or else they will bleach. Normal to slightly high contrast and density negatives can be printed successfully. The proportions of A+B solutions can be manipulated a bit to control print contrast. When the deepest shadows solarize the exposure is sufficient (assuming a properly matched negative density range).

    Joe
     
  7. wiseowl

    wiseowl Member

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    Thanks for all the advice.

    Dave, can I ask you to recommend a paper/supplier in the UK?

    Thanks,

    Martin
     
  8. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Apart from my local stationers / art shop, I only know of Silverprint, the latter stocking a very limited range of Arches Platine and Cranes Parchment. Maybe those that participate in the Alternate Print Exchange, such as Carl, Phill, or John will come in with specific help.
    As an aside have you looked at Ed Buffalo’s site, for he has several pages devoted to this process? http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/Cyano/cyano.html
     
  9. Justin Cormack

    Justin Cormack Member

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    Silverprint have all the chemistry. Paper is a different matter, I use Atlantis in London, as I work near there, http://www.atlantisart.co.uk/ (and they sell by the sheet) but I havent tried cyanotype yet, and papers are very different in terms of sizing, and no doubt other properties for different processes.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 29, 2006
  10. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Martin,

    Here is a list of papers that should work well with cyanotype:

    Arches Platine - Moderately Expensive
    Buxton - Very Expensive
    Crane's Parchment Wove - Inexpensive
    Rives BFK - Moderately Expensive
    Stonehenge White - Inexpensive
    Weston Diploma Parchment - Inexpensive
    Clear Print Vellum - Inexpensive
    Bienfang 360 Marking Paper - Inexpensive
    Cot 320 - Moderately Expensive

    I'm sure there are others including Japanese papers.

    Good luck,

    Don Bryant
     
  11. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Canson 1557 sketch pad - the back side works great, the front side not. That's what I get best results from.
     
  12. donbga

    donbga Member

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    That's kind of interesting since Canson papers are supposed to be buffered. Maybe the backside is more neutral.
     
  13. kevs

    kevs Member

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    Hi Martin,

    I used Winsor and Newton's Cotman watercolour paper (postcards, not the 'gummed' variety) for experimental Cyanotype photograms - using a hit-and-hope variation of Mike Ware's Ferric Ammonium Oxalate formula. I noted the smell of ammonia coming off the paper after coating, and stored it in the dark for a few hours. The paper's alakline buffer was reacting with the iron salt.

    It worked well eventually. My results were deep blue 'blacks' after rubbing with hydrogen peroxide-based hair bleach. You can buy Cotman at WHSmiths and most art shops, it's inexpensive and comes in pads a range of sizes. The postcards are fun to send through the post too.

    IMO if you're just experimenting, it's better to use a readily-available paper to practice on before moving over to exotic hand-made papers.

    I've read about people using brown parcel paper and cheap cartridge paper to make cyanotypes. It's in a book called 'Spirits of Salts' by Randall Webb and Martin Reed. If you can get this book it's a good basic guide - if not, there's plenty of info on the internet.

    http://www.alternativephotography.com is a brilliant site for info.

    HTH,
    kevs
     
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  15. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

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    Sorry to contradict here, but this is, for all I can see, and as I mentioned elsewhere, not a good book. It will not help you to really bring alive a single process it discusses. For instance, the cyanotype of the chess game in a room which is on the cover of my edition is clearly much less than optimal in tonal values.
     
  16. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Lukas, having read your post I have just pulled my copy of “Sprits of Salts” off the shelf. Whilst the standard of reproduction isn’t the best, it is a book I would recommend as an introduction to alternative processes, including cyanotype. It doesn’t go into the process in any depth but does a good job of explaining the basics, I do feel that following the advice contained one should be able to produce a satisfactory cyanotype.
     
  17. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

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    Before anything else, let me just wish all the best for the new year to everybody.

    Dave,
    well, my reservations are the following: while I might even agree that it gives an introduction into alternative processes, what is the point in succeeding to make any odd print? While I would like to leave all room for artistic freedom, cannot help feeling that, as in artistic photography in general, the main point in using those labour-intensive, troublesome alternative processes today is to create picutres which are really worth the trouble, that is, as, if memory serves, Crawford expressed it, images which turn people's heads - and which provide a rich grammar of personal expression. This is where I think "spirits.." leaves you completely alone.
    About the section on cyanotypes: while the necessity of "acid-free" papers is noted (but why only for cyanotypes, as the statement in "disadvantages" on p. 72 implies, and why should this process be printed only on cheap papers?) there is no mention of pre- acidifying, first wash with acidified water (essential with most tap waters for getting deeper blue shadows), or manipulating the colour from cyan to a colder blue, the very recommendable use of Tween 20 for most papers, and I would like to see the effect of just to "wipe of the surplus (of sensitizer) with a piece of cotton wool or a scrap of kitchen roll". (p. 74)
    The section on "troubleshooting" (p. 74) is a bit ridiculous, as are the ""further notes on coating the paper" (p. 75), and the section on "Toning" (ibda.)
    As for "New Cyanotypes" ("Cyanotype 2", p. 76), the main difference of a longer tonal scale, and the contrast range in general is not mentioned.

    All in all, -though this is at least partly a personal impression - the whole chapter implies such an amateurish and dilettantish approach that it makes my hair stand.
    Dave, I hope neither you nor anybody else minds my words even if they appear a bit harsh; they are not meant to hurt anybody's feelings, not even of the authors of the book who may be photographers of high standing, but I really cannot help feeling that this book does rather a disservice to the different crafts of alternative printing.
     
  18. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The "dilettantish approach" seems to me to be a result of a wish to present the techniques as "simple and easy to use". I have no doubt that this is done on purpose, and that many readers of that book have tried techniques thay wouldn't even think about if they had been presented in their full complexity. All right, so "simple" may sometimes be "too simple". But several thick books have been written on the subject of cyanotypes, and the whole can not be presented in a short chapter in a thin book.

    As an introduction to a lot of different alt. printing techniques, the "Spirits of Salts" is a great little book.

    As a thorough description of all the possible complexities of any one process it is necessarily woefully incomplete.
     
  19. Justin Cormack

    Justin Cormack Member

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    You also get the impression that the authors dont really like cyanotypes much.
     
  20. Neil Miller

    Neil Miller Member

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    T N Lawrence & Sons have a fine supply of all sorts of papers - and other products that you might find of use. The negs I use are of a similar density to those for silver printing, maybe a bit contrastier, and print fine. Like others have said, buy the chemicals and make your own cyanotype solutions.

    Regards,
    Neil.
     
  21. Gustavo_Castilla

    Gustavo_Castilla Member

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  22. wiseowl

    wiseowl Member

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    Happy new year.

    Thanks again for all the advice, I'll sort out some chemicals and the other bits and bobs soon. My wife has some Windsor and Newton Cotman paper which I can pinch to try out the process. After all, I may decide that it's not really for me, if I get the bug then I can source the more exotic papers.

    Cheers

    Martin
     
  23. wiseowl

    wiseowl Member

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    Well, have produced my first cyanotype. Am reasonably please but I think I need a more contrasty negative and better method of exposing. I used a battery powered UV torch, with only one tube. Took about 2 hours and it could possibly have used more time.

    Still, it's the first step down the road.

    For the record, I bought the Fotospeed sensitiser, (it seemed a good idea to start with something ready made) and used Windsor and Newton cotman paper.

    Thanks for all the advice

    Martin.

    PS Will post a scan once I get my scanner working.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2007
  24. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    I’ve been using Mike Wares version and have been happy with the results, when i tried the original process my image disappeared down the plug hole too many times, must have been doing something wrong. Good luck with your cyanotypes its good fun most of the time and has made me want to try other alternative processes.
     
  25. wiseowl

    wiseowl Member

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    My first effort, I've no doubt I've lots to learn but it's good to have made the first step into alternative processes. Would not have happened without APUG.

    Cheers,

    Martin
     

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  26. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Great first effort!

    If it reproduced accurately on the forum, I would say that it would have benefited with an intensifier bath after development. A brief dunk into a weak bath of Potassium dichromate would deepen the shadows and given more apparent contrast.

    "Modern" cyanotype formulas toss in a little Potassium dichromate in the mix (along with Oxalic acid).

    Papers that are buffered with an alkiline can be used if given a good soak in a 2% Oxalic acid bath -- I do this for platinum/palladium printing on some papers.

    Keep it up!

    Vaughn