Toning Cyanotype- When you don't want the blues...

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by JBrunner, Jun 17, 2008.

  1. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I tried to post this as an article, but for some reason, i can't get it to submit. Perhaps a mod could put it there. I'll give you a dollar....:tongue:

    Cyanotype is one of the easiest, least expensive, and least hazardous of alt process methods. It is a great way to get your feet wet with alt process. The only downfall is being stuck with a prussian blue image. While some images are wonderful this way, many people wish they could have a different range of tones. That is entirely possible, and what follows is the method I use to tone cyanotypes:

    You start by making a standard cyanotype contact print. I use the Photographers Formulary kit. There are other formulas available, but I have found the kit from PF to work well as any other with this method of toning.
    A small amount of hydrogen peroxide added to the developing water will speed development.

    I have found negatives of average to low contrast and density to work the best with this method. The bullet proof negative tailored to Pt/Pd isn't as well suited, and can tend to block up in the shadows.

    I use a drawing paper called Rapidograph. It holds up well, and it's cheap, but you may prefer something with less texture.

    Once the "blue print" is in hand, you will need the following:

    Sodium Carbonate-(this is available cheaply at many markets as washing soda- I use "Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda" (NOT baking soda!!! That's sodium bicarbonate)

    Tanin-This is cheaply available at brewers supply and is used in winemaking. It works much faster than tea or coffee, and can be mixed to taste.

    I mix all the solutions at the temperature of my tap water, about 60 degrees F.

    Temperature isn't important as long as it is consistent. Alternate warm and cold solutions can cause the paper to reticulate ( crinkle up, and develop "cracks") Also, overly warm solutions seem to make the paper more fragile.

    The toning is done with two baths.

    The first bath is a bleach. I use about one tablespoon of sodium carbonate to a liter. It dissolves better if you mix it into the water. If you add water to it, it has a tendency to cake instead of go into solution.

    The second bath is the toner. I use about one teaspoon of tannin to a liter.

    When the baths are ready, slide the print into the bleach (sodium carbonate solution) bath and gently agitate. The highest values will bleach first. I bleach until the lowest values begin to turn black. You may also see some oranges, purples and tans emerge. This all happens in about thirty seconds to a minute. When it looks almost right I snatch the print and put it in the a wash to stop the action and purge the agent. Don't worry that the very highest values have gone, they will come back to a degree, but don't go to far, either. The amount of bleaching has the greatest effect on the tones of the final image. Less bleaching can sometimes develop split tones, which can be really cool with some prints.

    After the print as washed, you transfer it to the tannin bath, and tone to taste. This process takes the most time. If find twenty minutes with some occasional agitation to suit my tastes. Wash ,dry, press and appreciate.

    Don't bleach or tone more than one print at a time, as contact with other prints can cause splotching, especially in the toning bath.

    Thats it. Really simple.
     

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  2. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    Tannin or tea as a monobath (without the bleach step) also works very well for reducing or eliminating the blues.
    Another tip is to gelatin size, then harden the paper before exposure & processing - seems to enable greater detail in final prints.
     
  3. David William White

    David William White Member

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    Thanks for posting your technique. I was mighty impressed wheh I saw the bride last week. One question: Can you bleach right after washing the cyanotype, or do you recommend thoroughly drying before begining the bleach/tan?

    D.
     
  4. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The determining factor for me has been how sturdy the particular paper I'm using is. The Rapidograph holds up well. Some other paper, (Some Cranes kid finish I use comes to mind) can become fragile during the bleaching if they are wet for a long time and have done better being dried first. I haven't seen any difference other than that.
     
  5. Schlapp

    Schlapp Member

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    I must say I forgo the bleaching bit and p[prefer toning in green tea rather than Tannic acid.
     
  6. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Cool. I'd love to see an example.
     
  7. Schlapp

    Schlapp Member

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  8. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Shhhhh... someone could be listening....
     
  9. Troy

    Troy Subscriber

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    Your cyanotype won't oxidize to its full "blue" potential for a few days unless you treat it with a dash of hydrogen peroxide while it's still wet.
     
  10. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Thanks for the interesting hints. I've been waiting to do some more cyanotypes this year, but I've been busy. (and my daughter stole my paper... :D ) I use Sodium Carbonate as part of my Caffenol printing formula... what a lovely bouquet. :rolleyes:

    Cheers,
     
  11. Anupam Basu

    Anupam Basu Member

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    I too sidestep the bleaching and go directly to coffee, but I might try this out anyway. I didn't really take to cyanotypes until I discovered toning in tea and coffee. The toning gives wonderful possibilities.

    Any opinions or results for various kinds of tea?
     
  12. Schlapp

    Schlapp Member

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    Green is nice as it doesn't stain the paper too much. Easy on the Redbush but I have some Russian tea which does nice things. Have experimented with local natural dyes including lichen [as used in dying wool here at one time] but with not much success [yet]although its a good excuse for a stroll to get some
     
  13. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    FWIW I really wasn't happy before I started bleaching the prints first. The prints I toned directly just seemed too colored in an overall way to me, and sort of heavy. I have found this process to have a more delicate look.
     
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  15. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Also, check out the relatively detailed cyanotype toning section of the Christopher James book. Lots of goodies in there.

    My favorite that I have discovered myself is Ilford Multigrade paper developer. Replaces all the blue with a light tan and leaves the whites white. I have tried various dilutions, including straight, and they all have the same effect. I am using Arches watercolor 90# cold press. Can't wait to try this with some suitable subject matter for tan and white...
     
  16. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    Jason,

    I'd be curious to find out what might happen to a print toned with your method if it were put into an acid bath (say 2% citric or acetic acid). Would it turn towards blue again? Do you have a reject you could test?

    Joe
     
  17. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I don't know if it can be re-oxidized after the bleach or not. I can try that next session. I'll report here.
     
  18. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    I'm pretty sure it could revert back to blue after the bleach, but I'm wondering if it is inert after the tannin. I've reversed the color after using alkaline bleaches such as borax, ammonia, D-76, etc., so I think washing soda would be similar. But, I've never used tannic acid and so I don't know if that makes it inert.

    Thanks for any update.

    Joe
     
  19. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Now I wonder if the tannin stains, or tans.... it certainly produces a different effect than coffee has for me.

    Now as it's up as an article perhaps a mod could lock this thread and move the discussion there.
     
  20. blokeman

    blokeman Member

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    thanks for the info, the sample pic looks fantastic for a cyanotype! and I agree my old way does look 'heavy'... more staining than toning. next time i'm at the brewing shop I'll get some tannin...
     
  21. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    hi - this is interesting!
    as you might know, I have done a lot of cyanotypes, and I have bleached/tannin toned many times - but never got this colour...

    mine gets more purple in tone.
    maybe it is the recipie? I don't know the Photographers formulary kit, as I make my own chemistry..

    I don't recommend coffee as a toner (apart from partial toning done with a brush) as it tones the paper too, so the image tends to get very flat..

    tea is good! and there are a LOT of teas around. with quite different "qualities"

    to make an image dark brown, I bleach as you recommend - then rinse and let it tone for about 8 hours or more (image side down), using a tea called "travancore" tea. (Travancore is an area in India I think). this tea has a lot of tannin in it - and it is the one I know, that makes the image most brown..

    bleach alone: bleach the image as you recommend - snatch it before you think it is ready - then let it rinse longer than you'd normally do - the image will keep getting lighter and lighter in the water..
    then dry.
    (best to work with a slightly high contrast neg and then overexpose it so the original tone will be very dark....)

    the fibers in the paper tend to rise when getting wet. - that will make the image slightly difuse to look at.

    however, if you cut a piece of thick card board, slightly bigger than the image, ( make the paper damp) and then put it through an etching press - then you'd have two things happen:
    1: the image field will be pressed, and as a result, the image will look much sharper.
    2: as the pressed area is larger than the image, it will make a kind of framing, wich can look quite beautiful..

    (getting side tracked)

    to get back to the original issue: I'd love to get the tone you have, but but but...:confused:
     

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  22. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    The only toning I have done was bleaching in household ammonia and then into a bath of tannic acid.

    Vaughn
     
  23. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Joe, just I re-developed a toned reject in Peroxide. Seemed to bring a little blue/purple dmax increase in the very darkest of tones, other than that, not much happened.

    Emil,

    Some come out a bit purple, some pink, some orange or tan. It seems to vary by the exposure and bleaching ratio. Less exposure with more bleaching and toning tends to tan/orange. More exposure with less bleach seams to be purplish. The middle ground seems deep pink. Sometimes I get split tones.

    Vaughn,

    I've done it with ammonia. Ammonia totally destroys some papers, tends to bleach unevenly, and it's just nasty to work with compared to the soda.
     
  24. Anupam Basu

    Anupam Basu Member

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    Ok! I got a chance to try this method to compare to the direct toning in tea that I mentioned above - so time to report back.

    I tried several combinations, always pre-soaking the print and then washing between solutions - Bleach -> Tannic Acid -> gave a nice dark blue-black tone - not the sepia brown. (I, too, mixed my own chemistry).

    TA -> B - gave a pinkish purple tone that I really didn't like.

    B -> TA -> B -> TA - yes, I went back and forth and got a bit of a dark mageta tone - but the paper was starting to get heavily stained.

    I was trying to get more punch in the whites compared to direct tea toning - i.e. less staining and more of a toning. But thus far the highlights don't look to be any whiter than direct tea toning. But you definitely have a wider palette of tones. What I did like was the rich blue-black tone you get immediately after putting the print in the bleach - before the print fades. But I'll have to try it with some overprinted samples later.

    To Gandolfi (and others) - any comments on this bleach only procedure will be appreciated. How do you stop the print from fading beyond a point. Does the alkaline bleach only procedure make it non-archival - how are your bleach only prints holding up?
     
  25. davido

    davido Subscriber

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    tannic acid vs. tannin

    O.K. I am quite enthused about trying out tannin for toning after reading this thread. However, I am a little confused.
    Jason talk about using Tannin from a winemaking store and other are talking about using tannic acid. From a general search I did, it seems that these are not the same thing. I can get tannic acid from my chemistry supply place but it seems somewhat expensive.

    thanks
    david
     
  26. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Tannic acid is a liquid form of tannin usually derived from hardwoods.

    There are lots of "kinds" of tannins.

    The tannin I use comes as a powder, and is supposedly derived from grape seeds and stems. It's pretty cheap.