View Full Version : Printing a cyanotype with a paper negative. Advice, please.

04-16-2012, 08:37 PM
I have recently made my first attempt at producing a printable paper negative using an 8X10 camera and one of Rienhold's miniscus lenses. The learning curve wasn't too bad to get what appears to be a printable paper negative. I used Arista paper. My interest was in approximating (as opposed to replicating) how Fox Talbot might have produced a print, so I contact printed it using the my UV box which has 12 Black light tubes. I works great with negatives and canotype with a typical exposure of 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. With the paper negative my best exposure, which wasn't great, was at 59 minutes. Any suggestions on printing cyanotypes with paper negatives? Oh, I also exposed one with with 300 units of light on a NuArc 26K-1 plate burner, which essentially produced no results. Bill Barber

Barry S
04-16-2012, 08:46 PM
How about waxing the negative? That would be consistent with early paper negatives.

John Austin
04-16-2012, 10:26 PM
Rae has done this with her WPPD Quinninup group - In daylight her exposure was 5 hours which gives a fairly soft image - Waxing the paper is correct, but if you are using RC paper that will not work as the wax will not form a "light pipe" in the interstices in the paper

My suggestion, and Rae has not tried this, is to make your own paper negs on a strong thin paper that will support liquid emulsion, when the neg' is dry wax that and see how you go

(Has anyone tried an inter-egg pinhole as at http://www.lomography.com/magazine/lifestyle/2011/04/23/the-pinhegg-my-journey-to-build-an-egg-pinhole-camera that I saw on APUG yesterday?)


04-16-2012, 10:34 PM
I'm assuming waxing the back side rather than the emulsion side and using a wax made for photographs? BB

04-16-2012, 10:46 PM
hi bill

it seems we are getting the same transmissions from the mothership :)
i have been playing with paper negatives and ( hand coated ) lumen prints and my exposures are hugely long in direct bright sunlight ...
soon i will be making in camera paper negatives with hand coated paper negatives on
cold pressed/smooth thin sketch paper and exposing on cyanotype paper. like talbot's paper negative, the writing paper
is thin enough to allow light to pass through. regular photo paper seems too dense/thick.

it seems like a lot of work, but it is pretty easy once you get the coating down, and fresh ( sort of ) emulsion.

i am sure with cyanotype chemistry, writing paper or thin(ish) cold pressed paper will work with your lighting system,
or at least bright direct sun with a long exposure.

have fun !

John Austin
04-16-2012, 10:57 PM

I don't know if my PM reply got through, so here it is again with apologies for a kind of repetitin on John's comments above

"Yes, you wax the back so that the paper becomes more transparent - The way an oil stain on a bit of paper is brighter - I don't think workers using salted paper had the luxury of special wax, so I would suggest a clean white wax carried in by some solvent that will not lift the emulsion

However, these things can only be tested by you in your situation - I would like to hear your results, as Rae is wanting to stretch her PH photography - See http://www.jbaphoto.com.au/raestarr.html - Using me carrying my 10x8 camera and me still being her darkroom boy!

Have fun, that is the main thing with projects like this, yes it is research in the true meaning of the word, but can still be fun


Niall Bell
04-17-2012, 06:23 AM
At risk of sounding facetious, I'd thought of using vegetable/olive oil to make a print transluscent for papaer neg work. I've not yet tried it, but it's been in my mind.

Anyone else had a similar thought or experience?


Mike Wilde
04-17-2012, 07:16 AM
Why not try sourcing drafting vellum to see if it can be coated. It was expressly made to be quite translucent, to allow the prompt exposure when making blueprints.

I am pretty sure that modern blue prints are not far off cyanotype, although the last ammonia based amchine in our office yielded a direct possitive image.
I was cyanotype printing last night.
I was read a reference in Keepers of the Light while waiting on the print in the uv box, and channel surfing on the tv. Isn't cyanotype printing great that way?

Crawford mentions that Herschel found coating solely with ferric ammonium citrate and exposing and then adding the ferricyanide after exposure yielded a positive.
I have yet to try that one for myself.
It does sound intriguing.
If succesful for me it could lead to one off cyanotypes in the spirit of what a degaurrotype delivers, direct from the camera.

04-17-2012, 09:39 AM
At risk of sounding facetious, I'd thought of using vegetable/olive oil to make a print transluscent for papaer neg work. I've not yet tried it, but it's been in my mind.

Anyone else had a similar thought or experience?


I tried this a couple of times several years ago. It may work for some, but I found it to be quite a hassle handling oily papers whilst trying to keep the rest of my setup free from oils, dust, fingerprints, etc. Then you are left with an essentially uncleanable paper negative that must somehow be stored or discarded. I also tried peeling the emulsion layers off the paper to allow more light to pass through the negative, but that was no picnic either. Since then I have simply learned to work with the longer exposures that paper negatives require. This works fine in the darkroom, where the light source is consistent, but might pose problems for cyanotypes exposed by the sun.


Niall Bell
04-17-2012, 09:50 AM
The thought of a greasy and difficult to handle oily print contaminating everything in sight and picking up dust etc was why I'd never actually done it. Thanks for this steer away from it!!


04-17-2012, 12:22 PM
Many years ago I was given the advice that if using RC paper, I should 'strip' the paper of the resin on the back after development. The guy giving me the advice used a 50x60 (centimeters:p) camera for his paper negatives, and claimed that he had no troubles doing this. As far as I can recall he used the paper negatives for van dyke prints.

I was never able to reproduce his procedure, so don't take take this as anything else than a suggestion.

04-17-2012, 02:14 PM
Just like Pictorico White Film does not work with most alternative processes, I guess by using RC based paper negative, you are using some sort of UV blocking material.

Can the object be exposed onto 8x10 cyanotype material directly? That probably is the way done by Fox Talbot etc. many years ago.

04-17-2012, 06:25 PM
Have you have thought of using ortho film? It has better UV transmission then BW paper. I'm sure you'll get the same spectral sensitivity. You can soup it under a safe light also.

04-17-2012, 07:09 PM
Unless I'm mistaken Fox Talbot made a paper negative and then used it to print a positive by contact printing it, which is why his work was a little on the soft side. This will be the first step in a larger project and I need to see if I can make this work. After that I will try coating my own lighter paper and lessen the amount of time required to get a print.

04-17-2012, 08:29 PM
We used to oil large paper positives for screen printing. It worked well, but those were pretty much disposable. Once the paper dried it wasn't all that messy. Wax really is the way to go, looks nice on the final prints too.

06-15-2012, 09:18 PM
I've been printing cyanotypes with paper negs lately, shooting with pinholes and lenses. Technically they're pellet prints (brushing on the ferricyanide, with gum, after the exposure, then developing normally). I rip as much of the paper base off as I can, evenly, which causes the paper to curl like mad, making it difficult to load into a contact printer. Tape helps. I use the sun to expose the AFC, takes about 25-40 minutes depending on the cloud cover/time of day.

Here's an example