Cyanotype on Tracing Paper?
Has anyone tried making cyanotypes on tracing paper or tracing vellum? I was at the store getting my usual cyanotype paper and I saw a package of it and thought, "why not?"
I coated a few pieces and they wrinkled quite a bit but flattened most of the way back out as they dried. I had to brush the solution on very, very quickly or just brushing would flatten those wrinkles and probably make creases. I expect them to flatten just fine with the negative under pressure.
I just hope the paper holds up well enough to clear and wash. We'll see.
If I can get it to work I expect a backlit cyanotype print to be quite beautiful.
I've not tried it but I have used very lightweight Atlantis Silversafe paper. It is essentially tissue that is photosafe and has quite good strength when wet though it is still admittedly a little delicate. It's a little odd in that exposures and colour changes during that look a bit different to "normal" papers and it doesn't want to oxidate to its true dark blue as rapidly as the other papers I've used.
I haven't tried this either, though I have tried printing cyanotypes on lots of difficult/unsuitable papers. Vellum cyanotypes sound delicious.
Here are some rather random thoughts I had. Maybe there's a helpful nugget in here somewhere:
- There are several paper mills that manufacture vellums for commercial printing (i.e., offset lithography). If you can find any of these in small quantities (on the web, at an art supply store or from a graphic designer friend who can order samples for you) they might work better. They at least shouldn't curl as much, and some will come in heavier weights that are still transparent. Look for: Gilbert Gilclear, Gilbert Clearfold, Neenah UV Ultra, Curious Transparents, CTI Glama Natural or CTI Virtual.
- CTI Virtual is actually made with vegetable fiber rather than synthetic fiber, and for some reason I feel like that might work better. It has a slightly rougher surface, and, though it's still very non-porous, it feels like it might give the cyanotype chemicals a fighting chance for adhering.
- In the specs for printers in the swatchbooks for these papers, it says that "fully-oxidizing" inks will work better. These are a kind of printing ink that changes from wet to dry quickly when in contact with atmospheric oxygen. Chemistry is not my strong suit, but I wonder if there's something you can add to the cyanotype chemicals to mimic this... I would have to do a bunch of research...
- I wonder if sizing with starch would help?
- I bet coating the paper with some kind of binder (like the egg formula for albumin printing) might be helpful...
- When I was doing inkjet prints on vellum for an artist's book project, I tried the "ink jet vellum" they sell at Flax (NYC) and it was awful. Then I tried some random drafting vellum (relatively cheap) from Charrette, and it worked beautifully. The ink adhered much better.
Ok, those are VERY random tidbits of information. Hope I don't sound too crazy. Let us know how your experiments progress!
Thought I would give an update on my first try. I made three exposures of the same negative. One was for 4-1/2 minutes and the other two were for 5. I usually print this negative at 4-1/2 minutes on heavier double coated paper. This seems to look better exposed a bit longer.
They are drying right now but I can see a couple problems already.
First is flatness in the printing frame. The chemicals wrinkled the paper quite a bit and, even though the frame applies quite a bit of pressure, the prints still came out with a bit of a bubbly look from some parts not being in contact with the glass. I think this will just be a paper problem and I'll have to try different paper that holds chemicals better. I should also try to coat as light as possible while still getting full coverage. I think I still coated a little heavier than necessary last night.
Second trick was figuring out how to wash the prints. I tried first with a blank sheet and it just about falls apart in a tray. I ended up laying the prints on a sheet of glass and washing them directly under a gentle stream of water. I wiped the bubbles between paper and glass out with a wet sponge. If you don't do this there will be bubbles of water that don't really circulate and you will find the water coming from behind the print runs yellow.
I'll try to post a digisnap of a couple of the prints later this evening when they dry fully. The nice part is that they dry very, very fast compared to my usual 90lb paper
Bienfang 360 translucent marker paper is another good choice for cyanotypes.
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I've tried it on Bienfang 360 and it works well. However the paper is so thin and fragile when wet that you need to have it on something during the clearing process otherwise it falls apart in your fingers at the edges. I taped it to a piece of Illustration board with Masking tape and it worked pretty well. The color of the Cyanotype looks very nice against the white color of the paper especially if you back it with a bright white board.
Sullivan and Weese's book recommends drying it between two sheets of archival mat board weighted down and it drys very smooth that way.
I use Bienfang 360 and thought it had pretty good wet strength, at least I haven't torn it when wet - famous last words, I know.
I dry it hanging from a line and then drymount it to 4-ply rag.
I agree that the white of the paper really shows up cyanotype blue.
To update this thread, I tried 4 prints today on a sample of "Transvel" a translucent vellum paper made by Butler-Dearden Paper (thanks, John!). It's 30lb and looks much like butcher paper. Dry it's quite stiff. I have the prints drying right now but, from looking at them wet, the paper does wonderfully. It is very smooth and the prints look almost like they are done on milk glass. The wet strength of the stuff is astounding. I wasn't at all afraid of handling it wet or of it falling apart or tearing. I'll try to post a digisnap of one of the prints tomorrow when they're fully dry. I have them under weight because of how easily thin papers curl or wrinkle while drying.
A couple of notes about working with it:
It curls heavily when you coat it. I coated one without having it taped down and it curled into a drinking straw. The others were taped down and went much easier.
Also one of the prints has stripes because the first brush strokes are visible. I usually coat with three vertical strokes dipped from a little pan of sensitizer then spread that over the whole area. I've never had a problem with that method but perhaps it's time to learn to coat with a puddle pusher if this paper is going to do that.
This sounds interesting.
Your mention of drafting vellum made me think of frosted drafting mylar film. I wonder if the frosted surface (designed to take pencil and ink) would work for cyanotype without the need for a sizing. Being made of polyester film, it should have a longevity approaching 500 years. It may also look very interesting if presented back-lit, through the translucent film.
I've made cyanotypes on vellum and rather than back lighting them, I used a piece of reflective poster board behind it when It was matted. Plain white mat board has also been used. Bill Barber