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  1. #11

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    Hi Heather and Willie Jan,

    Whilst I know you are right, and that using a UV lamp makes things quicker and more repeatable (and the Cyanotype II process can produce a 'better' image), I am trying to recreate what would have been achieved about 100+ years ago by following my old book from around that time.

    Since moving to LF with the FKD and making paper negatives, and now with making my printing frame and using some medium format negatives to play around with cyanotypes, I've rediscovered the joy of photography! I left the digital camera scene a while ago as that just left me cold, but this alt process scene is just wonderful - it's about recreating and rediscovering these processes, and making an image; I'm not that fussed if the final image isn't a work of art, but to me, it's a lot better than a digital image! There's something of 'me' in these alt process images.

    Cheers,
    David.
    PS: Hopefully I'll be able to report back on my attempts to slightly acidify the paper.
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    Thank you.

  2. #12

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    David,

    I found that my cyanotypes were really inconsistent; test strips usually exposed and washed fine, but the full print would sometimes fail for no apparent reason. After much trial and error, I found that sheets of paper from the same water colour pad were not guaranteed to behave the same, so I started making and sizing my own paper (it is cheap, but hard work and takes lots of practice!)

    The results were very interesting though and I have come to the conclusions that it is primarily how the paper is sized that matters most, not the acidity of the paper itself. I have made paper that is quite acidic, and also quite alkaline and although it does change the final colour of the print slightly, it is the sizing that determines whether all the blue floats off or not or whether you can wash out the yellow stain.

    Even if you apply multiple layers of a cyanotype-friendly surface size to a sheet, there will still be some influence of any other sizing processes in practice. The best approach is to try lots of different types of papers and find the ones that work best for you; price is not always a good guide either as some of the modern 'expensive' papers can be terrible for cyanotype! If you find a good art supplier, they may be able to supply quite small sheets of paper at reasonable prices.

    Having made my paper from scratch, the best size I have found so far is just 3 coats of either unhardened gelatine, or slightly hardened with up to 3% alum (3% weight/weight with the dry gelatine). The results must be pretty close to what Herschel saw on the paper he had available; really dark blues from only a single coat of solution and no washout of the blue either.

    A good exposure on a pure gelatine size looks generally yellow/green with the shadow areas being a pronounced dark green; if the shadows solarise to grey then the image is very over exposed. With some modern papers, I have to expose far longer to get most of the image to the grey/brown look and not a hint of yellow before it will develop properly.

    Best regards,

    Evan

  3. #13

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    Hello Evan,

    Thank you for your post, lots of great info there, and quite interesting that you make your own paper. I too started making my own paper over the festive period but have not got around to using it yet... by sheer fluke the mould & deckle are the right size for the printing frame that I made!

    One of the reasons that I have not used it so far, is I really wasn't sure if it would stand up to the washing process; I'd be so disappointed to have my paper dissolve on me after I'd waited hours and hours for the image to appear! My paper has quite a rough surface to it, but I think that with the right image that might look quite nice. PS: What do you use to make your paper? Do you use photographic gelatin, or food gelatin (and if so, do you increase the quantity of gelatin?).

    Best wishes,
    David.
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    Thank you.

  4. #14

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    David,

    I recycle copier paper, so it comes out with the odd fragment of lettering on the surface which makes it rather different from anything you can buy. I shred the paper and then blitz it in the blender with boiling water; the really hot water seems to prevent any issues with the existing paper sizing and also separates the fibres well. I then add some PVA glue (from the builders merchants) to the pulp as an internal size for the paper; a reasonable amount of PVA glue does not seem to bother the cyanotype process but helps enormously with the wet strength of the waterleaf paper (i.e. no other sizing applied).

    I apply 3 layers of 3% gelatine solution as size and then print. The gelatine is just normal food grade I get from the supermarket. Adding a little alum does thicken it and raises the melting point which makes washing easier as the paper is stronger. A typical size mix is 1x15g packet of gelatine in 450ml of water, bloom and then melt and then dissolve 0.5gram of alum in 50ml of water and stir into the gelatine. I melt the gelatine in the microwave and apply it to the paper when it has cooled as much as possible but without setting. The most difficult part is the first layer of size as the paper is really fragile when wet with the gelatine; the paper is quite robust for the other two layers.

    I only wash in cold water as the paper usually falls apart in hot water. I have done multi-layer gum prints on the paper too with lots of soaking so it is surprisingly strong. I have ironed really wrinkled sheets face down onto a cloth so that I do not get gelatine on the iron and that helps get the negative close to the paper. I also make my paper quite thin; for 38 sheets of A4 copier paper made into pulp, I get on average 32 sheets of 10"x8" paper out.

    Best regards,

    Evan

  5. #15

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    Thanks for the info; you are doing well with getting 32 sheets from that! I made my paper particularly thick, using about 4 sheets of A4 copier paper to get ONE sheet that was 6" x 8"!

    I've got plenty of PVA knocking around here - it never occurred to me to throw some into the mix. Also, when I made my paper I blended it using cold water, rather than hot... so that's something else to try. I've also got plenty of gelatin knocking around as well, from coating glass plates - I think I may be in for a busy weekend

    Cheers,
    David.
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    Thank you.

  6. #16

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    David,

    The trick to working with thin sheets is to not get the pulp/water mix too thick when you put the mould in, also I turn out the sheets onto 'J cloths'. I actually use the supermarket own brand - Tesco's blue/white "all-purpose cleaning cloths" is I think how they are labelled, they are thin and fibrous sheets which seem to work well for supporting the paper during drying and sizing. I stack the sheets I make, 12 at a time, and put a board top and bottom and then stand on it to squash out as much water as I can. I then separate the cloths carefully and hang them to dry with the sheet of 'pressed pulp' attached. I then peel the paper sheets off the cloths when dry.

    For the first coat of size, I put a sheet of paper onto a cloth and paint the size on with a soft brush; the paper goes back looking like pulp again, but just about holding together. I then put a dry cloth on top, turn the whole sandwich over, and then separate the wet sheet from the now damp cloth. I then turn the sheet back so it has the sized-side upwards onto a 3rd cloth (again turning as a 'sandwich') and leave it to dry. I damage very few sheets this way. I did try tub sizing where you float the sheet of paper onto a tray of size but the carnage that results in trying to get the wet paper out was far too depressing.

    When the 3rd size layer is almost dry and the paper has only a little dampness in it, I stack a the sheets, about 6 at a time, and then press them between two boards using a heavy weight until they are dry; this makes them pretty flat and easier to contact print onto. When the cyanotype emulsion is applied, the paper cockles a bit, but seems to dry flat ok ready for the exposure. I leave the emulsion to soak in a bit (often right through the paper) and then dry it with a hair drier.

    Have fun and remember to hold the top of the blender on tightly otherwise it is papier mache on the ceiling!

    Evan

  7. #17

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    I'm thinking that in order to keep everything 'Victorian', I might try sizing with Arrowroot and see what happens...

    I too use those 'J-cloth' things, they seem to work well in this type of application. I'll have to do some experimentation with the pulp/water mix then, as my stuff is like cardboard

    Cheers,
    David.
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    Thank you.

  8. #18
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    Where I live there are windmills that produce there own handmade paper from lombs. Maybe a tip if you want to spare time...

  9. #19

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    Help! For this cyanotype I first coated the paper with a 50/50 mix of malt vinegar and water (which I then let dry, before coating with the Potassium Ferricyanide & Ferric Ammonium Citrate).

    I also allowed a longer exposure than the previous cyanotype, which has improved the actual image, but there is extensive blotchiness in the brushed border area (See the cropped image for better detail).

    Why has this happened? Was it the vinegar / water solution? Was it the length of exposure before washing? (The blotchiness had appeared before washing). Where might have I gone wrong with this?

    Main image:


    Cropped view of the brushed border:
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  10. #20
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    I admire the amount of effort you are putting into this. Since you want to keep with the old methods I don't really have any suggestions for you on technique. I would suggest taking care of the pH of the paper when you are making it instead of afterwards if you determine pH is the problem. Also copier paper is more than likely made out of wood pulp I would imagine. A cotton based paper would probably work out much better. I hope this helps just a little. Good luck.

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