What is Cyanotype?
Cyanotype is a camera-less photography process all about simplicity and wonder. Images are made on watercolor paper with the sun. If it still seems rather abstract don’t worry I’ll break down the process for you in 5 steps. This is not intended to be a technical explanation for fellow artists to be able to create their own cyanotypes but simply a little window into this slow and beautiful process.
Step 1: Coat
Two chemicals ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide are mixed together to create a yellow green solution that makes the paper sensitive to light. In the darkroom, this solution is coated onto watercolor paper and left to dry in the dark.
Step 2: Compose
Still in the darkroom, I cut the paper by hand and create the composition. Depending on how I cut the paper and the complexity of the composition, this can take hours. Then place the paper with the composition between a sheet of glass and matte board and prepare to take it outside.
Step 3: Expose
Each piece is taken outside into the direct sunlight. The yellow-green of the paper changes to blue and then bronze. This can take between 5 – 30 minutes depending on the weather, time of day, and season.
Step 4: Wash
Once the pice is properly exposed then it is washed in water. This ends the exposure and makes the image permanent. Where the flower was remained white and the rest of the paper changes from bronze to blue.
Step 5: Dry
Once all the chemicals are washed off, each piece is hung to dry. As is dries the blue deepens and the full details of the piece reveal themselves.
It seems like a relatively simple process and in some senses it is. But there is so much nuance and refinement to be had in its simplicity. I hope this helped you understand this unique process a little bit better and make it’s beauty a little richer.