Cyanotype – Laughing Man no.2

Laughing Man no.2, cyanotype on cotton fabric
Laughing Man no.2, cyanotype on cotton fabric

I have been interested to try some alternative processes for print making, and I purchased a cyanotype kit back in December when I saw it on the shelf at the art supply store. Well, it sat on my shelf at home until today. I was not sure what I would print with it, and today I was bored and wanted to try it out. I’ve had so much fun with Laughing Man lately, and I have an alternate negative I had not yet printed, so I decided to make Laughing Man no.2. This negative is high contrast and covers most of the scale that darkroom prints are capable of. Cyanotype has a different scale and can take advantage of some really low tones, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I really like the result!

Cyanotype is a contact printing method. You place the negative directly on the material and make your exposure. The photograph is the same size as your film. In this case, the image is 4″x5″ on 8.5″x11″ fabric. The dark blue surrounding the photo is fully exposed creating a very large border. This process is super easy, and if you start with pre-coated material, you only need cold water to develop the photograph. And, this process is considered archival. It will last a very LONG time. All you have to do is place the negative on top of the material with a sheet of glass on top. Then place the whole thing out in the sun to expose it, then into cold water to wash it. This one took 15 minutes in the sun. I tried a second one for 30 minutes, and I prefer this one. Both are actually very cool.

So, what if you want a larger print? Well, you can use a larger camera. A larger camera is expensive and heavy, I’ll just stick to 4×5. You could enlarge onto ortho lith film then contact that positive onto another piece of film to make a larger negative. Kinda time consuming and a little tricky. Probably the most practical thing to do is to be satisfied with the smaller print or make a digital negative. I have not tried making a digital negative yet, but plenty of people have had good success doing so. Just take a digital file and invert the tones, then print it out on inkjet using transparent film designed for the printer. Now you can control the size of the photograph and even start with a digital photo if you want.

Cyanotype is just one alternative process, probably the easiest, and I will probably try out some others. Platinum printing is one of the most expensive, and most beautiful, alternative process. If I ever give it a go, I will write about it. For now, I am very happy to continue with cyanotype!


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