Making cyanotypes is a wonderful craft and is surprisingly easy. The fun thing is you don't have to limit yourself to paper prints. You can make cyanotypes on all kinds of surfaces! Here's how I made a simple cyanotype tote bag.
You’ve all read this wonderful Tipster on making cyanotypes, right? If not, go do so after reading this Tipster. It explains the basics on how to make a cyanotype much better that I could ever do. Here are some prints I made after reading the tipster.
Fun, but there’s so much more you can do with cyanotypes. Make your own unique tote bag for instance. You will need:
- Cyanotype solution, like the one described in @kdstevens’ Tipster
- Brush or foam sponge (I used a simple dish washing sponge)
- Cloth bag (I used a simple cotton bag)
- Newspapers to cover your working area (the cyanotype solution stains everything!)
- Large negative, made by printing a digitalized negative on a transparancy sheet
- Large picture frame (just a sheet of glass will do as well)
First you have to prepare the bag.
It’s best to do this at night, since the chemicals are photo sensitive. So no sunlight (yet) or uv lamps or tl lamps (this is all covered in the cyanotype tipster as well). A not too bright regular tungsten lamp is fine.
Using the brush or sponge, apply a layer of chemicals to the bag. You may want to put a plastic bag of a stack of newspapers inside to keep your chemicals from staining the backside of your bag. I just laid the bag out on the table and went at it, creating an uneven square, because I liked the rough edges. If you want a less rough effect, consider pinning the fabric tight to a bit of board, perhaps masking the edged with gaffer tape. Careful thet you don’t spill anything on your clothes or furniture, this stuff can leave some nasty stains!
Let your bag dry in the dark. You now have time to prepare your negative. Choose a black and white picture, open the file (you’ve scanned all your pictures to upload them here, right?) in Photoshop of the Gimp and reverse it. Print it on a transparency sheet. The bigger the better, since your picture will have the same size as your negative. I chose this picture.
Put your bag in the frame, with the negative on top, and put it in direct sunlight. How long you need to expose depends on the power of the sun. If you’re in Australia on a bright day, about 3 minutes will do, if you´re in Sweden, 10 minutes would be a good start. On a slightly overcast day, you might need an hour. If you´re not sure, take your frame inside, carefully open the back, and lift up a small corner of your bag. Make sure you don’t shift the negative though, or you’ll get a blurred picture. If you try a few paper prints first, you’ll get a feeling for the right exposure time.
When you’re satisfied with the print, take your bag and rinse it touroughly under running cold water untill the water runs clear. Let the bag dry and anjoy your unique accessory!
P.S. I know what you’re thinking: forget bags, this would look awsome on a T-shirt! Yes, but the annoying thing is, cyanotypes don’t take well to washing with soap that contains bleach, phosphates or sodium (i.e. most detergents). So prepare to either never wash your shirt (yuk!) or always remember to use very mild eco-friendly soap!
You might also like “Beat the Blues: Making Cyanotypes”.