Bolt from the Blue: Cyanotype Workshop


One of the earliest photographic printing processes, cyanotype printing produces cyan-colored prints using a mixture of ammonium iron(III) citrate and potassium ferricyanide. It was discovered in 1842 by English scientist and astronomer John Herschel who mainly used it for reproducing notes and diagrams. The process was later adapted by Anna Atkins in producing her photographic book about algaes called Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

About a month ago, copywriting editor chooolss and I were able to experience this fascinating process in a three-day workshop prepared by *UP Iris*, a student organization of photography enthusiasts from the University of the Philippines – Diliman. Photographer and UP Iris alumna *Sandra Dans* served as the sole speaker.

Participants were asked to measure and mix the chemicals.

Cyanotype printing was rather an easy process to understand. During the workshop, we were taught about the steps in achieving the perfect blue print. chooolss wrote a comprehesive tipster about the whole process.

Exposing the substrates under the sun.

Dans told us that the dried mixture on the substrate should stay lime green or else it might have been already contaminated and thus totally useless. I used two watercolor papers and a cloth for my substrates and unfortunately all of them turned blue. I got a bit worried that I will not be able to come up with even a single print.

We did the exposure on a very cloudy day which made me twice as anxious about getting a good result. The sun peeked through the dark sky every now and then but it stayed hidden throughout the exposure time which lasted for about an hour.

Some furry sheep that were lurking around the area where we exposed our substrates. Looking at them made me forget about my worries for while!

After the exposure, the participants were all eager to see their final prints. Everyone went immediately to the lab to wash and dry their cyanotypes. Without expecting anything, I dipped my substrates into the tray of water and scrubbed it a bit to completely wash the chemicals out. Surprisingly, a fine print appeared on my two watercolor papers. No image appeared on the cloth which I think should’ve been exposed a bit longer.

The exposed substrates were washed and dried in the film lab.

Printing photographs in an analogue way like cyanotype is something any photography enthusiast should try at least once. Seeing an image slowly appear on a paper is always a priceless experience and I feel that it brings one closer to and more appreciative of the art of taking photographs.

My cyanotype prints. The substrate I used was watercolor paper.

I already have a few cyanotype projects in mind but since the chemicals needed are a bit hard to get here in the Philippines (both are highly toxic so a special permit is needed to buy them) these might have to wait.

Have you ever tried printing photographs using the cyanotype process? How was your experience? Please feel free to share your story in the comments section below!

written by icequeenubia on 2014-08-12 #lifestyle #cyanotype

One Comment

  1. totatigre
    totatigre ·

    I have to give it a goo! seem great and very creative. Thanks! I'll report here :)

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