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Washing the Cyanotype Print

Lesson 24 from: Introduction to Alternative Processing in Photography

Daniel Gregory

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Lesson Info

24. Washing the Cyanotype Print


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Overview of the Alternative Process


Overview of the Digital Negative Process


Working with Black and White Digital: What You Need


Working With Black and White Digital Images: Color Settings


Working with Black and White Digital Images Lightroom


Working With Black and White Digital Images Photoshop


Working With Black and White Digital Images 3rd Party Plug-ins


Avoiding Key Artifacts


Creating the Step Wedge for Curve Corrections


Organizing Your Adobe® Photoshop® Files and Curves


Setting Up the Printer


Lab Safety and Workspace Set-Up


Setting the Maximum Black Time


Getting the Initial Curve Test Numbers


Correcting the Curve


Printing the Curve


Sharing Curves


Caring for the Digital Negative


Intro to Cyanotypes and Safety


Paper and Brush Types


Coating Process and Cyanotype Chemistry


Making the Cyanotype Print


Washing the Cyanotype Print


Creating Cyanotypes Photograms


Toning Cyanotypes and Cleaning Up the Darkroom


Introduction to Van Dyke Printing


Setting Up the Van Dyke Workstation


Van Dyke Paper and Coating


Van Dyke Exposure and Developing


Van Dyke Troubleshooting and Resources


Van Dyke: Split Toning


Van Dyke: Wash Cycle and Drying


Van Dyke: Clean Up Process


Introduction to Platinum / Palladium Printing


Platinum/Palladium Coating Chemistry and Safety


Platinum/Palladium Paper and Coating Options


Platinum/Palladium Exposure and Development


Platinum/Palladium: Equipment and Supplies


Ink Jet Negative Coating and Exposure


Platinum/Palladium Chemistry Options


Ink Jet Negative Development


Platinum/Palladium Waxing Images


Platinum/Palladium Troubleshooting and Resources


Sharing Your Work Digitally




Matting and Framing Options


Editions and Signing Options


Alternative Processes: Further Exploration


Lesson Info

Washing the Cyanotype Print

So now it goes into the water and it's gonna get agitated. And as this happens, it's gonna start to turn more blue. So this process is somewhere in the two to five minute mark. I usually do mine for about five minutes. And you can see that blue is starting to appear. So we're starting to wash off the unused part of the chemistry and the blue's appearing. Now this is a really high-key black and white image and so we shouldn't get a huge amount of detail back into the walls. And if you look at the step wedge, you can see I have a step at each position on the step wedge. That's gonna get more intensified as we actually go through the wash and then when we hit this wash, the second wash which we call the pop wash, it will actually then create the more significant part of the image. So Gina, can you continue the agitation on that? Mm hmm. Okay, so, couple of things about cyanotypes, like I said, this is a really, really cool process. I think one of the things I love. So Gina has gotten ...

into book building and book making, and so part of that process has been to put cyanotypes onto fabric. So let me get a piece of paper, so it's a little bit easier to see the effect. So she has got fabric that has cyanotype prints on it. So we're gonna show you actually how you, not do this with the fabric, we'll show you how to make the actual image, but you end up with beautiful fabrics that will hold up to being washed and rinsed and worked on. So basically, these are what are known as photograms and we're gonna show you how to make a photogram with the next print. This is why the process is so great if you're working with kids, or somebody who's never done photography before. A photogram is, we basically sensitize the surface, and then you lay objects of various levels of translucency on to the sensitized surface. Process, then expose it, and then you end up with a photograph, a cyanotype. It's interesting, the cyanotype has kind of seen a resurgence in the last several years, so you can buy a cyanotype kit that comes with already sensitized paper, but you now get several of the, (quiet snapping) I almost said laundry services, several of the clothing companies and different art house boutiques are selling dye, they call it dye, but it's cyanotype formula that you then dye fabrics with and you can create your own bedsheets, or whatever you want out of it. Daniel, you can also buy the fabric pre-coated. And the fabric pre-coated. So, like I say, in terms of safety, I don't know any of instructor who's ever had somebody who's had a allergic reaction to the cyanotype. The two compounds are really, really safe. The ferric alumonium citrates are used in vitamins. The potassium ferricyanide freaks everybody out 'cause it has the word cyanide in it, but it's bound to the iron, so it actually doesn't release, doesn't release from this process. So really easy to do, a lot of fun. So this is a traditional cyanotype of a photogram of some leaves. We're gonna be doing a Van Dyke process tomorrow. So this is a cyanotype with a Van Dyke. So the blue is the cyanotype and the black, and the black, and the brown is the Van Dyke print. Here's the opposite. Here's the Van Dyke print with a cyanotype. The little bit of edge piece is from the misregistration of the negative. So that you can actually get the color to show up with a little bit more pop. So there's a lot of options and a lot of opportunities. Here's another one. This is a Van Dyke over the cyanotype, but you can see it's more perfectly registered so you don't end up seeing that contrast of the blue and the brown, but there's two processes on top of this that also has created a little bit deeper piece with the image. Okay so we've got this image has now started to get this kinda light blue, and this is what you'd expect to see in the wash. We're starting to see the detail. So from an exposure standpoint, that's about where I would expect that print to be. You could maybe go a little darker if you wanted, effect the time a little bit, but the overall density of the digital negative look good. So that piece is gonna come out here in about 30 seconds. It's gonna move into the next water bath and that's gonna have the hydrogen peroxide, and then you're gonna see that really deep gorgeous blue that we would see from the cyanotype that we would grow to expect. So the-- Want me, Do you want me to do this? Yeah, you can go and do that. So the other piece about the cyanotype is we're dealing with what's called the traditional cyanotype. The is the formula that John Herschel, Sir John Herschel came up with. Back in the 1842 range, I think about 1842. As he created that, not much has changed, but there's some limitations (alarm buzzes loudly) to the cyanotype in terms of contrast, control, the richness of the blue. And so there's been some subtle changes over the time with that. The big one that a lot of people have recently worked with is, Mike Ware, who is a genius among geniuses from the photography standpoint, Mike has created a new cyanotype. It's a much more complex solution to build, but the Photo Formulary in Montana sells a pre-created kit for the new Mike Ware, the new cyanotype formula. They call it the Ware cyanotype kit, I believe is what they call it. But it's the new cyanotype. It gives a deeper blue. It's the same basic coating process, but it's the process of creating these two chemicals that becomes a little bit more of a challenge, but that's one of the things we've seen as well. So in that resurgence, we're starting to see some new formulations. So we're gonna have Gina go and put this into the next tray and you can start to see instantly, that blue shows up. So this is though, kinda the wow, pop factor of the cyanotype, is this next tray. If you don't have the hydrogen peroxide in there, you won't see that blue instantly develop. It will take several days and then the blue will emerge. What's happening is, the iron is oxidizing, and the hydrogen peroxide is mixing with the iron and causing a rapid oxidization which is why this part happens. So how much hydrogen peroxide did you put in there? (Gina chuckles) I saw you putting-- It's a real inexact. It's like three glugs or if you wanna really measure it out, a couple tablespoons. No, I just was wondering about, I didn't know how much water you had in there. Yeah, it's one of the few times that it's not that exact. I think I put in the instructions it's like, between 30 and 70 milliliters per liter, or something. It's just literally, a splash. The more you put in, the more intense it'll get. 'Cause what will happen is that print's not, even at the state it's at, it's not fully processed yet, it's gonna continue to oxidize for the next several days. So we'll continue to see increased level of blue richness coming through. At this point, that's gonna sit in that tray and it needs to now wash and it'll get some, normally, traditionally, we'd have a little bit of running water in there, it would wash for 20 to 30 minutes. In the case of my darkroom, I basically run that through six water cycle changes and at that point, any residual iron's been washed off and at that point, the print's then ready to be dried. Most of these papers I've got out today are extremely robust papers, so they're able to be clipped to be dried, without tearing. They do really well when they're wet. But other papers don't do as well. So there's a Japanese kozo paper which I'm gonna show you tomorrow, which is almost like a vellum or a tissue paper, and when that's wet, it doesn't have the strength within the fibers to keep it from ripping, so you're gonna put it on a drying screen. Can you go grab me a drying screen? Mm hmm. So the other option is you can create screens for your prints to dry on if you can't clip 'em to hang 'em to be dried. And all that mine are are just wooden frames and then the cheap little plastic you'd use, screens that you would use to recreate them. And so basically I just created a series of these. And it's literally just wood with a screen stapled to it and then this'll hold two of these eleven by fifteen prints side by side, and then this is just what my prints lay on. When they lay flat like that, they have a tendency to dry flatter and so, can you take that back? So then the prints will dry flat. For the most part these papers don't curl. If you're coming out of the traditional silver gelatin world, those papers curl up and get all, and you gotta flatten 'em. A lot of these papers you won't necessarily be need to flatten, and if you do, just a minute or two under a hot press will go on ahead and flatten 'em. Danny, do you wanna talk about what happens if you don't wash all of the unexposed sensitizer out? Bleach. (sighs) It burns your house down. (Gina laughs) No, no (chuckling). No what happens is, if it's not out of there, it will bleach and the image will just actually disappear. You can put it back in a wash and sometimes get some of that image back, but you will actually lose the image as it bleaches out in the highlights. In this case, now that I'm looking at this as it's farther along, the step wedge gradation looks really nice, but I probably would give it about another 30 seconds of exposure. I think I lost some of the highlights, particularly looking around tenon. It looks like it's a function of time, not a function of density. When I did the testing for the time, that was about a month and a half ago, so I probably have lost a little bit of speed in the bulbs there. So I would make it a little darker. And in that negative itself, so remember when I mentioned that once you get your curve right, and that step wedge looks correct, if I went back in and I wanted to add some more density into this part of the image, I would actually do that in the digital file. So I would go into Photoshop, I would add a little bit more contrast, a little bit more density into that part. And by density, I just mean more contrast, more blacks in there. Create a little bit more richness in that part of the image and then I would print the negative again and do the contact print. Daniel, before you do that, would you fully dry this? Yeah, yeah, I don't make any, I used to make decisions when prints were wet, and all that meant was I wasted money. So until the print's dry, because there's a little bit of a dry down effect that happens. And some processes like a platinum print, when it's wet, is how it will look when it's dry. And then as it starts to dry, it'll fade up a little bit, or get a little bit lighter, and then we can wax it which we'll show you tomorrow, how to wax it, and then I'll actually get that richness back. So, but yeah, I always make my decisions on dry prints. So would you use the same process for fabric or the fabric you're using? Fabric I don't coat with brushes. I actually mix enough sensitizer to put in a tray and I dip the fabric in it and fully soak it and then I'll fold it up and squeegee it out and let it dry overnight. I tried using the brush, it doesn't work so well. (chuckles) It doesn't make it very even, which I guess could be cool, but generally not. The other one you could do that is really cool is you can mix those together, and you can put it in a spray bottle and then you can spray coat something which kind of gives a more even, but still mottled look into the fabric which is another kind of cool way. You would just mix up the two together. The other cool part about that, when you start getting into fabric and bedsheets, and bigger things, it's, the chemistry to mix these two is dirt cheap and so you could literally for, if you bought $100 of ferric ammonium citrate potassium ferrocyanide, the next three generations of your family would be working off of that to create cyanotypes. Like, and you'd spend not very much, like, less than $100. Like it's not very expensive chemistry (alarm buzzes loudly) to actually create the long-term process. So the mixing of the processes, could you do these other processes you're gonna show you on fabric as well or other fabric? I think I've seen people do Van Dykes, I haven't seen anybody do platinum 'cause it's so expensive (chuckles). One thing you wanna note about if you're mixing a larger amount of the two solutions together, is once you mix it, the shelf life of it isn't as long, and so be aware of that. I make enough to coat what fabric I need and then I leave it. If you're doing sheets, of course a bucket would be great, but like he said, the dry chemistry is pretty inexpensive.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Alternative Processing Handout.pdf
Grayscale Percentage to RGB Values.pdf
MSDS Saftey
Bostick Discount Code.pdf
Matt Cutting Cheat Sheet.xlsx
Step Wedge Creation Spreadsheet.xlsx
Alternative Process

Ratings and Reviews


For a long time, I have read, studied and tried alternative processing, mainly Platinum/Palladium printing. I want to create longest lasting prints and may be share the info at Creative Live. But this presentation saved me many a hours. A few minutes into the lecture, I purchased the class and as the class progressed, I was extremely glad. Thank you Creative Live, thank you Daniel Gregory.


Excellent class on Alt Process and fantastic bonus materials included with purchase!!! I have extensive digital printing and darkroom experience but haven't done much alt-process to date. This is perfect timing for me as I have several personal projects that I would like to re-visit using some of these techniques. Thank you Daniel!!!

James H Johnson

I have been making platinum/palladium prints for about 1 year. This is the 3rd workshop that I have attended. The first two were one on one. Daniel has done a fantastic job of covering the material and explained the process it detail and easy to understand. This course is fantastic and highly recommend it.

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