Spring is here and with it comes the sun! Well…..occasionally, I am in England after all.
I get all productive when the sun shines. The bright days and longer evenings make me feel I have time to experiment with things. So I thought I’d put some of the sunshine to good use and have a play with Cyanotypes.
I hadn’t heard of Cyanotypes until a week or two ago. I think it was probably Pinterest…..Pinterest has a lot to answer for, my bank account is being depleted and my stash of craft supplies is ever increasing.
So basically a cyanotype is an image created by painting a layer of a special liquid onto a surface, placing objects onto the surface and then sitting it in the sun until the chemical reaction has taken place.
So I ordered my liquid and waited for a sunny day. It took a few days…then finally the perfect day for making cyanotypes came. It’s super easy and satisfying, I thought you might find the process interesting.
I cut some pieces of watercolour paper in half and foraged in the loft for scrap fabric. I found some cotton rags I had lying around from my antique restoration days, they’re old cotton bed sheets, ripped into shape as I like the tatty edges. I even got the ironing board out (I don’t iron so the Carpenter wondered if I was ill…..until he knew it was for something arty).
This is the Cyanotype liquid, which you can buy HERE.
It comes in two parts, A and B. You’ll need some old jam jars or containers you don’t need for anything else to mix them in equal parts. A little goes a long way on paper, you’ll use a bit more on fabric.
When the bottles arrive, you need to prep them. The chemicals come in a powder form, you need to add water, shake them up and leave them to sit for 24 hours. It’s a long 24 hours when you’re excited to try something…..
Once you’ve waited…..you take yourself off to a dimly lit space, mix them in equal parts into a jam jar, and start painting it onto your paper.
I played around with painting right up to the edges on some and leaving a rough border on others, just to see what I liked as an end result. I even tried dripping a bit of water onto some of the paper.
Then I moved onto the fabric. When you’re painting the solution onto the paper it’s fairly un-messy (is that a word?), but for the fabric, you’ll need something absorbent underneath. I ripped a piece of cardboard off an old box.
The fabric really soaks up the solution but goes on easily. I suggest you make up lots of pieces of fabric/paper, so you can have a really good play when they’re dry.
Leave your fabric and paper to dry in a dark place. Remember it’s light sensitive. It doesn’t have to be pitch black, just dark (I put them in the garage). The paper should be dry within half an hour or so, but the fabric takes longer.
While you’re waiting, have a rummage around for something you’d like to use for your prints.
I did a bit of a rummage in the flower beds and around the house.
Once your paper’s dry, arrange some of your finds on it (still in a dimly lit area). If it’s something that allows it, place a piece of glass over the whole thing, as it’ll stop it blowing around whilst it’s in the sunshine; but make sure it’s not a UV filtered glass. I had an old Ikea clip frame lying around which was perfect.
Then put it out in the sun and wait for the magic to happen. This will depend on how bright a day it is, but I waited about 15 mins for this one. Bearing in mind I live in England and it’s only the beginning of Spring.
When it’s time (the paper will turn a kind of browny/blue colour), take the paper and run it under the tap. Keep going until no more yellow colour is washing off. Then leave it to drain and dry somewhere. The deep blue colour will increase slightly as it dries.
I had a play with lots of different things, glass bottles, flowers, dried flowers and feathers. My favourite were the feathers! Some were complete fails, but it’s all part of the fun of creating.
The white feathers came out ok, but the ones with the variegated colours came out the best as they let different amounts of light through. I think the fabric probably gave me my favourite results too. I liked the water dripped watercolour paper but it’s a bit hit and miss, one looked great and one looked awful!
These were my favourites.
I’m looking forward to playing with more.
Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need:
- Cyanotype Liquid
- A brush (best to have one that’s just for Cyanotypes)
- A couple of jam jars or old pots to mix the liquid in
- Watercolour paper and or some fabric
- A piece of cardboard to put underneath
- A board and a piece of glass to arrange it all on (a clip frame works well)
- Some objects to use, feathers work well….
- A dimly space to work in
- A sunny day
Blue and White is my favourite colour combination and there’s something very satisfying about utilizing the sunshine.
It’s lots of fun. I highly recommend having a play. Let me know if you do and please share pictures! You can always tag me on my Instagram.
Update: 9th July 2019
I’ve created a Skillshare class all about Cyanotypes. It’s more in depth than this blog post and you can also learn how to turn a photograph into a Cyanotype.
If you’d like to watch it, you can find the link HERE.