Have you ever wished you could get a rough and inexpensive print of your desired images without having to spend a lot of money?
Better try Cyanotype printing!
Cyanotype, often known as "Blueprint," is an ancient printing technique employed in the past when cameras and printing technology were still relatively new to many people.
To make a cyanotype fabric, you need to follow these simple steps:
- Pretreat the Fabric
- Cast the Shadow
- Exposure the Fabric to Light
- Develop the Image
- Oxidizate the Fabric
In this article, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to the art of Cyanotype printing.
We know you’re interested in learning more about it, so stick around and enjoy this surprising technique with us.
What Is Cyanotype Printing?
Cyanotype printing involves a pretreated fabric on which you can place a negative image or any object that can cast a shadow.
Next, you must shine a bright light over the cyanotype cloth from whose shadow you can reproduce the original print (image).
The outcome is an approximate bluish-tinted paper copy of the photo, which may be acceptable if you have no particular demands on quality.
Sir John Herschel, an english astronomer and scientist, has invented Cyanotype in the very beginning of photography.
Once he heard about the invention of photography, he decided to figure it out for himself and he came up with this new technique.
Cyanotype started being used in engineering applications, but really doesn’t see any frequent application until the end of the 19th century.
It became what we know know as the “Blueprint“, which really found its way into the 21st century.
How to Make a Cyanotype Fabric (Tutorial)
Cyanotype is a particular variety of fabric that may absorb the image of any item put over it when exposed to high-lumen light, resulting in a cyanotype picture.
Two chemicals, potassium dichromate K2Cr2O7 and ferric ammonium citrate, react on a nylon or nylon and cotton fabric to produce a chemical reaction.
When photons are projected onto the surface from a bright light source, the atoms of the material react, causing them to release an image onto the fabric.
The following is a step-by-step guide to printing on Cyanotype fabric:
- Pretreat the Fabric. To get your image project, you first need to get a pretreated fabric for Cyanotype. You can buy it from a print shop or departmental store because it’s not that easy to find.
- Cast the Shadow. Place the negative image on the pretreated fabric. Make sure that you place it precisely and don’t move it while casting the image’s shadow. Otherwise, it will be a complete waste! We recommend placing a transparent mirror over it so that it won’t move!
- Exposure the Fabric to Light. Now, expose the light at a very high intensity to the negative image placed on the fabric. We recommend using studio lights because they’re bright, intense, and inexpensive to source. Make sure the cloth or negative image doesn’t move! Wait for about 15-20 minutes.
- Develop the Image. After shading this negative on the fabric, it’s time to create the image. Take a tub and fill it with water; then tip the cloth inside the material. Tilt the tube back and forth so water molecules will slide over the image and move to the fabric. Repeat this process for 5-7 minutes.
- Oxidizate the Fabric. After developing the image, you need to oxidize the fabric. The Cyanotype fabric can oxidize naturally in the air, but it’ll take about 24 hours to make it happen. To speed up the process, you can dilute the hydrogen peroxide with water. Mix two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide into 8 liters of water. Place the fabric in that solution and wait for about 30-40 minutes.
You have just created a memorable cyanotype fabric for yourself or your beloved ones!
How To Sun Print On Fabric?
If you can’t afford a studio light or any other brighter solution, you can use sunlight as a valid alternative. It is, without a doubt, the most cost-effective and practical option, and the output will not be outdone.
There is no difference between this procedure and that which we have previously outlined. Of course, instead of the artificial light source, you'll use the sunlight to cast the shadow on the Cyanotype fabric.
Below are some recommendations to follow when sun printing on Cyanotype:
- Make sure that you don’t move the object or Cyanotype. A slight motion can waste the fabric.
- We highly recommend doing sun printing between 12-3 pm. At that time, the sunlight is at its peak and about 70° or 200° from the opposite side.
- In that case, the recommended timing of shadow casting is about 10 minutes. Because sunlight is exceptionally bright, you don’t need to leave it longer.
Is Cyanotype Fabric Toxic?
Yes, it is! Cyanotype involves using potassium dichromate, also known as K2Cr2O7.
The chemical derives from a Chromium (Cr) and Potassium (K) reaction. When these two elements interact in any molecular form, a toxic material comes out.
Finger edema, headaches, and nausea are all possible side effects of prolonged exposure to Cyanotype.
Do Cyanotypes Fade?
Generally speaking, the Cyanotype does not react with its environment, which means it will not fade on its own. However, it produces a yellowish tint when exposing the fabric to phosphates or alkaline environments, such as washing with a detergent or rubbing your skin with natural oil.
You may restore the print by cleaning it with diluted hydrogen peroxide to prevent cyanotypes from fading.
Does Cyanotype Washout?
Yes and no, it depends on the circumstances. It won’t wash out if you do not expose your cyanotype print to water, oil, and detergents.
Cyanotype, however, does not react with air or the surrounding environment. As a result, your picture will not wash away on its own.
How Long Do You Expose a Cyanotype?
The recommended time to expose your Cyanotype print in the liquid is about 7-20 minutes. It also depends on the intensity of light you’re using.
Typically, if you’re using sunlight or any other artificial solid light, 5-8 minutes are enough. However, you can also expose it during the morning for 15-20 minutes if your light source is weak.
Is Cyanotype Permanent on Fabric?
Yes, once you cast the image on the fabric, you can’t remove it. There’s no way to restore the content to its original condition after it’s been altered.
There is nothing more you can do except wash it in an alkaline solution. Even if it makes the fabric faded, it will come in handy!
Cyanotype printing works best if you need a rough and basic drawing, sketch, illustration, or map on a hard paper copy.
Although it's an old method, it is nevertheless effective as a low-cost alternative to today's most advanced printing technology.
As a result, we’ve put up this exhaustive guide on everything you need to know about cyanotype printing, which we invite you to read again.
We hope you liked it and that you found it informative. If this is the case, please do not hesitate to contact us for more information!
Let your imagination fly with cyanotype printing!