My first cyanotype print

cyanotype of cactus, detail

Something new from out of the blue

Yesterday I looked out the window at my yard (sand, mesquite, aloe, chaparral, nopal) and saw the sun had back-lit a small cactus and it struck me as “pretty.” Phone in hand, I went out to see what I could get. I produced this un-lovely specimen:

cactus back-lit by morning sun
Original iPhone photo.


Ugh, Right?

This being rubbish, my graphic-minded self decided to nice it up by removing superfluous data. I converted the image to low res using the nifty BitCam app and the results looked like this:

BitCam conversion.

An immediate improvement.

On to Photoshop

After cleaning up the image in my ever-slower image editor of choice, I went “AH-HA!” This might be suitable for the cyanotype process. Lucky for me I live with a known expert on this alternative process, Nan Wollman, whom I asked to have a look and help me out with my first cyanotype. With Nan’s tools, and know-how at the ready, I was able to proceed. I inverted the image and printed to a transparency:

Transparent negative
Transparency made on a common laser printer.

Next, I coated heavy paper with the prepared chemicals Ferric ammonium citrate and Potassium ferricyanide (yuck!), and stashed it in a dark place until it had dried. Finally, I placed the negative over the prepared paper and positioned it in direct sunlight out in the back yard.

10 minutes later

Well, my first attempt yielded poor results–some mystery ‘reflection,’ see:

First try with odd ‘reflection.’

This would never do, so I got right back at it and my next try gave me this more acceptable image:

blue cyanotype image of cactus
Second try, less ghosting distortion.

So, these have been my steps to making my very first alternative process cyanotype print. If you can help solve the mystery of the unwanted ghost reflection that occurred in my first attempt–please chime in! 😉



By Beau

Painter, designer (print and digital) since the twentieth century.

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