We have developed the tutorial in the following three parts:
First part (this article)
1. A bit of history
2. What does it entail?
3. Required material
4. Emulsion preparation
Second part (in this article)
5. Emulsified paper
6. Creating photoliths or frames
7. Exposure process
8. Developing and drying
Third part (coming soon)
9. Mixed cyanotype: Possibilities and some contemporary applications
In the first part of this tutorial concerning cyanotype, we had described some notes of history, we had briefly seen how the process works, the required material was list and finally, we had seen how the emulsion is prepared.
In the second part we will see how we emulsify the paper, how to create photolith/negative or frames for the exposition process and finally we will talk about the development and drying of the creations on the paper support.
5. The emulsification of the paper
We will preferably use a paper that is resistant to the long treatment with water for instance; an aquarelle paper would be appropriate. Although we have another kind of papers that will also work. Each paper has a texture and an internal structure that will determine in a different way the final result of our work. For this reason it will be necessary to make a previous research in order to find the ideal paper for our cyanotype.
It is important to have all the required materials ready with the objective that there is no interruption during the process of emulsifying the paper. Since we will use photosensitive material, we will work in an area with low light (a light-bulb with no more than 40W).
In the last part we have seen the preparation of the two solutions, labelled as A and B needed to emulsify the paper. Using a different syringe for each solution, we will pour in the mixture container the same quantity of each solution. For example, 5ml of solution A plus 5ml of solution B. Evidently, the quantity is decided depending on the surface to emulsify. We will use a paintbrush in order to well extend the emulsion over the paper; we can use other tools such as foam brushes, rollers, blades etc. We wait a few minutes so that the paper soaks the applied emulsion. From now on, we need the paper to be completely dry to expose it. We can accelerate the process using a hair dryer (low hot air) or wait that it dries naturally.
The drying and the storage of the emulsified paper should always be made in a dark place for instance, a light-tight box.
*Optional: It can be obtain darker colours if a second layer is applied.
6. Creating photoliths or frames
We will create our photolith with the aid of software such as Photoshop or Gimp.
We will work with images in a grey scale or black and white. The final size of the photolith will be of the same size of our last work that we will print on a translucent paper like greaseproof paper or on transparent acetate. We can also attend to a specialized centre to get print a professional photolith. Each of the previous print options have their advantages and disadvantages: a photolith printed on greaseproof paper would not define the images with precision but, it is economic and the opposite with a professional photolith.
Another alternative regarding the photoliths is to use varied objects on the top of the emulsified paper at the time of exposure. There is a possibility to acquire highly creative possibilities.
7. The process of exhibition
In brief, the exhibition process is considerably simple: we need an element (in this case a photolith or an object) that stops or allows the sunlight (or an alternative source of UV rays) that will sensitize the emulsion of our support. If we allow the passage of light that area will sensitize and, in the case of cyanotype when we develop we will obtain a blue area and if we stop the passage of light that zone will not have any effect. Regarding the cyanotype, when we develop we will obtain a white zone or the colour given by the support.
If we are using a photolith to expose: we will need a crystal plate (that does not filter UV rays) a wooden plate and some locking clips. On top of the wooden plate we will situate the dry emulsified paper, then on top of it the photolith with the printed face in contact with the emulsified face and finally, the crystal plate. The locking clips will help us to subject and maintain in a perfect contact the different plates.
If we use different objects to expose: we will need a wooden plate and some locking clips. On the wooden plate we will place the emulsified paper and on top of it the different items. We subject the emulsified to the wooden plate.
Now we can expose our work to the sun. It might be necessary to make a previous test to establish the time of exposure. The process cannot be simpler.
8. The developing and the drying
The aim of this stage is to completely clean our paper that was exposed to the chemical that was not photosensitized. We will do this by immersing the images, facing down, into running water for 10-15 minutes. During the cleaning process we have to beware that the water would not touch the image because, it may loose colour. Progressively, our image will take the blue colour.
After the cleaning, we will let dry the paper. We can place it on a clothesline or make it faster with a fan or a hair dryer.
Now we can enjoy our first cyanotype.
In the third part of our tutorial we will see some uses of the cyanotype in alternative supports and contemporary art.