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Cyanotypes. It's always something.

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

We finally have our cyanotype coating figured out. We use a sponge brush, coat once lightly, let it dry a while, then coat again. It uses more chemistry but makes for darker blues and a smoother less dotted surface.

We have paper that seems to work. The Strathmore Mixed Media Paper has a nice weight and isn't breaking the bank.

We figured out the adjustment curves in Photoshop and printing digital negatives. If we aren't spot on, we are pretty close.

We've figured out that the time of day as well as the season change the amount of UV light to the degree we need to do a new exposure test every time we print if the time of day or date change much.

So what's wrong? We've been using an Epson 1270 to make our negatives. My new MacBook running El Capitan is incompatible with Epson 1270 printer drivers and won't work at all, so we need to get a new printer and start the calibration process all over again, or find an unused older Mac to connect to the 1270. But either way, what a pain. 

Still, there is progress. Of a sort.


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Yellow stain on cyanotypes. Problem solved!

At last, a problem with a solution. When we first started coating paper with our own cyanotype chemistry we were getting bad yellow stains. It turns out there are two ways to combat the ugly yellow. One is to add citric acid to to the first water bath when developing the print. The easier way is to add a bit to the sensitizer chemistry itself. We'd done that, but it turned out we hadn't been adding enough. So now, the yellow you see in the above print is a thing of the past. One problem solved, eight zillion to go.

Hello Cyanotype, meet Hydrogen Peroxide

You've exposed your cyanotype print and it just looks weird. You put it in a tray of water, and it looks better after a while, but still not all that wonderful. You dry it and wait three days for it to oxidize, or you could do something really fun: drop it into a tray of water with a little hydrogen peroxide. Be sure so say "Bam!"

Cyanotype Success at last

I think we're on the right road at last. We've made several changes to get to this point. Using the Epson Stylus Pro 3800 helped. It's the first printer that didn't fight us every step of the way with software issues, density problems, refusal to feed transparency material and clogged jets.

Having a printer we could trust let us get our adjustment curves closer to right than they've ever been.

We also made a few changes to our procedure. We gave up on coating with a rod. We just couldn't get the dark blue we wanted. Now we use a sponge brush. We coat, dry a while and coat again. It may use more chemistry, but it seems to be working.

We had a mental breakthrough on drying coated paper as well. We'd been letting it sit, but today we hung it on a line. It dried with less puddling, and a lot more quickly as well.

We'd been using a small contact frame. It worked, but it meant we could only expose one sheet at a time. We liberated a flat board, found some fo…