What’s new Cyanotypes Papers to use for cyanotypes

Papers to use for cyanotypes

Writer and photography / Jim Read

Jim Read argues the case for using inexpensive papers for printing cyanotypes.

Like an idiot I succumbed to the photographers blackmail and bought some arches platine. I wish I hadn’t and to warn others before they part with their hard earned cash I’ve put up this page. The expensive, snobbish and ridiculous cap doffing aspect rides again (and I fell for it) I see it now as my duty to expose it (in both senses of the word 🙂 for the rubbish that it is. I never offer my strong opinions without providing examples and at the bottom of the page you will find my Challenge.

Papers that can produce full tonal range prints and will tone without staining the surrounding paper base are available from every art shop.

Light blue platine mud

Platine print one, I coated this with 3 ml of emulsion and got this flat and muddy print. After this I resolved to put more emulsion on another sheet. This one was exposed for 9 minutes at 12 inches. You see can lighter areas where the emulsion has soaked into the paper.

Papers for cyanotype

Winsor and Newton cartridge paper

Under exposed at 8 minutes, using the the same coating technique as the Light blue platine mud but showing a greater tonal range. This was made with my first and not very contrasty negative, the 1 above and the 3 below this one were made with another more contrasty negative.
Bad papers for cyanotypes

Dark blue platine mud

Exposed for the same 9 minutes. I coated some more platine with 5 ml of emulsion and still there are areas where it soaked so far into the paper that it resulted in areas that are far too light.
Cyanotype papers

Winsor and Newton cartridge paper

I used the same coating technique again but exposed this for 11 minutes, once again the cartridge paper produces a better print even though it is overexposed.

Papers to avoid for printing cyanotypes

Canson Montval

And yet again coated in the same manner and exposed for 9 minutes. I expected that the platine being the ‘pinnacle’ of alternative process papers would produce a print that was far in advance of this one. Which as you can see has a full tonal range and even some depth to it, the negative needs a lot more doing to it so the final print will be a lot better than this.

Cyanotype prints papers to avoid

Daler Rowney cartridge paper (2 days later)

Usual coating technique. Printed from negative number three. 9 minutes exposure at 12″. This is approaching what I want maybe just a bit lighter to make it suitable for a brief bleach and tannin toning.

Useless papers for cyanotype process

Daler Rowney Cartridge Paper

This is a finished print to show you just what can be achieved. It has been bleached in a pinch of washing soda and toned in tannin for a few minutes.
Papers for printing cyanotypes

You can see now why I consider platine to be absolutely useless for the Cyanotype process. I know you are going to think that no one else has said this. Of course they haven’t because they will think it’s their fault and not the paper or even worse, this is what Cyanotypes will look like, such is is power of photographers blackmail. I find that there is so much misinformation on the www because someone initiates something and everyone else copies it thinking it to be gospel. I prefer to do things for myself and then backup my findings with examples.

Challenge

I have had some feedback all of it so far anecdotal. If someone can prove to me by example that by coating platine without any modification whatsoever and with the original formula (Brown AFC preferably, but Green if you cannot obtain it) as I have done to all the prints above and I am able to repeat the same, I will retract all I have said and be platines most ardent advocate. Of course it must be with a superb print far in advance of the above to warrant the expenditure.

Paper types that work

I have been asked by Silverprint Ltd of London to recommend papers that are suitable for printing using the Cyanotype process. I can only do this by example, I do not use many papers, toning will produce a good range of colours in all of them.

Winsor and Newton Cartridge paper

This print was overexposed, bleached back in washing soda and toned in Tannin to produce this reddish/yellow tone.

Cyanotype papers with good result

Daler Rowney Cartridge paper

This was bleached momentarily in a pinch of Washing Soda and then toned in Tannin for a few minutes.

Papers for printing cyanotypes

Canson Montval Watercolour paper

The print has been bleached for 30 seconds and then toned in Tannin for 5 minutes.

Papers to use for the cyanotype print process

Fabriano 5

Produces a deep blue print but tones to what I consider to be a nasty shade of pink.

Good papers for cyanotype process

For someone just starting the process I would advise the cheap cartridge papers, expensive papers inhibit experimentation and lots of it is needed to obtain good prints. I used the cartridge papers for proofs until it suddenly dawned on me that they produced prints just as good and sometimes far superior to the more expensive papers.

The process is a chemical joke that 2 simple ingredients should produce the only archival photo print method with empirical evidence is laughable. That the best prints can be produced on the cheapest papers must surely be a continuation of that, I like to think that John can read this and laugh alongside me.

Many times I have read the words, Cyanotype is only suitable for certain subjects, they of course never state which 🙂 Which is of course complete rubbish by knowing a how a paper will print and tone, a mood to complement the image can be easily achieved.

Jim Read is a UK based photographer who works in cyanotypes.

Read more about cyanotypes
Beginners guide to cyanotypesBlueprint to cyanotypes – Exploring a historical alternative photographic process
by Malin Fabbri and Gary Fabbri
A well illustrated step-by-step guide to cyanotypes.
 
A lot more information on the process, chemicals, coating, exposure, printing, making negatives, washing and troubleshooting is available in this book.
 
Strongly recommended for beginners

12 thoughts on “Papers to use for cyanotypes

  1. The new batch of Platine is not very good and requires some modification. If you are just coating the paper with the sensitizer, you will get bad results.
    I use and equal amount of distilled water and a drop of tween per ten drops total per final solution (4 drops teen + 40 drops A + 40 Drops B)

    Results have been pretty good. Here is a link to a print I made on Platine, and toned in Borax and tea.

    http://bertandnone.com/products/4444597-toned-8×10-cyanotype-of-peonies

    I agree with the premise that you can get wonderful results from inexpensive paper. I find the Canson Bristol board paper to be very good for most of my purposes. Still, I have a stack of platine that needs to get used so…

  2. Hi Jim
    Thanks for you informative comments and I’ve already used artists water colour paper to good effect. Although sometimes the paper texture can hamper the image.
    Cheers
    Dave

  3. Dear Jim,

    Thanks for an interesting and timely article. I experienced similar disappointments with many papers and now size all with gelatine regardless (see my recent article in AP). My favourite papers are Lana Acrylic and Hahnemuhle matt watercolour board.

    I was surprised that you recommend the use of brown AFC since all the “experts” advise against it.

    Best wishes,

    Brian

  4. The cyanotype process needs always an acidi environnement. In the old time before 1985, all papers were acidific. After 1985 alla paper are coming neutral or basic. Besaic substance bleach a cyanotype. With a basic paper your cyanotype is necessary poor in value.

    I ma a old man and in1985 I have made a stock of acidic paper and I am working with it. To day it is necessary to acidify the paper, or use Arches Platine who is acidic when the bad is good ! or japanese paper .

    Mougin

  5. Excellent post Jim.
    I’ll never proclaim any paper to be the best of all possible worlds unless I can demonstrate it for myself, but I’ve had some success with Platine and platino-palladiotypes in the past.
    I’m new to cyanotype, using prepared Mike Ware / New cyanotype and as yet I’ve failed to find a masked negative and paper combination that will clear to paper-white. I’m wondering whether what I’m seeing is actually fog and my sensitizer has gone for a ball of chalk.
    The examples you’ve shown don’t appear to have the edges masked – if you ever do mask, have you been able to get a crisp edge with the techniques you’ve descripbed here?
    Thanks again for the article.

  6. Hi Jim, Your post is interesting and very timely since I plan to do some cyanotyping this summer, after a very long absence from the process. I recently had to toss my Epson printer, and replaced it with a Canon printer. I’m going to use Canon papers, so I have quite a stock of Epson papers left over, including several kinds of matte paper, from simple matte to Velvet Fine Art and Ultra Premium Presentation paper. Would using these Epson papers have an adverse effect on the cyanotype solution, or are there other reasons for not using photo paper in general?
    Thanks for any info on this.

  7. Hello all,

    In answer to some of your questions;

    There is little point in buying an expensive paper and then having to do more chemical work on it to get a print that is at best not very good and showing a very poor range of tones. When with cartridge paper, the original formula and some tannin it’s possible to obtain a much great tonal range.

    I met with 2 guys from Canson, gave them all my Platine ‘Mud’ prints, gave them some prints done on Montval and Daler cartridge paper and said when you can equal or preferably exceed what I have done, with your Platine then send me a print and I will be Platines most ardent advocate. That was in Feb 2014, I have heard nothing yet. Am I likely to, doubt it 🙂

    The other ‘formulas’ are just expensive photographers blackmail, don’t succumb to it I’ve done a little screencast here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS_D5ewerXA and you may also send me an email for some instructions in PDF format.

    Brian ‘experts’ lol, John Herschel used the Brown AFC the Green didn’t arrive until the 1890’s. The differences are minimal.

    Ian, I don’t do any masking at all what you see is what I paint on with a hake brush – carefully.

    Martin and Juliet, Please use either Daler Rowney or Winsor and Newton cartridge papers and when you start to get good prints use Canson Montval. One of the reasons so many people produce such rubbish prints is the cost of the paper. The more expensive it is the less likely people are to experiment.

    Cheers – Jim

  8. Jim thank you thisis so useful! Ive used Arches Platine in past for liquid emulsion prints, it works for that because of how it reacts to water and is acid free. I was just about to waste a load of it on some cyanotypes! So glad I read this article and will order your book! I suppose the cheaper cartridge papers are acidic which is why they work? And smooth brilliant white helps with your negs. But is there a cartridge paper with a slightly textured surface that works?

  9. Hello Sara,

    Thanks for your comment nice of you.

    If you type Winsor and Newton Cartridge papers into Google you will be able to see the range of papers they make, ditto the Daler Rowney one.

    Hello Nicholas,

    Thanks for your questions I only ever used the papers above and if you read all of the above you’ll see the answer to your first two questions. Please also look at the video I made and please do watch it all the way through.

    Sadly your print on Platine is a fine example of the rubbish that the paper is, no detail whatsoever in the highlights. May I suggest you try the US equivalent of cartridge paper, I’m sure a few searches on Googe will reveal it, tone your print in Tea and begin to see a some proper prints.

    Cheers – Jim

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