An excerpt from Blueprint to cyanotypes: Exploring a historical alternative photographic process. Making photograms in the cyanotype process.
There are several ways of preparing an image that you want to turn into a cyanotype. The basic rule is that whatever you place between your light source and your canvas will effect the resulting image.
The two most common methods of creating images are contact prints using negatives and photograms.
You make contact prints by placing enlarged negatives on your material, which creates a positive the same size as the negative.
You make photograms by placing objects directly on top of the material and capture their shadows as outlines.
You can also draw on transparencies or glass, make stencils, or place other semi-transparent materials in front of your canvas.
A simple rhyme
Understanding how the final image will come out may be tricky the first time. But this simple rhyme pretty much sums it up – great for using on children’s workshops!
“If it lets light through
it will turn blue.
If it blocks out light
it will stay white.”
Photograms: Using Objects
The first cyanotypes were actually called photograms or shadowgrams, and that’s a good explanation of what they were. Placing objects on the surface of the coated paper and exposing them creates an image in the same shape as the object – a shadow.
Many different decorative shapes can be used to create silhouettes on fabric and paper. Cyanotypes, and especially those done using objects, sometimes have a dreamy, floating feel to them. The varying shades of blue are like a sky on a clear sunny day.
Any object can be used to make a photogram, but it’s usually those objects that have an interesting shape, or are semi-transparent in some way that are most interesting. Grass, leaves, branches, flowers or other plants can be used to make interesting compositions. You can experiment with kitchen utensils, toys, feathers, rope, lace, glasses, tools or anything else with shape and form.
Anna Atkins created the first book of cyanotypes in her pursuit to capture botanical images of algae that seemed too delicate to be hand drawn.
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