Gavin Lyons shows how to make a Cyanotype image with a UV LED box. Cyanotypes are traditionally developed in sunlight, but in the winter the UV light isn’t so strong and readily available. Here is how to make a Cyanotype, Van Dyke Brown or Salt Papers at any time during the year.
This box will produce an A3 or A4 size cyanotype print just after 5 minutes by use of UV LED lights. This box was designed to be inexpensive and simple. The total should be no more than 70 euros.
When working with electronics and electricity use proper caution and safety. Ensure not to short circuit cables. I’m by no means responsible for any damage to anyone or anything. By building this kit you are responsible for UV exposure and electronics etc.
List of parts for building a UV LED box
- 60 x 40 x 12 cm Box Black 6.99 Euros
- 60 x 40 cm Box Lid Black 3.99 Euros
- 2 x SMD 5050 LED Strip 5 meters 25.99 Euros x 2 (which are not IP rated for outdoors!)
- UV 395mm-405nm Wavelength. Do not purchase the SMD 2835 LED strip there not powerful enough for printing
- Hot glue and a glue gun
- Cabling and connector
Construction of the light box
- Make lengths of 50cm strips from the LED rolls.
- The 60×40 box only requires 9 strips of 50com per side. 18 lengths in total.
- Each is strip is separated by 1 cm – the width of strip. Use one of the strips as a separator when stick down each strip.
I have split the LED light into two side, for best current distribution and have the added advantage of controlling the light power – half power or full power.
- Each strip is alternated soldered with a yellow or blue wire for positive and black for negative.
- The yellow wire is for the left side and the blue for the right side.
- In the middle of each side the wires come together into a connector block.
- Once everything is wired up, test each side with the power supply from the UV LED strip kit.
- If everything is working hot glue down the cabling and the connectors.
- Bring the two main cables out through a hole onto the top of lid. Wire in the connectors and hot glue down the cables, connectors then seal up the hole.
Note: The box will get warm after 20 minutes of use which should be no problem. I’ve used it for hour without issue. However, switch off the box when not using it.
If you wish to make a more robust version, I recommend placing everything on an aluminum plate. This I may do in the future. For now, everything works pretty well.
Testing the UV LED light box with a strip test
Download the strip test negative and print it out on A4/Letter size transparency on a laser or inkjet print.
The paper used for the test strip and the prints is the Daler & Rowney Acrylic Paper System 3.
Expose the strip test page on the Cyanotype sensitized page for 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 minutes. Use a book to cover each section and slide it along at 1, 1, 2, 2, 2 minute intervals.
Washing and drying the cyanotype
Then leave the print face down in the slow-flowing water. After 10 minutes, inspect the results. Agitate the water with your hand from time to time. If there isn’t any yellow left on the paper it’s ready to hang up and dry.
I was super excited by the results of my Cyanotypes using the UV LED Box. If you happen to build this box please do let me see your results. Happy Printing!
Blueprint to cyanotypes – Exploring a historical alternative photographic process
Learn about the cyanotype process, chemicals, coating, exposure, printing, making negatives, washing and troubleshooting in this well illustrated step-by-step guide to cyanotypes.
Strongly recommended for beginners