Cyanotypes painted with acrylics

Egill Ibsen shows us how cyanotypes can be painted with acrylics to get a spectacular result.

Writer and photography / Egill Ibsen

I first prepare a classic cyanotype either with standard or digital negative.
Usually I only dip it in 3% Hydroxide Peroxide for the added deep blue but sometimes I use Acetic acid as well to manipulate the print. Try to avoid pushing the brushes to hard or you will risk lifting the cyanotype layer of the paper.

After drying the print thoroughly I prepare the acyrilc paint. Some aerias are
painted thickly f.ex. the “tree”.

Other areas are painted with many layers of thin washes.

I like to paint these thin washes quite quickly and then I even them out with a mop brush. After every application the print needs to dry otherwise one risks muddying the painting.

Sometimes many layers are needed to get the desired effect.

The rest of the print is painted with different types of brushes and washes.

painted cyanotypes

I use hog hair brushes to ruffle up the paper for added texture and effects.

painting cyanotypes with acrylics

To touch up the cyanotype layer or to deepen the shadows I find the Payne´s
Gray color to do the best job.

painted cyanotypes

The finished print (size 43x31cm).

Egill Iblsen is a part time artist living in Iceland using both classic and alternative photography as an artform.

Recommended reading - Learn more about Cyanotypes
Blueprint to cyanotypes the book by Malin Fabbri
Buy directly from the author

Blueprint to cyanotypes - Exploring a historical alternative photographic process

by Malin Fabbri and Gary Fabbri

9 of 10   Rated 9,46 - based on 182 votes

All you need to get started with cyanotypes, full of information, tips and samples from artists. An excellent beginners' guide to cyanotypes!
Get the notebook
Cyanotype Notes - Document your cyanotype process
Buy directly from us

Cyanotype notes – Document your cyanotype process

50 pre-defined pages for you to document your cyanotype process.
Anna Atkins tribute calendar
Anna Atkins calendar undated

Anna Atkins tribute calendar

12 beautiful cyanotypes by 12 different artists created in honour of Anna Atkins.
Anna Atkins tribute journal
Anna Atkins tribute journal undated

Anna Atkins tribute journal

Daily planner featuring 60 beautiful cyanotypes by different cyanotype artists created in honour of Anna Atkins.
Anna Atkins tribute planner
Anna Atkins tribute planner

Anna Atkins tribute planner

Yearly wall planner in A0, A1 and A2 size, featuring 60 beautiful cyanotypes.

6 thoughts on “Cyanotypes painted with acrylics”

  1. Hi Melissa,
    There are a number of factors that can affect the longevity of a print, the water you use to rinse the print in, the paper, the space in which it hangs (pollution and light). What is unique about cyanotypes is that if they fade you can put them in a dark drawer and they will come back, perhaps not always fully, but some at least.

  2. Hello
    Permanence is important to the project I am working on. Are cyanotypes archival if printed on neutral pH paper? Are they lightfast ?
    Thank you

  3. This is cool! I have been using watercolor pencils to add subtle color to my cyanotypes after toning with tea. I will try using acrylics too. This is beautiful. I am also looking for a way to print a cyanotype onto something that would accept oil colors, but I’m not sure how that would effect the cyanotype itself.

  4. Thank you Scott for commenting. I have not acrylic tried your method of painting the backside with clear polymer but I will give it a try. I might even try Polyvinyl-chloride (PVC) to experiment further.

  5. This is great. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful work. Mixing media is very fun.

    I have found that painting the back of a cyanotype with clear acrylic emulsion (or the stuff sold as acrylic “varnish”) eventually makes the entire cyanotype a deeper blue/purple. The same process applied to the front initially makes the cyanotype very light as if it were being bleached by ammonia (which is probably what is happening) but the color comes back within 24 hours. Once both sides are covered in acrylic, the possibilities just increase from there because it essentially is an acrylic painting at that point.

Leave a Comment