Duotone cyanotypes #1 – Many failed attempts

Matthew Bary started his toning journey here with Creating multi-coloured cyanotype prints and Multi colored cyanotypes. He has since worked out his method of toning cyanotypes and shares it here in this 7-part series. Get ready to dive in!

Writer and photography / Matthew Bary


A few years ago I (Matthew Bary) found an article on Multi colored cyanotypes  from 2010 on making multi-layer cyanotypes. At the time I thought it was interesting but I was in the middle of trying out several different alternative print-making methods so I did not give it much thought, then I saw another article in 2022 Creating multi-coloured cyanotype prints – Out of the Blue – the world appears in colour. Now my interest was peaked. I studied the article and bought several books including Cyanotype Toning by Annette Golaz and Cyanotype by Christina Anderson which provided most of the information I needed and are fantastic books as well as any web article I could find. I studied these materials very carefully and did hundreds of tests which were all a failure. To be fair most of the work from the books used specific paper which seemed to be difficult to acquire at the time and I am sure this was a large contributor to my failures but I am glad that it forced me to look at other ways of doing things and come up with another approach.

A failed duotone cyanotype

A failed duo tone cyanotype

 

A failed duotone cyanotype

After several tests, I did an experiment that used diluted amounts of the cyanotype solution and made the first almost good print.

After several tests, I did an experiment that used diluted amounts of the cyanotype solution and made the first almost good print.

This made me hopeful but after several more failed attempts I gave the project up for a while.

I had been making cyanotypes for several years and just could not get past the fact that no matter what I did I could not get this 2/3 layer system to work no matter how much I tried. You see making a good print is a little challenging, understanding how to adjust the negative to get the contrast and density you want and how you develop it in hot or cold water or weather or not to use an acid, but I had already figured all of this out this out.

An untoned cyanotype
An untoned cyanotype
The same cyanotype toned with...
The same cyanotype toned

I also figured out how to tone cyanotypes in many different ways. So I decided to start from the beginning using everything I knew and try to create from scratch a method to produce a 2-layer or due-tone cyanotype. Read more in Part 2 – Pick your subject, coming soon.

The complete series

Enjoy!

Matthew Bary is a self-taught photographer (spending more time on printmaking than actual photography). He got into alternative photography five years ago and is amazed at all of the processes and innovations done with very old techniques. Matthew Bary lives in Corydon, Indiana, USA and often photographs his local surroundings.

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Get the cyanotype toning book by Annette Golaz
Cyanotype toning: Using Botanicals to Tone Blueprints Naturally book by Annette Golaz

Cyanotype toning: Using Botanicals to Tone Blueprints Naturally

by Annette Golaz

A two-part book with a step-by-step how-to section and artists who have explored toning.
Recommended reading to learn cyanotype toning.

 

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