Duotone cyanotypes #4 – Print the negatives

Part 4 in Matthew Bary’s series on duotone cyanotype provides instructions for printing negatives using various Canon printers and transparency film. It includes details on printer settings, ink choices, and the printing process for both cyan and magenta + yellow negatives.

Writer and photography / Matthew Bary

Once you have created a negative Duotone cyanotypes #3 – Make negatives using GIMP you can print the negatives.

It may seem odd to make instructions on printing negatives but it shows both the materials used for the process and the settings used to make it work. Let’s go over what printers I have used. I am a fan of Canon printers as they seem to produce incredible detail and so far I have used the following for all of my alternative photography digital prints:
  • Canon Pixma ix6820. This printer contains 4 dye ink color cartridges along with a 4th pigment black and can print up to 13″ x 19″. This is the printer I used for the duotone process in the beginning. These printers run around $170.
  • Canon Pixma IP8720. Almost identical to the ix6820. However, it uses 5 dye ink cartridges and a 6th pigment black. This is a good choice if you want to make professional color prints as well as alternative photography negatives. This printer runs around $250.
  • Canon Imageprograf Ta-20. A large format printer that prints up to 24” wide and can go up to 48” long. It contains 5 pigment-based ink cartridges. This printer runs around $1,250.00 so unless you are planning on making lots of large prints it is not worth the investment.
NEVER use the printer’s wireless printing with large image files. Always connect your computer directly or it may stop in the middle of printing and fail. I found that out the hard way, several times.
For both of the Canon Pixma printers I use aftermarket ink from www.arthurimaging.com and for the Canon Imageprograf I use aftermarket ink from www.inkowl.com. I can tell no difference between the manufacturers’ ink and the aftermarket ink in either case. The aftermarket ink is only a fraction of the cost of the manufacturers’ ink.
The transparency film used is from a company called GoldUpUSAInc and they have an Amazon store as well but any screen printing transparency film will work as long as it is for ink-jet printing. The GoldUpUSA is a plain screen printing film and I found very little difference between it and the super clear expensive film sold in other places. They make everything from 8″ x 10″ to 13″ x 19″. For the Canon Imageprograf I just look for inexpensive 24” x 100″ rolls of screen printing transparency film wherever I can find it. 
I will assume you have a printer and that it is installed. Now all you have to do is navigate to the folder with your negatives. These instructions assume you are using Windows but the settings will be the same no matter what OS you are using. You can also print directly from Gimp but it is more difficult, I am trying to stick to simple instructions.
Printing negative for duotone cyanotype printing a negative print negatives
Make sure your printer is connected and on, and that you have the paper of your choice and any empty ink cartridges replaced. Now right-click on the Cyan negative image. Depending on what OS you have it will either say print or you may have to click on show more options then click print.
Make sure the appropriate printer is selected as well as right paper size. Print quality should be as high as it can go and paper type set to glossy photo paper.
Select glossy photo paper
Click on options and make sure that sharpen for printing is not checked.
uncheck sharpen
Click on printer properties, un-check boarder-less printing, and check gray-scale printing.
choose border less
You can also manually adjust the color/intensity. I used to turn the intensity all the way up to make the negative as dense as possible but you can leave it on the standard settings as well. This affects the printing speed of the Cyanotype more than anything.
Adjust manually
After you are done adjusting just click on OK on the windows to return to the main printing window, then click print. After printing, mark on the negative which one it is.
Mark the negative
After the negatives have been printed and labelled hang them up to dry for at least 30 minutes to an hour depending on humidity before storing them to print Cyanotypes.
Dry the negatives
Now all you have to do is repeat all of these steps EXACTLY with the Magenta + Yellow negative image and you are ready to make a Due tone Cyanotype print.
I have used these printers to make negatives for single and multiple-layer Cyanotypes as well as for Carbon printing, multi-layer Gum printing, and Salt printing. I did a test on the individual inks in these printers for creating better tones and the only inks that block UV light are the dye and pigment blacks and the dye and pigment yellows, it may be possible to make a gradient map using grey-scale and yellow for more precise tones but that is something I have not gotten around to yet. 

The complete series


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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