Duotone cyanotypes #5 – Shrink the paper

Part 5 in Matthew Bary’s series Duotone cyanotype shows how to prepare watercolor paper for printing due-tone cyanotypes, by shrinking the paper, coating it with cyanotype chemicals, and drying it thoroughly. 

Writer and photography / Matthew Bary


Once you have printed the negative as in Duotone cyanotypes #4 – Print the negative it is time to shrink the paper. In this section we are going to shrink the paper and coat it to get it ready for printing our due tone Cyanotype, this same preparation is needed for three-layer Cyanotypes as well as multi-layer gum printing.

Canson Watercolor XL paperFirst of all, I use Canson XL watercolor paper, there are several other good choices for paper but this one is relatively inexpensive and very sturdy, just be sure to keep track of which side is up.
 
We will also need Cyanotype chemicals, I prefer Photographers’ Formulary and their kits can be bought as liquid or dry kit.
 
Step one is to shrink the paper, in essence, soak it in hot water and then dry it so that it shrinks before coating that way you can add multiple layers without it shrinking and ruining the image. Make sure everything you use is very clean, even your hands wash with soap and water to make sure no oils get on the paper as this will result in spots and blotches, I use a cheap cake pan to place the paper in the tray facing up.
Place the paper in a pan facing up.
Place the paper in a pan facing up.
 
 
Boil water in ether a kettle or large clean pot, you have to have enough water to completely cover the paper, then pour it over the paper.
Boil water and pour over
Boil water and pour over
 
 
You need to shuffle the paper around to make sure all of it gets soaked, I used tongs to help.
 
Shuffle the paper around using tongs.
Shuffle the paper around using tongs.
 
Finally, I cover all of it with a tote to keep the heat in.
Cover the tray to keep the heat in.
Cover the tray to keep the heat in.
 
You should re-shuffle the paper every 15 minutes and soak for no less than 30 minutes but closer to 60 minutes adding hot water as needed. After it has soaked well pour the hot water out and rinse with cold water, this will remove any calcium deposits if present and also cool it down to handle better.
Rinse after soaking
Rinse after soaking
 
Make sure to keep track of what side is what, and hang the papers from one corner to dry, you can also use a fan on low as well as a dehumidifier to help with the drying process. I use metal clips but you can use clothespins as well.
Hang the papers to dry
Hang the papers to dry
Use a fan to speed it up.
Use a fan to speed up the drying process.
 
Once the paper is dry – and I mean bone dry – it is ready for coating the first layer. Make sure you keep track of what side is up and keep the now shrunk and dried paper somewhere dry until you are ready to coat it. 
 
I always coat my paper with a 10/10 Cyanotype solution for the first layer as it has better tone control. Here are the dilutions to make it from the kits I mentioned:
 
Mixing dry cyanotype chemicals – 10% ferric ammonium citrate and 10% potassium ferricyanide
  • To make from scratch, measure 10 grams of ferric ammonium citrate into a graduated cylinder and add distilled water to make 100 mL of solution. Store in a dark bottle.
  • Then measure 10 grams of potassium ferricyanide into a graduated cylinder and add distilled water to make 100 mL of solution. Store in a dark bottle.
  • Mix in equal parts and apply to paper.

Mixing cyanotypes from ready-made stock solutions – 10% ferric ammonium citrate and 10% potassium ferricyanide

  • To make cyanotypes from already made stock. Measure equal parts of solution A and distilled water and mix well. This will dilute it to a 10% solution. Store in the dark.
  • Leave solution B as is, since it is already mixed to 10%.
  • Mix the diluted solution A and undiluted solution B in equal parts and apply to paper.
It is important to use a 10/10 solution for this process to work but the formulas above should allow you to make it from scratch or using pre-mixed solutions.
 
Here is a link to a calculator to help with dilutions if you have something other than what is mentioned above.
 
To start coating your paper you will need the following, a dimly lit room, a good table or surface to coat on, a piece of paper larger than the ones you are coating to help brush off the excess, your 10/10 Cyanotype chemicals, I use foam brushes 1 wet 1 dry, plastic or glass cup to mix the chemicals in, and finally, a 50 to 100 ml cylinder to measure out solutions A and B.
 
Measure out 20 ml of solution A, you can use more or less depending on how many papers you are going to coat or how large the paper your coating is. Pour it into your cup.
Use foam brushes for coating cyanotypes.
Use foam brushes for coating cyanotypes.
 
Measure 20 ml of solution B and pour it into your cup, no matter how much you use of A and B it must always be equal.
Measure 20 ml of cyanotype solution B
Measure 20 ml of cyanotype solution B
Add the solution to a cup.
Add the solution to a cup.
 
Be sure to stir the cup around to mix A and B together well, you can now coat your paper.
Add the same amount of cyanotype solution A
Add the same amount of cyanotype solution A
Lay your paper facing up on the larger piece of paper.
Lay out the paper to be coated.
Lay out the paper to be coated.
 
Dip the brush you are going to use for coating in the solution and make left and right strokes from top to bottom on the paper, re-dipping in the solution as needed.
Start coating the paper.
Start coating the paper.
 
Next brush up and down from side to side.
Coat from side to side
Coat from side to side
 
At this point the paper will look wet.
The paper will look wet with cyanotype chemicals.
The paper will look wet with cyanotype chemicals.
 
Take a dry brush and repeat the side-to-side up and down strokes to even it out, if there is still an excess of solution brush it onto the paper underneath of it.
Brush with a DRY brush.
Brush with a DRY brush.
 
Let the paper sit facing up for a short while to soak in the solution a little better, it should look only slightly wet.
Let the paper rest.
Let the paper rest.
 
Hang the paper from one corner just like in the shrinking step and use a low fan and or dehumidifier to dry the paper well. Even if you are using a dull light i suggest hanging the paper with the coated side facing away from the bulb just in case.
Hang the paper from the corner to let it dry.
Hang the paper from the corner to let it dry.
 
The paper can be used as soon as it is dry or several days after but during drying it is important to maintain a low humidity as the paper will blotch and get a blue rash if it is in a humid area. After it is dry it is advisable to keep it in a very dry container. I would recommend a tote and pour silica gel beads in the bottom of it before adding the paper. This will keep the paper dry and the beads can be baked dry and re used. If you do not keep the paper very dry after coating it will go blue and ruin no matter what the temperate or lighting conditions are.
Pour silica gel beads in the bottom of it before adding the paper
Pour silica gel beads in the bottom of it before adding the paper.
This will keep the paper dry.
This will keep the paper dry.
Cover with a tray.
Cover with a tray.
 
You now have paper ready to be exposed.

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.

Did you learn something?
We would like YOU to become a Supporting Member to help us keep this learning resource free and accessible to all.
 
An article takes 1-4 days to write, edit and publish. The research behind the article takes between one day and a lifetime. No one gets paid for this and your contributions and membership are crucial to help with running costs.
 
Apart from supporting our free learning and inspirational resource, you are also eligible to take part in our members-only events, all for the price of a coffee once a month.
 
Other ways to support us are buying our books, calendars and journals directly from us, or using our affiliate links to buy books which gives us a tiny percentage. You can also get a t-shirt, card or apron from our Etsy store earning us a small commission.
 
We really appreciate your support and THANK YOU to the heroes who already support us!
More about paper
The Massive Paper Chart thumb

The Massive Paper chart

by Christina Z. Anderson

85+ papers tested in the argyrotype, chrysotype, cyanotype, palladium, salted paper and vandyke brown process.
 

Leave a Comment