Friday, January 30, 2009

Cyanotype

Since I tend not to go out and photograph a lot this time of year, I try to catch up on other things. One of the things I'm exploring further is my digital negative workflow. These are negatives of digital files that I use to create prints using older processes that have fallen out of the mainstream. I'm currently using cyanotype since it's cheap. Think blueprints, except instead of line drawings, substitute a photograph.

The short and simple process is that you take a digital photograph, convert it to black and white and invert it to make a negative. The negative file is printed on a clear plastic sheet. You then hand coat a piece of paper with the chemicals, and after drying, place the negative in close contact with the paper and expose under ultraviolet lights. Exposure times run in the minutes, and I've had it run close to an hour depending on the process. It's not a process for the impatient. For cyanotype, you wash the print in water to develop it.

There is a lot more involved in the process to do it right. Things like determining your exposure time, which color of printer ink blocks the uv light the best, and creating a Photoshop curve to make sure you get the correct tonality for the process. This is the part I'm working on. There are seminars that would help, but the information is also available on the web with a little looking. It's not like I'm breaking new ground here. Once I get the process down, I plan on moving on to other chemistries. I'll probably move to Ziatype next, which is a platinum process.

One thing I've noticed while I go through this, is the amount of info that is being written about cyanotype lately. "Black and White" magazine had an article in December about it. Another of the British magazines also had an article about it including how to emulate it in Photoshop. Plus it seems that I've seen other instances lately.

Maybe I'm just sensitive because I'm in the middle of this work. Time will tell if all this exposure prods more people to print in blue.

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