new project for month of june: fun with cyanotype paper

Cyanotype is a photographic process that uses the sun to develop negatives. I thought this would be the perfect experiment for our June theme of light.

How to make a cyanotype print:

Step 1:
Buy some light sensitive paper. I went to Blick and bought this brand called Sunography which cost me $14.95 for 6 measly sheets, so I would suggest making your own. Seems like a fairly easy process.

Step 2:
The light sensitive paper isn’t so sensitive that it will expose immediately when you take it out of the bag since it really depends on UV rays but I would prep everything in a dimly lit room anyway just to be sure. On my first batch, I prepped them in a lighter room and they came out a little blurry. To make an exposure, make a transparency out of a piece of art or make a photo negative and place it directly on top of the paper. Real transparencies can get pricey, so I made mine using a great trick I learned at Spudnik Press. Print your negative/line drawing on an inkjet printer, making sure the blacks are really rich, and then apply small amounts of baby oil with a paper towel to the paper until it becomes transparent. Wipe off any extra oil though, since it may interfere with printing. You can use this method for screenprinting as well.

My first day of exposing was a nice, sunny day which really makes a difference in your results (as you’ll see later).


Place your transparency on top of the cyanotype paper and secure it with a piece of tape since if anything shifts, your lines won’t be crisp. Then get a heavy piece of glass and place it on top of your paper for anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. You really have to feel this part out since it depends so much on the strength of the sun on any particular day.


Step 3:
To develop your paper, run it under water to wash off the chemicals until the water runs clear.

My first batch was a little blurry but since it was such a sunny day, the color was a nice, deep blue.



The next day, I tried again and this time the lines were a lot crisper since I made sure to prep everything in a dark room and made sure that the transparencies didn’t shift during exposing. The only problem was that it was a cloudier day, so my prints came out a lot lighter this time.


This process definitely takes multiple tries to perfect since it is dependent on the strength of the sun (which actually makes it really exciting since it’s always a surprise and feels really organic). Hopefully we’ll have a lot more sunny days this summer so I can keep experimenting!

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About sara

Sara Bassick is a graphic designer living in Chicago. She likes printmaking, reading, typography, clocks, collaborating, being silly, dogs and pizza.
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3 Responses to new project for month of june: fun with cyanotype paper

  1. Cool! Do you have an idea in mind for your new prints?

    • sara says:

      Thansk! Not sure yet. I think next time I want to try putting actual objects on the paper because it gives it more of a 3 dimensional look.

  2. kali says:

    Let me know how the ‘making your own solution’ works. Sounds great! And where do you get the chemicals?? Hannaford doesn’t seem to have the two main items.

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