Cyanotype has been widely known since 1842. This method was invented by the Englishman John Herschel. He was an eminent astronomer, the ancestor of astrophotometry, and a physicist, but he was also active and made many discoveries in the field of photography. For example, he worked with William Henry Talbot, the creator of calotype, a process that produces negative images. The terms "negative," "positive," and even "photography" are legendarily attributed to John Herschel. Herschel originally invented cyanotopy to copy mathematical tables, drawings, and notes, but the simplicity and cheapness of the process ensured this technology's subsequent popularity among photographers. In addition, almost everyone had reagents available for this imaging technique.
Cyanotype is a silverless photographic process that produces an image in blue. Such a hue is also called "Prussian blue." Herschel was the first to discover the sensitivity of iron salts to light. He covered paper with solutions of ferric chloride (or ammonium ferric acid) and red blood salt using a brush, dried it, and exposed it to sunlight. The exposed areas would turn blue, while the unexposed areas would turn light. After Herschel placed the paper in water, washing out the excess iron. This gave the print its final̆ appearance.
Any paper that does not disintegrate in water is used for cyanotype. Often watercolor or cotton paper is used. But there's plenty of room for imagination: you can take any paper and experiment, getting different results every time. Also the process does not require any certain conditions: you can work indoors under incandescent lamps. The main thing when treating the paper with the solution is the absence of direct exposure to ultraviolet light, i.e. sunlight or lamps, if you have any. As a negative for the process, you can take anything: either a low-contrast negative printed on transparent film with an inkjet printer, or some objects, such as flowers, stones, and the like. By the way, the world's first photo book contained exactly cyanotopy. Its author, Anna Atkins, one of the first female photographers, placed dried algae on paper treated with a photosensitive solution and exposed it. This is how the book "British Algae: Cyanotype Prints" turned out.
Cyanotype works on many surfaces, the main condition being non-metallic ones. In addition to paper, fabrics can be used. You get very beautiful and unusual bags or silk handkerchiefs, for example.
The proportions of the initial solutions can be varied to obtain different saturations and shades of the final image: from light blue to deep blue. You can also brown the picture with the help of a tea solution. The main thing here is your desire to experiment and adhere to the basic rules of this method.
The beauty of cyanotype is its simplicity and accessibility. It doesn't require any special tools. In the new "Photochemistry" section of our site you'll find the necessary chemicals for the process. Cyanotype kits can be found under the "Alternative Processes" tab. There are three kinds of products there. A classic cyanthropy kit with two solutions and everything you need. Separately, you will need paper, a negative or some objects that you will use to make a picture, and a glass that you will use to press the negative onto the paper. The second is the M. Weir New Cyanotype Kit, which consists of one vial of solution and accessories. The additional items needed are the same as those needed for the first set. The new cyanotype features greater light sensitivity, easier application of the solution, and a wider dynamic range. There is also a large box aimed at those who would like to apply cyanotype on fabric: inside there are chemicals, blanks made of natural silk and cotton, and tools. This set would be a great gift for those who are interested in and love photography, as well as for children.
Please note that all cyanotype chemistry is stored in a cool, dry place where sunlight does not penetrate, such as in a closet or pantry. We also remind you that any such manipulations are best done with gloves and safety precautions, although there is nothing dangerous in the cyanotype method, but caution never hurts, since you are, after all, working with chemicals.