Project Description

The Cyanotype Print

Imaging with Light

To learn how imaging works on photographic film and paper that we will be using in our upcoming units, this project focuses on how imaging works by creating an image using an alternative process of making a print using light. Just as black and white photographic film and paper has a light sensitive surface set in silver salts, cyanotypes use a solution of iron compounds to create a photosensitive solution that when applied to a surface, an image can be created by exposing and/or blocking UV light. What to remember is, just like silver salts, the cyanotype iron compounds will darken when exposed to UV light.

  • Expose to light = Darkens
  • Block the light = Stays light/white

So the object is to block the light where you want it light or white, partially block the light to somewhat darken (shades of gray), and fully expose to darken areas of an image.


You will be graded on the following:

  • Creativity
  • Originality
  • Craftsmanship
  • Composition
  • Effort
  • Exposure

NOTE: If you want higher than a “B,” you must use more than one object in your composition.

The Project

Research and create a cyanotype image using objects, shadows, or other means to block light to create a well-composed image.

Day 1 – Research and Plan

Plan out your image by researching the cyanotype process. Then do the following:

  1. RESEARCH AND SUMMARIZE: In a Google Doc, summarize in your own words the chemicals, process and steps to create a cyanotype image (do not copy and paste from the internet).
  2. SKETCH YOUR IDEA: On a piece of drawing paper, sketch out your idea, thinking about what objects you can use to create your image. Be sure to use good composition skills (see composition lesson).
  3. LABEL YOUR SKETCH: Label all the items in your sketch. Also, think about the edges of the print and the shape of the image you want to achieve (brush strokes, stencil, etc).
  4. SUMMARIZE AND SHARE YOUR PLAN: In the document you already started, summarize what you plan to do to create your image, and how you will block and expose the light to accomplish it. Save your document (###-name-Cyanotype.doc) and share it with Mr. Trapane.
  5. PREPARE FOR NEXT CLASS: Plan on bringing your materials to class next time for a test print.

Day 2 – Test Print

To find out for yourself how the light affects the image, you will be creating a small test print. With the materials you planned to use, do the following:

  1. MAKE A TEST PRINT: Following the instructions in class, arrange some objects on the coated cyanotype paper to test how it works. Expose it outside for the approximate time.
  2. ANALYZE RESULTS: Process your print appropriately and analyze your result.
  3. RECORD YOUR FINDINGS: In the Google Doc you started previously, summarize your findings and answer the following questions:
    • Were there any surprises in your results?
    • Did it work the way you intended?
    • What problems did you encounter?
    • What can you do differently to make it work?
    • What worked?
    • Did you discover any new ideas to add to or improve your composition?
  4. SAVE AND SHARE: Save your Doc and be sure it is shared with Mr. Trapane.
  5. PREPARE YOUR CYANOTYPE PAPER: Write your name and number on the back of the supplied paper. Coat the front of the paper by brushing on the compound in the shape and pattern you want, or cover the full paper and create the stencil for the edges. Set it aside to let it dry overnight.
  6. PREPARE FOR NEXT CLASS: Make a note of the things you need for your final print and come prepared for the next class period.

Day 3 – The Final Print

With your prepared materials, do the following:

  1. FINAL PRINT SETUP: Prepare a poster board folder to protect your cyanotype from too much light before exposure.
  2. MAKE A TEST STRIP: To ensure proper exposure, first make an exposure using a provided test strip to test the conditions. Tape your strip inside the folder and place some objects on the test strip. Expose it in the sun for the specified time and process it as instructed in class. Based on the result, adjust your time for your final print if necessary.
  3. SET UP YOUR FINAL IMAGE: Tape down your prepared cyanotype paper inside the folder to eliminate movement (loop tape on back). Arrange your objects that will create your image. You may have to wait to place large objects if you are using any so the folder will close until exposure.
  4. EXPOSE FOR THE DETERMINED TIME: With your folder closed, go outside and find a location with direct sunlight. If you are using shadows as part of your image, be sure to think about the angle of the sun. Open your folder to expose your image for the appropriate time. You will need to quickly place any large objects after you open your folder for exposure.
  5. PROCESS YOUR PRINT: Close your folder after the designated time, and process your print appropriately and rinse thoroughly as instructed in class.
  6. FINISHING: Lay your print out to dry and blot with a paper towel to remove any water puddles. Let it fully dry overnight. The print will darken with oxidation as it dries.
  7. TURNING IT ALL IN: Turn in your sketch and print to the hand-in basket. Be sure that your Google Doc is shared with Mr. Trapane.

You just made a print the old-fashioned way.

Project Details

  • Client DUE: Sept 19
  • Date September 1, 2014
  • Tags BFP Lessons, BFP Unit 2

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