Thursday, 1 August 2013

Lesson Idea: Cyanotype

Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that creates beautiful cyan-blue prints. It's a pretty retro technique that was used back in the day to create blueprints. I remember when I was first introduced to in during my Art Foundation course and thought it was a really awesome technique! Recently we've been introducing it to our teaching because it's a cheap (hurray!) and simple technique that can produce stunning results. It works on both paper and fabric, the pieces above are some quick examples; I did the aeroplane one is on fabric, the other on paper. In both of my examples I've used objects (like a photogram) but you could also create drawings onto acetate or tracing paper or expose negatives - if you want them large blow them up on a photocopier and copy them onto acetate! Anyway I've put together a how to, to get you started...

Preparing the chemicals:

Download a copy of the worksheet HERE

Preparing Negatives
Once you've got the chemicals made up it's pretty straight forward! You just need to expose it to light using which ever method you like....
Photogram - placing a series of objects on top of your paper/fabric (like I did!)
Drawing - create or photocopy a drawing onto acetate/tracing paper and place on top
Negatives - create tiny ones or blow up your negatives on the photocopier and copy on to acetate/tracing paper 

There are two methods you can use to expose a UV exposure unit (do you have one!? you lucky thing!) or good ole sunlight. The timings are slightly different for each
UV Exposure Unit: 6 minutes
Summer Sunlight: 10-15 minutes
Winter Sunlight: 3 hours 

Once you've exposed your paper/fabric it'll look green - you just need to wash it in water make it blue! 

Top tips:
  • Make sure whatever you place on top of your paper is kept as flat as possible - if not it will create a shadow and you'll get blurred lines. If your doing the sunlight method either a glass plate or clear plastic sheet can be place on top!
  • Make sure it's a sunny day and if your planning on using it for a project it's best not to be one in the  Autumn or Winter months as exposure times are super long! It needs to be a bright sunny day! 
  • Try and expose between 10-2 it's when the light is strongest! 
  • After exposing make sure you put your print back in a light fast container while you transport it to washing! We use black bin bags! 
  • Be experimental with what you expose! We've had students do some fantastic super large scale pieces using the human body - literally getting a group of people to lie down on some large sheets of paper - anything can be used so go nuts!
  • We get our chemicals from Silverprint!
Enjoy and happy cyanotyping!
- Claire 

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