Cyanotype 102: Mixing Your Own Chemicals

Hello there, you’re probably here because you want to learn more about alternative photography and specifically cyanotype. There is a ton of great free information out there on photographic alt processes, but often it is so much it can feel overwhelming. That’s why I’ve created a series of classes aimed at getting a beginner up and running in the cyanotype medium.

As you can see, this is cyanotype 102. If you want the absolute basics, I’d recommend going to my post, Cyanotype 101. There you’ll learn the foundations of cyanotype as well as how to use pre-coated cyanotype papers to make your first cyanotypes. In this class, we’ll take things to the next level and learn how to actually mix your own paper and hand coat your own papers.

And why would you want to do that?

Well, to a certain degree it is personal preference, but many people would also say it opens up possibilities artistically. Ultimately, mixing your own chemistry and providing your own paper gives you more control over the final aesthetic, and ultimately, control is what allows you to execute your artistic vision. So if you’re interested in alternative processes at all, I’d recommend mixing your own to get the full effect of the medium.

On to the video!


If you want to continue this course, the rest of the videos are available through Skillshare. If you’ve never heard of it, Skillshare is a video course platform aimed especially at creative projects. I now have several courses available and plan to continue adding more. With every class, I offer you can post the project you were able to make as a result. I’d love to see your cyanotype work and help you improve your skills as an alternative photographer.

To continue on to the rest of the class, click here.

Advanced Cyanotype Class

I’ve just completed another Skillshare class. Cyanotype 103: printing from a digital negative is the last class in my cyanotype foundations series. Together they lay the groundwork for someone to understand how the process works and make their own prints using either pre-coated paper or mixing and coating their own chemicals. With the addition of this most recent class, they are now also prepared for either photogram style prints or actual photographic prints from printed digital negatives.

A cyanotype print from an image I took during my Catoctin residency.

One of the other other important skills introduced in this class is how to make a test print. Understanding how test prints work allow you to really refine your exposures and make it possible to have very consistent results.

Test Print at 1 minute intervals

Next on my list of classes is how to make and use paper negatives with cyanotype and also a little bit of a deeper dive into how to really perfect your digital negative so that your final print is as good as it can be.

So, if you haven’t checked out my classes yet, now is a great time. If you sign up through one of my links you get 2 months access to the entire library of classes for FREE! Go learn a new skill.

Check it out

I can teach you how to do Cyanotype in my Skillshare class!

I’ve recently begun teaching classes through If you’ve never heard of it, Skillshare is a video course platform aimed especially at creative projects. I’ve got several different series of classes planned, but the first I plan to develop fully is all about Cyanotype. In the series I’ll take someone from being an absolute beginner using pre-coated sun printing paper up through advanced techniques of large scale prints, creating digital negatives, toning finished prints, printing on multiple materials and mixing your own chemicals.

Cyanotype is my favorite alternative process because it has a very low bar of entry in terms of required materials (you expose it in the sun and develop it in regular tap water), it is very forgiving, and it can be used to create a very wide range of looks.

Skillshare does require a membership, but if you click on my referral link, you get 2 months for free. That means you can watch every class I’ve uploaded (2 right now and more soon to come) as well as over 10,000 other skillshare videos for free for the first 2 months. There are a huge range of topics, including art, design, craft, photography and beyond, for all skill levels.

One cool feature on every Skillshare class is that you are encouraged to upload your finished results for each project. So for my class, you can upload your finished cyanotype prints so I and the rest of my students can see your work and comment, give feedback and answer any questions you have. I’m really looking forward to what you make!

Adventure on the Near Horizon

I got some exciting news this past weekend! Both Melissa and I were accepted as artists in residence at Catoctin Mountain Park this summer. It’s always such a painful waiting game when you apply for things like this, but we got the good news and now we’ve got to start planning because it’s not that far away.

I’m particularly excited about this opportunity because it represents some things that feel familiar and others that will cover new ground. The familiar is the 2 week residency in a wilderness setting. I’m fortunate enough to have done several residencies over the past few years that follow a similar format, and it will be a welcome return of 2 weeks dedicated to nothing but art making.

The new will be the experience of a residency at the State Park level. I’ve had residencies at both Rocky Mountain and Acadia national parks, and I think the smaller scale (and crowds) of the state park will be a refreshing change. And of course there is still a lot about the specifics that I don’t know. We’ll get a cabin in the park for 2 weeks, and there will be at least 1 educational program in there somewhere, but aside from that, there’s still much to be discovered. Exciting times!

One of those things to be learned is much more about what the park has to offer. One interesting thing that I already know is that the presidential retreat Camp David is inside the boundaries of the park. Crazy! Aside from that, lots of a Appalachian goodness to explore, but I’m sure I’ll earn more as we get closer.

And one other side note, this week both Melissa and I are in a Handmade Prints show at the Markeim Arts Center in Haddonfield. I got a couple large cyanotypes in and Melissa got 3 lino prints in. Fun, fun!

Toning and Reward Prints

A cyanotype that has been toned with the “Eggplant/Black” method
Last night I was finally able to take the time to tone a few prints from the residency. I had the necessary supplies to attain a Black tone as well as Eggplant/Black. With a small test print I tested the Black toning first, and it really just washed out the tones too much (which should have been expected since toning always reduces print density). So, then I went on to the Eggplant/Black toning process and was much happier with the results. That said, one could be tempted to call this “brown” or maybe “rust” (though I have done actual brown toning before and the results are much different in comparison). At any rate, I’m pleased with the tone shift that took place despite it’s lack of eggplanty-ness, and I think the two tones of prints work well when seen together in a group.
I also am happy to announce that the 5×7 reward prints are selected and just waiting to be mailed first thing on Monday morning. If you’ve been following along you may remember that my plans changed a little from what I had originally proposed. I had wanted to do my best rendition of an Anna Atkins style series of water plant prints. However, upon arrival to Artscape Gibraltar Point I set out looking for these plants and came up more or less empty (there were plenty of lily pads, but I just couldn’t bring myself to make 40 prints of lily pads). Later in the week I actually did stumble across some more aquatic vegetation, but at that point time was against me since it would have taken a good amount of time to dry the plants (moister and sun-printing don’t mix).
So, I changed my plans and let myself be inspired by the place. Artscape has a wonderful series of semi-cultivated flower and food gardens, and so I resolved to make prints that came directly from that place. However, the typical practice of making these type of sun prints would be to cut the plant in order to make printing as easy as possible. It just seemed a little silly to me to"preserve" an image of these plants by killing them. So I settled on making a “no plants were injured in the making of these prints” series of cyanotypes. I was able to take my sensitized paper and little portable contact printing frames made and quickly bend the branch or stem down under the glass, make the print, and then release the plant unharmed. Working this way definitely presented its own series of problems to be worked through, but I’m very happy with the results. I hope they find a good place in the homes of my backers.

The Return Journey

We made the return trip yesterday, arriving home at 10:30. We were able to stop for a couple hours at Niagra and check out the falls amidst the crowds.
There are a lot of nice things about being in one’s own home again, but in general I’m pretty sad about having to leave the island. There were a lot of great things about Artscape, one of which is of course just the beauty of the place. But there was also the time to be only an artist and not pulled in a million direction, as well as spend time in a community where serious art was happening. There were authors, musicians and visual artists of all kinds diligently making the most of their time in residence. In fact, most of them were staying h for at least 2 weeks, and some much more (a fact of which I am quite jealous… Sigh..)

Well, i guess what i can take aeay from this is that its really now just up to me to make things happen. (this is what 
Meg and i were talking about on the return drive). A residency in some ways makes art easy (it also increases the pressure a bit
) so it is when you return to normal life that the work begins, the work of maintaining a practice despite the hectic pace of the every day. Still, i am grateful for this reminder in the form of a residency that art needs to carry a high priority in my life and for creating a bit of a fresh jumping off point for future work.

Winding Down

I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday. So sad my time here is nearing the end but also proud of all the work I’ve accomplished in such a compact timeframe. I think I’ve pulled off what I set out to do though: break some new groud, dedicate time to the studio and give myself a new jumping off place for future work.

Here’s to finishing well!

Also, i woke up early this morning and got some nice sunrise shots down by the pier. I also stumbled across some kind of bird migration. 
It was incredible to see hundreds of thousands of birds all on the move together.


Today I got to work on some rewards for my wonderful kickstarter backers. I will be sending out about 32 5×7 cyanotype prints and today I was able to print about half of them. It was rainy and windy all morning, making printing impossible, but the afternoon cleared up beautifully and I got a lot done. Originally I had been hoping to make contact prints of aquatic plants, very similar to Anna Atkins, however it just couldn’t happen. First, the only readily available plant I’ve seen are lily pads (and I really don’t want to make that many prints of only lily pads). And second, the time is just too short to get the plants dry enough to print.
So instead I formulated another plan of attack, and I’m pretty happy about the results. More details to come.