Wo Zhi KanKan (I am just looking), (JiaShan, January 2008 #2829) 2023 copyright Douglas Stockdale –
When I had decided to experiment with Cyanotypes last October as an alternative photographic process, I wanted to test the waters with a very minimum investment in equipment, facilities and processes. Especially since I was considering Cyanotypes as the first step towards making trip-color Gum Bichromate prints. One of my key issues was not having any place to work if I wanted to coat my own watercolor paper with the two part Cyanotype chemicals, ferric ammonium citrate (FAC) and potassium ferricyanide (PF). The easy solution was to start using one of the two pre-coated Cyanotype papers available and here in the U.S., that was the pre-coated paper from The Cyanotype Store. To make things easier for me, it’s available locally from Freestyle Photo located in L.A.
Over the last six months, I have had a couple of chances to talk to Susan Flores who owns The Cyanotype Store about their pre-coated papers. Flores revealed some of the technical information about their paper that is not detailed on their website, which is a missed opportunity for photoTech-Geeks like me. So let me share this what I learned.
First, all of their production has recently moved to Texas from Oregon (she’s from OR, while her husband and family are from Texas). One thing that I have noted is that the pre-coated papers now appear more uniformity coated and they have illuminated some of the ‘splotchiness’ from what they coated in Oregon. So that’s one upside from their move that I appreciate. Since their Cyanotype paper is coated on both sides of the sheet, I had earlier found myself trying to decided which side I wanted to expose, now both sides are uniform and consistent.
They advertise that the substrate is ‘100% Natural Fiber Paper, Hot Press’ and what she stated is that it is 100% cotton from one of a couple of cotton mills located within the United States. She would not elaborate on which mills, which I can understand, as they might purchase from one and then the other depending on price and availability. The rag paper is not a ‘bright’ white that would result from dyes, etc that you find in inkjet papers, while I find it to be pretty neutral white, a pleasant white the complements the Prussian Blue of the Cyanotype printing. (Note: The Cyanotype Store has other ‘colored’ pre-coated papers to experiment with)
The cotton medium has been calendered (heated cylinders) to create a ‘Hot Press’ paper (both sides), which has a very smooth surface, unlike cold press which has a slight amount of texture. As a result, when I print with my digital negative in the contact printing frame, the fine detail is amazingly good. Likewise the 100 lb weight paper handles well and requires only a small amount of plate pressure to obtain a relatively flat print after it dries. Nevertheless, while wet during water development, if the print is mishandled, it can tear. So while wet, handle with care, and after it complete dries, the print is pretty robust.
The Cyanotype formula that they use to coat the paper is a combination of the FAC and PF, usually expressed as a percentage related to how much of the chemicals are in solution. They use a ‘classic’ Cyanotype formulation of 20% FAC to 10% PF (20:10%). As a reference, the formulation for the liquid FAC and PF from Photographers Formulary is 20:8% a bit closer to the original Cyanotype formulation. Changing the ratio of PAC and PF can alter the Cyanotype’s shade of Prussian Blue for the image and some have reported a slight change in exposure times as well. For The Cyanotype Store pre-coated paper, this is fixed, and as illustrated above, renders a nice shade of Prussian Blue. I find this blue to help provide another metaphoric layering for the resulting image. FYI: I also use a diluted vinegar for my print development and when I changed to this lower pH water bath, there seemed to be a corresponding increased intensity of the Prussian Blue to the print color.
They provide with their paper some information on exposure and for solar printing that 20 minutes will obtain the darkest blues (Dmax), which I have found to be true on a sunny day in the winter. As the UV index has been increasing this spring, my solar printing exposure times have been getting progressing shorter.
For my methodology, I purchase the 11 x 14″ size sheets to print my 8 x 10″ images, allowing the image to float within the white borders (blocked from the sun with my digital contact negative methodology) to provide a pseudo matte, an appearance that I like, as seen above. Note: the small blue outside edge is a result of my digital negative not covering entirely the pre-coated paper due to the way my Canon printer prints the digital negative film (OHP).
Thus, using the pre-coated Cyanotype papers from The Cyanotype Store was a relatively easy way to find out if Cyanotype printing was something that is right for me. And the resulting prints are wonderfully detailed and beautiful. I have also found these resulting Cyanotype prints are easy to hand-color, both with watercolor and Prismacolor pencils (the later also to spot the print with).
Meanwhile, I am finding that Cyanotype printing is becoming imbedded in my creative methodology and I am becoming curious about coating (e.g. Photographers Formulary Cyanotype FAC & PF solutions) other papers and substrates to further investigate what I can do with this alternative photographic process. So my Cyanotype journey continues on.
Postscript: This Cyanotype print, above, is for sale in an edition of 5. Inquire for details.
Cheers & make every day an Earth Day
The Flow of Light Brushes the Shadow, an artist book from Singular Images Press, Fall 2022 release, $60.00 (CA sales tax for those residing in the USA) plus shipping expenses. Message me email@example.com or singularimagespress@gmail for shipping details and PayPal invoice.
Note: The Artist Special Edition (book + extra print) is Sold Out.
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