How to Tone a Cyanotype

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Cyanotypes are undoubtedly beautiful in their original shade of deep blue. However, part of the fun of cyanotypes is that, with a few fairly common items, you can dramatically change the effect of your picture. By dabbling and exploring with this alternative photography process, you can produce cyanotypes that are brown, violet and other shades. Here are a few examples of how to tone a cyanotype.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Tannic acid (common tea can be used as a substitute)
  • Sodium carbonate, or washing soda
  • Common ammonia
  • Water
  • Borax
  • Cyanotypes, developed and washed
  • Plastic trays

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Instructions

    Making a Brown Cyanotype

  1. 1

    Mix a tannic acid solution using 1 gram of tannic acid per 100 ml of water.

  2. 2

    Mix a second, separate solution using 1 gram of sodium carbonate per 100 ml of water.

  3. 3

    Submerge the cyanotype into the tannic acid solution for about five to 10 seconds. Remove the cyanotype and wash with water.

  4. 4

    Place the cyanotype into a tray of the second solution, watching the print until the desired color is obtained.

  5. 5

    Place the print into a water wash for a minimum of five minutes.

    Violet-Toned Cyanotypes

  1. 1

    Prepare a solution using 5 ml ammonia per 100 ml water. This solution serves to bleach out cyanotype prints.

  2. 2

    Make a second solution using 1 gram of tannic acid per 100 ml of water.

  3. 3

    Make a third solution using cold water and borax.

  4. 4

    Immerse the cyanotype into the ammonia solution. Remove once the desired bleaching effect has occurred. Wash thoroughly. Time permitting, allow the print to dry so the ammonia can fully evaporate.

  5. 5

    Place the bleached print into the tannic acid solution until desired color is reached. Remove from solution and wash in water.

  6. 6

    Immerse the print in the cold water and borax solution until desired "violet tinge" is obtained. Allow the print to dry.

    Split-Toning for a Blue/Yellow Effect

  1. 1

    Prepare a solution using 5 ml ammonia per 100 ml water.

  2. 2

    Prepare a second solution using 1 gram tannic acid per 100 ml of water.

  3. 3

    Soak the cyanotype in the ammonia solution until desired bleaching effect has taken place. Remove from solution and wash thoroughly.

  4. 4

    Place the washed print into the tannic acid solution until the desired effect is achieved. Wash for a minimum of five minutes. Hang to dry or place on mesh rack.

Tips and warnings

  • These are just a few examples of toning processes. Other colors and tones can be achieved using different chemicals and techniques.
  • Cyanotype toning is by no means an exact science. Various factors will contribute to the final outcome of your picture. Initial exposure time, darkness or lightness are all factors. Part of the fun is playing around to find a process that you like best.
  • Keep a record of toning processes. That way, if you find a process you particularly enjoy, you will have an easy point of reference.
  • Toning solutions can be reused. Just store them in plastic bottles and keep in a cool, dry, safe place.

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