Photography Inspiration: How to make a Cyanotype

14 September 2017

This year's Lightbox Photographic Open Competition is open to entries from all ages and abilities, under the theme of 'Anniversary and Celebration'. To inspire you to get creative, this week's blog teaches you a fun photography technique that is much simpler than you might think - making cyanotype prints!

Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that uses chemicals which react to sunlight to produce a cyan-blue print. The process was discovered by the English scientist Sir John Herschel in 1842, but it was a botanist called Anna Atkins who was the first to publish plant cyanotypes, the same year. Atkins would place ferns, seaweed and other plants directly onto the chemical-coated paper, so the light created a striking silhouette effect. 

Here's how to do it, with no messy chemicals involved! You will need: a cyanotype kit (these days you can find these easily online or in a craft store, and they are available with either paper or fabric), a tray of water, and various plants, leaves, flowers, or whatever you would like to use for your design. You will also need to make sure you do this outside on a sunny day, as much natural light as possible will help the definition of your final print. 

1. The chemical soaked paper will come in a light protected bag, make sure you don't open it till you are ready to make your print!

2. Take the paper out, and carefully lay out your leaves, making sure it sits as flat as possible so that no light sneaks in underneath it. If you have a clear piece of glass or plastic, set it down on top to completely flatten the plant, while still letting through light.

3. Let it sit in the sun for at least ten minutes (instructions may vary according to your packet). 

4. Wash the chemicals off the paper in a tray of water, giving it a good shake around to make sure it's clean.

5. Leave the print out in the sun to fully dry and let the image develop.

6. Once dry, your print is complete! Now you've mastered the technique, you can practise with different shaped leaves or objects. 

You can win up to £500 and have the chance to be exhibited at The Lightbox if you enter our photography competition by Monday 18 September. Click the link below for more details.

The Lightbox Photographic Open

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