Toning Cyanotypes

cyanotype and tea, golden gardens, seattle, 2018

For PCNW's Longshot this year, I worked on a series of cyanotype variations.

I really love cyanotype printing. It's one of the safer photographic processes, you can coat the paper in light, you expose in the sun, and otherwise you just need water to rinse.

Sometimes, though, you get tired of blue!

MP Photography has a great overview and examples of toning cyanotypes. It's pretty easy (if time consuming).

The weather was a little weird when I made these: switching between overcast, rainy, sunny, cloudy, so I had a difficult time with exposure. Luckily, toning also seems to be a good way to rescue prints with exposure issues.

As part of the process, you bleach the print, so, it's ok if the print is overexposed a bit. There's also typically some staining, so it can help a bit with midtones and highlights if underexposed.

The above tea print is my favorite of the bunch. It was a bit underexposed, so I didn't bleach it, but just soaked it in tea for 3 hours. I think the tea tone works well for the photo, and I like the blue border that remains.

cyanotype and coffee, golden gardens, seattle, 2018

I do really like the cooler, closer to black look you get from coffee toning. This was a bit overexposed. I bleached for a bit, then 3 hours in coffee. I'm tempted to try for longer next time.

cyanotype, golden gardens, seattle, 2018

For comparison, above is a normal cyanotype print with no toning.

Part of the fun of these analog processes is the one of a kind results and ocassional surprises. It's also been a fun reminder to not worry as much about mistakes or imperfections and just embrace them.

The original image I used to make these prints was shot on color film with an old folding camera that had light leaks (see below)!

I can see the artifacts of the leaks in the final prints, but it's a lot less noticable and doesn't bother me at all.

golden gardens, seattle, 2018