Cyanotype Photography 101: Making Your First Sunprint | Ben Panter | Skillshare

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Cyanotype Photography 101: Making Your First Sunprint

teacher avatar Ben Panter, Alternative Photography & Game Making

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      3 Reasons You Should Try Cyanotype


    • 2.

      What is Cyanotype?


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Setting Up Your Print


    • 5.

      Exposing Your Print


    • 6.

      Developing Your Print


    • 7.

      Reviewing Your Finished Cyanotype


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About This Class

In Cyanotype 101 you will learn how to make a sunprint, otherwise known as a cyanotype. Cyanotype is unique in that it is a form of photography that does not require a camera! The sunprinting process needs very few supplies to create a stunning final work of art with its signature blue color. Sunprinting is also a family-friendly art project and a great summer activity.

Meet Your Teacher

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Ben Panter

Alternative Photography & Game Making


My name is Ben Panter and I am an artist, professor and game-maker. My art is photography based and I enjoy experimenting with and combining new and old media. I've been honored to have several artist residencies through the National Park System over the past few years, including Rocky Mountain National Park and Acadia National Park.

I've also been designing board games for about a decade now. Like many in the field, I started out very casually, but have more recently committed to creating a more steady flow of games. I especially believe in helping others enjoy game design as a hobby unto itself, and through my classes on skillshare I hope to make it accessible for more people.

You can view more of my photography work on my website,, and follow me on Instagr... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. 3 Reasons You Should Try Cyanotype: Hello. I'm a painter. I'm an artist and professor for Rutgers University. And this class is Sina Type 101 making your first son print. It's possible you've never heard of scientific before. In fact, is very likely sign a type is an alternative photographic process on. And so in this course, you're gonna be learning how to do the very basic process with a kit you can buy for just a few dollars on somewhere like Amazon or craft store. And we're gonna be walking through the fundamentals of that process. Later on, I'll be doing more classes that add more skills and more possibilities to what you can do with Sion attack. But in this course, we're just going to be making a few a simple prints. So I love Sina type. I've used it a lot, and I love experimenting with it. And so I wanted to tell you three reasons why I think you should give science type of try. Reason Number one is that it's fun and easy. It's an alternative photographic process. It's very hands on, but it has a very low bar of entry, meaning that there's not very much specialized equipment on, and it's very forgiving. It's very easy to do in your home s. So I think it's a great way to kind of dip your toes in the water of alternative photographic processes. Number two is that it's connected to the history of photography. Okay, so when you are learning how to do scion a type, you're also learning about the history of this process and how photography itself was invented back in the mid 18 hundreds. Eso I really liked that aspect of kind of connecting to the history of where photography came from. On the third reason why I think you should give science type of try is that this guy's the limit for what you could do with Sion, a type we're going to start off with a very simple project in this class. But as we move forward and other classes, I'm gonna be adding some more advanced skills of how you can be printing on other surfaces , how you can be printing, um, objects or negatives or all kinds of things, and it's a very fluid, very forgiving process. And so it's great for experimentation, mixed media, all those types of things. So we're gonna be laying the foundations here and then really expanding on that later in the next video, we're gonna be looking at what sign? A tape is exactly explaining just some of its defining characteristics and also looking at a short history of Senate type, all the way back to its very beginning up to today, how it's being used so we'll see you there. 2. What is Cyanotype?: Hello and welcome back to this second video in Sign a type one a one making your first son print before we get into the materials and the specifics of what we'll be doing. I wanted to give an overview of what science type is and a little bit of the history to help you understand where it came from. Eso first, let's show you a close up picture. This is a scientist type print, and this is going to look very similar to what you'll make in this class. Eso You'll see one of its defining characteristics is this vivid blue color contrast ID by the white areas on. So that is one of the defining characteristics that set it apart from other historical processes and other contemporary processes. Now, another characteristic of science type that is interesting is that it is a light, sensitive process, just like film photography is based on light sensitivity. Scion, a type is light sensitive as well, but it's a little different because it is only sensitive to UV light, and this is great for making this an easy process to deal with. You can work inside with no relating conditions. You don't have to have a dark room or any of that complex equipment in order to deal with it on. So that's again something that makes it kind of unique that you ve sensitivity only on. So now let's talk a little bit about the history of science type. It was invented in the 18 forties, Sir John Herschel eyes the one who actually put it all together. And he, interestingly enough, though, didn't really see it as a photographic technique. He saw it being used for making copies of things like letters and documents, which it was used for. But really next along the line, Teoh pull it into the world of photography. A little bit more would be Anna Atkins, often referred to as the first female photographer. She used the scientific process to make a book. Ah, book specifically about British algae. But that essentially is going to be the same technique that we're using today where you take some plant matter and you put it on over top of the sensitized paper. Leave it out in the sun and you get a print at the end, just like the one that I just showed you. Okay, so This is very similar to the Anna Atkins look. And if you look her up online, you can actually see digital copies of those original works from way back in the 18 forties . There. Really? Phenomenal. Um, next along the time line of science type would be blueprints. Okay, you may have heard the term blueprints before. You probably think of building plans and things like that. But as I said, when John Herschel first invented science type, he thought of it as a method of copying documents and with building plans. Often there had to be multiple copies of each one of these plans that was being made. And the sign of type chemistry is what was used to make those copies. And so those prints at the end would be blue because they're using this same chemistry that we're using today. And lastly, we have today today signed a type would fit into the world of Ault process photography or alternative process photography. And essentially, that's any process, historical or otherwise. That would be outside the mainstream photography sign. A type is practised by a lot of people because it is family friendly can be done in your home very easily with limited equipment like I've mentioned before. On there are people working in really a wide range of expression, from very, very highly technical, detailed prints to large, expressive prints that air making photograph aims of whole human bodies or groups of people . It's really amazing stuff that you can find out there that artists are doing eso This has been a short overview of what science type is and where it came from its short history, and now we're gonna jump into the materials that you're going to need for this project. When you are making your first science type, see there. 3. Supplies: e. Again, let's have a look at the materials you'll need in order to make your first scientist type first. Most noticeably, a camera is not required. That's right. Side a type is a process that can be done with a photo graham. That means you have an object and that is placed directly on sensitized paper, and the silhouette will be captured in the final image that will make the final image. So there's no camera required to do a sigh Intertype. But let's jump onto the things that are required. First, there's some type of sion, a type paper also called Sun Printing Paper. This is pre coded, pre sensitized paper that already has the correct chemicals on. It comes in a little packet that you can buy online, like Amazon is where I got mine, or you can buy it sometime from Michael's or other craft stores. You can see the brand on mine son art paper on, and I've been happy with the results. I've gotten there, but there are other kinds out there that I would expect would have similar results. Now, a few things to keep in mind with this, and there are warnings on the packaging. If you read it when you open it, you want to make sure you're not in direct sunlight. Sign a type is a UV sensitive process, and so if you open it in direct sunlight, it's going to expose. And so you just have to be a little careful how you deal with this paper. The next thing you're going to need is some type of either glass or plexiglass. Now, in this little package came with a little sheet of plexiglass on. There is a protective film in here you could take off. And so what this allows you to do is press whatever you are printing down flat onto the paper. It makes it really nice and flat and will give a crisp edge when you print. So it's nice that they include that out, that there was a nice, nice little touch. Um, but that's actually not my favorite way of printing and to me, not the easiest way of doing it. But still, it's nice that they include it. You'd get up and running right away. What I like to use is some type of cheap frame and what this is going to allow you to do is really sandwich everything together and make sure nothing is moving because things moving is the enemy. So that is my preferred way of holding my Santa type stuff together. And last but not least, of course, you need something to print. Now, I would recommend for this first print that you're doing to get some type of leaf or greenery, something that could be pressed fairly flat in order to get a really good first print. And this again kind of puts you walking in the footsteps of Anna Atkins, which I like that aspect of it as well. So get some greenery and get ready to print something with a silhouette you think you might like. And as a bonus, I'm actually gonna show you an alternate way of printing that will yield a little bit of a different result. And but it might be something you'd like. So I'm gonna show you two ways of printing. And for that you'll be required some type of alligator clip. You might even be able to get away with some tape, but I find something like some heavy duty clips to work best in the next video, we'll be looking at how you're going to actually lay out your print, get it already and take it out into the sun to expose it. 4. Setting Up Your Print: Now we're gonna take a look at how to put all these pieces together into something that you can take out into the sun and expose. Let's look at how it's done. Okay? We're already and set up to be doing our printing, so I'm gonna show you how to set up a frame first, and then I'll show you an alternate way as well Eso for the frame. What you need to do first is take apart your frame eso that you have access to the glass and the first thing you're gonna lay down is actually the object that you're going to print . No. In this case, I'm gonna keep my print really simple and just lay down a single leaf. Next, we need toe, get the paper. Okay, open it up and again. This is what makes Sina types so great is that with a lot of other photography processes there just light sensitive, and so we'd have to be in a dark room, and it would really be a pain. But since Sina type is UV sensitive, we can do this. An indoor lighting. No problem. It makes this whole process much easier. So you just pull out one sheet, The sheet you're gonna use and close up this bag. This is gonna be a light tight bag. Also keeps out some extra moisture. If there happens to be more around and put that away again, just keeping that safe is a good idea. Next, we're going to take our sign of tape paper and you want to place it with the blue side facing down. And you gotta think about composition here. So I want to make sure I get the top of my leaf in. I'm not as concerned with the bottom, So I'm gonna place my just like that. And if the edges go off, well, so be it. Okay. And then, of course, I want to put in some of this. And this phone will just allow everything to get pushed really nice and tight up inside the frame. And last I placed this on and just use thes little clips to hold everything in place. And so you can see that when I flip this over, everything is going to be nice and sandwiched. You see, it's not perfectly centered here on, so if I wanted to fix that, I could go back and do that. But right now, I'm not really that concerned with that on. One small caveat I want to make with using a frame is that you need to make sure that you don't have UV sensitive glass in it. If you have UV sensitive glass, then obviously that's going to reject UV light and you're not going to get a print at the end. Typically, that only happens in higher and frame on now. I just want to show you quickly, uh, the alternate way of setting up a print if you don't have access to a frame or if you want to try an alternate technique. So I'm just gonna set this to the side and pull out something. Now I'm going to use the piece of plexiglass that they included, but you could use any rigid surface going to open this up again. Pull out another sheet, so I'm going to be doing two prints at once. If you want to just do one at a time until you feel like you get the hang of it. That's fine, too. So with this method, rather than sandwiching everything together, I'm going to allow for a little bit of death in the print, meaning I'm going to allow things to not be perfectly flat against the paper. Now, areas that are flat are gonna be crisper and end up more white. But sometimes there could be an interesting effect. And so I'm just going to clip this on to that plexi glass so that the paper isn't moving around and you can see I'm just flipping this down so that everything will lay nice and flat. And now I can think about my composition. I have this little kind of weed thing I found out in the garden. So I'm just going to try to arrange this composition in a way I like, Okay. And so what will be interesting is anywhere that's flat against the paper will kind of look similar to this other set up we have here. And this is gonna be kind of a nice, perfect outline, but anywhere that's off the paper is going to get a lot softer. So these are our two methods of setting up a print. We have our sandwiched frame, and we have the kind of loose form just clipped together paper on a rigid surface, and so I would recommend trying these both out to see which you prefer. Now let's take these outside so we can actually expose them to the UV light from the sun. 5. Exposing Your Print: Okay, Now you have your print ready to take outside and expose in the UV light, so that just means you're gonna take it out and put it on a flat surface out in full sun. So that's number one thing. When it keep in mind, make sure there's no shadows or anything like that falling on your print. If that were to happen, then you would have uneven exposure will be just harder to keep track of. Another thing I want you to pay attention to in this video is to notice that it's a partly cloudy day. Essentially, the rule of thumb is if you could get sunburn, then it would be a good enough day to expose a science taipan. The optimal time that I typically aim for is between 10 and two, but actually, it's a much broader range that you could expose a print on. Essentially, what you're looking for here is consistency. Every time you go out and make a scientist type print, it's within that window. Then you're gonna have a very consistent look. Oh, your prints. If you're experimenting with other times, that might be fine, but it also might have slightly different results for you and most notably, it will probably extend the time. The farther you get away from solar noon, the longer it's going to take. And speaking of time, depending on what brand do you get, it might take more or less time. The one on my box recommended about one toe five minutes. And that, of course, depends on the strength of the U V at the time when you expose it. In this case, it took me maybe about 1.5 minutes in order to get a good exposure on DSO. That's something you're going to have to just keep an eye on. And so how will you know when your exposure is done? Well, the blue of the paper will eventually turn a very, very pale blue on. So you wanna wait until, uh, you know it's almost white and then you're ready to pick it up. Once you feel like it's reached that point, then you can quickly pick it up and take it inside out of the UV light, and then you'll be ready to develop it in the next video. We're gonna take the now exposed print and develop it under normal tap water 6. Developing Your Print: Welcome back. You should now have a print that is exposed and we're ready to develop it in your sink. And so we'll walk through those steps together, OK? So you can use any sink to be developing your scientist type in. You just need regular tap water. Ah, and really, the tap water should probably be about room temperature. Not too hot, not too cold. And you want it in a nice, gentle stream. You don't want it blasting the paper. Ah, and so you will take your sign of type paper and put it under the water and you might get scared right away because it looks like all of the color washes out on. Actually, what's happening is your washing away the unused chemistry and then developing that which had been exposed to the sun on. And that's kind of the magic of this process that you don't need any chemicals at all to develop it. It's just using tap water and ah, we don't have to go into all the specifics of that. But, uh, you just really want to be gently rinsing this for at least a minute, and you'll have to read your instructions if they recommend going longer. But most of these little paper things are about a minute. Ah, and so you'll see after your rents it for a while that the areas that didn't get any UV light will turn white, and the areas that were exposed to UV light will turn blue. But right now it's a pretty light blue You, Ah, it's not nearly as striking not as rich color of a blue, but as it dries. And as the printing gets older, that blue is going to turn darker eso it will get richer. And in future videos will actually talk about a few techniques of how to have that rich color blue immediately. Um, so as you're handling the paper, you're just gonna want to handle it very gently, right, Because this is paper getting wet with water, and so it becomes fairly fragile. This is, uh, the stage that you know, something like ripping or something like that is most likely to happen. And so you just want handle it very gently as you are rinsing it, Um, and once you rinse it, then you're just going to be able to hang it up to dry I just hung a couple clips up in my shower and clipped the to prince there and let them dry. If you're impatient, you could use a hair dryer or something like that. Um, but basically, you just want to let them get completely dry. Okay, Now that your print is hanging up and ready to dry, we're actually going. Teoh, come back together one more time to look at what your print looks like and see if there's any ways that it could be improved and find what you like and didn't like. So join me back for that one more video. 7. Reviewing Your Finished Cyanotype: Welcome back. And congratulations on your first print. It's important to look at these prints and decide. Is there something that could be improved? A different technique I want to try. All those types of questions are really important. So we're gonna look at the ones I did, and you should look at yours on, uh, we'll see what we can come up with. All right. Welcome to this final video in this class, Sign a type 101 Your first son. Print. If you've gotten this far, you have your finished dried print and we just want to talk about results and think about maybe something you could do differently next time or what you like about your own print. It's important that after you make an artwork to evaluate it so you can take the next step . Next time eso you can see the two different techniques we tried right in front of us. First we have the frame sandwich technique, right? We had a frame together with the sensitized paper and the leaves on their all smushed together. So since everything is really flat, we have these really nice crisp edges all the way along every edge of the leaf and everything is perfectly outlined. And so you get this really nice contrast between the bright white areas and these rich, dark blue areas on, so that could be a really nice effect. It's very striking visually, Um, and that's one direction you can go in any time. You have a subject that is, uh, sandwiched against the paper very, very tightly. That is going to be the effect that it has on the other side. We had the more loosely clipped technique. Okay, this is where the paper was just clipped onto Ah, flat surface. And then the plant matter was just laid on top. And you can see here that there's some areas that were in direct contact with the paper. And so those are the white areas here and here and here. Those areas are the latest there, the whitest. Okay, but anywhere that was off the paper a little bit got ah lighter and lighter in terms of showing up here. So they're more and more blue. Um, and well, it might not be as immediately, you know, visually striking. Not as contrast e as the other example. I tend to like this effect because it it to me it shows death. Um, it would be similar to in a photograph being shallow depth of field. Except this is a photograph Eso I think either these techniques is really acceptable and can be used very well. And depending on your results, you might like one or the other better. And keep in mind that it's going to make a big difference what type of plants you choose if you're doing plans that if you have ones that tend to be flatter, it will probably make more sense to sandwich them really flat. But if you have other ones that are very dimensional, say you took some like a big pine branch or something like that with pine needles coming all over the place, something like this might kind of show the rial qualities of that plant better. Sure, you're not going to see all the details in with as much resolution, but it gives a really nice effect. And so I would suggest kind of using each where it makes the most sense, and that brings us to the next thing to evaluate, which is what else can you print? Obviously you can print more than just plants. You can print anything. Some other popular things would be something like lace or anything with a really, really fine pattern to it can again looked very contrast the very visually striking with this rich blue color. Another thing you might try is some, uh, transparent items, things made of glass of plastic. They can do interesting things to the light, unexpected things they can be hard to control. They don't always yield good results because sometimes the light just goes straight through them. But other times they can. They can give you results that are really, really interesting. And so, if you want to beam or experimental, you might try things that arm or transparent in future videos. We're gonna talk about different techniques to move away from this pre coated paper on. Even in a video, we're going to be talking about how to make negatives, make images in Sino type from images you took on a camera, those air, more advanced techniques, but we're gonna walk through them step by step. So if you're interested, I recommend checking those video out. I'll be releasing them shortly after this one, so hopefully you have enjoyed this video enjoyed this project. And what I'd like like you to do is just with your smartphone or any other camera. You can take a picture of your results once you get some that you are happy with and upload them to this course so I can have a look at them. And if you have any questions of things that either you're doing wrong or ways you could improve it, I'd be happy to help you out. Thanks so much for joining me. And I look forward to seeing you in other classes. All right, great job on your first print. I just want to say again that this has been a foundational class on science type, and I plan to be regularly updating with MAWR techniques if you want to make it bigger, if you want to make it a different color, all these things are possible, and I'll be uploading those videos. So I'll see you there