Cyanotype Photography 102: Mixing your own chemicals | Ben Panter | Skillshare

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Cyanotype Photography 102: Mixing your own chemicals

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.

      Why Mix Your Own Cyanotype Chemicals?


    • 2.

      The Chemicals Needed


    • 3.

      Supplies List


    • 4.

      Mixing and Coating


    • 5.

      Arranging and Exposing


    • 6.

      Developing and Drying


    • 7.

      Evaluating and Troubleshooting


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About This Class

In this class you will learn how to mix your own cyanotype chemicals, coat your own paper and make a basic cyanotype print. In my previous class, Cyanotype 101, we used pre-coated cyanotype paper. But in this class you will use the raw chemicals to mix your own sensitizing solution to produce a unique print from scratch. So why should you mix your own chemicals? Is it really worth the effort? 

Here are 2 reasons to make cyanotype prints from scratch:

  1. Aesthetics - while the pre-coated papers yield nice results and are a snap to learn and use, they just don't compare to the rich tones that can be attained when you use fresh chemistry.
  2. Creative Control - when you mix your own it gives you more direct control over the Size, Surface and Subject Matter of your images. You can achieve a surprisingly wide range of looks with cyanotype prints, and mixing your own chemicals is the first step towards executing your artistic vision. 

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. Why Mix Your Own Cyanotype Chemicals?: then painter and artist professor and welcome to sign a type one or two. Mixing your own chemicals in this class, you're going to be making your own sign of type print, and we're going to be learning how to mix your own chemicals and coat your own paper. In the process, you might be wondering, Why should I buy their coding my own paper and mixing my own chemicals when you can just buy sign of type paper online? And I have really two reasons why I think it's worth putting in the little extra work to mix your own chemistry first. Just the esthetic look of the Finnish print the paper that you buy pre coded, especially like the little craft son print paper that's readily available. It doesn't give the full total range that hand coated paper will. Onda finish looked just isn't as good. It's fun toe work with. It's a little bit more family friendly, but the when you hand coat when you hand mix your chemicals, you're going to get better results at the end, And the second reason is full creative control. When you're mixing your own chemicals and coding your own paper, you have control over the size of your finished print on the surface of your finished print and on the subject matter. It gives you a broader range of control over those three variables, and so that just makes it so that you can really execute any vision you have. And so, to me, it is well worth the extra time to mix your chemicals and of your own paper. So we're gonna walk through it step by step, follow me into the next video. We'll read, talk a little bit more about what those chemicals are. 2. The Chemicals Needed: thing video. We're going to take a very quick look at the history of science type, where it came from and then really dive a little bit into specific chemicals will be using if you watch. My previous course sign had 101 I went a little bit longer into the history, but I'll just do a quick recap now. Sign of Type was invented in 18 42 by Sir John Herschel. Interestingly enough, he didn't really view it as a photographic medium. He really solid, just as a method of copying things, copying hand written letters to another paper. So even early on it was really viewed as an alternative photography, and it kind of kept that title all the way through its history. And even today, it is part of what we call alternative photography. And so let's look at the specific chemicals will be using any time you talk about you and chemicals, people tend to get a little bit scared to make sure that they're safe and rightly so. But the good news is that the two chemicals will be using are very safe on the scale of 1 to 10. The final solution that will be using to make our sina types light sensitive is broken down into two parts. Part A and B. The first part is potassium ferrous cyanide, and the second part is Ferric ammonium citrate ferric, ammonium site trait, eyes chemical that's very safe to handle. In fact, it's even in Europe approved to be used as a food additive. Eso. That's something you really don't have to worry about. Obviously, you don't want to be splashing it around just like any chemical you're using. But that one is very safe. The 2nd 1 is what tends to make people nervous just from the name potassium ferro cyanide. Anytime you have the words cyanide in the name of something, it tends to get their attention. But the truth is that this one is fairly safe as well has a very, very low level of danger to it, and to the point where, really, it's just viewed as a possible skin or eye irritant on. So my instructions here, or my recommendation is just to kind of know yourself. If you know that your skin tends to be very sensitive, you might want to wear gloves. Um, I've used this enough. I know that if I get a little splash on me, I just wash it off with water. And I have never seen any effects. If you're nervous about this, then I would recommend going a further step wearing gloves, maybe even wearing goggles, just to make sure. But again, I've never had any bad experience through teaching many students over the years. So those are the two parts of the solution will be using it in the next video. We're going to look at all the supplies we will need in order to be mixing her own chemicals and coating our own paper to make a finished print. See there. 3. Supplies List: again on welcome this video where we're going to be looking at all the supplies needed in order to mix your own chemicals and coat your own paper. Let's have a look at the table and see what you need. All right? We're gonna have a look at the supplies we'll need. But first I wanted to show you the project will be working on so you can see we're still gonna be following in the steps of Anna Atkins. We can plant based photo Graeme style print, but we're going to be mixed their own chemicals and brushing them on our own paper. So that's where the supplies come in. First, you're gonna need to get your sign of type chemicals. Um, and you can see mine are Bostic and Sullivan. It's a little kit that comes in bottles like this pre measured. So all you have to do is add water and it'll come out great. Now the basket and Sullivan kit is runs around $30. But I just saw that there is a very similar kit you can get on Amazon made by Jacquard called a science type sensitize circuit. And it is $12 the reviews on it look great. So I would go with that The jacquard sina type sensitize er kit. And it's gonna look very similar to this. Comes in two bottles and you'll mix the water. And once you get it next, you're going to need some paper, and you're gonna need something that's gonna hold up to some water. So watercolor paper is a natural choice. And that's what a lot of science type issues. Um, and of course, there's various qualities. This sign type paper I have is fairly cheap. Um, but it does the trick. Just find you're also going to need a way to measure the liquid chemicals Eso you need some , uh, small liquid measure with milliliters on it because you don't really need tons of it. So, um, something that measures small increments like milliliters. It's fine. This is what I use. Um, but you can find things that will do a similar job in the kitchen. I'll it maybe even in a dollar store might work. Sometimes I have also seen eye droppers, and that will do you no five milliliters at a time. And that's a great way to start as well. But some way to accurately measure milliliters of water. Next, you're going to need a brush of some kind on, and there's kind of a special rule with the brush, which you might not think of. The brush cannot have any metal in it at all. Um and ah, you might not realize it. But often the pharaoh, the part that's holding the bristles to the stick of the brush is, is metal in a lot of brushes, so you can't use those brushes. The reason is that the metal would react with the science had chemicals. Since its iron based eso, you need something that is not metal and so too easy options, um, are here. And then there's another easy option as well. One would be Sumi a brush. My wife actually discovered this, but this is a hair dyeing brush, but this is completely plastic nylon bristles, and this works really well. Actually, this is the one I tend to use the most, for the simple reason that these bristles also don't soak up that much of the chemical. Ah, and so I don't feel like I'm wasting that much, and the other thing you could use would be those little phone brushes. Jeep Craft foam one or two inch would also work, but I'll warn you that they do tend to soak up a lot of chemistry, so you use a little bit more than you would using one of these brushes. Next, you're going to need a frame on, and it just needs to be enough larger than your paper. I'm using an eight by 10 frame and, ah, roughly a six by nine piece of paper, and so that will work fine again. A cheap frame actually works better is that way. You're sure that the glass or plexi that's in it is not UV coated from just a cheap frame is perfect for this, and really, what this is actually called is a contact printer on. You could buy a contact printer that's made specific for this, and it kind of has a special hinge on the back or the side. Um, but frame like this is a great way to start, and that's typically what I use honestly and less than not least, we're going to need a small plastic container. This will hold the mixed chemical once we have it ready and This is what you'll be dipping your brush into and brushing onto the paper. Anything small in plastic is fine. Could be something reusable like this is an old piece of Tupperware have or it can be something disposable. All right, now that you have a handle on all the supplies you need, hopefully you have them gathered together. Now we're going to look at how you're going to actually mix your chemicals and coat your paper. Let's go into the next video. 4. Mixing and Coating: again. Welcome. Now you should have all your supplies together and ready to mix your own chemicals and coat your own paper. So let's jump through this video together and see how it's done. The first step, which already have done as you need to follow the instructions on the kit you bought to mix the correct ratios of water into your bottles of chemistry. So you need to make sure you follow those directions specifically with what comes with your kit, so I won't try to instruct you here. But you should end up with two battles that are fairly full of the chemicals will be using . Now you're ready to mix chemicals. The 1st 1 I'm going to dio is Ferric, ammonium, say tree and I'm only gonna be doing about two milliliters of each ended up with about 2.5 . But that's OK. I'll just match it with the other chemical on. That won't be fun. So I take that and pour into in the final vessel. Now, as a safety precaution, you may want to rinse this container out between chemicals, and it might seem a little silly since you're just going to mix these together in this container over here. But the reason for doing that would be that if you were pouring this in and accidentally poured way too much, I wouldn't be able to pour it back in this container because I still have trace amounts of the Ferric ammonium site trade in there s O that would just basically end up being wasted chemicals. So if you want to rinse this out just to play it safe, that's a good idea. And taking that and pouring it into here. So now we have mixed parts A and B together. And now I'm just mixing this by swirling it, making sure everything's nice and mix. And that's fun. And you can see the color. Is this kind of Ah, very light, Bluish green. Ah, and so this is ready now to coat on the paper. And this is the sensitized solution. I mean, at this point, if we expose it to light, um, it would get exposed. And so you need to make sure, of course, that you're not out in UV light. When you do this, I'm going to use the plastic brush here and take my first piece paper and just brush it on very simply, Um Now, the look you're going for here is really up to you. There are some people that prefer perfectly flat, even techniques. There are other people like me that really prefer to see the brush trips. I figure if I'm going through this process of brushing the chemicals on, I kind of want to see that in the finished results. So I like seeing the brush strokes in the final piece. And so I'm not trying to be perfectly even, Um, I'm not necessarily trying to even paint it in a perfect rectangle. I'm not necessarily going to go all the way to the edge because I like how the broken edges look, Um, in the finished result. Okay. And you can see it's going on a nice pale green. Uh, and this one is ready to go for my liking. Now you can see I have a little bit of excess chemical left, and ah, I would probably just go ahead and call a few more pieces of paper with this. It's not the type of thing you really want to keep around in its sensitized state, and so I would coat a few pieces of paper. Even if I'm only planning on printing a couple right now, um, the paper you could save in a dark box for a few days, much better than you could. The mixed chemicals eso It's up to you. You can see that we mixed. Ah, it was approximately five milliliters total of chemistry, and we made two prints, and from my estimation, there would be enough for at least one more, maybe even two. Now it's important that you let these completely dry and not just like, quickly dry. They need to be bone dry, because if you remember, this is a process that develops in water, and there's water in this chemistry. So if there's excess water and there and you take it out and try to expose it in the sun, it's really going to mess with the process. You need to take these two. Ah, a nice spot where you can hang them dry. That's what I prefer to do and wait until they are bone drive. All right, you now have your coated paper drying in the next video, we're going to actually go through the steps of setting up your print in the contact printer and setting it out to expose it 5. Arranging and Exposing: All right, you're sensitized. Paper should be ready to go. And now we're just going to see how we layer it together inside the contact printer, the frame and get it ready to expose, and we'll take it outside and make sure we hit it with some UV. Let's have a look at how that stuff. And today I'm going to be printing some pine needles and in a way, that right center. And then, of course, we have my dried print. And remember, this needs to be bone dry. There can't be any moisture left in it. And I'm just placing this face down trying to compose that so that it is centred. And, uh, I put in these pieces of thin foam that kind of come with a lot frames like this. Um, just to help everything get really sandwich together really flat. Remember, the flatter things are the crisper. The edges are going to be okay. And so before I clip all those together, I just flip it up and see. Is that how I want it to look? You will look and make sure that it is arranged the way I wanted to. And that looks pretty good to me. So I'm happy with that composition, and now it should be ready to print. So let's take it out in the sun and expose it all right. Now that it is exposed, it is time to bring it inside to rinse it and develop it. 6. Developing and Drying: all right. You should now have your fully exposed print inside, and it's time to develop it in tap water. - Okay . You should have your developed finished print hanging up to dry. And in the next video, we're just gonna look at your finished print and talk about a few things of how you could improve it next time. 7. Evaluating and Troubleshooting: Hi. And welcome to this final video where you've learned how to mix your own chemicals and coat your own paper to make your very own sign of type print. In this video, we're just gonna talk about a few recommendations of how you could improve your prints. Going forward, looking at some troubleshooting ideas, talk a little bit about exposure. So let's jump in and see if there's any tips you can pick up there. And here we have our finished print. It's still wet and just got out of the rinse cycle a few minutes ago. Ah, and so, by way of comparison, I wanted to show you a print that I made a few hours ago. Okay? And so this actually shows one of the unique characteristics of Sion a type and that is that the initial color. You see, the initial blue is not as dark as it will be. After a little time, you can see that this is significantly darker on the left than the one that was just done. And this is just a couple hours old, and that's actually a process of oxidizing that exposure to the oxygen after it is developed makes it turn this darker color blue on. So there's a couple difficult things about that, and that is that you can't really tell immediately whether or not you got a good exposure. Right now, this looks like it would have been under exposed, but in a couple hours, I would guess it's gonna be a lot closer to this, in which case that is the correct color that you're looking for. So let's talk about analyzing imprint for exposure time. Really, that's just looking at the lightness and darkness of the blue and how clear your highlight areas are. How clear the white areas of your printer on DSO Looking at mine? Um, the blue after a couple hours looks pretty good. I had about about a two minute exposure on both of these prints, and I would say that that looks like it's about right. And I would guess, after a couple hours that this will be just about right as well. Now, if you're print is too light, the color just stays about this color or later. That means you're gonna need more time exposing the sun. However, if areas of that should be white on the inside here. If they were starting to turn more blue or you're getting kind of some splotchy marks in there, that means it was probably exposed too long on. And so you might wanna lessen the amount of time it was exposed. The next thing you can analyze for is your brushing technique. Do you like the way that you brushed the chemical on? Is there something that could be improved? Um, of these two, I prefer the one I did on the right. It's just a little bit more of uneven rectangle. And these lines out here are a little distracting to me. The fact that it's a little tapered at the edge I don't really like, So I prefer my brushing technique to this one. And again, it just kind of depends on your preference for what you like. Think both of them are acceptable. But the one of the right is more even unless you can think about composition, did you just place the things in the center, or are they arranged in a pleasing way? And in a future video, we're gonna be talking specifically about composition with the photo Graham. With these prints, I kept these very simple. I prefer the one on the left that is kind of leading your eye in from the edge. The one that's just placed at the center is nice, but it's not as interesting to me. And so I think this is more successful in terms of composition. And so this is the way that when you're looking at your prints, you could just evaluate and see. Are they everything they could be or the next time? Could I try to improve something? And that's kind of what's nice about signing type? It's very forgiving, but there's still a lot of variables that you can experiment with and try and change up the next time you do it. And so that lends itself to lots of experimentation. And I think that's really, really important in the process. Hi, Thanks so much for sticking with me to the end. I just wanted to remind you of a couple things. First, I would really like to see your projects, so make sure that once you're finished and you get results, you like, take a picture uploaded to the class, and I would love to be in contact with you if you have any questions? Or if you just wanna hear other people give some feedback on it, I think that would be great. The second thing is, I'm going to continue uploading videos about Sina type to my channel, so make sure you follow along and I'm gonna be introducing more advanced techniques. Different methods were talking about larger sizes printing with negatives, printing actual photos, toning all these different kinds of things are stuff I'm gonna be covering in later classes . And I'm really excited to bring it to you. So stay tuned. Thanks for joining with her this class.