Cyanotype Photography 103: Printing from a digital negative | Ben Panter | Skillshare

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Cyanotype Photography 103: Printing from a digital negative

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.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Making a Digital Negative


    • 4.

      Coating Your Paper


    • 5.

      Test Print and Final Exposure


    • 6.

      Final Evaluation


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About This Class

This is the last of my 3 part series on cyanotype photography foundations. In this class we will be creating a cyanotype from one of your digital images. In the process you will learn how to make and print your own digital negatives and how to utilize a test strip to make consistently good exposures.

I believe that cyanotype is a unique alternative photographic process in that it is very accessible with few special materials but it still allows for precise control that will make it rewarding to work with well after you've mastered the skill. It is also a process that works well with experimentation due to relatively quick exposure and developing times. Once you understand the concepts from this class of making digital negatives and using test prints, there is endless possibilities for what is possible to express through your own cyanotype.

This is a stand alone class, however some of the techniques are more fully explained in the previous videos, Cyanotype 101 and Cyanotype 102. Additionally, I have several more classes planned for the topic of cyanotype that will cover much more detailed or experimental aspects of the process. I look forward to seeing what you create!

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: Intermediate

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1. Introduction: I've been painter, I'm an artist and professor, and welcome to advance science type. In this class, we're going to be looking at the sign of type process and specifically looking at how to take a digital negative and make a final sign of type print from now. I don't want to scare you away by calling this advanced science type, but really, I think this is the last step of the foundations of Sina type. So where you go from here could be a 1,000,000 different places. But I think that this last step of understanding how to make an image from a digital negative will really, uh, open up possibilities for you. By way of example, this is the image that we're going to be using throughout this class. This is the example of the final product will be making Ah, and of course, you'll be able to use an image that is your own. This is from a residency that I recently completed a contact in Mountain Park. Now, the trick in this class is really learning how to control the digital negative, the exposure in order to get consistent prints. Ah, And in that process, we're gonna be learning about how to make test prints so that you can consistently have good results. I'm excited to see what we're able to do together as a result of this class to see the images the signer types you're able to print. And so we're gonna jump right in next video. We're gonna look just at the materials that are needed, and then we're gonna go right into the process, so we'll see you there. 2. Supplies: Hello and welcome back to advance. Sign of type in this video. We're gonna take a quick look at the supplies that are needed in order to complete this project. So let's take a look. So let's have a look at the supplies that you will need for this sign. A type project. Uh, first, you're gonna need all your sino type chemistry supplies. Okay, So that will include your two parts of your cider type solution. A measuring beaker, something some plastic container to mix it in as well as a brush. And remember, the brush can't have any metal in it. This is a hair dry brush, so use a foam brush. You're also gonna need some watercolor paper. This will be what you coat your chemicals on. And really, the reason you watercolor paper is just because it's going to get coated with a liquid chemist chemical, and you're also going to be rinsing it under tap water, so it needs to hold up. So really, any brand of watercolor paper is gonna do just fine For this project. You are going to need some acetate or transparency. You can buy them from somewhere like staples or Office Depot. They are used a lot when people use overhead projectors. Now they don't get used nearly as much, but you can buy a pack of them. Of course, Amazon is also a good source, but really, you just need to be clear plastic that you can print on. And one thing to be aware of is that you can buy these that can be printed on either from a laser printer or an inkjet printer. And there's some that can get printed on by either of those types of printers. So you need to be aware what kind of printer you have access to to know which kind you should buy. You will also need a contact printer for this project on and really just any old in half by 11 frame will do great. The only caveat is that it should not have UV resistant glass, has UV resistant glass that's going to mess with the printing and last. You just need a piece of cardboard that you can cut down Teoh. Whatever size suits you. I use cereal box because that's nice and flexible, but it's also blocks out. The light really just needs to be something that can completely block light on. So that has worked well for me. All right, now that we have, ah, grasp on the supplies that you need, we're gonna jump right into where we start with this process, which is getting your negative. 3. Making a Digital Negative: Hello again. Welcome back in this video, we're going to be looking at how you take a digital image of yours and turn it into a negative so that you can use it to make a sign of type. Okay, so let's look at some simple ways that we can take your digital image, turn it into a negative, printed on transparency so that we can turn it into a sign of type on. We're really gonna look at one desktop based away and one mobile way of doing this just because one of them might be easier for you, and they both work equally as well. But to start with, you need to decide on your digital image. I have this image that I took well on residents at conducting Mountain Park just this past summer, and, uh, I really like how this looks. I think it would be a nice kind of moody image as a sign of type image. So that's what I am going to use on. Let's see where we go from here. If you are one of those people that has Photoshopped or other ah, photo editing software, then you can go ahead and do some of these steps in there. You don't need to use the tools I'm using specifically because the steps I'm doing will be able to be replicated in something like software fairly easily. And another thing I want to say right at the front is that I am walking us through the very basics of turning an image into a negative. I'm planning on teaching a whole class on really fine tuning, an image that is going to a use for a digital negative with Sina type. There's a lot of really nuanced detail that has been written and theorized, and so all walk through what my process normally is. But for this class, we're gonna keep it really simple. Just taken image. Make it black and white, turn it into a negative so that we can use it as a sign attack as quickly as possible. Eso First, you need to start with your image. Pick one that you like that you'd want you want to see as a scientist type next, you need to open up your browser and do we're using is called photo. Or at least that's how I pronounce it. I'm not really sure the right way. Um, photo, uh, has various tools and we're going to click on the Edit tool, So go toe foot or dot com F o T o. R. Will have that linked in the notes and go over to edit. Okay, so when you first open up the screen, there's a lie going on. Um, since we're not paying for this for using the free version, there's ads all around. Do your best to ignore those onda. When you first open it up, it's probably gonna be trying to give you some tours. You can go through those if you feel like it helps you. If not, you can just say, Don't show me the tour and you'll get right to this screen and this is really where you want to start. You need to add a photo so open, and for me it's from my computer. You could bring it from Facebook or Dropbox, but computer is where I have mine, and I'm just going to navigate to the file I'm going to use, which is the one I just showed you and that will load into the window here. So we have our photo in and we really just need to do two things and will be good to get First is under the basic panel. So we're in the basic panel here editing and under that menu, we need to goto basic again, and we just want to pull the saturation all the way down. Now, in this case, already have my image that De Saturated because I was editing this in another software. But if yours is color, you want to make sure it's black and white first, so you can pull that all the way down to minus 100 it will be completely black and white. Close that up and the next step, this is where we're actually gonna turn it into a negative is curves. Eso This can be a lot to explain curbs really powerful, as I said. But essentially, this represents the graph or the curve of the Black Point and the White Point. All we need to do is make the white point in the image the black point and the black point in the image, the white point and these two points weaken drag. So I'm gonna dio is dragged this down and see all the white areas air getting dark until I drag it all the way down to that corner. And now I'm going to what was the black point and dragging it up to the top, which represents the white point and drag it up there. And as long as you get a nice, pretty straight line and the little point is at the corner of that box, you should be good. And you can see looking over here, you have a negative. The areas that were dark are light, and that's all we need to do. So we come up here to the top click safe. It will open up this window if you want to name it. Something else I can name it. Uh, Sando get to, um I'd recommend saving it as a J peg for quality. If you keep it on normal, you can download. If you switch it over to high quality, you would have to create an account. So, really, for the purposes of using this as a negative, the normal quality will be fine. So we're going to download and we'll see just as simple as that. This created a negative. And from here all I would do is print this out on acetate, um, or on the transparency. And I listed that as the one of the materials that's required. You can get it from somewhere like Staples. Oh, our Office Depot. You can also order it off line. Ah, the one thing I do again want to remind you is that they are made for specific kinds of printers. Typically, they're made and labeled as either inkjet or laser printer. You can also buy them that are able to be printed by both. But you just need to know what kind of printer you have before you buy it. And as far as printing, there's really nothing special I need to do because it's already in negative. So I could just click print and send it to the printer, just like it is. It's already a black and white image if you needed a different size. Of course, there's all kinds of settings in the printer dialogue, which, if you need something specific, you'll have to do on your own. But as faras, what we need for a negative, this is it. And so then you could click print. Now this is how to turn an image into a negative on your desktop. I also want to show you ah, smartphone version so that if you have photos on your smartphone you want to use, it's easy to do that step right there on your phone. So let's go take a look at that real quick. Okay, so here I'm gonna walk through pretty much the same workflow of how to make an image into a negative. But on my phone, you can see I'm working on an IOS device on. And so the software or the the app I'm going to use is called snap. See, This is a free app that's available in the APP store or on Google play. It is actually a Google app, and it's a really, really good free photo editor on dso. What you're going to start with in this is go click on open at the top left and it'll show you some recent images here. But if you don't see what you're looking for, tap on open from device and it will bring up your full camera roll. And I'm looking for this image in particular. And once I'm here, you can see there's lots of filters down here, but we're gonna ignore that for now. What we're going to look at is tools and again, really, there's two parts to this. First we want to de saturate to make it black and white, and then we're going to use our curves tool in order to make it a negative. So the simplest way to the saturate is the tap on tune image. Um, And to see the menu, you can do two things. You can either drag up or down with your finger and you can put it on saturation. Or you could actually tap this menu. Ah, down on the center left on. That would show all the options there. Then you can look at and dragged to gonna go to saturation and then to adjust the saturation. I'm just going to drag to the left until it's at minus 100. And that would completely make your image black and white. If it wasn't already. My image was already black and white, so we didn't see in effect. Once you're done with that, you have it all the way to black and white. Tap on the check mark at the bottom, right and click on tools again and open up curves. And once you have curves, I'm gonna tap on these little icons down there to get rid of things. And so again, all I'm doing here is swapping the black point in the white point. So I take the white point that's at the top of this graph and drag it down. You can see her image went completely black and this black point So the bottom left, I'm going to drag to the top left, and you can see we've made this image a negative tap on the check mark and then we want to export it. We want to make this a permanent image on, so I would tap on the bottom option, which is export creates a copy with permanent changes, and selecting that option will make sure that you still have your original intact. You're gonna ways tap on the little icon at the top with the back arrow and click revert, tap, revert, and you're back to your original image. So you haven't changed anything. Once you've exported it, you're gonna go to your photos folder, the most recent one. You have your negative and then you could decide how to print. This, however, is convenient for you. If you have a printer that you can print straight from your phone, that will work if you need to email it to yourself. Um, you can just share it down by clicking. I kind of the bottom left, and you send it to yourself, however you normally do. And from there again, you're just going to be printing onto transparency. No fancy bells or whistles. At this point, that will be another class. Eso just get it onto that transparency and that will be ready to use as a negative. All right, now that you have your digital negative ready to go, we can go out preparing your paper and coating it with chemicals so that you're ready to start exposing. 4. Coating Your Paper: Hello. Welcome back on this video. We're going to coat your paper with the sign of type chemistry s so that you're ready to start printing. This is the skill we've covered in a previous course. So I'm gonna go through it a little bit quicker. If you need a refresher, you can always jump back into my other chorus, sign a type of one or two. Uh, and you will be able to get a refresher. There s So let's go ahead and get started so we can start printing as soon as possible. Essentially, what we have is our two parts solution potassium ferrous cyanide and ferric ammonium citrate. These air already mixed in Ah, the right amounts. So I take equal parts of each of these solutions, measure them out in this beaker. Just pick the same number of mill leaders and measure the same of both and then pour them into this final container on. And I'm just coating a couple sheets of paper. So I did three milliliters of each. If you wanted to coat 10 shoots, you know, you might do five or 10 milliliters, just depending on how much but really in these kits that you buy, which again I will link in the description. Um, you get a lot of prints in there, so you don't have to be too stingy, but you don't wanna waste it either, because once it's mixed in this final stage, this is light sensitive, and this is only gonna last so long, so you can't leave it in this state. You want to leave it unmixed as long as possible. So once you have your chemical all mixed, you're gonna use your brush. And remember, it's important that there's no metal in this brush and you're just gonna start brushing it onto your paper. Now, I'm actually gonna be making this paper for two prints, so I'm gonna split it kind of down the middle brushing area on one side brushing area and the other I like to see the brushstrokes and my prints, so I'm gonna leave the edges pretty rough. If you want to coat the entire paper evenly, that's fine. Maybe something like a foam brush would work better there. There's even people who use glass rods. That's a whole separate class for that technique. Okay, I have these brushed and they're ready to go. So now we need to put them in a darkened room. Really? Just a room that doesn't have any UV light and it hang it up and make sure it is bone dry before we use it. If there's any moisture at all, when you go to print, it's gonna mess up your exposure. So you need to make sure it is completely dry. So let's go hang this up. All right. You should not have your papers all coded and ready to go. In the next video. We're gonna talk about how you go about making a test print so you can have a good exposure for your final print. 5. Test Print and Final Exposure: Hello and welcome to this video where we're gonna talk about what a test print is. Go through the process of how you go about making one on then how you go about reading one . So you know what your final exposure needs to be. And now we have your dried coated paper ready to go. And, uh, instead of setting up our final print first, we need to set up and really explain what a test strip is. Eso Let's get started with that. I'm gonna divide this in half, and one of them is going to be my final print. One of them is going to be my test prints. I'm gonna go with the smaller one for my test print and for my final print. I'm just gonna put this to the side right now. So before we go any further, let's look at what a finished test print is. And that might help explain what we're gonna be doing here. So this is the test strip I made for this final print. Ah, And so by looking, this you couldn't see, it's really pretty simple, but sometimes people have a hard time wrapping your mind around it that essentially, I've broken this one image down into a bunch of different exposures. So I do this first in the lighting conditions. I'm gonna be making the final print, and then I can decide how long oven exposure I want. You know, do I want it to be two minutes? Do I want it to be five minutes? How do I decide that? It's hard to tell because you know, there's cloud. Sometimes time of day matters. All those variables, time of year, all that stuff matters. And so a test print or a test strip lets you determine on that day what exposure you should be using. So let me explain how this process goes, and then we will set up your test strip. So let's set up this test strip. But I will use my finished version so you can kind of see what's going on. I would film this real time, except it's kind of hard to tell what's happening sometimes. So it's gonna show you like this. So I'm lining up my test strip in my negative, the way it was, and I'm putting it inside my frame the way you've done before. If you've done saying to take turning this upside down, they're linked together. Put this together So it's all sandwich down tight. Sure, nothing's gonna move around while you're printing. That would make for a blurry image, and we're pretty much ready to go. OK, so this is what it would look like except what you would see behind instead of that blue would be this kind of greenish yellow color. And so I take this outside and I bring along my handy dandy piece of cardboard, right and again. This could be any cardboard, but you can see I've cut it so that the edges go down inside the frame because the important thing with his cardboard is that it can get down completely flat with the glass surface if it's angled up or off the edge, any space in here is gonna letme or light underneath, and it's gonna make it harder to see these clearly defined edges that I have. Those edges are what tell us the brakes in time, so that's the first thing. Get all set up. Get your cardboard. You can go outside when you're walking outside. I just tend to cover it up with cardboard. So it's not exposing until I'm completely ready. And then you probably want to take out your phone and set it for a time. Onda. Good question is what time? Well, a good place to start, I would say, is one minute. And so you're going to do one minute intervals of exposure And so you get it ready to go get your timers set and you're just uncover this much and expose it for a full minute. Let it sit there for a minute. If it's windy, you know, put a rock here. Just keep your hand here. Wait for a full minute. Once that minute is up, you slide it down a little bit longer. You can see I slid mining there. Let that go for another minute. Once that minute is up, then you slide it a little bit more and you can see I'm not sliding and you know, specifically one in measurements. I'm just sliding, you know? Whatever feels right after another minute, slide it again after another minute. Slide it again. Another minute. Slide it again After that minutes up. Cover it over. You bring it back inside and you develop it like you would a normal sina type Urinson under water until the water runs clear. There's no more of that greenish yellow in the water or in the print. And then you can evaluate your print. So if you look at this print, we have even divisions. K. This was exposed for one minute, two minutes, three minutes, four minutes, five minutes and down Here is six minutes. That's what my exposure was its mid September in New Jersey, and it was partly cloudy day. Partly cloudy days are kind of the worst to be doing exposures on, but that's what I got. Ah, and so then I just look at this at any individual strip and see, you know, do I like the exposure that's there? Obviously, this is way too light. This still seems kind of faded and foggy. This is getting better. This is three minutes. Um, but there's areas in here that still seem like pure white that I don't think necessarily were pure white. Eso it came over to four minutes. That's looking pretty good, I think. Then once we get toe five minutes and six minutes, you know this is a shadow part of the image, so you have to be careful. But this starts looking to dark, right? Even the highlight areas, they become very, very dark. And so I determined from this that it looked like four or maybe 4.5 minutes somewhere in there would make a good exposure. Okay. And so at that point, you set your test strip to the side. You bring out your frame, your negative, we turn this around and your final, uh, coded dried piece of paper that you're going to make your final print on and you line it up . Okay, You line it up. You want to make sure you know nice and level horizon line is straight. You can put this on there and make sure everything's lined up, and at that point, you're ready to go out and expose your final print. Now, exposing your final print just looks like taking a look again at your test strip and saying , How many minutes looked good on the test strip? That's the total number of minutes you need to expose your finished sina type print. For so in this case, I took it outside, set my timer for four minutes and 15 seconds and put it out in the sun. Once you expose it for that amount of time, then you bring it in and develop it and hopefully you get an exposure. That is pretty close. Okay, so I have my test strip right here and my finished print so we can see by looking at the exposure here and the exposure here that's pretty close. So little, just over four minutes. It's maybe slightly darker than the form four minute area in my test strip. My final print looks pretty good, and I'm happy with that. You know that there's detail in the shadow areas. The highlights aren't blown out. It's that nice sweet spot in this image that I printed is on the darker side of this stream . Um, and so I'm happy with the results of this. This feels fairly true to the original digital image that I created. All right, you should now have your exposed print completely rinsed and developed and drying so that in the final video we can talk about the results 6. Final Evaluation: congratulations on making it to the final video. You should now have your print dried and ready to evaluate. In this video, we're going to look at the positives, the negatives, things that you would fixed if you went back and did this again. We can even compare it to your test strip and see how your final print measures up to your test print on. And just talk about some tips that you might want to consider if you're going to continue with his process, which I really hope you dio. So let's jump in. All right, So now you have your final finished print ready to look at and evaluate, decide what happened that you liked, what you didn't like, Um, and really to help with that, I think we actually should keep your test strip and compare them together. Eso first. You can just kind of evaluate whether or not you are able to get the right exposure. In my case, I think I got pretty close. I was aiming for the four minute or just a little bit darker than the four minute um, maybe 4.5 or somewhere in there, and I think That's pretty much what I got. If you look at these a little closer, Um, that's pretty close. I'm happy with the amount of detail I kept in the shadows and the highlights for my final print. However, it wasn't easy. In my case, Um, I struggled because I had changing lighting conditions. When I made my test strip, It was, ah, you know, partly cloudy, but generally clear on. And so I felt like it was a pretty even amount of light throughout my whole six minute test strip. But when I went out to do a 4.5 minute exposure with my final print, suddenly clouds had rolled in just in that 10 minute period and I had to compensate. And so I had originally set up for 4.5 minute exposure. But I ended up making a 12 minute exposure because there were some heavy clouds that came between the sun and my print. And so I had to adjust my time on bats, something that you just have to kind of stay on your toes and be willing to adjust. Uh, what you are doing, Um, and just keep in mind that you're thinking about how much UV is getting to your print. Sometimes, even when it's a little bit cloudy, there's still quite a bit of you be coming through, Um, and so you just have to be looking for the changes in your print for just the overall lighting conditions. How bright does it feel and how much is that affecting your print? Do you think a lot of that comes just with trial and error and experience? Eso I was Frankly, I was lucky to be able to get a print that still looks very close to my four minute mark, even though I had an exposure that was three times that loan because of the lighting conditions that I was exposing it. Your luck and your mileage may vary with that in terms of the image itself. This is one of my favorite digital images that I took while in residence at Stockton Mountain Park. I was there just at during the summer of 2017. It was a great few weeks there, making work and spending time in the park, and so I'm really happy with that digital image, and this is it's a dark, moody lighting type of image. And, uh, I think that gets represented really well with sino type this monochrome, uh, dark blue. It just gives a really good feel. So I'm really happy with the results of this. Not all images are necessarily gonna look good at Sina type. Um, they has a particular quality to it that is different than a regular digital image than ah than a regular analog photograph. So that's part of the evaluation process. What type of image do I think would look good in this blue monochrome rich color? Um, and that's part of the learning process. And some of that's preference for sure. Some of it is learning. You know how much shadow doesn't image have? How much highlight doesn't image have And how does that get represented in a sign of type? Overall, I'm very happy with my results. If you feel like you made a mistake or weren't that happy with your results, Try, try again. Okay, Go back. If you need to feel like you need to make another test strip, go and do that, um, I used actually mawr image area than I needed to. I could have easily cut this in half if I needed to and made a few of these till I felt like I really understood the lighting conditions. Um And then, of course, I only coated two areas on a paper at once, but you could coat 10 if you wanted to make a bunch of prints. If you're working in groups, it's gonna be a lot easier to start understanding trends, understanding the light, understanding, exposure. All those things are really gonna be helpful. So I recommend doing that. Maybe working Ah, whole day, just on a couple images to get him perfect. Thanks so much for making it all the way through this video. Uh, following this process through, I hope you've learned a lot. I really had a good time teaching it. And I'm looking forward to seeing what you post. So please make sure you share your project with the class. I'm sure other students would benefit from it. I'd love to have some feedback if you had any questions. Ah, and of course, being the look out for more courses on this topic, I have some or introductory courses that I've talked before and I have probably six or eight other classes in the works there is talking about MAWR possibilities with science type eso. If you want to stay tuned to those, make sure you follow may make sure you stay tuned on skill share and I look forward to hearing from you again.