Did you know cyanotype has been around since the middle of the 19th century? This vivid blueprinting technique was a popular way to reproduce photographs and documents quickly and inexpensively. In fact, cyanotype prints were often used to print maps and plans, that’s where we get the term blueprint.
Nowadays you can buy pretreated fabrics that are ready to use right out of the package if you want to try cyanotype printing at home. All you have to do is follow the manufacturer’s instructions: place objects or a photo transparency over the fabric, expose it to sunlight for several minutes and then submerge in water to develop your print.
If you want to experiment with cyanotype printing on a wider variety of fabrics and surfaces including wool, paper, or wood, you can treat your own substrate with specialty chemicals. Here’s a brief tutorial from Sue Reno with all the details you’ll need to create successful cyanotype prints using the Jacquard Cyanotype Set.
Making Cyanotype Prints by Sue Reno
- Mix the solution according to the package instructions. Paint it onto fabric and let the fabric dry in a dark place.
- Working in dim lighting, pin the treated fabric to foam board or similar portable surface.
- Mask the surface to form a design. Possibilities include leaves and flowers, foam shapes, stencils, stick-on letters, or printed transparency sheets.
- Hold the masking materials in place with small pins, or cover with a sheet of glass or plexiglass.
- Place the board in sunlight. Tilt the board if necessary to match the angle of the sun. A ten-minute exposure is standard–decrease the time slightly for bright mid-day summer sun, or increase it for less than optimal conditions. The fabric will turn grayish as it exposes.
- Make small samples and keep notes before starting a large project. Images that are somewhat over- or underexposed are still very usable.
- Bring the boards back inside and remove the masks and pins. Wearing rubber gloves, rinse the fabric in several changes of warm water, adding hydrogen peroxide in the last rinse (suggested as an optional step, but I recommend it). Watch the magic happen as the print develops!
- Lay the fabric flat and allow it to dry completely.
Inspired by how easy it is to create your own cyanotype prints? Check out Lesley Riley’s technique for wet cyanotype in the April/May 2019 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine or catch Lesley on “Quilting Arts TV!”