Three Colours of Cyanotypes

When and if you really feel you need to destroy a gorgeous Prussian blue print by bleaching it then submerging it into a solution which will change the colour, then please by all means make yourself happy.

Hold on…Bear is demanding my attention. Apparently the Amazon delivery man is dropping another of Ronin’s torture devices. Ok, maybe not torture isn’t the true sense of the word but torture in that this crazy is filling up the closet. I still wonder how he has time to order all this crazy while on mission but I digress.

Toning a cyanotype is a inexpensive way to change the colour and experiment with your pictures. The setup is simple. The only thing it requires is time. Let’s review what you need to do.

First gather the containers in which you want to bleach and tone your prints. As always, I prefer to use distilled water for all potions just to insure no metals are in the mix. These can and most certainly will ruin a print and your mixture. Once a potion is contaminated you must dispose of it immediately. It will be the bain of your laboratory if you decide to be cheap and keep it. Mix 1-2 teaspoons of sodium carbonate (found in the laundry room in a box labelled BORAX), not to be confused with sodium bicarbonate (found in the kitchen in a box labelled BAKING SODA), in 1 litre of distilled water.

Next submerge or wet you prints under running water. They should be wet. Depending on what I’m doing and how much I love a print will depend on whether I submerge in distilled water or just wet under running water. Since I don’t care for toned cyanotypes, I generally use running water. The prints need to be wet to absorb the other mixtures evenly.

Sorry, apparently Bear is having a breakdown because its hot as balls outside and he does not care one bit about the new pool I bought him nor the bucket of ice water I gave very him before starting my own work. I’ll be right back…

Ok, choose coffee (for a definite brown colour), black tea (for a brownish black colour), or green tea (for a purplish brown colour) for the toner. Yes, you can use other tannins to tone the prints, but I don’t know how to do that and have never done any others so Google it if that’s what you want. Make some strong coffee by brewing or using instant coffee. Do the same with the teas. And make sure they are all piping hot. I find that the process goes faster if the potion is hot rather than room temperature or cooler. I usually make any of these potions in 1 litre amounts as that seems to be enough to submerge and float more than one print at a time if I choose.

Now you are ready to start! I would be but someone is causing Bear to flip out and I can’t concentrate so let me give him a beer and a weed brownie after I beat the crap out of whomever is messing with my damn dog.

No kidding, some random Jehovah Witnesses are at the door and trying to talk their way into the garage to watch and learn while they try to convert me into one of the non chosen 144k. This is what happens when you get banned to the garage because the new house doesn’t have a hidden room for me to use as a laboratory! I can not reveal the exact method that I used to get them to leave, but trust those two will not be inviting me to any bbq’s this summer.

Ok, submerge the print face up in the bleach potion for 30-60 seconds. It doesn’t need at lot of time as actually you are not washing all the print off just breaking the chemical bonds so the iron will react with the tannins in the coffee or tea. You should see some blue run off in the water.

Next, lift the print from the bleach and submerge it into a bath of clear water for about 5-10 mins. Or run water over it for the same amount of time. This removes the sodium carbonate solution and will not contaminate the other potions.

Now place the print into which ever toner you have prepared face down and leave it for an hour. Face down is to insure that there are zero bubbles on the face of the print in case you don’t submerge properly. You are welcome to do it face up if you want to sit and agitate it constantly for the next few hours. When you check on it you will see a change, if no change has occurred after 4 hours you need to rinse and start from the beginning of the process.

Enjoy your new coloured prints! I do not know how the archival quality will be, since the original process has been tampered with, so get back to me in 20 years with your findings.

Any questions? No? When you do, you know where to send them.

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