Introduction: Cyanotypes on Fabric
Create an authentic cyanotype photogram or by using a photograph on fabric. Generally cyanotypes are on paper, but now you can create them on a shirt, blanket or anything else you can think of.
Step 1: The Chemicals
First of all you will need the cyanotype supplies. This is an authentic cyanotype created with chemicals, not just Photoshop giving a faux effect. That being said, you will need the necessary chemicals which you can buy at Bostick and Sullivan for about $30.
• Also, you need two eye droppers
• A spray bottle or atomizer, the one I have is from Sephora which is $10 and entirely too expensive. Check at your local drug store for one or opt for a small spray bottle.
• If you cannot find an atomizer or very small spray bottle, consider a wide, thick brush for application.
• Porous fabric, I went with a light blue ringer t-shirt from the 99 cent store. Always choose a light colored material for obvious reasons and make sure that it can soak up liquid well. My first attempt was on expensive Dupioni silk. Do not do this - at least not for your first try, wait until you become seasoned to experiment.
• A piece of cardboard or other hard surface to put inside the shirt. Make sure this is not something you want to keep.
Also, you can use disposable gloves to protect your hands from the chemicals.
And obviously make sure your tools are as clean as you can get them and dry.
Step 2: Application
Open Solution A and fill the eye dropper from the bottle and put it into the atomizer bottle or on a plate if you are using the brush on method.
Use a separate dropper for B, you do NOT want to contaminate either solution.
I used two droppers full of each solution. Stir or shake well (covered, of course) so the chemicals combine well.
Spray the chemicals on in the design you want. Atomizers tend to make a circular spray pattern so short, even sprays will give you more control.
Brushing on is just as easy, coat your brush and apply evenly in both vertical and horizontal directions.
Step 3: Exposure
Once your fabric is dry, it will still have a yellowish-green color, but if you've let it dry for a couple hours (unless you've completely soaked it), it should be ready. If need be lightly touch a small part to feel if it is still wet.
Gather the materials you want to put onto the fabric. If you want a photograph, you will have to use a negative. You can make a negative by converting a photograph to black and white, increasing the contrast, and inverting it. Then print it onto a transparency which can be done at an office supply or printing store, like Office Depot or Office Max. Photographs are not as effective as things such as jewelry that block light almost completely, so you may have to experiment several times before you try it on a shirt you really like. It's worth the time and effort and is actually pretty fun.
I used two very opaque necklaces and a negative photograph. (Another idea would be to draw on a piece of glass or on a transparency with a marker to transfer your signature, hand drawn art, or anything else that you can think of). Place these onto the fabric before you go outside and cover it with a box top or anything that will block light until you are ready to expose it. Also, you can place a piece of glass over the objects to ensure that they are flat and will make a much crisper image. This is especially important for the photograph, not as much with the objects, but it doesn't hurt.
When you are ready to expose, take it outside and remove the box cover. Begin timing. I live in Texas where it is a good 97° in the shade. I had more than enough sun to work with. Your exposure time will greatly depend on the amount of sunlight. To determine exposure, since this was the first attempt and an experiment, I moved the chain a little to show what an exposure will look like.
After about 7 minutes of good, full sunlight, you are ready to develop it.
Step 4: Develop and Fix
I decided to cover it with the box top and take it inside to develop in the bathtub, but you can actually take a garden hose to it. Cyanotype is a beautiful thing and is not only developed but also fixed with water. This means that water makes the image look like it ultimately should and it is on there permanently.
Whether in the tub or outside, you want to wash it until the water runs clear. If you aren't sure if it's clear, a safe bet is just to keep running water over it.
As you can see, the photograph did not take as well. Experiment with exposure times and again, make sure the photograph is pressed tight against the fabric.
Step 5: Hang to Dry
It's as simple as that, hang it to dry - on a hanger over a bathtub or outdoors is best. If you still have some yellow areas, try washing for a longer period unless you like the look.
Step 6: Optional Step
I've always loved the deep blue that are in many cyanotypes. To get this, simply add hydrogen peroxide to the areas where you want it to be that rich color. Cover the entire image or paint it on selectively. It will change immediately. If you cover it completely you can wash it again and dry again. If you paint it on, you don't want to wash it or the hydrogen peroxide will bleed and won't be the same as the design you applied.
Don't be afraid to experiment, there is more than enough solution to try again and again. Once you've got it down, try it on different types of materials and play with it until you get the results you want.
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