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Thread: Paper Speed and Cyanotypes

  1. #1

    Paper Speed and Cyanotypes

    After a long layoff, I've finally started printing up some cyanotypes again. My standard go-to paper is Stonehenge, and it has been excellent for me. I was ordering some things, and on a whim, threw in some Twinrocker paper to try out. I made some prints on Stonehenge to get my exposure time dialed in, and then printed on the Twinrocker. Holy moly! That paper seems like a full stop faster than the Stonehenge. Even though the print is over exposed (and I'll try some bleaching and tannin on that print) there's a really nice depth to it, and it looks like it might be a good paper for cyanotypes.

    So what makes the paper faster? I'm having a hard time figuring this out. Could it be that it soaks up more of the cyanotype chemistry, and there's just more there to expose? I'm still using my batch of the "traditional" 2 part cyanotype formula, and in the coming weeks I might test it out with Mike Ware's "new" formula. Also, I'm using a little citric acid in the chemistry, and my development process is an initial citric acid bath, followed by water.

  2. #2
    Hi Doug,

    Good question. There can be many factors but often a key one is how well the paper holds onto the pigment; i.e. if the paper fibres/sizing holds the pigment well, very little washes out and so even the slightest bit of blue that is formed in the highlights is retained by the fibres. If however the blue pigment does not attach to the fibres, much of it washes out and the image is much weaker. The paper that loses the pigment therefore needs a longer exposure to make sure that much more of the chemistry is converted to blue to allow for that which washes away.

    Well done for finding a modern paper that still works well! Many papers now are sized with 'slippy' sizing that does not hold pigment or contain lots of alkali buffering that bleaches away some of the image during the wash.

    Best regards,

    More mad ramblings at

  3. #3
    Thanks Evan, I was thinking along those lines, but hadn't come to that exact conclusion. Thinking back though, the Stonehenge paper does tend to have more wash off during development. I still like the Stonehenge paper though, and it's good to work with when I'm experimenting since it's pretty inexpensive. I can see the Twinrocker being something for a final image. I can't wait to get a "good" exposure on it.

    Speaking of slippy sizing, I have some Arches Aquarelle that's defective. I get "snowflakes" in my cyanotype images, and you can see them in the wet paper when you hold it up to the light. So, being experimental, and seeing if I could save it, I sized it with PVA. Needless to say the cyanotype came out great, but eventually washed off in water during developing.

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