6 Steps for Making Beautiful Cyanotype Prints at Home
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Assemble your cyanotype kit
  2. Select and prepare your subject
  3. Prepare your paper with chemicals
  4. Expose paper to sunlight
  5. Rinse and dry your print
  6. Troubleshoot common issues

Have you ever marveled at the stunning blue and white hues of a cyanotype print? They're surprisingly simple to create in the comfort of your own home. If you've been wondering how to get started with cyanotype printing, you're in the right place. This easy-to-follow guide will walk you through each step, helping you unlock the magic of this timeless art form.

Assemble Your Cyanotype Kit

Before you can immerse yourself in the world of cyanotype printing, you'll need to gather a few key items. Don't worry, though — none of these are too hard to find, and they won't break the bank either.

Acquire the Basic Essentials

First off, you'll need to get your hands on the following:

  • Cyanotype chemicals: Specifically, you'll need ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. These are the two main ingredients that react with sunlight to create the beautiful blue hues characteristic of cyanotype prints.
  • Art paper: This isn't just any old paper; it should be high-quality and able to absorb the cyanotype chemicals. Watercolor paper is a popular choice among many cyanotypers.
  • Brushes: You'll use these to apply the chemicals to your paper. A foam brush is a good option as it helps spread the solution evenly.
  • Darkroom lamp: Cyanotype is a photographic process, so you'll need a safe light source while working with the chemicals.

Optional Extras

While the above items are the bare essentials, there are a few extra tools that can help take your cyanotype printing to the next level:

  • Lightbox: This device can help you create more detailed prints by illuminating your subject from below.
  • Printing frame: A printing frame holds your paper and subject tightly together during exposure, ensuring sharp, clear prints.
  • Ruler or straight edge: Useful for creating clean lines and precise layouts in your compositions.

Once you have your cyanotype kit assembled, you're ready to take the next step in your cyanotype printing journey. But remember — the quality of your tools can have a big impact on your results, so choose wisely!

Select and Prepare Your Subject

Now that you've assembled your cyanotype kit, it's time to dive into the creative process. The subject you choose for your cyanotype print can range from everyday objects to intricate patterns or even a scenic landscape. Let's explore how you can select and prepare your subject for a beautiful cyanotype print.

Finding the Perfect Subject

When starting out with cyanotype printing, it's best to begin with simple shapes and designs. Objects with clear outlines, like leaves, flowers, or geometric shapes, are excellent choices. Here's a simple way to choose:

  • Look around: Explore your surroundings. Nature can be your best inspiration with its wide array of shapes and textures.
  • Experiment: Don't be afraid to get creative. Try different objects and see how they translate into cyanotype prints.
  • Keep it simple: Remember, intricate and overly complex subjects might not produce the clear, crisp prints you're aiming for. Start simple and gradually work up to more complex designs as you get more confident.

Preparing Your Subject

Once you've chosen your subject, you're almost ready to start printing. But first, you'll need to prepare your subject. Here's how:

  1. Make it flat: If you're using a three-dimensional object, like a leaf or a flower, you might need to flatten it first. You can do this by placing it under a heavy book for a few hours or overnight.
  2. Consider size: The size of your subject should fit well within the dimensions of your art paper. Remember, it's better to have a subject that's a bit smaller than your paper than one that's too large.
  3. Get creative: Arrange your subject on the paper in a way that's visually interesting. Play around with different compositions until you find one that you love.

Now that you've selected and prepared your subject, you're all set to enter the exciting world of cyanotype printing. Remember, there's no "right" or "wrong" subject — it's all about experimenting and having fun with the process.

Prepare Your Paper with Chemicals

With your subject ready, the next step in learning how to cyanotype print is preparing your paper with chemicals. This process turns the paper light-sensitive, which allows you to capture your chosen subject's shape when it's exposed to sunlight. Here's how to do it:

Mixing the Chemicals

Cyanotype printing involves two chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. You'll need to mix these in equal parts to create your cyanotype solution. Here's a simple process to follow:

  1. Measure out: Start by measuring out equal amounts of both chemicals. For a 8x10 inch paper, one teaspoon of each should do the trick.
  2. Mix well: Combine these in a glass or plastic container and mix until they are fully dissolved. Don't worry, these are safe to handle, but it's a good idea to wear gloves.

Applying the Solution

With your solution ready, it's time to apply it to your paper. This is a crucial step in cyanotype printing and requires careful attention. Here's what to do:

  • Apply evenly: Use a paintbrush to spread the solution evenly across the paper, ensuring all areas are covered. Don't worry if the solution looks yellow-green; it will change to blue later.
  • Let it dry: Leave your paper to dry in a dark place. It needs to be completely dry before you can move to the next step. A drying time of 20 minutes to an hour is usually enough, depending on the humidity and temperature.

Remember, while cyanotype printing is a fun and creative process, safety should always come first. Always handle chemicals with care, and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after this step.

Expose Paper to Sunlight

Now that your paper is prepped, we're moving onto a pretty cool part of how to cyanotype print—exposing your prepared paper to sunlight. This process uses the UV rays from the sun to react with the chemicals on your paper. Ready to see some magic? Let's get started.

Setting up the Exposure

Before you rush out into the sunshine, there are a few things you need to set up for a successful exposure. Here's how:

  • Position your subject: Place the object or transparency you've chosen on top of your prepared paper. The parts covered by your subject will remain white, creating a negative image.
  • Secure with glass: To keep everything in place, cover your setup with a pane of glass. This prevents your subject from moving and ensures a crisp image.

Timing the Exposure

Next comes the exposure itself. The amount of time your paper needs to spend in the sun will vary based on a few factors:

  1. Check the weather: On a bright, sunny day, your paper may need only 10-15 minutes in the sun. On a more overcast day, it could take up to 30 minutes.
  2. Watch for color change: As your paper exposes, the yellow-green solution will change to a gray-blue. This is a sign that it's time to remove your paper from the sun.

Pro tip: If you're uncertain about the timing, do a test strip first. This can help you gauge the right exposure time for your specific conditions.

And just like that, you're one step closer to mastering how to cyanotype print. Isn't it fascinating how the sun can help create such beautiful art?

Rinse and Dry Your Print

After the thrill of sunlight exposure, it's time to rinse and dry your print—an essential stage in the process of how to cyanotype print. This is where your print will truly start to take form. Let's dive in!

Rinsing Your Print

Rinsing might sound simple, but remember: this is no ordinary rinse. Here's how you can do it effectively:

  • Use cool water: Rinse your print under cool running water. It's important to use cool water because hot water can cause your print to fade.
  • Keep rinsing: Continue rinsing until the water runs clear, which means all unreacted chemicals have been washed away.

Drying Your Print

Once rinsed, it's time to dry your print. Here's how:

  1. Pat dry: Gently pat your print dry with a clean towel. Be careful not to rub as it can damage your print.
  2. Air dry: Lay your print flat to air dry. Avoid direct sunlight during this stage to prevent fading.

And voila! You've successfully rinsed and dried your print. Now, isn't that a step closer to fully understanding how to cyanotype print? Don't worry, you're doing a great job!

Troubleshoot Common Issues

Even when you've gotten the hang of how to cyanotype print, you might encounter a hiccup or two — it's all part of the process! Here's a rundown of some common issues you might face and how to solve them:

Uneven Prints

Uneven prints can be frustrating, but they're usually easy to fix:

  • Uneven coating: Ensure you're applying the chemicals evenly on the paper. Practice makes perfect!
  • Incorrect exposure: Too much or too little sunlight can lead to uneven prints. Patience is key when exposing your paper to sunlight.

Faded Prints

Does your print look faded? Here's what might've happened:

  1. Washing out: Over-rinsing can wash out your print. Remember, rinse until the water runs clear, not a moment longer.
  2. Incorrect drying: Drying your print in direct sunlight can cause it to fade. Choose a cool, shaded spot for drying instead.

Remember, troubleshooting is a part of learning how to cyanotype print. It's okay if everything doesn't go perfectly on your first try. Keep going — your next print might just be your masterpiece!

If you enjoyed learning about making cyanotype prints at home and want to take your handmade creations to the digital world, check out the workshop 'Digitising Handmade Illustrations' by Jola Pictures. This workshop will teach you how to digitize your handmade illustrations, including cyanotype prints, and transform them into beautiful digital art pieces.