Cyanotype printing, also known as sun printing, is a technique which was discovered in 1842 by scientist Sir John Herschel. At the time, it was used primarily to reproduce engineering and architectural drawings. When the botanist Anna Atkins learned of the process, she used it to document plant life from her collection, and is credited with bringing the process to the world of photography.
The process is fairly simple. Chemically treated surfaces like paper and fabric are exposed to sunlight, a chemical reaction takes place, and you’re left with fascinating silhouettes on beautiful blue backgrounds. While this normally requires mixing chemicals, pre-treated papers are available, making it easy and safe to involve children.
- light sensitive paper
- objects with interesting shapes and details to print e.g. flowers, ferns, keys, paper clips, transparencies of photographs or drawings, lace
- a piece of clear glass or plexiglass to hold objects in place
- a very sunny day
1. To make cyanotypes the easy way, you’ll need light sensitive paper which is sold in packages with instructions. There are a number of different brands like Sunprints and Sunography, which I used and purchased at The Paper Place. Another option in Toronto is Efston Science. I was unable to find it in art supply stores or photography shops, but was told museum gift shops often carry them.
2. Begin by selecting items you would like to use. Consider ones that will make interesting images when light shines through them. Arrange objects on a regular sheet of paper to determine how you would like them to look.
Once ready, uncover a sheet of light sensitive paper, lay it down on a flat surface away from the sun, and arrange the objects on top. Cover with a piece of clean glass or plexiglass to hold everything in place. This is helpful when using objects like feathers and leaves because it ensures light will not get underneath the edges, so images will appear sharp.
Place in bright sunlight for the length of time instructed. Ours were kept in the sun for 15 minutes, but this may vary based on the paper you buy.
3. Remove the objects and gently rinse the paper under cold water for several minutes, until the water runs clear. Your print will magically appear, revealing shapes on a beautiful indigo blue background.
Tip: If using feathers, avoid white ones. Our feathers showed up beautifully except for the white one. It seems the sun can penetrate easily through a white feather, but not coloured ones.
Here’s the science behind it:
The paper is coated with 2 chemicals called potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate. Once exposed to a source of ultraviolet light, such as sunlight, a chemical reaction occurs forming ferric ferrocyanide, a blue dye known as Prussian blue. When objects are placed on treated surfaces, they block the sunlight from reaching the paper in those areas, so they remain white. Exposed areas will turn blue.
My daughter ended up framing her cyanotypes, which turned out beautifully!
35 responses to “Cyanotype Prints”
What a fun project! I love the rubber band paper and it was also very clever of you to use the jewelry. You just gave me tons of ideas….! Thanks, have a great week.
Thank you! Hope you also have a great week.
That is so cool! I love it. My little niece would really enjoy that, plus I like the art it creates.
Thank you!Hope your niece enjoys making this with you.
I love the rubber bands 🙂
Thanks Kristin. We didn’t know what to expect with the rubber bands, but they turned out to be pretty cool.
I love this these are so cool! I hope you’ll stop by and add this and any other posts you’re proud of to my Wednesday What We Wore, Read, and Made Link party
Absolutely Marissa! Thanks for dropping by.
Beautiful and clever. We love.
Thank you so much for your kind comment!
Our wondrous Artbashers would thoroughly enjoy this. Beautiful images. Thanks for sharing.
Beautiful images. I have a Blog Hop, and I would love it if you would link this post. You can find it at
It is called Wednesdays Adorned From Above Blog Hop.
I hope to see you there. Have a great Day.
Adorned From Above
Sounds great Debi. Thanks for the invitation!
Good article and great pics. Thanks for posting.
very fun project for the kids, thanks for linking with me on Wow Us Wednesday!
Thanks for dropping by Connie!
Wow… what a creativity… simply to say … its fantabulous
Thank you so much Dolly!
this is AMAZING! Thanks for sharing (:
Thank you Belora. So glad you dropped by!
This is super AMAZING!! I have never seen anything like this before!
Thanks for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer.. From Dream To Reality! I can’t wait to see what you link up this evening! 🙂
Oh my gosh this is the coolest thing ever! I can’t wait to show my kids how to do this. Thanks so much for linking up to Creative Thursday last week. I can’t wait to see what you link up next. Have a great week.
So fun!! I have to pull our paper out again now that we are in summer. Thank you for sharing on Sharing Saturday!
Howdy! Just a quick note to let you know I’m featuring YOU on Creative Thursday this week.
Stop by and take a peek and pick up a Featured button because You are amazing! Have a wonderful day 🙂
Thank you so much Michelle. You put a big smile on my face!
This is really a fun project! Never seen anything like this before, how creative. I’ll share with my grandkids! So glad you shared your creative inspiration over at Sunday’s Best. PS- following you on Facebook!
Thanks so much Cathy! It was a lot of fun to make, and I’m sure your grandchildren will love it.
What a cool idea — for all ages, really. I am going to try this with my granddaughters next week — hope I can find this paper! Thanks for sharing this. I am wondering if you can add color to this afterwards, like with watercolors?
I really hope you’re able to find the paper because I’m sure your grandchildren will love it! The brand I bought was on a very good quality paper, and indicated that other things could be done on the paper such as painting.
I love your blog-I’m from Perth west Australia and work in aged care. I run a modified art class for them and my oldest lady is 102 years young. They will absolutely love this idea. Regards Kat. B.
How wonderful! I’m sure they’ll love doing this. It really is very cool to experience at any age. Best of luck!
Back in the ’80s I used b/w negatives and a slide projector for exposing self-made paper. Guess one could use a data projector nowadays 🙂
You must have had some cool results! Thanks for visiting.