Toning Cyanotype Prints: A Beginner's Guide 💙💛🧡


Cyanotype prints, known for their striking blue and white tones, can be transformed into captivating artworks of different colours through a process called toning. Toning adds new dimensions to your prints, giving them a vintage or sepia appearance. In this beginner-friendly guide, we'll walk you through the step-by-step process of toning cyanotype prints, allowing you to unlock a world of creative possibilities.

Materials You'll Need:

  1. Cyanotype prints
  2. Bicarbonate of soda (the one for cleaning, not baking)
  3. Toning solution (such as tea, coffee, or iron-based toners)
  4. Plastic or glass container for mixing and holding the toning solution
  5. Gloves to protect your hands (but not necessary)
  6. Water
  7. Clothespins or clips
  8. Paper towels or clean cloth
  9. Dimly lit area
  10. Optional: fixer solution (sodium thiosulfate) if you're using iron-based toners

Step-by-Step Guide:

Step 1: Prepare Your Toning Solution:

Choose a toning solution based on the effect you want. Tea or coffee will give your print a warm sepia tone, while iron-based toners can create various shades of blue, purple, or brown. Brew a strong cup of tea or coffee and let it cool. If you're using an iron-based toner, follow the manufacturer's instructions to mix the solution.

Step 2: Prepare Your Cyanotype Print:

Start with a fully developed and washed cyanotype print. Make sure the print is thoroughly rinsed to remove unexposed chemicals. The print should be damp but not dripping.

Step 3: Prepare you bleaching bath:

Mix a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda in 500ml of water and stir. Let print lie facedown in solution for +-10 minutes. Check on it at 5 minutes and don't let it get too pale. When you lift the print out of the solution, it will be pale yellow. Don't worry, your details are not lost! Rinse thoroughly to stop bleaching process.

Step 4: Apply the Toning Solution:

Submerge the print in the toning solution (tea/coffee/wine), making sure it's fully covered. Gently agitate the print in the solution to ensure even toning. Keep an eye on the print as it changes color – the toning process can take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, depending on the desired effect.

Step 5: Rinse the Toned Print: Once you're satisfied with the toning effect, remove the print from the toning solution. Rinse it thoroughly in running water to stop the toning process. You'll notice that the water runs clear once the excess toner has been washed off.

Step 6: Fix the Toned Print (For Iron-Based Toners, Optional):

Your tea or coffee is fixed once rinsed but if you used an iron-based toner, immerse the toned print in a fixer solution (sodium thiosulfate) for about 5-10 minutes. This helps stabilize the toner and prevent further changes in color. Rinse the print again in running water after fixing.

Step 7: Dry and Display:

Gently blot the toned print with paper towels or a clean cloth to remove excess water. Use clothespins or clips to hang the print in a darkroom or a dimly lit area to air dry. Once fully dry, your beautifully toned cyanotype print is ready to be displayed or framed! Once dry, flatten print in a book or under a carpet.

Conclusion: Toning cyanotype prints is a wonderful way to infuse character and depth into your creations. Experiment with different toning solutions and techniques to achieve your desired artistic effect. Whether you're aiming for a classic sepia tone or a unique color shift, this simple process opens up a world of creative exploration.