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Hybrid photo based Prints

Cyanotype over pigment

With this hybrid process a pigment print is first printed on the paper, then another image is created on top via a photosensitive cyanotype emulsion.

The first step is to identify a possible combination of images and work on these in Photoshop to prepare the image that will be printed as a pigment print and the areas to be printed as a cyanotype. With many of these processes I would suggest you sketch with a number of images - experiment in photoshop with quite small files to get an idea how the images might combine and then work work up the images which show the greatest potential as larger files.

As the cyanotype produces a cyan blue coloured image it can work well with subjects like a blue sky or water. The blue channel of an image can simply be dropped at the printing stage and replaced with the cyanotype emulsion, or a combination of two images can be used - perhaps one with a figure which is pigment printed - the other with sky or water as a background which is printed with the photosensitive emulsion.

Combining two images- single figure ground method

The cyanotype

In this example, the clouds and sky are suggestive of the cyanotype image and for this reason I decided to work with this as a background. -



The Pigment print

This image of the back of a Roman mirror of 200BC has little blue and offers a good subject to juxtapose against the blue background.

The image of the mirror is pasted as a layer on top of the clouds in photoshop


Mouse over

Using a mask in photoshop areas of the mirror are removed to let the clouds come through and create the illusion of a 3rd dimension.

The aspect of the image to be printed as a cyanotype is converted to a negative image and produced as a transparent image - as the cyanotype is a contact printing process, it is important that this be exactly the same size as the pigment print.

Through photoshop a negative image is produced that combines both the clouds and the mirror. The theory is that the dark or dense areas will block the UV reaching the photo emulsion and wash off in the processing.


The pigment image is printed onto fine art paper - make sure the paper you are working with is of a reasonable weight (thickness) and quality. Pay careful attention to the physical size and resolution of the image when you print it as you may need to make further prints later.

It is also a good idea to insert some x marks in the corner with photoshop to help with registration of the negative.



However, while the cyanotype emulsion is coated onto the area where the mirror is, it does not appear to adhere where the pigment is laid down and washes off readily during processing. I have made this print with both negatives and both work equally as well.





A thin layer of the cyanotype emulsion is brushed onto the paper in subdued light or a safe light. You might like to experiment with different brushes and applications

If you have doubts about if the lighting is fogging your paper, take a sheet which is coated with emulsion and has dried -

lay an opaque object on it like a pair of scissors for some time - say 10 min's and if there is an image left on the paper after this time you will get some idea of how long you can leave the paper out in the light for.

However having said this the process is very tolerant and I have made great cyanotypes under a tent in full sunlight at a fun workshop.


To gain an even coating, brush the emulsion length ways and then at right angles


Repeat this until you are satisfied with the coating.



Drying the emulsion

After the paper is coated lay it flat to dry in a dark place.





Exposing the print

At this point the pigment print and the transparent negative image are combined.

Place the paper on a support base and then negative on top of the pigment print with the registration as accurate as possible.

Then a thick sheet of glass on top of this to hold the two in close contact - make sure correct side of the negative is face down on the emulsion.


While there are many ways you can expose the emulsion to UV the sun is a source many people use - hence the name Sun printing used for many of these processes. While the sun works well it is also variable and you may need to do some experiments. This print had 45 min's on an over cast day- where as it took 5 mins in a UV exposure box for the other prints.

So - if you are doing lots of work you might like to build an exposure box with a UV lamp.

The exposed print

Different emulsions produce slightly different effects but in this image you can see the change after the exposure.

After the exposure the print is washed in water - if you have trouble washing out the yellow orange of the Potassium Ferricyanide, increase the temperature of the water.


Be aware that some papers react better than others for this process – for instance while the pigment print works well on Hahnamule paper it is difficult to clear the yellow dichromate staining from the cyanotype. Other paper might clear well but give a less defined pigment print -




The final cyanotype over pigment print.





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