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Cyanotype printing, which involves developing prints by exposing material to the sun, is one of the most accessible alternative photographic processes. You can buy ready-to-use cyanotype paper, which is available in different sizes, but an even more cost-effective method is to make your own sun-sensitive material. All you need is the proper solution—a mixture of potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate, which can be brushed onto a range of materials, from papers to fabric. Depending on your level of comfort, you can either purchase solutions in preformulated liquids or prepare your own. Expand your creative mind and printing possibilities with our picks below.
1. Jacquard Cyanotype Set
Taking into account quality, ease of use, and economy, Jacquard makes the best cyanotype solution for users of all ages and experience levels. This set includes one bottle of potassium ferricyanide and one bottle of ferric ammonium citrate, each packaged in powder form—meaning they have a better shelf life than premixed solutions. To prepare them, add the instructed amount of water and let the mixture sit for a day, when it’s ready to be coated onto your surface of choice. Resulting prints showcase a lovely, dark blue.
2. Photographers’ Formulary Liquid Cyanotype Printing Kit
For a process that’s even more streamlined, choose this option from the Photographers’ Formulary. Included in the kit are two bottles of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, already in liquid form, so all you have to do is mix them according to the easy-to-follow instructions. It’s a great option if you don’t want to wait a full day for a cyanotype solution, and you get enough to produce dozens of small-to-medium-sized prints. This kit even comes with a small pouch of arrowroot starch, if you want to size your paper, as well as a baggie of potassium dichromate, if you want to experiment with creating a higher contrast solution.
3. Jacquard Solar Fast Sun Powered Printmaking Starter Kit
If you want to try making prints in different colors, go with this set of dyes from Jacquard. You get three bottles of orange, violet, and blue solution, which can be applied directly onto any fibrous surface, from a cotton T-shirt to heavy artist paper. Simply place an object or negative on top, expose the area to light, and observe as the colors appear in minutes. Unlike typical cyanotypes, the exposure process stops by rinsing the image with Jacquard’s Solar Fast Wash—included in the kit—and washing it with hot water. You can also achieve different tonalities with this dye by diluting it with water.
4. Photographer’s Formulary New Cyanotype Printing Kit
Artists who want as much control as possible over their cyanotypes should choose this kit from the Photographers’ Formulary. It provides you with all necessary ingredients to prepare your own sensitizer solution, following a special formula that yields an incredibly intense blue with greater tonal range. The process is complex, involving the use of a mortar and pestle to grind the potassium ferricyanide and creating crystals from a carefully concocted, heated mixture, among other steps. The resulting solution, which you can store for at least one year, is best used on 100 percent cotton rag and helps cut the printing time by about two thirds.
5. Yumfr Cyanotype Printing Set
This kit comes with everything you need to make cyanotypes from scratch. In addition to bottles of potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate in liquid form, you get a brush and tray for mixing the solution, 15 sheets of white paper, acrylic board and clamps for the exposure process, an apron, and gloves. The instructions are in Chinese but are illustrated with clear photographs for non-Chinese readers. The solutions are quick and easy to mix and come in small bottles, each holding just over 1.5 ounces of liquid—a good amount to experiment with, if you want to just dip your toes into this art.