“More Cyanotype and Digital Negative Musings…..”


I know some of you have been following my Cyanotype/Digital negative adventures. For those of you interested in this process I have to start by asking you take everything I say with a grain [perhaps a pound would be better] of salt.
I made my first digital negatives and Cyanotype prints about ten years ago when I bought my copy of Burkholder’s book. At the time I had just bought the first Epson photo quality printer for 8.5×11 inch paper. I think it was an Epson 300 but am not sure. After it I had the Epson 64 and 86, and graduated to the 2400 when my son gave it to me as a present. It has since died and I have the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 that makes prints up to 13×19 inches.
The digital negatives I made with the little printer were first printed on glossy photo paper, and then I switched to Pictorico transparency film, which I think was made by Konica at the time.
The results I got right-away, using Burkholder’s Color Table method, were excellent for making silver gelatin as well as Cyanotype prints. As an aside it is interesting to me that at the time I received several negative comments about making digital negatives, and was assured that digital would never equal film in sharpness and all that….it was almost hilarious the length to which some correspondents went with numbers and figures to prove that that was so. Of course I had prints in front of me even then that were every bit as good as anything I could get out of the darkroom, and I think I am a pretty good darkroom printer.

I never pursued making Cyanotype prints in a very serious or consistent way, but I know that anytime I wanted to make one, I would have no trouble producing it. I was using the chemicals from Photographers’ Formulary 07-0090 Cyanotype Printing Kit to make my prints. Actually I only made the A and B solutions and threw the rest of the chemicals away. Then I had the bright idea of using their Liquid Cyanotype Printing Kit. This was because we had just moved and I had gotten rid of my Cyanotype chemicals. That’s when I started having problems, and I was not able to duplicated my earlier successes in making prints. Since there was a lot going on in my life, I never took the time to systematically try to figure out what was going on. I just knew that I could no longer make good prints.

To make a very long story just a bit shorter I just want to tell you that now I am mixing my own chemicals again using the kit with the chemicals in powdered form, and it is working much better. I am starting to make good Cyanotype prints again. My goal is to take advantage of my large format printer. Right now I am in the process of making some 11×17 negatives to print as Cyanotypes, and once I have that under control, I will hopefully go to the 13×19 seize.

I do have to mention that living in Florida, with plenty of sunshine available year ’round, making prints using sun exposure sure makes life easy. I am not sure I would be so interested in the process if I had more limited amounts of sunshine available and perhaps had to make my own exposure unit, but who knows. I do think it is a wonderful process. I am getting some gorgeous deep blue tones. Part of that is from the fact that I develop my prints in vinegar initially and then rinse them in running water for 5 or 10 minutes.

I should also mention that I got some pretty decent results by simply inverting the positive and printing it using the Advanced Black & White setting on my Epson printer. The print dialog box for that looks like this:

The Advanced B&W setting looks like this, with H=0 and V=75 and Max Optical Density -3. Also remember that if you are using this setting you have to set ‘Printer Manages Colors’ in the Preview box.


I have not been able to figure out how to upload curves and actions to this blog. So, if any of you would like to try Burkholder’s ColorTable method, you can e-mail me and I will send you my Photoshop action for the color-table and correction curve.

About christian harkness

Photographer and printmaker; living and working in north Florida.
This entry was posted in art, cyanotype, digital, digital negative, photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to “More Cyanotype and Digital Negative Musings…..”

  1. simon0252 says:

    Thanks for the informative blog, Christian. I will be putting this all into practice soon – I have a cyanotype kit on its way from Bostick & Sullivan :)

    • I have never used the B&S kit, so I am really anxious to hear how that will be going for you. I would also love to know how you will be doing your negatives!

      • simon0252 says:

        I’ve downloaded a cyanotype curve from alternativephotography.com and printed the negatives on Agfa CopyJet using a Canon Pro 9500 Mark II. I’ve used this method for platinum prints so I’m hoping it will all work well with the cyanotypes!

        • This is getting exciting – I certainly think you will nail it right away or come very close. Looking forward to hearing/reading more about it. What paper are you using on which to print – same as for your platinum prints?

          • simon0252 says:

            Yes, using Arches Platine for the cyanotypes too. Is there other paper you would recommend as I would like to branch out a bit.

            • Well, I have never used Platine and really should. If you go to Mike Ware’s Cyanotype page you see the papers that he recommends. Apparently there is a really good one that is available only in Britain. 99 percent of the time I use regular Arches watercolor paper. I have never done real research on this, and use what I have on hand or what is available.

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