Toning Cyanotypes – the process revisited

A year ago I wrote a blog about toning cyanotypes. I wasn’t a big fan but since then I have read an amazing book that has really helped me to develop the process to suit me. The book is called Cyanotype Toning – Using botanicals to tone blueprints naturally by Annette Golaz. If this is something you are interested in I highly recommend it. She is so generous with her information. This link will take you to the publisher and gives a great summary of the book.

Previously I had bleached the original cyanotype completely before immersing in tea which I used as toner. The resultant images I got were quite low contrast and just brown and white. I didn’t feel I had gained anything at all. Reading this book made me realise that I did not have to bleach everything out of the image, and that by only partially bleaching before toning better contrast could be maintained, and the colour would be dependent on the botanical that you used. This was a revelation to me as I had understood that the only useful toners were tea, coffee and red wine.

I was making a cyanotype for a group project called Fifty Bees 5 (see earlier blog for more details) and I wanted to reference some of the aspects of the ecology I was researching.

My eureka moment came when I realised I could use leaves and roots from one of the plants that my allocated bee – the Shaggy Furrow Bee- foraged to make the toner. It was the dandelion. A very underrated plant. And one of this bees habitats is brown field sites and the colour this toner gives is brown.

So I created my cyanotype and let it dry overnight. I then partially bleached it using a teaspoon of soda crystals in about 2 litres of water. The smaller amount to bleach meant I had much more control over the speed of the process and so could remove it from the bleach when I felt that  some but not all of the blue had gone. This took a couple of attempts to get right ( for me) as the bleaching process carries on until thoroughly washed in water. So once washed I put it in a tray which contained 4 tablespoons of dried dandelion leaves and roots in warm water. I left it face down in this toner for 4 hours, checking it every hour or so for progress. Once I was happy I then rinsed it in water again and left it to dry.

I am really happy with the result and looking forward to toning some more cyanotypes in the future.