About cyanotype printing

What it is

Cyanotype printing is an alternative photography technique, also known as sun printing. It is an eco-friendly process that uses non-toxic, water soluble chemicals and natural sunlight. No camera needed!

How it started

Cyanotype printing was developed in 1842 by Sir John Herschel. It is the way that blueprints for construction were originally made. It was also used as a means of recording plant specimens by botanist Anna Atkins. This type of print is known as a photogram.

I make cyanotypes using the same process as was used 180 years ago. 

How it works

In a dark room, paper is coated with a photosensitive emulsion and left to dry. A 'negative' is created by arranging objects (such as leaves and flowers) on top of the paper. This must also be done away from natural light.

Leaves arranged for a cyanotype project

It is then placed in the sun to be 'exposed'. The paper is then 'developed' in water and can be toned with other solutions (such as tea, coffee or bleach).

The paper is then dried away from sunlight.

The process creates the beautiful blue colours that you will see in my artwork. 

Although it sounds easy it can be quite tricky to get a good image. There are so many variables at every step .. how well you coat the paper, how long you leave the paper to dry, the translucency of the objects you are using, the time it is left in the sun and the intensity of the sunlight. The list goes on...


What I love about it

For a start I have always been drawn to blue things. Just ask my husband who raises his eyebrows every time I come home with yet another blue top LOL. 

But I also love the excitement of seeing what image emerges in the water as the picture develops. You really never know what you are going to get. 

  • Pretty in privet

    One of my favourites. The original cyanotype artwork was created using branches of privet leaves from the garden. It took a while to get just the right ones, but the tree needed a bit of a trim anyway! The leaves were layered between glass panes with a short exposure time in the summer sun.

  • This little vine of mine

    The design is an original cyanotype artwork using a sweet little vine from our garden that I discovered growing in a hedge. The different colours were created by layering the vines between stacked glass panes added at different times during exposure to the sunlight. 

  • The happy orchid

    These little orchids never fail to make me smile. I imagine them giggling away together like a night out with your best girlfriends. They were from a beautiful bunch of flowers gifted to me. The orchid petals had just the right translucency to let a little sunlight through, resulting in the pretty light blue colour you see in the picture.

  • If stars were flowers

    Created with geraniums, agapanthus and hydrangea flowers, this is a 'wet cyanotype' with a hint of vinegar. The background has little flecks that remind me of distant stars and now all I can see is a galaxy of summer flowers floating past in the night sky.

  • Agy up close

    I love this one! There is something a bit magical about the delicate flowers of the agapanthus. This is a close up of a few flowers and you can see how the sunlight has penetrated parts of the flower differently. Where the flower is more translucent, the image is in varying shades of blue. Where the flowers is thicker and more opaque the image is white.

  • Serendipity

    The design is an original cyanotype artwork using leaves from a bush in my mother-in-law's garden. When I spread the tiny leaves out to arrange it for the print it unexpectedly formed this perfect little tree. I love the tinges of colour amongst the leaves that appeared where the sunlight was peeking through to the paper. 

  • Summer breeze

    Agapanthus is one of my favourite plants to work with, although it can also be one of the trickiest. Because the flower head is made up of so many individual flowers you need to carefully dissect it to leave just the right density of plant material to get a useful image. This one seems to have a bit of movement as if it is busy waving around in a summer breeze.

  • Privet and maple

    I am no botanist but my husband has a green thumb so I often rely on his plant identification skills. The white buds you see here are from a privet tree (so I am told) and the layers of leaves behind it are from one of the magnificent maple trees in our garden. The layers were separated by glass panes and added at different timepoints during exposure to the sun.

  • Tiny garden

    These sweet little flowers and leaves really were quite tiny. It took a few attempts and a fair bit of patience to get an image I liked. My goal was to create something that could be made into a repeating pattern - not quite there yet but getting closer! The print used little white daisies, tiny hydrangea flowers and sage.

  • Spring flowers

    This artwork was one of my very first cyanotype prints. It was made with rhododendron, rose, violet and a collection of leaves from the garden. It is a 'wet cyanotype', so the photosensotive emulsion was wet when it was exposed to the sunlight. I threw in some soap bubbles and tumeric for good measure.

  • Timeless tassel

    This design is an original cyanotype made with a gorgeous tassel I spotted in a fabric store. I spent a good while ironing all the bits straight so they would sit right on the paper – there are some bits where the gaps are a little uneven but that actually gives it a bit of movement which I love. It’s a very versatile design as I’ve been able to use various parts of it for different products. 

  • Lovely lucerne

    Hiding around the side of the house was a stray lucerne plant. It was a very still day so I just arranged the stems on the paper and let the sun do it's work. Because it wasn't flattened against the paper with a pane of glass, you get a 3D effect with different shades of blue showing depending on how much light managed to creep through.

  • Hanging around

    An original cyanotype artwork using leaves from a wisteria plant. I am impatiently awaiting the arrival of the beautiful wisteria flowers but for now have had a lot of fun with these striking leaves. The white ones were pressed against the paper with a pane of glass. The others were added later to get the lighter blue colour.

  • Tumble

    This original cyanotype artwork is made with agapanthus flowers. I love the way the light plays around the delicate edges of the flowers and imagine them tumbling past the view provided by the paper. 

  • Feathery fronds

    Took a little snippet of this bush from near our favourite cafe. The tiny leaves give the image a feather-like appearance. Amazing how something that looks quite harsh and hardy in real life can have such an ethereal, delicate alter-ego in print. 

  • Elegant orchids

    These stunning orchids struck an elegant pose as I captured their image in the sunlight. A gift from my lovely sister-in-law, they will continue to bring joy for many years to come. 

  • Three feathers

    My first cyanotype artwork using feathers found in the garden. The stripy ones are from our chooks and the long white one was from a cockatoo. I love the detail in the stripy feathers - you can see how fluffy they are in real life!

  • Privet buds

    This cyanotype artwork was made with a stem of privet buds pressed against the sensitised paper with a glass sheet and some privet leaves arranged on top. You can just see the outline of the leaves in the background. It is amazing how much detail you can see in the stem and buds ... the sun takes great photos!

  • Hydrangea

    Hydrangeas are one of my favourite plants although they are fairly new to our garden. These little cuties were arranged on the paper, spritzed with vinegar and let sit under glass in the sunshine.

  • Faded gum

    This cyanotype artwork was created using gum leaves from a tree at school pick-up. Yes I have become the crazy mum hanging around in the trees and bushes ... sorry kids!. It was a really still day so I just arranged the leaves on the sensitised paper and let the sunlight work its magic.

  • Flower

    This cyanotype artwork was made using a mix of plant parts and photo negatives of hydrangea flowers. Isn't it sweet!