Impromptu Residency (Day 4)

Jul 6, 2018 / Photography / experiments

Maple Leaves
Maple Leaves. Experiments in Cyanotype Toning with Bleach


Day 4 was hard. The euphoria of this impromptu residency dissipated, and I sailed into the doldrums. I’m on a journey after all, and the wind kind of disappeared. You can read day 1, day 2, and day 3 here.

So what happened on day 4?

Bostick & Sullivan Cyanotype Toning Kit

I wanted to do one last experiment on toning. As I was rummaging through my cabinets during day 3, I forgot that years ago, I bought a Bostick & Sullivan cyanotype toning kit and never used it. So I decided to finally see what it can do.

Bostick & Sullivan Toning Kit
Bostick & Sullivan Toning Kit.


The toning kit comes in two bottles. Solution A is 14% potassium carbonate and Solution B is a 40% tannic solution. A quick google search revealed that both are essentially harmless: the first is used in making soap and food(!), and the second is something that can be extracted from tea.

So what were the results?

cyanotype paper toned from blue to yellow and brown
Experiment in Cyanotype Toning. Bostick & Sullivan Cyanotype Toning Kit


I had my value tables ready and I brushed one with just solution A. The alkaline potassium carbonate reacts with the iron in the cyanotype to produce a yellow color. I then went further and brushed Solution B (the tannic solution), which produced a brownish…purple? It’s looks like eggplant. There’s also a faded quality to it. Getting a really deep shadow will be difficult.

I compared the yellow produced by potassium carbonate vs bleach from day 2.

Experiment in Toning
Experiment in Toning. Bleach vs Potassium Carbonate


The first one is toned with bleach and the second with potassium carbonate. They’re both yellowish. Maybe the tone produced by potassium carbonate is more green. This could also just be because of how long I toned each one. I actually prefer potassium carbonate as it’s odorless, unlike bleach.

More Toning Possibilities

At this point, I realize I could go on and do toning forever. There are many materials to try. People tone cyanotype with coffee, different types of tea, red wine, etc. Maybe in the future I will experiment with these. The holy grail for cyanotype is to produce black - for black/white prints. Red would be good as well. We need chemist-photographers.

Shooting Outside

I also did some shooting outside. The weather was muggy. This is when I hit the doldrums. I was just walking for about 2 hours.

I wanted to create an image incorporating what I’ve learned from my toning experiments this week. I was drawn to silhouettes of treetops and leaves.

Shooting Session of Treetops
Shooting Session of Treetops. Adobe Lightroom View, before downloading images


None really excited me. I was tired and my shirt was wet from the humidity.

Then I thought, I need something simpler.

I took some leaves and photographed them.

Back in the studio, I created a digital negative, contact printed it onto a cyanotype print previously toned with bleach from day 2.

The result is the headline image for this blog post. I still can’t believe this is cyanotype, it’s unlike any image I’ve created before.

That’s it for day 4!

For Day 5, I will be printing some potential images from Part III of A Million Suns, incorporating insights gained from the toning experiments this week.

Go back to day 3 or go forward to day 5.

About the Author

Jonah Calinawan

Hello! I’m Jonah Calinawan, and I create cyanotype art that makes you think and feeds the soul. I also blog about the quest for a meaningful life using art and positivity.

When not shooting photos or writing, I teach myself piano and recommend Josh Wright’s Propractice tutorials (affiliate link).

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May 2019 Studio Update
Impromptu Residency (Day 5)
Impromptu Residency (Day 3)

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