Lumen & Cyan

*Watch for my Lumen Printing workshop at SPAO this summer (2019)

Lumen Printing

is a contact printing process that can make use of aged and badly fogged silver gelatin photographic papers***. In this case regular photographic enlarging paper is sandwiched in contact with objects, and exposed in full sun for a length of time (usually 20 min. – several hours).

The finished image does not require ‘development’.*** It is simply ‘fixed’ in photographic fixer chemistry and may be toned. Botanical specimens generally work best, because the plant juices can locally dye the paper, and induce formation of penumbra. Extreme over-exposure to ultra-violet light can produce surprising colours from normal black and white photographic enlarging papers!


Prior to ‘fixing’ a print, one can ‘paint’ an image with normal print ‘developer’ to create local detail in the print* (as was done here with Laced Banana). Finished Lumen print may also be toned, as is done with normal B&W prints.

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If the photographic paper is ‘painted’ with fixer, prior to exposure to the sun, you can achieve a ‘liquid emulsion’ look to your lumen print*.

Normal darkroom printing, can be combined with lumen….to achieve interesting combinations of B&W with colours of lumen, on the same paper*.


Photographic film can be used in place of light sensitive photographic paper, for lumen process. Again, the results may have beautiful colour tones. The film emulsion may be “painted” with photographic chemistry before, during or after exposure to add chemigram-type elements to the image, as one does with photographic paper*. This is a great way to make use of expired and badly fogged sheet film.

Lumen_negPrint006tk     Lumen-printed film image of lettuce leaf, over B&W print of manequin.

Lumen Printing TK


This gallery contains examples of my experimentation with cyanotype process. Images made mainly from large format film negatives, also incorporating various objects as photogram elements. Beyond the basic cyan colour, images may be toned with coffee, tea, wine tannin, and other substances. ****All are digital scans  from original prints.


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cyanotype – preparing your own papers/materials*

cyanotype-printing – process for making print*

Summary of history – Wikipedia*


Cyanotype process was once a relatively cheap and easy way to ‘proof’ negatives.


X-ray film can be a cost-effective way to make large negative for contact printing. Unfortunately the exposure time can be very long (an hour or more), likely due to base material of the film.


Here is image made from x-ray negative onto cyan coated water-colour paper. Exposure strips made at 15 minute intervals. Final image made with 1 hour full sun.


I have also tried printing a negative with an ordinary document printer, onto ordinary white paper. The exposure time is also very long (over 90 minutes), but did result in good image*


Here is original classic cyan print, and same image after bleaching with household AMMONIA and re-developing/toning in cool brew of BLACK TEA.  Although almost any alkali may be used to bleach out cyan colour, I’ve found ammonia to give best result when you intend to tone image.

If you do not ‘bleach’ out the blue cyan, before toning, the blue is tinted by the tea/tannin. Also the base colour of the paper is tinted* Tea tends to make cyan blue more muted like faded blue jeans, with white paper becoming a beige tone. Wine tannin will tint cyan blue to a deep purple and stain paper base a pale pink.


In addition to using film or digital negative, cyanotype process can be used for photogram. This image made from steel coils onto classic cyan prepared paper, then bleached with ammonia and toned with wine tannin. I’ve used commercial wine tannin for deepest red tones.