Cyanotype DIY Napkins | Whitney Beth Photography
Over the summer while I was pregnant I tried to do at least one “fun thing” a day with my kids. I didn’t want me being pregnant to totally take on the whole persona of summer vacation. But it also had to be doable for a 9 month pregnant lady.
I’ve done sun printing with my kids before with pre prepped sheets of paper, and that was fun, but I think we had evolved and wanted something more. I had never actually mixed the chemicals or prepped the surface myself before – so this was something new for everyone! For Christmas Danny got my cyanotype chemicals and I had been saving them for a rainy day (or should I say sunny? lol) I knew it was going to be a lot of work, so to make it worth it for everyone, I bough plain, white, cotton napkins to print on. That way we could use them and the boys could have fun designing them. I also thrifted a jean jacket to print on the back panel.
For starters, I should have really read ALL the instructions before we got started. We had gathered all the foliage and flowers and were ready to go, so the dry time between application could have been better, but it still worked.
I mixed the solution in my dark laundry room to prevent any pre exposing. For this part, just follow the instructions on the bottle. This is the kit I used. I also used cardboard to go underneath it for easy transportation and application.
After the solution was painted on, I had to let everything dry. Because the cotton napkins absorbed so much of the liquid I brought in some box fans to my laundry room to speed up the process.
While that was drying I prepped our station. I set out all the ferns and leaves and flowers the boys and I had collected and got them ready. (For my jacket I used peonies I planted after my first miscarriage, so it’s extra sentimental to me now.) This is a time sensitive project, so you’ll need to move quickly. We even went as far as to have our design generally laid out and ready to go.
Once the napkins were as dry as they were going to get before we lost our light. (it turned into a cloudy day.) I brought them out and told the boys to place their foliage on the napkins.
The way the solution works is like a photo developer. Anywhere that is covered up by a leaf or flower or whatever does not get exposed. Whereas the exposed areas are hit with the light and the reaction happens.
After they were done arranging I placed panes of glass on top of the creations and brought them outside to the driveway. This is where I wish the napkins were fully bone dry. The condensation built up under the glass and prevented a crisp image – which was the whole purpose of the glass in the first place! (That and to make sure the leaves don’t blow away.)
We left them outside for about half an hour. The packaging says less time, but since it was cloudy I let them go longer. I also removed the glass about halfway through.
Once the exposed areas had turned a copper color it was time to rinse! I set up a rinse station in a shallow tote that I have and began running hose water over the napkins. You’ll need to do this until the water runs clear.
Once it is clear, hang them to dry. After they were dried I gave them a quick press with the iron on low heat. You’ll want to make sure to iron the backside since heat can have a negative effect on freshly exposed cyanotypes.
And they are done! Not only do I love them, but so do my kids! They love talking about how we made them and using them at the table. Win win for everyone!