A little while ago I came across the concept of a ‘metallic cyanotype’. A bit of Googling resulted in a lot more Googling and a few ideas.

If my seaweed cyanotypes are more effective on silk than on cotton fabric because the motion of the silk is more fluid than the cotton and so is more in keeping with how we visualise seaweed, would the metallic shimmer follow suit?

I made the following notes from my research:

  1. You need to coat abraided(i) aluminium using photo grade gelatine e.g. AGFA Black Magic Photo Gelatine(ii).
  2. You need to use lacquer to fix it & not polyurethane + a subbing coat of 10% gelatine with a drop of hardener.
  3. Print using a resist mask on aluminium and then anodising(iii).

I had to look various things up because the vocabulary was new to me:

(i) abraided: means scratching the surface of the aluminium using 180 grit sand paper. In my experiment using anodised and painted aluminium, the description of the anodised aluminium stated that the colour coating was 1mm which, had I used the 180 grit sandpaper, I would have scratched the whole colour coating off so I used 2000 grit sandpaper.

(ii) Where to get the photo grade gelatine and what is it called commercially? I came across a site which recommended Rousselot made by SKW Biosystems. Silverprint also does an equivalent: Adox Colloida which is not sensitised, but my plans changed when I saw that the smallest amount you can buy costs £40. This is too expensive for an experiment at this stage of my ignorance on the subject.

(iii). I had come across the process of anodising in my physics lessons at school but I learned that anodising aluminium leaves a porous structure that allows for secondary processes such as colouring or sealing. At this point I decided to look for small pieces of basic anodised aluminium.

My initial research produced the following sources: Harrison & Harrison craft suppliers. Their biggest pieces were 100mm square but they were all anodised AND painted. I chose the gold square which cost just over £7.

Catherine, a fellow photographer / experimenter, suggested Jackson’s art blog on aluminium painting panels. The prices on here were too high for me at the moment.

My husband, who works with wood and metals, looked it up in his links and found an eBay link to Satin Anodised Aluminium Sheets. I found that their product is much cheaper than the others and so I ordered a piece which, I hope will be here soo.

The Harrison & Harrison gold square looked like this:

Gold painted anodised aluminium square

Both sides were painted so I experimented: I braided one side and brushed on the cyanotype. I then waited for it to dry and then put two plant materials on it and exposed it to a UV lamp, washed and dried it.

I then brushed it with hydrogen peroxide:

Fixed with hydrogen peroxide.

On the reverse side, I did not abrade the surface but just applied cyanotype mix to it and arranged plant material on it. I exposed it to UV, washed and dried it:

Post exposure to UV for 8 minutes.

I then washed and dried it.

Washed and dried, the gold is very visible.

The piece had a piece of sticky tape on it when it arrived. I removed it but it left part of the adhesive behind (about 2 thirds of the way down on the left) I quite like the effects on this. I then brushed it with hydrogen peroxide & this is what came up:

Quite a dramatic effect post-fixing but the gold has gone to a large extent.

I was quite pleased with the experiments from the point of view that I realise that I can paint with cyanotype directly on the coloured side without abraiding the anodised aluminium.

I played with painting this first experiment by painting over the flowers using acrylic paint because I like the image with the plant material still on the plate.

It’s a lot harder than it looks to get the right colours for fuchsias.

The photo wins!

3 thoughts on “Metallic cyanotypes experiments

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