A new technique for TMDCo. - Cyanotype Printing

behind the scenes blue cyanotype printing

Cyanotype printing is a centuries old printing technique that uses the sun and reactive chemicals to achieve gorgeous blue prints.
(Fun Fact: That's the origin of the "blueprint" used by interior designers and architects!)
When I found out you could just as easily use the cyanotype technique on fabric as you could paper, I was eager to try. The technique is most commonly used with natural items like leaves and flowers, but I decided to experiment with my own illustrations drawn in sharpie on clear plastic. This allowed me to create a repeatable pattern I could use over and over.
Butterfly Design for Cyanotype Printing Plastic overlay to transfer cyanotype butterfly design
I created a layout sized for a bandana on the computer, overlay a sheet of plastic, and began to copy the layout using a sharpie.
transfer on plastic for cyanotype printed butterfly design
Before completing the design I wanted to test how well my technique worked (since the illustration was very time intensive!)
To print, there are two chemicals that need to be mixed. Once they are mixed they will begin to develop instantly upon UV exposure, so I mixed them in the evening in the basement and applied them there. The fabric needed to dry so it hang in the dark. Before development the chemical appears a bright green-yellow.
I lay the plastic sheet with my illustration over the top of the treated fabric while still in the basement, and brought it outside. As it develops it turns a steely blue.
This is the test swatch with the initial section of butterfly print. I experimented with both my scarf fabric and the white denim I use for tea towels and napkins.
The result was incredible! The butterflies printed cleanly but I noticed the two different sharpies I used caused the print to appear different, so that's something to consider.
I also decided to purchase hard acrylic sheets to illustrate on so that there are no wrinkles or bubbles when I print. All in all, it was a great first experiment.
This is the print on the scarf fabric. You can see at the bottom left where the fabric was folded on itself and it didn't develop there at all.
This is the denim. Another cool aspect of this method is the border can be painted in an organic way if I like, or retain brush strokes, or be applied completely straight. The denim ended up looking much more blue, I assume because it could absorb more of the printing liquid.
What's Next?
My plan is to design three layouts - butterflies, mushrooms, and leaves. I plan to print these on scarves and also create some smaller art prints and small items like sketchbooks and bookmarks with the technique as well. Which do you want to see? Leave a comment and tell me!
Expect to see some TMDCo. cyanotype pieces mid October!

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  • Jeri Klein on

    omg butterfly bookmarks please!! (and love how you used the social media outage and sent this email out knowing people would be excited to get emails today – Bravo!!)


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