Creating Digital Cyanotype Using Photoshop – A Complete Guide

flower, blue, roseCyanotype photography is a highly popular film printing technique which gives a beautiful and appealing, cyan-colored tone to a photo. It was discovered in 1842 by an English scientist Sir John Herschel and used as a tool to reproduce notes and diagrams. The technique was later used by designers and architects to create blue prints.

Creating cyanotype print in earlier days required working with chemicals and using complex processes like contact printing. With the introduction of Adobe Photoshop, these techniques became obsolete. These days, you need not go back to darkroom or work with materials to create a cyanotype. In this post, we see how we can create a digital cyanotype using Photoshop.

Creating digital cyanotype using Photoshop is quite easy and there are numerous ways to do it. Here is the simplest method:

Step 1:
Open Photoshop and pick the Brush tool from the Toolbox. You can choose the type and size of the brush. Now the Options Bar will be active and you can select your color. To have the effect emulate brushstroke rather than a pen, choose a brush with a wide tip.

Use black color initially as the tone is later applied. As the original method used manual techniques, uneven brushstrokes give a nice look. The size of the brush depends on the size of your document.

A photo with black or dark background is easy to blend. But you can use almost any image of your choice. As a cyanotype is achieved by applying light-sensitive emulsion on the paper or surface we print on, the most important essential is a background mimicking the effect. If you are crafty enough, you can buy some paint and brush and create the background yourself.

Scan it and adjust the size and resolution which fits the image you are willing to use. If not, you can make your background digitally as shown here. As we are creating a digital cyanotype, we are using the second method for the background.

Step 2:
Next, open the photo you want to convert into a Cyanotype. Apply some filters to desaturate the image. Go to Hue/Saturation option in Adjustment menu and slide the Saturation slider to the left.

Drag this image to the canvas where you have made the background with brushstrokes. It will get applied as a new layer in the document. Use the corner handles to adjust it to the right size for the background. Then, click on the check mark to get the adjustments applied.

Step 3:
In this step, select the brushstrokes background layer and add the Levels adjustment layer. Adjust the middle tones and black tone to lighten the color such that black turns somewhat dark grey.

Step 4:
In the next step, select the top layer with the image and add an Adjustment layer. Choose Color Balance for this layer. You can make different combinations to get the right shade of blue you desire.

Step 5:
When you have achieved a satisfactory color for your image, consider adding another Adjustment layer to make it less intense. Remember to keep the top layer always selected to ensure that the new layer of adjustment masks all other layers.

Now add a layer of Hue/Saturation and slide the slider to the left. See that you don’t go too much towards the grey otherwise it may not resemble cyanotype then.

Step 6:
In case, the borders of your pasted image are visible, the balance is not right and is not incorporating into the background. Change the Blending Mode for layer to fix the problem. Select the image layer and open Blending Mode menu.

Select Screen or Lighten to get a better result. If you still find some border, use the Eraser tool and reduce the opacity. Select a brush having soft borders and use it to erase for border defusion and make the transition smoother.

After following these steps, you should get your cyanotype. Almost any kind of photo works well with cyanotype look. Though simple images work the best, you can try the technique with different images and find out. The good thing is that creating digital cyanotype with photoshop is easy and doesn’t involve working with chemicals. We hope this tutorial proves to be helpful. Do share your experiences and results in the comments section below.

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