Cyanotype Fern Prints Tutorial by Renae Davis

I was researching some ideas the other day and something popped up on my feed that I had seen before in passing but it didn’t really register in my mind of how lovely it was! My tastes have changed over the years and so has my willingness to try to make things on my own.

I discovered up cyanotype printing (aka photographic blueprints). Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. Engineers used the process well into the 20th century as a simple and low-cost process to produce copies of drawings, referred to as blueprints. The process uses two chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide (Wikipedia).

Most people don’t have those certain chemicals casually laying around the house but we artists and crafters do have access to lovely blue inks and acrylics don’t we? (: So let’s make some prints! I’m going to show you how to do a typical cyanotype mock up and then the reverse print.

The Crafter’s Workshop provided me with some product to create this project. The opinions I share are solely my own.

TCW243 Ferns Stencil taped down onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with painters tape
TCW243 Ferns Stencil taped down onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with painters tape

Begin by taping down 12×12 TCW243 Ferns Stencil with painters tape on top of one sheet of TCW9051 Watercolor Paper to a clean work surface. Be sure to cover up any open stencil design that you do not want to show.

Brea Reese Masking fluid with cosmetic sponge through TCW243 Ferns Stencil taped down onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with painters tape
Brea Reese Masking fluid with cosmetic sponge through TCW243 Ferns Stencil taped down onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with painters tape

Use a clean cosmetic sponge to sponge on a heavy layer of masking fluid through the stencil. I’m using Brea Reese Masking Fluid because it’s not as sticky as other ones I’ve used and it cleans up great! Please note that this will not go on perfectly because of the nature of the medium and the stencil BUT that is exactly what we want because cyanotype prints are not perfect. They have blurred edges and smudges. (Just don’t go too crazy with the imperfections..)

Brea Reese Masking fluid through TCW243 Ferns Stencil taped down onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with painters tape
Brea Reese Masking fluid through TCW243 Ferns Stencil taped down onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with painters tape

If you haven’t used masking fluid before then you need to know that it needs to air dry- it is not one of those things that can you heat set (sorry my impatient friends…) Once the stencil has been removed, clean your stencil well with soap and water, making sure there is no masking residue remaining on the stencil.

Tape down the edges of the paper with painters tape.

Use a stylus tool to clean up Brea Reese Masking fluid through TCW243 Ferns Stencil taped down onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with painters tape
Use a stylus tool to clean up Brea Reese Masking fluid through TCW243 Ferns Stencil taped down onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with painters tape

The edges will not be perfect. Use a stylus tool to push any excess masking fluid back into the design.

Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Spray in Faded Jeans through TCW243 Ferns Stencil taped down onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with painters tape
Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Spray in Faded Jeans through TCW243 Ferns Stencil taped down onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with painters tape

Spray a generous amount of spray ink onto your paper. I chose Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Spray in Faded Jeans. (Salty Ocean and Blueprint Sketch would be a lovely color choices too.) Heat set the paper while trying to avoid the tape edges as well as the masked imaged. Masking fluid will shrink with excessive heat exposure.

Water droplets on Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Spray in Faded Jeans on  TCW9051 Watercolor Paper
Water droplets on Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Spray in Faded Jeans on  TCW9051 Watercolor Paper 

What’s a cyanotype print without a few dust particles right? Spritz or splash some water droplets all over the print using a Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Sprayer or a small paint brush. Let the water sit for a few seconds to penetrate the ink layers before blotting up the excess with a paper towel.

Paper towel removing excess Ranger Tim Holtz Faded Jeans Distress Oxide ink from masking fluid through TCW243 Ferns Stencil on  TCW9051 Watercolor Paper
Paper towel removing excess Ranger Tim Holtz Faded Jeans Distress Oxide ink from masking fluid through TCW243 Ferns Stencil on  TCW9051 Watercolor Paper 

With a very lightly damp paper towel, clean off the excess ink leftover on top of the masking fluid of the fern. Switch to a dry paper towel to get as much of the ink off as you can.

Eraser removing masking fluid through TCW243 Ferns Stencil on  TCW9051 Watercolor Paper
Eraser removing masking fluid through TCW243 Ferns Stencil on  TCW9051 Watercolor Paper 

Removing the masking fluid will take some effort. I personally like using my fingertips for most of it but it can wear them out after a while. You can also use a variety of erasers to pick up the rubber mask.

Dr. PH Martin's Bleed Proof White on TCW243 Ferns Stencil design on  TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with small paint brush
Dr. PH Martin’s Bleed Proof White on TCW243 Ferns Stencil design on  TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with small paint brush

Should there be any blue spots or torn places throughout the fern, use Dr. PH Martins Bleed Proof White diluted with water and a small paint brush to cover up any part you want.

Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Ink Pad in Faded Jeans through TCW243 Ferns Stencil onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with blending brush
Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Ink Pad in Faded Jeans through TCW243 Ferns Stencil onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with blending brush

On a separate sheet of  TCW9051 Watercolor Paper  for the reverse image, use the same Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide in Faded Jeans in the ink pad and using a blending tool through a different fern of TCW243 Ferns Stencil. My favorite blender is the makeup brush blenders (from Dollar Tree) because they blend effortlessly and provide crisp details. Feel free to tape down your stencil with painters tape if you need to.

Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Ink Pad in Faded Jeans through TCW243 Ferns Stencil onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with blending brush
Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Ink Pad in Faded Jeans through TCW243 Ferns Stencil onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper with blending brush

Rotate the TCW243 Ferns Stencil to the last fern on the stencil. Repeat the process above to finish out the stencil design on the second sheet.

Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Ink Spray in Faded Jeans splatters with TCW243 Ferns Stencil onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper
Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Ink Spray in Faded Jeans splatters with TCW243 Ferns Stencil onto TCW9051 Watercolor Paper

For reverse style dust particles, unscrew the spray nozzle of Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Ink Pad in Faded Jeans and splatter various droplets all over the page. You now have two print designs you can hang anywhere in your home or studio. This technique will look great with any stencil you choose!!!

Renae Davis, The Crafter’s Workshop Design Team Member

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