Cyanotypes on Fabric

cyanotype on fabric

What is a cyanotype

Cyanotype is an alternative photographic process. It is also known as a blueprint and it is considered among the easiest of all the alternative photography methods and ideal for beginners to start with and schools to teach. The characteristic of Cyanotypes is the blue colour of the print.

In the cyanotype printing process  paper or other materials are hand coated with a 2 part solution and after drying the material is contact printed with negatives or objects under the sun or a UV (Ultra Violet) light source. The print is washed out in water, no fixing chemicals are needed.

Is it the same to cyanotype on paper and fabric

Our cyanotype sets can be used on fabrics, the process is similar whether you print on paper or fabric. 

The main differences between cyanotype on fabric and paper are:

  • fabrics will absorb more of the solution so you will have to apply more than you would on paper
  • you might have to adjust exposure times, cyanotypes will take slightly longer to expose on cloth

What you need to create cyanotype prints on fabric

cyanotype on fabric
  • Cyanotype set
  • Brush
  • Fabric suitable for the cyanotype process, natural fabrics work best (100% cotton, silk, linen, bamboo)
  • glass or perspex and backplate 
  • objects that have interesting shapes or are semitransparent, leaves, plants etc.
  • Water in a tub to wash out the prints after they have been exposed
  • and sunshine 

An outline of the cyanotype process:

  • Mix chemicals A & B in equal amounts.
  • Coat your fabric.
  • Let it dry completely.
  • Place your artwork on the coated fabric and expose in sunlight or under UV lamp
  • Wash out in water.
  • Let it dry.

It’s that easy.

Prepare your fabric

cyanotype coating fabric

The fabric should be a natural fibre like cotton, linen, silk etc. It should be clean, if it has been prewashed make sure there is no chemical residue left as this can interfere with the print.

Put some newspaper or other covering down to protect your work surface. You will need to work in a low light area, away from windows and natural light. Low power Led lighting emits very low levels of UV so should be safe to work under.

Mix equal amounts of the A and B solutions from the cyanotype set and brush it evenly on the fabric. You can use a foam brush or a normal brush.

The coated fabric has to dry completely before use. It is best to coat it the day before exposing and let it air dry overnight somewhere dark.

cyanotype coated fabric

Let's print

When you are ready to make your print you can gather objects, anything will do, it’s up to your imagination.

You can use plants, leaves, flowers, paper cut outs or even household objects.  Children can have fun with this process as long as they are supervised.  You can also print your own stencils or digital negatives of photographs on transparency films.


cyanotype fabric design

Lay out your dried fabric on top of a backboard and then arrange the design elements on top of your fabric. It’s a good idea to hold the objects down with some perspex or glass so that they get a close contact with the cloth, you can use the  glass from an old picture frame, remove any sharp edges. Some objects can just be placed on the fabric, if they are heavy enough they won’t blow away. When you composed and prepared your print and you are ready to expose it, put it outside in the sun and watch it change in colour.

exposing cyanotype fabric

As the cyanotype is exposed in the sun it will turn from yellow/green to a blueish and finally a grey colour. This is when the print is done. This can take from a couple of  minutes on a summer day  to 5-15 minutes on cloudy days or  half an hour to an hour in the winter, it depends on the weather, season and the strength of the sun.  You can use our calculator for an estimate of exposure  time for the time of year. 

Exposed cyanotype

When you print is fully exposed, you can wash the print in flowing water in a large tray or tub. Change the water a few times until the yellow is wased out from the white areas of the fabric.  

washing cyanotpe

When your fabric is well rinsed, either hang it up to dry or lay it out flat on paper/cloth towels. The print will turn a beautiful blue colour that will deepen even more during the drying process.

drying a cyanotype fabric

How to care for your print

Fabrics can be hand or machine washed gently. You might want to test your soap or detergent on a piece of cyanotyped fabric to be sure it won’t affect the print. Washing powder containing alkaline chemicals or phosphate will bleach and fade the prints. Don’t use fabric softener or bleach. 

Iron with a cool iron and with a cloth on top.

Finished cyanotypes might fade if stored in direct sunlight.

Related Tutorials

Shopping Cart