Cyanotype & Alternate Processes.

I started experimenting with cyanotype several years ago as I wanted to be able to produce prints of my photography at home. I started out using digital negatives but soon I was working with botanicals, feathers, found objects, gold leaf, wet cyanotype and sewing my pictures with threads.

The wet cyanotype process is simple and addictive, by introducing various kitchen chemicals (vinegar, lemon juice, washing soda), salt, spices and natural dyes (turmeric, paprika, coffee grounds and plant material) a variety of textures, colours and tones can be produced.


I also create prints using the traditional cyanotype method and digital negatives I make of my own photography.

jo stephen cyanotype
Starlings cyanotype

I’ve experimented with the cyanotype process on many surfaces, and on found objects such as bones, wood and stone. I like to use natural materials where possible and don’t use cling wrap as some do because of the negative environmental impacts of single use plastic.

peacock feathers
Peacock feathers, here the balance of chemicals in the3 cyanotype solution has been adjusted to produce different colours in the final prints.

Peacock feathers are possibly my favourite subject for wet cyanotype. I lived in India as a teenager and they evoke so many happy memories of the country. I also think that the blues in the cyanotype mirror the colours in the bird. The bodhi leaves below are also inspired by my love of India.

Bodhi leaves.

Using cyanotype chemicals on expired photographic paper produces a broader range of colours than using art papers and the images below have been created using this method and exposing them to the Dorset sun for several hours.

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Cyanolumen prints, wet cyanotype technique on old photographic paper.

One of the things I most enjoy during the wet cyanotype process is watching the prints develop. This is particularly striking duing the first ten or fifteen minutes after exposing the print to the light source. Coulurs will fade away and then return, deepen and change.

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10x10cm square wet cyanotype with bracken, before and after developing.

Egg shell is another favourite medium I like to work on. Living in a little village I have many neighbours with chickens and a constant supply of eggs from happy hens. I also find the odd pheasant egg in the garden and keep an eye out for broken song bird egg shells on walks.

jo stephen cyanotype
Fragile worlds – a series of botanical  cyanotype in egg shell which are then gilded with gold leaf.

As well as creating photograms with cyanotype I am exploring the anthotype process, combining my love of print making with botany.  The first print is created using an emulsion of daffodil petals and the second from an emulsion of red rose petals, in both instances painted on watercolour paper and these were then exposed to a winter sun.

Fern anthotypes

The pastel colours, natural process and impermanence of the work really excite me and I am in the process of creating a series of prints from the leaves and flowers in my garden during the lockdown. Another natural print making process I like to experiment with is ecoprinting, in this process natural pigments are drawn from botanical subjects using steam.

Ecoprints on water colour paper.

I’ve also produced a beginners guide to creating wet cyanotype as a PDF, so if you’d like to try the process, you can download it by clicking on this link: cyanotype handout

Imagined landscape with salt

Please visit the galleries via the menu above to see more of my alternate process work. As with most of the site, they are organic and I will be adding more work to them as I create it. Thank you.