Emulsion Test: 1 coat or 2?

Untitled cyanotype: right, 2 coats - left, 1 coat

I’m still getting the hang of this scanner thing.  Bear with me if the files are screwy or the color is off.  Each print was exposed for 8 minutes of full, midday sun.  Both were developed in a 1:10 vinegar to water  solution, popped into a hydrogen peroxide solution for 30 seconds, and final rinsed for 10 minutes (after clearing the highlights for an insane 30 minutes or more.)

After an exhaustive paper test a few months back, I finally settled on Canson watercolor paper.  The student version is handy for tests and random files, but tends to warp and stain because of its thinness.  I prefer the Montval version for the stiffness and deep blue color.   Not that I like the blue color, but the deeper the blue, the darker blacks you get from toning. 

The problem is, I’ve had issues with the Montval – both at the toning stage and the initial rinse stage.  I theorize that the thickness of the paper  makes it difficult for the highlights to clear and the toning solution to penetrate the paper.  Today’s test batch took longer than normal;  about 30 minutes of sitting in water for the highlights to clear, meaning that any highlight detail I initially had ended up washing away.  Since this batch was for the purpose of experimenting with toners and coating, I’m not too fussed about the highlights.      

For the purpose of this test though, highlight details aside, it’s clear to me that double coating the paper adds a depth to the shadows that I’ve struggled to get with digital negatives.  It’s super evident in the right image, because the top right corner is double coated across half of the corner.   Sadly, this means that I can’t use my special secret ingredient for a bit of gloss (add a tiny bit of acrylic gloss/varnish to the emulsion.)   It also means that it’s even easier to overexpose the print than ever, making toning unpredictable and tricky.  More so than it already is, that is!  I think somehow I’m roughing up the paper texture when I apply the emulsion – sizing might help with that.  I’ve tried sizing this paper before, but I can’t remember how that turned out in my super stack of discarded prints.

Next up, toning this batch and seeing if double coating works with a tannic acid toner.  I’m always trying to get as close to a black as I can, but I’m really fine with any tone color as long as it retains the contrast.  I hate hate hate the tendency of toned cyanotypes to go flat and blah.


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