Cyanotype Coffee

So you like Cyanotypes, and you like coffee, and you have some images that are not well suited to being imaged in the Prussian Blue of raw Cyanotype. No problem! Lets make a good desert patina toned print using coffee as the tannic iron replacing the iron that makes a Cyanotype so impressively strident!

First, a short bit on nomenclature:
— gt (or gtt): Abbreviation meaning drops (from the Latin “guttae”)


  • Fluid HP 9x12 watercolor paper. Note that this paper has an alkali buffer, mitigated by 3gt of Citric Acid 40% to neutralize this buffering agent
  • Cyanotype A/B liquid from Photographer’s Formulary
  • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda powder (soda ash, sodium carbonate from a pool/spa supply store)
  • Dark roast instant coffee
  • Citric Acid 40% (optional extra to reduce pH and assist clearing in initial water wash)
  • Tween 20 10% (optional extra to assist emulsion absorption into paper fibers) 
  • Hydrogen Peroxide 3% (typical household concentration)

Chemistry mixes:

  • 1.5ml each Cyanotype A & B, 3gt Citric Acid 40%, 1gt Tween 20 10%
  • 60 minute dry time, 30 minute air in paper safe, 30 minute under fan in paper safe
  • 50ml coffee crystals into 1L 165° water, mix well, cool to room temperature before use
  • 1/4 teaspoon washing soda into 1L 165° water, mix well, use at temperature


  • Apply the Cyanotype A/B emulsion as best you know how, taking care not to overwork the paper
  • Expose 19 minutes with a negative created with the Cyanotype characteristic exposure response

  • Wash 2x in tap water on the order of 5 to 8 minutes to remove all unexposed emulsion. Wash until no more yellowing shows in the water, but not so much as to begin washing away the image itself
  • 3x cap-fulls of hydrogen peroxide into 1L water in flat bottom tray
  • Move print to flat bottom tray and quickly develop the cyanotype until maximum density is reached, upwards of 60 seconds, before the image begins to bleach out due to the other behavior of peroxide with Cyanotype
  • Wash print in tap water to stop the peroxide oxidation action (several rinses)

  • Pour room temperature coffee mix into flat bottom tray and agitate for 10 minutes
  • Wash coffee out of print with fresh water until little residual coffee is released into the water, upwards of 10 minutes

  • Pour hot washing soda bleach mix into tray and agitate. At the 20-25 second mark, pour the bleach out of the tray for a total of 25-30 seconds bleaching action
  • Wash the bleach quickly with agitation in fresh water for several rinses to both stop the bleaching action as well as reduce the pH of the soaked print itself
  • Soak in fresh water for 20 to 30 minutes, replacing the water as it becomes brown with coffee residue

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