The Art of Cyanotype – Blending Digital and Traditional with Peter Wilkin

Some images stop you in your tracks. This gorgeous poetical, piece by Peter Wilkin did exactly that and after enjoying the gorgeous colours and brittle textures I just had to find out how this exquisite image was created. 

Mobile Artist, Peter Wilkin shares his secrets on how he creates these gorgeous artworks which combine traditional photography with digital editing techniques using Procreate app.

Peter Wilkin lives in Lothersdale, North Yorkshire, England. He is an international, award-winning mixed media artist who uses both digital and conventional methods, including mobile photography (iPhone and iPad), acrylics, cyanotypes and gilding.

His art is strongly influenced by his experiences & insights gained during a lengthy career as a psychiatric nurse & psychotherapist.

His inspiration to create is prompted mainly by nature, music, poetry and literature . On other occasions a single moment in time ~ an epiphany ~ will prove to be the forerunner to a new piece of art.

Creating the Cyanotype

The process begins by creating a ‘wet’ Cyanotype. Instead of creating a regular Cyanotype, you coat your paper with the chemicals in the usual way and then give it a few fine sprays of cold water before you lay out your foliage (or whatever materials you’re using) onto it. 

With this particular image I then sprinkled on pinches of turmeric and paprika. I then added big spoonfuls of frothy soapy water (created by whisking washing up liquid into a bowl of water and prepared beforehand) randomly over the paper. In the next stage I crumpled up a few pieces of cling film and placed those on top before placing a sheet of glass over the top and securing it to the backing board with clamps. The backing board is actually an old picture frame; it works perfectly). And then, instead of the usual 10-ish minutes I would leave for an ordinary Cyanotype, I left this one under the sun for ninety minutes. 

The Cyanotype ready to go under the sun.

Once it had ‘cooked’, I took a series of photos during the process up to achieving the final image. Basically, once the Cyanotype has been rinsed in cold water it is then ‘set’, ie you have an image that has completely finished developing. 

The Cyanotype after being under the sun

The Cyanotype before taking away foliage and rinsing in cold water
The Cyanotype ready to be rinsed.
The Cyanotype after rinsing but still in the water.

Editing in Procreate

I then take a photo of it with my iPhone and layer that onto a high res canvas in Procreate. This is, of course, tricky because you’ll never get the two images to match perfectly. But I’ve found that doesn’t matter ~ you’ll be able to get it somewhere near and that works fine. 

A digitally cropped version to begin working with.

Then the fun begins. I layer in whichever versions I like best (e.g. the photo of the piece before placing it in the sun, the photo of the piece after the sun but before it was rinsed etc etc. sometimes I’ll play with three or four versions to achieve a final image). When doing so I go through all the blending options (Normal, Soft Light, Pin Light, Multiply etc etc) before I arrive at a point where I’m happy.

Four different stages of the ‘playing’ process before reaching the point of thinking, “Hmmm! I quite like that.”.

Alternatively I occasionally follow the same process but in iColorama, using the grey slider to fragment each added layer for effect.

Thanks to Peter for sharing his process. Peter is currently Artist in Residence at the Mill Bridge Gallery, Skipton in the UK. Click here to find out more about the show and here to visit Peter’s website.

Nicki FitzGerald
  • Nancy Stone Sherman

    This is fascinating! I never knew what a cyanotype was. Peter is an amazing artist!

    4 December 2023 at 17:52 Reply
    • Nicki FitzGerald

      Yes, Peter is full of surprises – a very talented guy!

      8 December 2023 at 12:00 Reply

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