How to Create a Cyanotype in Adobe® Photoshop®

How to Create a Cyanotype in Adobe® Photoshop®

This post was updated on November 13th, 2018

Learning Post-Processing


In this article, I am going to explain how to create a Cyanotype from a color photo with the help of Adobe® Lightroom® and Adobe® Photoshop®.

Unfortunately, Google® announced to stop the NIK Collection’s development. This makes it uncertain as for how long it will be usable, as future versions of operating systems might no longer support it. My attempts at creating similar Cyanotypes in Adobe® Lightroom® have so far failed; I seem to be incapable of reproducing the same quality I am used to from the NIK Collection. So I decided to learn the basics of Adobe® Photoshop® to see if this would help me in my journey to replace the NIK Collection in the future.

In this tutorial, I am going to show the destructive approach of converting a photo into a monochrome image. This means my adjustments will change the image directly, they will not add masks to the layer that later on could be easily removed or changed. In a later article, I am going to show how to achieve the same results in a non-destructive way.

Opening a photo from Lightroom® in Photoshop®

The base for this tutorial is an HDR photo that I created from five different exposures of the same location in Photomatix® Pro 5. A single exposure image would also have made a suitable base for this type of conversion.

To open this photo from Lightroom® in Photoshop® I choose Photo -> Edit In -> Edit In Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.

A pop-up window opens to ask how you want to work with the file:

I chose “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments” as it will keep the file in Lightroom® intact and give me a copy to work with. This way I will keep my initial color version intact while saving the step of creating a Virtual Copy of it in Lightroom® before editing in Photoshop®.

In Photoshop® another pop-up window opens leaving me with three choices for the color profile: the one that is embedded in the file, a sRGB profile, or discarding all use of color management. Since I am using the widest color profile, ProPhoto RGB, in Lightroom®, I am going to keep this for my work in Photoshop® as well.

Converting the photo into a monochrome version

Having a close look in the right panel under the Layers section reveals that this particular layer is partly locked for processing. This type of lock means that I can use the Healing tool directly on this layer. However, I am not allowed to convert this layer into a monochrome image. Clicking on the lock-symbol would open this layer for all post-processing work within Photoshop®. I, however, choose to duplicate the layer, so that my original photo will not be changed. This will make it easy for me to go back to the original, should I dislike the outcome of my post-processing work at some point and want to start over again.

To duplicate the layer of the imported photo, I am right-clicking on the original layer and choose Duplicate Layer… from the menu. Alternatively, I could have chosen Layer -> Duplicate Layer… from the menu.
A pop-up window will open asking for a name for the new layer; I change the suggested name to Cyanotype to keep my panel organized.

My panel looks now like this:

To convert the new layer into a monochrome layer, I choose Image -> Adjustments -> Black and White. In the Black and White pop-up window, I make sure that the check box for Preview is selected. This allows me to see what effect my adjustments have before saving those down to the layer.

The result is a monochrome image preview:

Improving the monochrome version

The initial black and white conversion that Photoshop® suggests is a good starting point, but I do want my blue sky to stand out more from the green trees. Therefore I am changing the Blues to a darker value, by moving their slider to the left.

While this darkens most of the sky, it leaves some brighter area of sky close to the tree on the left side. Therefore I am also changing the Cyans to a slightly darker value.

I am not satisfied yet. I do believe that the original green colored areas should stand out a little more and be brighter than what they do now. So I am going to change the greens and yellows to slightly brighter colors by moving their sliders to the right. I am also changing the reds to a slightly brighter tone in order to make the bricks and the roof of the building stand out a little more.

Converting a black and white into a cyanotype

Now I have a decent base for a monochrome photo which I am going to convert into a cyanotype. To add the necessary blue tint to the black and white photo, I am crossing off the Tint box in the pop-up window and set the color for the tint by moving the Hue slider to a value of 228. I could instead have defined a color by clicking on the colored square next to the word tint, but I prefer to watch the changes made to the photo while moving the slider.

The result so far is a pretty blue toned photo, which in my opinion is a little too far into the blues, I would like a more subtle effect. Therefore I am now changing the saturation of the Tint to a lower percentage value.

too saturated version of Cyanotype

Removing the lens flare

The result so far is a nice subtle Cyanotype. However, I am not quite satisfied yet, the lens flare, which wasn’t too disturbing in the color version, is not to my liking in the Cyanotype. So I am using the Spot Healing Brush Tool to paint over the lens flare areas.

Removing Lensflare from the cyanotype

While I can get rid of most of the lens flare, some close to tower’s roof remains, as I have not found a way yet how to remove it without changing the brick’s layout.

Increasing the contrast and brightness of the image

I am still not 100% satisfied with my work. In my opinion, it lacks a little bit of contrast, therefore I am adding an Adjustment from the Adjustments panel.

First version of the cyanotype

This choice adds a new Brightness and Contrast mask layer to the layer panel. Since increasing the contrast darkened the image, I am also increasing the brightness by moving the brightness slider in the same pop-up window.

Improvements on the cyanotype

I am satisfied with the result that I was able to achieve with these few adjustments. So I am going to save this photo and close Photoshop®, which automatically imports the new file into Lightroom®.

Akershus festning - cannon in front of the Stallgården Final Cyanotype

All trademarks and copyrighted items mentioned are the property of their respective owners. All photos were taken by Lille Ulven photography.

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