I often get asked the best way to frame a cyanotype so I thought it was time to write a something down!
Original cyanotypes are created using UV light but that doesn't make them UV resistant and if they are constantly exposed to direct, bright UV light (sunlight) they will fade. I always include a note with my cyanotype prints advising my customers not to place the prints in direct sunlight for this reason. They will tolerate daylight but I definitely wouldn't hang them in a very sunny room such as a conservatory for example. It is possible that the blue of a cyanotype print can regenerate if it fades by placing the print in a dark place, such as a cupboard or drawer for example, for a few days. As long as a small amount of oxygen is present they will usually return to their original Prussian blue colour.
Cyanotypes are not recommended for rooms subject to high humidity such as kitchens and bathrooms either. The humidity can affect the paper and damage the print.
I always recommend framing cyanotypes in the traditional way with a solid frame and matted so that the print doesn't touch the glass and there is a small amount of oxygen within the frame. This helps to regenerate the print if it does fade slightly and stops the paper from being in direct contact with the glass which can cause issues if there is high humidity. There are other suitable methods such as float mounting, which is fine as long as the print doesn't come into direct contact with the glass.
Using UV resistant glass will help to prevent some fading but the glass is slightly coloured and this can affect the way the print will look behind the glass.
Storing your cyanotype
Cyanotypes kept in the right conditions can last for a hundred years or more however there are some things you need to be aware of. Cyanotype doesn't like alkaline conditions so don't store unframed cyanotypes in a cardboard box or paper file unless it is a specialist preservation box or file made using unbuffered paper or cardboard. Most paper and card is buffered, which means that calcium carbonate has been added during manufacture to make it archival. This is not good for cyanotypes! I always create my original cyanotype prints on Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag paper because it is a high quality unbuffered paper. I pack my prints in cellophane bags for shipping because I know that the cellophane will not react with the cyanotype to cause any damage during transit. Packing the prints in acid free tissue paper or compostable bags made from cornstarch can damage the prints and cause them to fade which is almost impossible to repair.
In the very worst case if a cyanotype print has faded because of being stored in an alkaline environment you can try to regenerate it by soaking it in an acid bath such as vinegar to counteract the alkalinity but this is only suggested as a last resort and isn't guaranteed to work.
I personally store my unframed prints in an old chest of drawers in loose piles. They are kept in the dark, in a dry, cool environment with plenty of oxygen which helps to keep them in perfect condition before they are framed and/or sold.
I have some of my work hung in frames on my walls at home and haven't had any issues with fading or humidity, so please don't be put off buying a cyanotype. Just make sure that they will be kept in the best conditions possible so that you will still be able to enjoy them for many years to come. After all the historic cyanotype prints created by Anna Atkins in the mid 19th century are still available in museums and galleries around the world for us to continue to enjoy today!