How-to: Make a UV LED box for cyanotype prints

In this article, I’m going to show you how to make a Cyanotype print with UV LED box as the light source. Cyanotypes are traditionally developed in sunlight and the prints are often referred to as “sun prints”. But it is winter, it is cold and UV light isn’t so strong and readily available as in the summer. Wouldn’t be great to make Cyanotype, Van Dyke Brown or Salt Papers at any time during the year? Even before the sun comes up or after it goes down!

The finished UV LED box will produce an A3 or A4 size cyanotype print just after 5 minutes of exposure. This box was design to be inexpensive and simple, and your total cost should be no more than 70 Euros.

The video below demonstrates the UV LED Box in action and goes through the construction in detail. For those of you who prefer a “paper” resource, I’ve provided the parts list and construction steps below.

The following video below is about preparing the cyanotype papers:

Parts list

  • 60x40x12cm box (black) 6.99 Euros
  • 60x40cm box lid (black) 3.99 Euros
  • 2 x SMD 5050 LED strip 5 metres 25.99 Euro each*
    UV 395mm-405nm wavelength.
    Do not purchase the SMD 2835 LED strip, as they are not powerful enough for printing
  • Hot glue and glue gun
  • Cabling and connectors

* These strips are are not IP rated for outdoor use!

Disclaimer

When working with electronics and electricity use proper caution and safety. Ensure not to short circuit cables. I’m by no means responsible for any damage to anyone or anything. By building this kit you are responsible for UV exposure and electronics etc..

Constructing the UV-LED box

  • Cut the LED strips to lengths of 50cm.
  • The 60×40 box only requires 9x 50cm per side (18 lengths in total).
  • Each is strip should be separated by 1cm – the width of strip. Use one of the strips as a separator when sticking down each strip.

I have split the LED light into two sides, for best current distribution and have the added advantage of controlling the light power (half power or full power).

  • Each strip is alternated soldered with a yellow or blue wire for positive and black for negative.
  • The yellow wire is for the left side and the blue for the right side.
  • In the middle of each side, the wires come together into a connector block.
  • Once everything is wired up, test each side with the power supply from the UV LED strip kit.
  • If everything is working hot glue down the cabling and the connectors.
  • Bring the two main cables out through a hole onto the top of lid. Wire in the connectors and hot glue down the cables, connectors then seal up the hole.

Note: The box will get warm after 20 minutes of use which should be no problem. I’ve used it for an hour without issue. However, you should switch off the box when not using it.

If you wish to make a more robust version, I recommend placing everything on an aluminium plate. I may do this myself in the future but for now, everything works pretty well.

Strip test your unit

Download this strip test negative and print it out on A4/Letter size transparency on a laser or inkjet print.

The paper used for the test strip and the prints is the Daler & Rowney Acrylic Paper System 3.

Exposure the strip test page on the Cyanotype sensitized page for 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 minutes.  Use a book to cover each section and slide it along at 1, 1, 2, 2, 2 minute intervals.

Washing and drying the prints

Leave the print face down in the slow-flowing water. After 10 minutes, inspect the results. Agitate the water with your hand from time to time. If there isn’t any yellow left on the paper it’s ready to hang up and dry.

Conclusion

I was super excited by the results of my Cyanotypes using the UV LED Box.  If you happen to build this box please do let me see your results. Happy Printing!

~ Gavin

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Gavin Lyons
Gavin Lyonshttps://gavinlyons.photography
Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1972, Gavin Lyons is an award-winning landscape and nature photographer who is self-taught. After living in Italy and France for a couple of years, it wasn't until settling in Austria that he became more serious about using a camera. Living in the Alps with a passion for hiking and mountain biking, photography has become a natural extension for seeing nature in more detail.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. YES YES YESSSSS!!!
    This is good old time DiY with clear indications about materials and procedures.

    Although in case I have access to industrial UV illuminators, having it on the shelf is by far a better idea, to use when you can concentrate on this – so maybe I’ll be back with cyanotipes after eons of occasional spot trials. And maybe some other more “difficult” technique. Thank you!

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