Illustration | design

Anthotypes with Game Boy Camera photos

Anthotypes with Game Boy Camera photos

I’ve been looking for ways to bring in a more hand-made or ‘analogue’ feel to the pixelated pictures. Some people on the Discord I frequent, have been experimenting with cyanotypes: a photographic printing technique that’s fairly easy to do at home. It involves coating paper in a light-sensitive solution, covering it with transparent film which has a negative image printed on it, and exposing it to sunlight. Afterwards, you develop the image by emersing the paper in a second solution and letting it dry.
Researching that, lead me to anthotypes. These follow the same principle but with some significant differences:

  • You use a positive image: UV light bleaches the emulsion, while the covered parts will be dark
  • The chemicals are home made and plant based: you make your emulsion by getting pigment from plants and mixing that with alcohol, be it vodka or isopropyl alcohol.
  • A lot of plant based pigments seem to be rather unstable, making it difficult to ‘fix’ the image. Development of the turmeric based prints, can be done using borax (or baking soda) mixed with warm water, that darkens the print and ‘fixes’ it a bit but I read it fades anyway over time as it is exposed to light.

Anthotypes are a bit more accessible, as I had just about everything already at home to get started and the chemicals are relatively harmless (besides the fact they stain like hell!). Seemed a bit more fun to work with too.

For my first attempt at this, I decided to run some experiments with paper types, exposure time and ways to fix the image onto the paper.
My setup involved using 3 types of paper, each having 6 identical images exposed on them: white sketch paper with very slight grain, papyrus and a lightly tinted paper with more texture.
For the exposure, my plan was to cover 2 photos after every 2 hours of exposure. So you’d have pictures that got 2 hours, 4 hours and 6 hours of light. With the weather forecast mentioning clear skies and warm temperatures, I had the ideal circumstances.

I was expecting somewhat blurry images, because I didn’t have a way to keep the films on the 3 papers completely flat. Normally you’d use a glass plate but the one I had was not big enough. So I improvised with some clamps and weights. But that’s okay, the result of the experiment didn’t hinge on image sharpness.
Unfortunately, there were a couple of big gusts of wind, and about 3 hours in, my plate got blown away :’D

As you can see though, the results aren’t too bad. The yellow images are immediately after developing the image with baking soda and warm water, while the more sepia-toned ones are after drying for a little bit.
Oh, and one of the papers was exposed with the emulsion laying face-down and that didn’t seem to have any influence on the image. It makes sense, as it’s the UV light that bleaches the emulsion and that just goes right through paper.
One experiment I have left, with this batch of images, is to try if I can fix the images using a salt bath or vinegar, as well as adding a UV-protective spray over it.

All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with this first experiment. Some learnings to implement next time are:

  • for the printing on film, the 2 grey tones need to be darker
  • get a more flat and stable surface so no wind can get underneath it
  • fully cover the image under glass so no image shifting can happen, make sure it’s fully flat
  • expose for longer to get more bleaching of the light areas (4 or even 6 hours)
  • try developing using borax instead of baking soda to compare coloration


Update 1: I should have known, but the vinegar-solution reacted with the baking-soda that dried into the paper and just cancelled out the development of the image. Washing it again with baking soda and warm water, made the image reappear. The salt-solution had no visible effect, so we’ll just have to see how it fades, compared with the other images.
Update 2: I’ve added 2 images showing the amount of fading that happened over 1 week. One was covered with a UV-protective spray, the other one has received no extra protection. Both were exposed to the same amount of light. I can’t see any noticeable difference between the 2.