What is a Sun Print?
Whilst the term ‘Sun Print’ can be used to describe various different ways of using the sun to either develop or fix a photograph-like image, this blog post is about the process more formally known as Cyanotype.
Cyanotype is the oldest non-silver photographic printing process and involves exposing a specially coated surface (in this case, paper) to the sun. By placing objects on top of the paper, the UV rays are partially or completely blocked in areas, leaving either a negative or positive image. Once the objects have been removed, the paper is quickly rinsed in water to ‘fix’ the image and prevent it being further affected by the sun.
In this step-by-step tutorial I will show you how to create a ‘negative’ image of a flower – this image is considered negative because once it has dried, the exposed areas of the paper will turn a vibrant Prussian blue whilst the areas covered by the flower (in this case a cosmos from my back yard – but you can use any flower you like) will remain various shades of pale blue to white.
You don’t have to limit yourself to making sun prints with flowers though, after the tutorial I will give you a few more ideas for objects to experiment with.
How To Make A Sun Print: A Step-By-Step Tutorial
Step 1: Open your Sun Print kit and take out the acrylic sheet – you will need to remove the sticky paper covering both sides of the plastic. Your sun print paper will be in a UV proof bag – don’t open it until you’re ready to make your print. Gather together the objects you would like to use (flowers are great to start with) and get a bowl of cold water on standby. You will need a flat, portable surface to work on – a tray is perfect. When you’re ready to begin, take out a sheet of sun print paper and set it out on your tray, blue side facing up. Assemble your objects on top of the paper. If using flowers or other objects that can be pressed flat, use the acrylic sheet to hold them down and prevent them from blowing away.
Step 2: Carefully carry your tray with your assembled paper and objects out into the sun and leave it for between 1 – 5 minutes, taking care not to over-expose the paper. During this time the exposed areas of the paper will turn from bright to pale blue.
Step 3: Once the paper has been fully exposed, remove the objects and immediately place the paper into a bowl of water for around 1 minute. Set aside to dry and watch as the image reverses – the exposed areas of paper that were washed out by the sun will turn an intense blue and the shapes underneath will be white.
More ideas to make Sun Prints:
Flowers are a great place to start – try different sizes, both with stems and without. You don’t have to stop there though – I had great results experimenting with my collection of coral and shells. Look for other small objects with interesting outlines. Pay attention to the composition – the way in which you’re arranging your objects on the paper. Look at the relationship between your objects and the negative space around them and set your design out intentionally. Try other found objects like feathers, leaves, seed heads, kitchen utensils, jewelry. Spell something out with alphabet fridge magnets. Take a sun print of your child’s hand or foot. Try using a negative from a photo or slide
Where to buy Sun Print paper?
The Wooden Wagon, Amazon. There is also this Sun Print paper available on Amazon which is more affordable but I haven’t personally tried it. Blick art supplies sell this set of liquid Cyanotype chemicals which would allow you to print onto any paper or fabric of your choosing!