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.
Here’s a fun idea for a simple lino cutting project – perfect for welcoming a new four legged friend into your home. You’ll start by taking your cat or dog’s paw print and then transfer the print onto lino before carving away the negative space, leaving your pet’s unique signature! You’ll end up with a beautiful keepsake that you can frame – and a lino cut that you can use to make more prints, sign holiday greetings, print onto fabric and more.
I have included instructions for printing with real printing ink as this yields the best result but if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge just yet, you can print your lino cutting with the same ink pad that you’ll use to take the initial paw print (and could always re-visit the printing process at a later time when you’re ready).
Those who follow me on Instagram may know that we welcomed Finnbar to our family 9 weeks ago – as he’s a German Shepherd/Boxer mix I knew his delightfully small, puppy-sized paw wouldn’t last for long so I really wanted to capture it, in all it’s cuteness and so, this project was born. Im going to make another print in a years time and am looking forward to seeing how much he’s grown!
Not pictured here (well actually the first one is pictured, it just didn’t show up in the photo) printmaking paper (I use this one) and a smooth, flat surface for spreading your printing ink onto if using.
Step 1: Print
Start by taking your pets paw print, then washing it gently in soapy water to remove all the ink. Notice how there are some areas of the paw pads that haven’t transferred the ink so well and there are also a few tufty bits of hair in between – it’s these details that will give your finished print it’s unique characteristics!
Step 2: Draw
Carefully draw around the paw print, staying true to the shape of each pad to make sure the print is as accurate as can be. Then shade the areas that will appear solid and shade over any additional markings such as tufts of hair or claws.
Step 3: Transfer
Place your paper face down onto you lino and hold carefully in place while you rub the back of the paper firmly with the butt of your marker. When you remove the paper, your pencil marks should have transferred to the lino.
Step 4: Carve
Carve out your design using your tool of choice. If you’re new to lino carving it can take a moment to get into the right frame of mind as you have to remember that you’re ‘drawing’ with the lino that is left untouched, not the lino that you carve away. So for example, to make the little tufts of hair in the print below, I had to plan ahead and leave these delicate lines of lino untouched whilst carving away the surrounding areas, rather than making these marks on the lino with my carving tool. You can use the ink pad to take test prints at various stages of the carving process which will help to keep you on the right track and can be especially useful for making sure that you have carved out the background area sufficiently.
Step 6: Print
If you already own printing ink and equipment then you probably don’t need me to tell you how this is done but I will aim to break down the process here for anyone trying this for the first time.
You’ll take a little ink on your palette knife and spread it onto a smooth, flat surface. Work the ink back and forth with the palette knife to warm it up then take your brayer and roll it back and forth until it is evenly coated. Roll the brayer back and forth across your lino, varying the angle with each stroke to make sure that it is evenly coated. Place your paper on top and hold in place while you firmly rub the back of the paper with a wooden spoon. Peel the paper away and experience the thrill of seeing your design in print form for the first time!
Check out the quick video I made below to see the process from start to finish.
What do you think? Are you tempted to give this project a try? Let me know in the comments. If you try it I hope you’ll come and share the results over on Instagram (don’t forget to tag me!). And as always, if you need any help or words of encouragement along the way I am only a DM away.