Make a summer project using a photography technique that is safe, easy and doesn’t need a darkroom or fancy equipment.
This project is perfect for kids (or young at heart) as it is so easy and gets you outside for a few minutes.
Step 1: Cyanotype
The sun print is actually a Cyanotype. Cyanotypes are a type of photographic printing process that will make a blue print; cyan means dark blue. Engineers and architects formerly used this cheap process to make large copies of their drawings--"blue prints".
Sir John Herschel, an English astronomer and scientist discovered this procedure in 1842. Even though John Herschel is credited as the inventor, Anna Atkins actually brought the process to photography by creating a book of ferns and other plant life. Anna Atkins is regarded as the first female photographer because of using this process.
Cyanotypes are made by exposing the treated paper or cotton fabric to sunlight for about 10-15 minutes and then rinsing in water to “develop” the image.
There is another instructable about making cyanotypes and you can search for this or do a search on the internet for information on mixing your own chemistry.
Step 2: Materials
• Treated fabric: you can buy a package of pretreated 20 - 8.5 inch fabric squares for about $25, 50 6 inch squares for $22, or treat your own fabric for about half the price. I had an old package that was probably 10 years old and it still worked!!
• Sunshine (solar power)
• Objects to print
• (optional) Clear glass to put over light objects
• Sewing machine or needle and thread
• Bucket or sink
• Optional: batting
Step 3: Design Process
I first collected objects that had interesting outside shapes, and things that fit with my "summer" theme. You will be making a “negative” image. Whatever you place on the fabric that blocks the sunlight, the fabric underneath will make a white "print" of that shape. The background that is left exposed to the sunlight will turn blue when it is complete.
Make your design first inside-- normal inside lighting will not ruin the fabric. Use a stiff piece of cardboard or foam core as your surface. Put your fabric on the cardboard, pinning if needed. Come up with your design by arranging and rearranging the objects until you get the best arrangement. If it is a windy day and the objects are light, you may need to pin the object to the fabric with straight pins. You can also put a piece of clear glass over light objects or objects that need to be flattened. Put any extra fabric back into the black envelope so it doesn’t get exposed by accident (and leave inside!).
Step 4: Outside Is Where the Fun Begins
Take your design to a sunny spot and leave it for 10-20 minutes (10 minutes for hot and sunny, @20 minutes for cloudy and cooler temperatures). Set a timer and go play for a few minutes. You want a place outside where the fabric can sit undisturbed in the sun and where it won't get wet (so leave the dog inside??) You will get some shadows depending on the time of day and where you place your design.
Step 5: "Developing" the Print
Take the objects off and rinse the fabric in plain water for about 5 minutes. You can do this outside (in the shade) with a bucket and hose, or do it inside at the sink. Rinse until the water runs clear, or swish around in the bucket for several minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and dry in the clothes dryer or dry on newspaper or on the clothesline out of direct sunlight.
To keep the fabric blue, be careful that you don’t get any detergent with phosphates as it will make them turn yellow . If you want to make a brown/sepia colored image, you can use laundry detergent, TSP or experiment with various things like dishwasher detergent and stain with tea.
Step 6: The Sewing Begins Now!
Sewing starts now!
I made a quilt style wall hanging and am planning eventually to make a four seasons quilt or collage.
I made the wall hanging simply by choosing some fabric from my stash of scraps and using 2 of the sun prints.
I cut several fabric strips about 2.5 - 3 inches wide long enough to go in between and along the sides of the squares. I sewed one strip to the top of the squares, then sewed the two squares together to make one long section with a strip in between. Next I sewed 2 long strips to the open sides. I trimmed and made the sides square, pressing the seams in between the steps.
I chose the background fabric with a little assistance from one of my “helpers” who got left inside earlier, although I think he was a little bored with ironing and sewing parts of this project.
I sewed on the background making it wrap around to the front of the hanging. But the backing isn't necessary as you could frame if you wanted. Or you could add quilt batting and quilt by hand or by machine.
I also made a couple of sun prints of art tools to adorn one of my art aprons. However, I won’t be able to actually use the art apron much because I get too messy and will need to wash it in heavy duty detergents.You should wash in liquid hand/dish soap or mild liquid laundry soaps. I would test a small piece with my regular washing detergent to see if it reacted before I made an apron to really use!
Another apron idea might be to make a BBQ apron with sun prints of tools or even cut-outs of your favored BBQ food.
But overall, the sun prints are so much fun to make that you'll be amazed at your creativity and the time you spend playing in a bucket of water!