Marshal the Power of the Sun (Part 2): Sun Prints

Sun PrintIt’s an old-school way of creating an image, perhaps reminiscent of junior high science projects on one of those lucky days when you got to hold class outside.

Or maybe it reminds you of your undergrad years, spending hours in the darkroom in the basement of the union, a hobby that you gave up a few years later when you got pregnant and the idea of the chemicals started to skeev you out.

Or does it remind you of how you totally want to learn to do gocco or screen printing, but it seems kind of hard and requires more equipment thn you have the money for?

Well rejoice, friends, because this project requires only special paper and the sun, and it can make some surprisingly sophisticated prints. Here’s how:

You will need:

  • sun print paper–this is a specialty paper that you’ll have to buy. I’ve found it locally at the gift shop to the hands-on science museum in our town and the independent educational materials store, and online at sites that sell science supplies and sites that sell art supplies.
  • cool stuff to print on your paper–unless you’re doing this project when the sun is directly overhead, anything that’s not perfectly flat will also leave a shadow print on your paper, which I think is actually really cool and makes some interesting effects.
  • large bowl of clean water
  • flat surface or clothesline

1. Get all your materials ready before you begin to work, since this is a time-sensitive project.

2. Open your sun print paper indoors, in a place where direct sunlight won’t touch the paper while you’re preparing it. Indoor lights aren’t supposed to damage the paper, but I still keep it a little dim inside while I work.

Arranging Materials on Sun Print Paper3. Lay out your paper on a tray or other stiff, portable surface–you’ll be carrying the whole shebang outside in just a minute. If you’re worried the paper will shift when you carry it, you can use a little loop of Scotch tape to hold it down.

4. Lay out your stuff on your paper exactly where you want it to print. My girls and I have done everything from buttons to antique keys to toy dinosaurs to good effect. If you’re careful, you ought to be able to carry the paper with the stuff on it outside without shifting anything, but if you’re worried, you can use some more little loops of Scotch tape–just make sure the tape is completely covered by your objects.

5. Carry your tray with the sun print paper on it out into direct sunlight and set it down in the sun. Spend a couple of seconds adjusting the location until you’re pleased with the direction of shadow, and then sit down and watch.

6. You’re watching for the sun print paper to turn a very pale blue. Depending on the quality of sunlight, that can take anywhere from one to four minutes–just keep an eye on it. You can also rotate your tray one or two times to lessen the shadow effect.

Sun Print Paper Ready to Rinse7. When the paper is pale blue, carry everything back inside. You don’t have to be careful not to shift anything as you walk this time, unless your sun is VERY bright that day. Alternately, you can throw a dark towel over your tray before you carry it in.

8. Slide all the objects off your paper, and then immerse it into the clear water for one minute. You can put more than one piece of sun print paper into the same water. Agitate the water with your hands to help it rinse.

9. Lay the paper flat, or hang it on a clothesline until it’s completely dry. Now you have a work of awesomeness.

Do you do any other crafts that work best on a nice, sunny day?

7 thoughts on “Marshal the Power of the Sun (Part 2): Sun Prints”

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  2. Pingback: Marshal the Power of the Sun (Part 2): Sun Prints

  3. Looks so cool, and my 4yo would surely love this craft. Do you know if there’s a way to make this paper at home?
    I’m in Ecuador and don’t feel like buying the paper online from abroad.

  4. Yep, because it won’t work as well if it gets too old. We had some that I just discovered that was 3+ years old, and the reaction was too subtle for the girls to enjoy.

  5. This isn’t really a craft, but it’s great fun on a sunny day. We have trace the outline of a nearby tree trunk with sidewalk chalk at regular intervals throughout the day, labeling each [inside the trunk] with the time. It’s fun to come back the next day and see the shadow line up! It’s also fascinating to see how quickly the shadow moves in the middle of the day.

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