Successful sun prints

Sun print with oak leaves

September 10, 2011

A  few days ago I wrote about my “failure” when sun printing. My paint was too light for the hand-dyed base fabric. But there were three successes the same day. I thought I’d share those here. In each piece, I used a multi-color hand dye. I especially like the green piece with ginko leaves. Thanks to my friend Jan for sharing a branch from her tree!

I  was hoping to capture the feel of the scrub oak in fall when they (sometimes) turn a beautiful red. Unfortunately, the wind came up and blew off some of my leaves. But enough remained to create a pretty fabric.

Red is my favorite color, so no red fabric is a loss for me.










An "ugly" hand dye with ginko leaves


I don’t think I really appreciated how beautiful ginko leaves are until I saw this piece in it’s final form. The base hand dye was one I considered ugly. I always view those as an opportunity to do more to it to find the prince in the frog. I think I succeeded with this piece.














Over-painted medallion


This hand dye was nice enough, but I had too many medallions and wanted to try one in sun printing. Over painted with green, I used cottonwood leaves, again contributed by my friend Jan. I am really pleased with the resulting fabric.

Sun printing over hand dyes is a lot of labor in one yard of fabric. But it’s fascinating to me what beautiful fabrics can be made.

I haven’t tried this technique inside. As the weather gets cooler, I probably will (when I’m now snow dyeing). Anyone have any information about sun printing without the sun? I’m also wondering what objects I can use other than leaves and salt. I did see some beautiful pieces made with cheese cloth. All comments appreciated.

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8 responses to “Successful sun prints”

  1. Linda Darby

    You can use anything for sunprinting. Just try not to use anything shiny–ask me how I know! We did some sunprinting one day and used a silver thimble and other sewing items; the reflection from the silver distorted the shape of the thimble, otherwise no problem! Lace or crocheted doilies make interesting patterns.
    Anything with a recognizable shape or interesting negative space works. I don’t know about sunless printing, however. Sorry.
    Linda D

  2. Janet

    The “ugly” hand dye w/ginko leaves is gorgeous, maybe my favorite. The grace and beauty of the ginko tree and its leaves is why I planted one in my side yard. The colors you chose are beautiful.

  3. Francyne

    Sunprinting works just fine indoors and you don’t have to worry about the wind. The technique works because the paint dries slower underneath the leaves and osmosis pulls the paint away leaving the print. You don’t need any heat or light to make it work. Just let it sit and dry and do it’s own thing. Works great.

  4. Pat Findlay

    While we call it “sun” printing, you can also use full spectrum lighting. I have put full spectrum ( day light) tubes in the fluorescents in my laundry room and have made sunprints all winter–which is long up here. I know of a lady who uses one of those heat lamps that are used to keep food warm in restaurants. Did you know that you can also play with the process during the winter outdoors? The sun is at a much lower angle and you have to make sure that your printing object is firmly onto the fabric ( so that the edges don’t lift) The result with both full spectrum light and winter sun is a softer print. This is because the result is always sharper when the drying is done quickly. I have done sunprinting with all sorts of objects such as doilies, metal washers, chains both industrial and jewelery, and freezer paper images ironed to the fabric before painting it. Craft foam shapes work quite well. Artificial flowers are too transluscent, and have to be adhered to craft foam or a heavy weight interfacing to fully block the sun, but most artificial leaves work well.

    I like what you are doing working with dyed fabric. I’ve tried a bit with my LWI dyed fabrics ad love the results.

  5. Judy Ferguson

    Got an interesting effect once when I put a round plate for a candle on the fabric. It had a raised rim around it. The sunlight created a burst of lightrays on one spot. It looked like a solar flair.

  6. Wendy

    I sunprint all the time on scarves and fabric. I work in a bedroom with the curtains drawn & do not leave the lights on. As mentioned, the drier areas wick the color from wetter areas under the leaves, etc. One trick is to be sure to have plastic underneath the fabric. If my scarves are narrow enough, I use freezer paper under them; otherwise I use plastic sheeting. This keeps the paint in the fabric instead of dripping away. The flatter the objects, the more success you will have. Certain leaves, such as muscadine, work best. Some are too thick and/or not flat. It helps to press them in a phone book for a day or so.

  7. Cynthia St Charles

    You do not say what you are using for “dye”. Is it MX dye? Or is it Setacolor or some other brand of fabric paint? I have never done sun printing with dye and your reference to dye is confusing. I have only sun printed with fabric paint and I can assure you that sun is not needed for prints. You need only make sure that the objects make good physical contact with the painted fabric. It is the drying process which draws the paint towards the areas that dry first. Pulling the paint from underneath the object and leaving that area paler. Sunshine speeds up the process, but I have even done this process at night in a dark room and had good results.

    1. Ivana

      Danielle, That would be rlaley pretty! Be sure and let me know if you decide to try this. I’d love to see that dress.

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