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How to make a Sunprint

Slow Down and get Creative With the Sun and Nature as Your Muse
These days everyone is a photographer.  Iphones and filters have made it easy for everyone to take a beautiful photo. Sometimes though, it’s nice to simplify and use nature and the sun as your muse.
Enter: Sunprints, also known as cyanotypes. When sunlight interacts with light-sensitive paper, it changes the color of the exposed paper and leaves a silhouette (like a shadow) of any object placed on top of the paper. Learn how to harness the sun’s energy to create beautiful art using things from nature. 

Materials:
Sunprint paper
Clear Acrylic sheet (not necessary, but it will keep your leaves from blowing away and keep flat on the paper). Some Sunprint paper comes with an acrylic sheet.
Cardboard
The flat tub or tray of water
Plants or objects to print with (see suggestions below)
Lemon Juice (optional)
Sunlight


Examples of objects to use to print with:
A selection of flat leaves and flowers. Objects with detail work the best. Also, objects that are not completely solid (rather, have areas where the light can seep through) make the most interesting prints like ferns or smaller leaves.

Feathers
Glass bottles
Magnetic letters


Step 1:
Arrange your objects on a piece of Sunprint paper out of reach of the sun, preferably in a dark room.  

First place cardboard, then sun print paper and then arrange the objects on top of the paper.

The blue molecules embedded in the paper are sensitive to ultraviolet light. For best results, prepare your print in a place where the sun’s light cannot reach the paper as you arrange objects on top of it. Direct sunlight will expose the paper quickly, but even ambient light in the shade, or in a room with a big window will cause slow exposure of the paper.

Step 2:
Place the clear acrylic sheet on top to flatten and hold your objects flat against the Sunprint paper. 

Use the acrylic sheet when using flat or almost-flat objects to help sharpen the edges between blue and white in your final print. The ambient sunlight outdoors will find its way underneath the edges of your objects if they are not pressed firmly to the paper, resulting in blended contrasts. You can use clothespins or similar to keep everything in place (just make sure they don’t cover the paper or you will get outlines of the clips on your print)



Step 3:
Take your Sunprint paper outside and lay it in direct sunlight for 2-5 minutes.

The areas of the paper exposed to the sun will fade from blue to white. When you see most of the colour disappear from the paper, your print has been fully exposed. If no direct sunlight is available, don’t worry–just expose your print a little longer and wait for the same fading effect. Under cloud cover, the process will take 5-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the clouds.

Step 4:
Rinse your Sunprint paper in water. Watch the white turn into blue and the blue turn into white.

To get the deepest blue that the paper can give, leave it in the water for a while: 1-5 minutes. You can add some lemon juice to the water to help enhance the blue colour. 

Just as the Sun’s light stimulated a chemical change in the previous step, the water stimulates another chemical change in this one. The water causes an oxidation reaction that turns the colourless compound into the deep blue of a finished print and stops the chemical process.

Step 5:
Lay your Sunprint paper flat on an absorbent surface and allow it to dry.

You can use a paper towel or a piece of cardboard for your print while it dries. Putting it on something absorbent will help to avoid the formation of water spots by drawing the water away from the Sunprint paper.

When you take your paper out of the water, the active chemical will not have finished oxidizing. The water remaining in the paper will do the job before it evaporates. By the time it is all gone you will have a beautiful, deep blue print!

There you have it!  A unique and beautiful print. 

Play around with different types of objects, you will be surprised by what you can create.  The Aloha print above was made with protea, a dead centipede and some children’s magnetic letters.  The options are endless!