Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunprinting, Chapter 2

On the left, two sunprinted fabrics; on the right, the same
image on paper.
If you read my last post, you'll see how I used the sun to print the images of my grandmother you see here. Since you can only really see the quality of the printed image after it has completely dried, I waited. It's winter, and my drying rack is next to my furnace, so I didn't have to wait very long! I ironed the fabric and had a look.

The same image printed twice. On the left, no clamped glass was used.
As you can see in the picture, above, I ended up making two prints on fabric. Why? Because I forgot a crucial step in obtaining a crisp print, especially when using transparencies, and especially in the winter: I forgot to cover my fabric with a piece of clear glass clamped in place. The resulting blurry print on the left is blurry, in part, because I failed to clamp the glass on top, making a secure contact print. (It's also blurry because I did not iron the fabric flat enough before printing it.) After it dried, I realized my omission, and immediately reprinted the image, as you see on the right. The result? Even though my fabric is old, when printed correctly, it still gave me a decent print. That has been my experience over the 25 years I have used this process, and is also why I never hesitate to buy yardage when purchasing pre-treated fabrics.

The same image on treated paper.
While I was at it, I grabbed an old but unopened package of treated sunprinting paper I picked up at a recent library sale. These are the Super Sunprint Kits often found in museum stores. I clamped the glass on top of the paper as described in my last post, opened my sliding back door, and let it sit on the threshold dangling over the snow to catch the sun. It was later in the day, and it was dangling, so you can see that there was still some blurring that occurred as a result of the position of the sun and the minor movement of the substrate the paper was clamped onto. I got one very clear print on paper, and the two blurry ones are interesting, and will still be used. You may notice that the print on this text-weight paper is not as dark as on fabric.

The print on the left is on fabric. On the right, is a print
on high quality watercolor paper.
Each surface gives a slightly different effect. Notice how the contrast is increased on the watercolor paper print here. When rinsed, the background reverts to white, and since the image I used had a lot of negative space, it produced a crisp print.

Mother Shrine uses a sunprint.
In Mother Shrine, the cyanotype print on fabric of my mother is also in high contrast. The difference between this one and the watercolor paper print is that the image of my mother is printed on fuschia fabric instead of white or aqua, therefore the contrast is lessened, though the image is still clear.

You may be wondering where the variety of pre-treated fabrics and paper come from. Although you can purchase cyan printing chemicals and treat your papers and fabrics yourself, I have always ordered mine from Blueprint Printables. They have been around longer than anyone else, have consistently high quality products, and great customer service. You can even send them yardage of your own fabrics to treat. Tune in next time to see some examples of that, and about how to turn a cyan print to sepia.
Cyan print on the left; on the right, a cyan print on watercolor
paper turned sepia. It's really easy!


  1. You are the master of this process!
    Can't wait to see what you do with your latest sun prints.
    Makes me want to do some.

  2. Well, I don't know about that, but I sure do like playing with sunprints. I want to try more with the setacolor paints this summer, which allows for more variety in color.