Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunprinting, Chapter 3

A sunprint made from a negative transparency
of platic fencing. I am using this print in my
new quilt, below, Turtle Spirit
 Despite the winter weather, I have dreams of summer and sunshine, and cyan printing helps me remember that warm weather is coming again.
My last post promised to show you how to turn a cyan toned sunprint into a sepia toned one. Why would you want to change it? Well, because you may need a different color for what you are doing. If you tone to sepia, the print will be lighter in tone, and you can also paint or otherwise add color to it, if you want to. Alternatively, you could use setacolor paints, which allow you to print in every color of the rainbow. In my case, I am printing several sizes of my grandmother using various techniques, then sewing them onto a quilt she made that I recently repaired and recreated.

For sepia toning, everything you need is in your kitchen.
While there are other ways, this is how I turn a cyan print into a sepia toned print:
You will need 1 - 2 T. of baking soda
2 C. hot (but not boiling) water
Glass or plastic pan to fit your image (size matters only if you're working with watercolor paper; fabric can be scrunched)
8 - 10 teabags (black tea, orange pekoe, Lipton's)
Wooden spoon
What to do:
Dissolve 1 T. of baking soda in hot water in a glass or plastic pan. Let the water cool slightly, then agitate your sunprint in the mixture until the color begins to fade. Quickly remove and rinse in clear water. This happens very quickly. You now have a yellow print, the interim stage. You might want to try a test print before you do more. Let dry. Iron flat, unless you are working with a paper print.
Note: You may need up to 2 T. of baking soda, depending on how many prints you are working with, and how large the pieces are. Multiple prints will begin to exhaust the baking soda chemical reaction, and you will need to add fresh water and baking soda.
Yellow print, the interim stage: it looks like
nothing is there, especially before it dries.
Make a tea dye bath:
While your print is drying, bring the tea kettle to a boil, and steep 8 - 10 teabags in 2 C. of water for 10 minutes. You can adjust the color by adding more or less water, more or fewer teabags. After 10 minutes, remove the teabags and discard.
Pour the tea dye bath into your tray or pan, and submerge your yellow print. Leave it there at least 10 minutes or until it is the color you want. Play around with determining the color tone you want in your test print. Also, if there is any sediment in your tea dye bath, or if you are scrunching a large piece of fabric, the color may be uneven. Stirring while the yellow print is submerged will help keep the color more even if you are concerned about that.

Sepia-grandma and cyan-grandma. Now I have more color options.
I will make a series of these prints in various sizes to create a collage composition for my piece. More to come! In the meantime, I am finishing the composition on Turtle Spirit, which also incorporates sunprints.
This is a detail shot of my design wall showing my newest piece,
Turtle Spirit, in progress. The side panels both have sunprints
appliqued in place. The turtle, though blue, is an indigo dye, and
not a sunprint.


  1. Beautiful work, and fun projects to do in the winter months! Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Thank you, Haley. Who knew that sunprinting in northeastern Ohio in winter was possibility????

  3. As always, very inspiring and good directions.
    The sun is great today and it isn't even that cold out.
    A good day for this...if only I wasn't knee deep in some other projects.
    Thanks for putting this up on your blog.

    1. ALthough there are stranger shadows in the winter, and the printing takes longer necessitating more blurriness, I like the chance to print in the winter. Of course, the beach in the heat of summer is always the best : )