Soak up the sun – make a sunprint at home!

July 28, 2009


This summer, we had a really fun camp for 10-12 year olds called Freeze Frame. Campers learned about a variety of photography processes and how the technology has progressed over the years. One of the things they learned about was Cyanotypes or the blueprint process.

Generally, people will associate the word “blueprint” with architectural plans or layouts, but the term came from the fact that a process similar to cyanotyping was used to make inexpensive copies of plans without a huge investment in technology. 

The Freeze Frame class created cyanotypes by treating both cotton t-shirts and cotton rag paper with cyanotype chemicals, and then using either photographic negatives or opaque objects to block the sun and expose the treated surface to the sunlight.

In this video, Xplorations Summer Camp Educator Andrea Gilbert
walks us through the Freeze Frame camp!

Today, you can easily buy pre-treated paperto create a sunprint of your own, you can find it at your local arts and crafts store (here in Houston you can find it at Texas Art Supply).

By following the simple instructions included with the paper – and being careful to keep your paper in the dark until you’re ready to expose the photosensitive surface with your design on top – you can create all sorts of fun images! For my first example, I used a die-cut paper elephant and some random bits of hardware to create an image. My second example uses tracing paper (this is more like creating a blueprint from a technical drawing on vellum). Any flat, opaque objects will do but these are just what I happened to have lying around!


After only a minute or so, I could see that the paper that started out blue indoors was quickly fading to white… after about 2 full minutes I flipped all of the hardware off and carried the sheets back indoors. 


To fix the image, I soaked the exposed paper in water for just a minute, the colors reversed to white images on a blue background, the sunprints lay out flat to dry and voila!   


Now, head outside and make a sunprint of your own! What natural objects can you find to use for design elements — sticks, leaves, shells? What other flat items can you think of that will block out the sun?

If you like sunprinting, don’t forget to sign up early for Xplorations Summer camp next year and check out Freeze Frame for more adventures in photography!

Authored By Allison Kellogg

After volunteering at HMNS since 1993, Allison joined HMNS full time in 2003. Her current job responsibilities include curating the education collections and keeping the summer camp classrooms stocked with materials, facilitating Education special events, and coordinating the Museum's overnight program. In her "spare time" she volunteers with the Junior League of Houston and spends her time in artistic pursuits.

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