How to Make Fabric Sunprints

Written by michelle watson
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How to Make Fabric Sunprints
Make your own custom fabric design using special paint the rays of the sun. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Harness the power of the sun's rays to make your own custom fabric design. By painting light-coloured fabric with sun-sensitive paint and placing objects on top, the sunlight dries the fabric, leaving prints where the objects are placed. This simple craft will please kids and adults alike. Make sun prints on T-shirts, hats, bandannas or other wearable objects. Sun-printed fabric can also be cut and sewn to make clothing, household items like pillows or curtains, or toys like stuffed animals.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Light-coloured fabric (Use 100% cotton fabric for the best results. Cotton-polyester blends will work, but colours won't be as vibrant.)
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins
  • Cardboard or plywood board (as big as your fabric)
  • Trash bags
  • Duct tape
  • Sun-sensitive paint (such as the Setacolor brand, available in craft stores)
  • Disposable bowls
  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • Foam brushes
  • Objects to create designs (flowers, leaves, branches, buttons, marbles, die cuts)

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  1. 1

    Prepare the fabric by washing, drying and ironing it.

  2. 2

    Wrap the cardboard or plywood board in a trash bag to create a waterproof base. Smooth the trash bag on one side for a level surface, and secure the trash bag in place with duct tape.

  3. 3

    Use straight pins to pin the fabric to the waterproof base.

  4. 4

    Dilute the paint by mixing two parts water with one part paint in a disposable bowl. Separately dilute as many colours as you want to use on the fabric.

  5. 5

    Spray the fabric with water from a spray bottle to wet evenly. The more water used, the more the colours will blend and run together.

  6. 6

    Use foam brushes to paint each colour onto the fabric. Apply strokes of the main colour first, leaving white spaces for the other colours. Paint the other colours into the white spots, and watch as the colours blend together. It's perfectly acceptable to paint the fabric one solid colour.

  7. 7

    Work quickly to place objects on top of the fabric to create the sun print design. Use anything that has an interesting shape, such as flowers, leaves, branches, buttons marbles, die cut shapes, letters, nuts and bolts.

  8. 8

    Carry the entire project outside to a sunny location. Wait until the sun dries the fabric and the object prints are made. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  9. 9

    Remove the objects from the fabric and the fabric from the board. Iron the reverse side of the fabric for two to five minutes to set the colour.

Tips and warnings

  • The flatter the object, the crisper the sun print will be. Three-dimensional objects will leave a blurred edge.
  • Use straight pins or small rocks to weigh down the objects if wind threatens to blow them away.
  • If the sun isn't shining, use a heat lamp to dry the fabric.
  • If you want to make sun prints on a T-shirt, put the waterproof board inside the shirt so that the paint doesn't bleed through to the back.

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