Sun prints using sun sensitive paper is a fun and creative way to learn some science, get out in nature, and make a piece of art.
Safety note: Be sure to explain safety precautions to children. The sun paper has chemicals that should not get on skin or clothing. Disclaimer: All information provided on this site is for entertainment and education purposes only. Using any information from thecasabouquet.com is at your own risk.
- Select objects to use to make a print on the sun print paper. Think about the size of the paper (5×7 or 8×10) and what size objects could be used. Brainstorm inside and outside objects to use.
- You will need a piece of cardboard (corrugated is good) to hold the paper, plastic wrap or a transparency sheet, and thumbtacks or binder clips to hold the plastic to the cardboard. You will also need a dish or painter’s tray with an inch or so of water, tongs, and paper towels or a clothesline setup for drying.
- Set up to work inside away from sunlight if possible. Place the sun sensitive paper colored side up on the cardboard. Make an arrangement of your objects on the paper.
- Note: your paper may come with printed transparencies you may use for your print.
- Cover the arrangement with plastic wrap or a transparency sheet. Clip the “sandwich” together.
- Carefully carry your work out into the sun. Wait for the paper to turn very pale, at least 5 minutes.
- Bring your work back inside away from the sun. Remove all the objects and dip your sun print paper into the water container. Soak for at least one minute. The paper should be a dark blue.
- Dry your image by hanging or lay flat on paper towels.
What is the difference in the images between solid objects and see-through objects? Do flatter objects work better than 3 dimensional objects? Does it make a difference if the sun is overhead or at an angle?
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Supplies for sun prints
- Sun sensitive paper
- 40 5″ x 7″ corrugated cardboard sheets
- Clear plastic sheets
- Medium binder clips
- Paint tray liners
- Foam craft stickers (don’t stick to your project!)
- transparent colored protractors
Tips for teachers: You need a sunny day for this activity. If necessary, you may be able to activate the paper with a halogen lamp.
This is a great activity to use if you are teaching plant identification. You can start with a nature walk and have children select leaf, grass, or flower specimens to make a print. Some of the most famous prints of this type were made with seaweed! Just watch out for hazards such as poison ivy, biting insects, and other critters.
The sun sensitive paper comes in a sealed pack. Mine had 6 sheets inside. When you are buying it, watch for the dimensions of the sheets (I normally use 5″ x 7″) and multipacks are available with 18 sheets or more.
- An experimental procedure for sun print paper from Science Buddies
- How to make your own paper for sun prints from DIY Photography
What is the science?
Content: electromagnetic radiation, light, ultraviolet light, photons, electromagnetic spectrum, chemical reaction
Sun prints use an old type of photographic printing called blueprinting. Chemicals are embedded in the paper so that there is a reaction with the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Rinsing the paper with water brings out the color ferric ferrocyanide (Fe7(CN)18) which is a dark blue. Chemicals used to make the paper are K3[Fe(CN)6] and (NH4)5Fe(C6H4O7)2. When objects are placed on the paper, they block the UV rays from reacting with the chemicals on the paper. Making sun prints is an example of photosensitivity, where the iron molecules in the chemicals are reacting from receiving photons in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum.
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