Printmaking Ideas for Fabric Using the Sun

Of all the printmaking techniques for fabric, sun printing has to be one of the most fun. It’s truly magical to watch the “prints” develop right before your eyes. All the printmaking supplies you need are the sun, stencils or objects to “resist” the light, fabric, and a chemical solution that reacts to UV light.

The results can be stark or shadowy, depending on the opacity of the resist.

Typically, two basic methods are used to sun print on fabric.

sun printing on fabric
Patterns made by Heather Stemas using a cyanotype printmaking process, from Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.

One is by using Pebeo Setacolor Transparent fabric paint, available online and in art supply stores. You brush the paint onto wet fabric that has been prepared for dyeing (washed of dirt and sizing).

Or, you can use a cyanotype printmaking process. Also known as blueprints, these gorgeous blue-toned negatives or images emerge when you treat fabric with cyanotype chemicals. You can purchase the supplies separately or in cyanotype kits online and at art and craft stores. Or, you can buy pre-treated fabrics online in squares or on the bolt (

In the July/August 2014 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Heather Stemas offers printmaking ideas using the pre-treated fabric squares. Heather shows examples using stencils; stamps; washi tape; and flat objects like feathers, leaves, and flower petals.

To make your cyanotype prints, place your pre-treated fabric on a flat substrate (such as a piece of foamcore board) and lay your sun-blocking items on top. To keep them flat, you can clip a sheet of clear acrylic over the top.

Place your prepared fabric in a sunny spot, away from shadows, and “print” for 15 minutes. Whatever is opaque will block the UV light and create a “negative” or light image, and the part of the fabric that’s exposed to UV light will remain “dark” (the original color of the fabric).

Remove the resist items, rinse your fabric, and lay it flat to dry.

sun printing on fabric prayer flags stemas
Prayer flags by Heather Stemas made by sun printing on fabric.

You can cut up your sun-printed fabrics in your artwork, but I love that Heather turned her cyanotype squares into prayer flags.

Every issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine includes techniques you can use for surface design, printmaking, and other creative ways to use fabric and fibers. Subscribe now and start adding mixed media to your quilting and fiber art.

P.S. Here’s another way to use sun printing for surface design: Watch Lisa Chin’s webinar on Creating Prayer Flags using Sun Shibori and Stencils.

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Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog