Creative by Nature: Sunprinting

Sun prints are images made by placing an object such as leaves, feathers, and flowers directly onto a light sensitive surface.

Sunprinting, also called “blueprinting,” is the oldest non-silver photographic printing process. The paper is coated with light-sensitive chemicals, which react to light waves and particles when exposed to sunlight. When you place objects such as leaves on the paper, they block the light so that the paper remains white while the areas on the paper around the leaves turn cyan-blue. Water stops the process and fixes your images on the paper.

Also called cyanotypes, sun prints have been used to make records of plants for hundreds of years. Cyanotype was invented in 1842 by Sir John Herschel, but they were first used as a photographic process by Anna Atkins. She used the process to produce Cyanotype books documenting botanical specimens, and because of this, she is often regarded as the first female photographer. 

You can also make your own light sensitive paper by extracting coloured juices from plants and coating paper. Spinach, brassicas, rocket, wild garlic, beetroot, and coloured fruit works well, or try experimenting with turmeric or flower petals.

As we head to the warmer months of the year, sunprinting can be a great project to get involved in for all ages, whether you want to use the images as artwork around your home, in a scrapbook, or for use in creating your own herbal directory or to decorate/add imagery to a grimoire.

Image Credits: Marty D, Patricia Barden

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