How To Make Sun Prints

How To Make Sun Prints

Jena Murray
Oct 5, 2012

Sun prints are an art project that I vividly remember making as a young girl and being fascinated with - especially all the different types of silhouettes I could create. It became an engaging challenge scavenging around my house and yard for anything I could imagine would make a cool shadow-version of itself on the sun-sensitive paper I'd received as a gift. I used up my entire package in a week!

Luckily, the same company I had devoured a packet of papers from back in the 80's is still producing and recently purchasing another packet became the perfect fall art project for our toddler and preschool friend. What better way to celebrate autumn and the falling leaves than gathering a few around the yard to create an art project worthy of framing.

You only need to purchase one supply for this art project and that's the sun-sensitive paper. The type of paper I used is called, NaturePrint Paper, and a 40-sheet package is only $9. If you don't already have some tacked up on a nearby cork-board, some pushpins are also handy.

• 5x7 sun-sensitive paper (other sizes available from different brands)
• thumbtacks or pushpins of any kind
• leaves, berries, branches, etc.
• (optional) found items around the house, ex. comb, sea-shell, feather, small toys, etc.
• large/flat bowl to hold your water wash in for "fixing the image"
• a flat surface to place your paper upon and to secure your paper to with pushpins (make sure it's something you don't mind putting small holes into). We used an outside wooden picnic table, but you could also use a stiff piece of cardboard, a small bulletin cork-board, or even a wooden kitchen cutting board.
• Timer (kitchen, watch, phone, etc.)

Making the sun prints is very simple and can be accomplished by a child as young as two, but with close supervision. Children older than four can probably do all of the steps themselves. The hardest part is waiting the recommended amount of time to "develop" your print by sunlight and not peeking under a leaf to see if it has left a shadow impression yet!


1. Start by laying out all your materials, including your pushpins and the foliage/found objects you have gathered. Prepare your bowl with enough water to cover the surface of the paper when laid flat. (I used a shallow bowl, so I only needed about 1.5" of water).

2. Carefully and quickly remove a single piece of sun-sensitive paper and tack it down to your flat surface with the pushpins. (Note: the adult may want to be in charge of this step since the paper packet as a whole is sensitive to light and you only want to expose one piece of paper at a time).

3. Lay the items you have gathered for silhouettes onto your paper. Also do this quickly so that you don't lose time resulting in over-exposed paper.

4. After everything is in place, wait the recommended time, per the manufacturer's recommendation. (Our directions indicated 90 secs, but I found through trial and error that 2 minutes produced a more contrasting print for us).

5. Once your timer goes off, lift found objects off paper and take off pushpins. Submerge in your water bath for X amount of time, per the manufacturer's recommendation. Hang or lay flat to dry.

Besides hanging on your family's art wall or fridge, you could also easily frame the 5x7 sheets in an 8x10 frame and give as a gift to grandparents and such. If you use larger papers, you could also use as gift wrap or cut into several pieces and adhere to card stock to make cards or gift-tags.

You will be amazed at how lovely the prints turn out, even the ones done by the littlest kiddos!

(Images: Jena Murray)

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