Sun Painting

Today I finally got to try Sun Painting! I bought paints last summer, but it was going into fall and not very sunny or warm. So I never had a chance to try the paints. Well today, it is in the upper 90s and quite sunny. Perfect weather for Sun Painting. I picked out a couple of cotton aprons that I had bought for this project thinking that they would make great gifts. My family loves to cook and bake, and they will love a new, one of a kind apron! They were washed with fabric detergent to remove any fabric seizing and oils, and then ironed to get as flat as possible. I recruited my daughter, Courtney,  to join me in some fun!

After setting in the sun – see the leaves curling back!

First, I prepped the ‘studio’ which is my kitchen island. So I cleared everything off and covered it with a plastic-type table-cloth used for craft projects. I gathered a few things! These paints work best with natural fibers,so the cotton aprons and tote bags should work great. You will need a spray bottle for the water or a cup and sponge brush. Mason jars and a sponge brush for each paint color.

Next, we mixed the paints. I am using Setacolor paints made for Sun Painting. We chose green and purple. Not the colors I remembered buying, but they should look pretty together. The company suggests to use no more than 2 or 3 colors. I grabbed two mason jars to mix and store the prepared paints. The directions said to prepare enough for the entire project before starting. I had no idea how much paint would be needed and the directions did not say if the unused paint could be stored. The directions were to mix 2 parts water to 1 part water. I took a clear plastic disposable cup and used one of the lines on the cup as a 1 part measure. I needed to be sure it would fit in the jar, so I tried to add 3 parts water to my mason jar. It did not fit. Good thing I tested the final volume. I chose another line and tried again to add all 3 parts of water. This almost filled the 8 ounce mason jar and looked like it would be a reasonable amount of paint. I dumped the water out again. I then mixed the paint by adding the 2 parts water and 1 part paint to the jar. It was a very pretty dark green color! Courtney repeated the process with the purple paint. Again a pretty dark color. Success so far!

Adding Purple paint to the water
Mixing the paints with wooden craft sticks

Now we needed a flat surface to do the painting that could be moved out into the sun. I had a large piece of cardboard and we slid it into a large trash bag to protect it from the water. A piece of plywood or plexiglass would also work well or even better.

Armed with scissors my daughter and I went out into the yard. We needed pretty leaves! We cut a selection of leaves and flowers, because we really did not know what would work best. We flattened the aprons out on the plastic covered cardboard and started playing with different patterns of leaves and flowers. Trying to keep in mind that only the shapes would show in the final project and not the colors, we simplified and only used the leaves for this first project. We also decided to only do one of the aprons to test everything!

Playing with leaf patterns


Feeling pretty excited and ready, we filled a clean spray bottle with water and started spritzing the apron until it was wet, but not soaked. The cup and sponge brush worked pretty well too. But spraying was faster.

Brushed and sprayed the fabric until wet

Now we can add the paint. You can paint long sweeping strokes or patches of color using foam brushes. The paint should bleed and blend due to the wet fabric. So you can leave white spaces between colors for blending. You can spray more water to help blending too. We tried a bit of both to see how it all worked. When purple and green mix together you get brown. So keep this in mind when picking your colors. You can also mix secondary colors in the mason jars instead of on the fabric. We decided to avoid brown and kept the colors more separated.

Now you are ready to place your leaves on the wet paint in any pattern you like. The leaves should stick to the wet fabric helping them to flatten against the fabric. The flatter and closer the leaves are to the fabric the crisper your images will be. Once you are happy with the pattern, you move your board out into the sun. It will take from 15 minutes to a couple of hours depending upon the weather. You can peek under a leaf tip to check on progress.

Since I am the Herbal Faerie, we added a couple of fairies to the apron too. After 30 minutes or so, I could see that some of the leaves had started to shrink and curl and one blew away. It was really hot outside. I left it in the sun until it was pretty dry to the touch and then we peeled off the leaves for the big reveal! Okay this was the really fun part! We had leaf prints! Pretty leaf prints!! How easy was that!

After setting in the sun
Leaf blowing away!

For the first attempt, we were really happy. It was not exactly what I had envisioned, but I liked it. It is interesting how some parts are more crisp than others, and this is a good thing, because it adds a lot of depth.

Finished apron
After the columbine leaves were removed
Captured a fairy pretty well

Okay, so we learned a few things too. We liked all of the leaves, but the columbine worked really well. The ferns do not lay as flat, but turned out pretty too. So flat things will give a much more complete, crisp outline. Also your fabric has to be pretty wet so the paint can move more easily out from under your leaves. Dryer areas will not be as complete. There seemed to be a difference between the purple and the green as well. Not sure why? We will have to try this again and see if this is true. The outdoor temperature and sun will also effect how quickly the paint will dry.

I cannot wait to try this again! We have more aprons, bags and scarves to do more sun painting!

Day 2 – Okay, I had to try it again! I took two aprons this time. I had a little more confidence. My thinking was to make a matching parent and child set of aprons.  I decided to use only the green and only the ferns for an organic garden look. I used the paint that we mixed yesterday and shook it well to put everything into solution. I made the aprons wetter than yesterday. My thinking was to test the idea that the paint would move more easily and I would get crisper prints. I covered the apron in green and laid out fresh ferns in a random sort of pattern. I placed it out in the sun.

Matching child and parent aprons!

I was a little concerned, because it was much later in the day, maybe 3:00, and there were some clouds. Unfortunately, this was a problem. It wasn’t long before a very large dark cloud blew in and it became really windy. I had to bring in the project before it blew away. The aprons were still quite wet, so today was not the day to try painting with more water. But it still worked! The leaves still left nice outlines. I just left them set overnight inside to dry out.

Child size apron worked really well
The adult size was not quite as crisp

I do think the amount of water will make a difference! Now the only thing left to do is to iron the aprons to set the paint! You use the cotton setting on your iron. The high heat will set the paint. Then it can be washed in your washing machine. I am going to add the fabric detergent again to this first wash which will help keep the paint from redepositing back on the fabric. The only thing to remember is to never use bleach when washing in the future.

I can’t wait to give one of these as a gift! I believe that they will also do well at the farmers market. Let me know how your project turned out? Did you learn any tips or tricks?


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