A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sun Printing with SolarFast

Robbie here with my turn at sharing another product/technique for sun printing!  Fortunately, our weather here in Michigan was been sunny enough for me to continue my ‘play time’  in the sun with SolarFast (SF)!  SolarFast is a relatively new sunlight developed dye product by Jacquard that I first tried last August.  
For this  post, I’m going to show you how to sunprint using negatives that you've printed from your ink jet printer.  This is one of the advantages of SolarFast…the ability to create photographs on fabric or other natural substrate.  In addition, there is no change to the hand of your fabric, heat setting isn't required, no mixing (dye comes straight out of the bottle!) and you clean up with water!  

First off we need to find a photo to print in black and white!!  Even if your photo is in color, you can change the settings on your printer or in a photo editing program to black/white.  The end result is you need a photo with high contrast, in black and white, which you'll print out on transparency film.  
Last summer, I used the image above to print out on SolarFast Transparency film, which I purchased from Jacquard.   I think any transparency film would work - as long as it's for use in ink jet printers.   

At the time, all I saw in my image was black and white, and for the most part this image worked well enough for my 'first' time printing.   

So let's get started on the process!   And along the way I will add 'tips' in red but you can also go to the Jacquard web site for more tips and tricks.  

The process is simple.....I used a piece of foam board to work on as it's easier to carry the board outside..  You do not want to paint your fabric outside!!!  Remember this product reacts in the sun!!  Work inside!
 I started with white cotton sateen (prewashed & dried) and simply painted a layer of  purple SF using an inexpensive paint brush (you could also use foam brush).  
You want your fabric just wet enough to cover the area you want printed but not soaking wet.  It's recommended you blot with a paper towel. 
** TIP - If the fabric is TOO wet during exposure, condensation may form underneath the negative, which can interfere with development. 
**Tip - I use a hard brayer to roll across my negative  - just helps to adhere to the paint before laying glass on top.  You want your film to be flush on the painted area of your fabric.  
**TIP - Make sure the ink/printed side of your transparency is facing up!  This is two fold...your negative will last for multiple prints and you won't smear ink onto your fabric. Ask me how I know this!

Next step is to lay your negative on  the painted area then lay a piece of glass on top to hold the negative in place.
**Tip - Make sure your glass is not too thin!  It will potentially crack with the heat of the sun!!  
Now carry your piece out into the sun (this is where working on foam board comes in handy).   Exposure time is anywhere from 10 to 30 min.  It's better to overexpose your piece, but you can always 'peek' by lifting the glass, then lift up an edge on the film.  If the color isn't intense enough, just carefully lay the corner and glass back on to your fabric and go have a glass of wine while waiting!  No more peeking now!  

Once you are happy with peeking and seeing your print develop, bring your print inside with the negative and glass still on top!  Keep your fabric out of the sun until you can wash out the undeveloped dye.  You can purchase a SF Wash but I just used Dawn detergent (blue).  Any undeveloped dye that remains on your fabric could continue to develop, thus you would lose your pattern/design if it's in the sun.  
And this was my  result.  As you can see the leaves printed but the veins weren't defined as much as I would have liked.  But I was happy for my first print.  
**Tip:  Make sure you paint your fabric inside!  Remember SF is activated by the sun!!  And bring your printed piece inside before you remove the glass!!!  Otherwise, you  may lose your entire print!  

So, this time around, I took that same negative but I outlined the veins using a permanent marker.   You could  draw a picture on transparency film or alter a 'negative' once it was printed on the film, as I did with the addition of veins.  Also you can use paint to create or add to a negative (you'll see this in a later post in an example I did with stencils).  

The leaves certainly look better with the the black marker, which added the contrast they needed.  

Instead of using white fabric for this new print, I wanted to show how you can use a color background.   This is a hand dyed cotton fabric.

I painted black SF within an area that would be covered with the transparency film (which is 8 1/2 x 11"),the leaf negative was placed on top of the painted area then a piece of glass was placed on top and then outside for 15 min.  The time for developing your print is dependent on the time of day, intensity of the sun, etc.  

I think this print turned out so much better with the addition of the veins.  

Well, I couldn't stop with just one negative so I looked on the Internet for more black and white photo's.

This picture, in black and white, seemed like a perfect candidate.  I found it on the site here.  

I also adjusted some of the contrast but since I'm not a photo expert, I will leave that part of editing photos for you to research on your own!  Just remember you need high contrast!

White cotton sateen, painted and ready for the negative and glass.

I used Sepia SF for this finished print, which, I think, is a great color.  

I really liked the clock negative so for my last piece I masked off an area the 'negative' would fit into, then painted black SF within that area.

I kept the masking tape on through the entire sun printing process.

This print turned out quite nice and the edges are crisp with the masking.  It does appear blue more than black but I think this is due to exposure time.
I  read on the Jacquard website that black and blue SF will become bluer or blacker after washing.  Also black will require longer exposure time.  

So I hope you found this type of sun printing interesting enough to come back tomorrow for some other ways of using SolarFast and the sun! 


  1. Awesome Robbie....wonderful tips.....that may help explain why my attempt wasn't very successful!

  2. Thanks, Mary! Hope you try it again! It's a fun product to use..

  3. cool...I just bought the film but not the dye!!! Back I go to the website again to order some...next time I should read instructions to save shipping costs.....

  4. a couple months ago I bought a transparency printing set but have yet to use it. now I am stoked.


  5. Glad so many are looking to try SolarFast dye! And check by each day this week for more ways to use it!! A fun and not that messy product!!


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