How to Make a Sunprint with Kids

Sunprints are fun, creative projects to do outside with your kids. Using foraged plants and stray leaves for beautiful nature-based art is a great way to spend a sunny day. If your child is interested in plants, art, or science, this is an interesting and engaging project!


Sunprinting at Home

Making sunprints is a fun childhood memory I’ll always have from summer camp. It’s so simple, a great science project, and a great mindfulness outdoor activity that helps teach your kids about plants.

Aside from learning about plants and making art, sunprints are a way to teach your kids about ultraviolet light. They are made by observing sunlight bleaching paper over time, or the chemical reaction with solar paper.

Florida artist, Kelly Herring, shares one of the reasons she loves working with this creative medium. “Last summer, my youngest adult child moved across the country. To raise our kids in the Sunshine State was one of the main reasons we moved here.”

“I needed to fall back in love with Florida when she left, so I reflected on the things I love about living here. The Florida sun and plants are incredible attributes, and sun prints take advantage of both. They draw you outside, and the art lets you bring some of it back inside.”

“I center nearly all of my art around sun prints, adding wood, metal, ink and even silk. When they were pulling out in their Uhaul, my daughter said, ‘This was a nice place to grow up.’ I know she was thinking about all of our time outdoors playing, biking, fishing, growing vegetables and at the beach. Sun prints are an amazing way to capture a bit of nature’s beauty in all of the outdoor activities and keep some memories in the art that comes from them.”

Foraging Plants to Print

Springtime is an abundant time to forage for plants to print, and summer is plentiful with sun in most places. Find a time that works for your family and make some of these lovely nature made prints. 

The first step to making unique nature-inspired sunprints is to forage for plants, leaves, sticks, and any foliage that strikes you. There are tons of options! 

Plants and leaves that have detail make cool-looking prints. Here are a few good ones to keep your eye out for: 

  • Yarrow flowers and especially their feathery leaves 
  • Dandelions and their roots 
  • Fern leaves 
  • Tree seed pods
  • Tree leaves
  • Small branches
  • Usnea (a mossy type of lichen)
  • Queen Anne’s lace (make sure you are aware of it’s toxic look-alike, poison hemlock)

If your child needs a bit more structure, try doing a nature scavenger hunt to find perfect items to make all sorts of different themed sunprints.

Two Ways to Make Sunprints

Once you have collected the plants, leaves, and flowers you’d like to use, there are two ways to make sunprints. The first type is with solar paper that undergoes chemical change when exposed to the sun, and again when submerged in water. 

The second type is a more basic approach and is perfect for young kids or kids who are less engaged in science, art, or foraging. They are both fun and turn out beautifully!

Solar Paper Sunprints

One way to make sunprints is to use paper that is specifically made for this purpose. There are simple kits available that are very affordable here. The basics tools you need for making sunprints with cyanotype paper are:

Once these items are gathered, find a place out of direct sunlight to arrange the foraged nature items on the sunprint paper. When the print paper is in direct sunlight, or there is too much ambient light, it will expose the paper while you place the plants. 

Arrange your foraged items on the solar paper and make them as flat as possible. I’ve read that some people like to press their plants in books first to help create the flat shapes they want. 

To make the edges of the plants appear sharp when printed, use the clear acrylic sheet to press the plants flat so no sunlight seeps underneath the edges. You can skip this step if you want a softer line or blended contrast of the final blue and white print exposure. 

The non-covered areas of the paper will turn from blue to white in about 2-5 minutes of sun exposure. If there isn’t any direct sunlight, the print will still work. It will just take a little bit longer.

Under cloud cover or non-direct sunlight, keep the print exposed for 5-20 minutes for it to fully fade to the desired contrast. 

When the sunprint is finished exposing and the non-covered areas are white, take everything off and dip the paper into the bucket of water. This part of the art project is so cool!

Solar Paper Science

The original blue compound of the sunprint paper is water soluble, so the water washes away the blue base that was left under the plants leaving only white paper underneath. 

Then, the colorless areas exposed to the sun have chemical compounds that change with that exposure, making them not water-soluble. The water creates an oxidation reaction that turns the sun-exposed areas a deep blue.

After the water bath, the print will still take a little time to oxidize. The last step is to lay the wet print flat to dry. To avoid water spots showing, it helps to let the sunprint dry on an absorbent surface like cardboard or a towel.

Once it’s dry, the finished print will show white where the plants were, and dark blue surrounding for a whimsical looking nature print that can be framed and displayed in your home.

Construction Paper Method

Collect these items to make construction paper sunprints:

  • Construction paper
  • Clear tape
  • Clear acrylic sheet (optional)
  • Foraged items to print

Once the leaves, flowers, and natural items that you want to use are collected, arrange them on any color of construction paper, although darker paper tends to show better results.

Secure the plants with thin strips of clear tape. Then, tape the paper up to a sunny window, with the plants facing the window. In this case, the window works to help keep the plants flat on the paper for a nice-looking print.

It is also an option to use an acrylic sheet over the top of the plant arrangements and lay it flat in the sun to print, similar to the solar paper method.

Taped to a window or laid flat with acrylic, the construction paper will fade in direct sunlight in a few hours and leave a print of the plants. With cloud cover, it will still work, but it might take up to a few days. 

Carefully remove the plants once the paper is faded to reveal the final sunprint! These are a beautiful way to display your love of plants, art, and science while teaching your children.

More Outdoor Art & Fun Activities

Making a sun print is just one way to bring nature into your child’s creative time. Here are more ways to get artistic in the great outdoors.

Outdoor Mindfulness Art Activities
DIY Nature Paint Brushes
Mindfulness Through Art Meditation
Nature Scavenger Hunt Printables
How to Get an “Indoor Kid” Outside
Solar Eclipse Activities for Kids
Foraging with Kids

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