How to Do Easy Sun Printing on Fabric With Acrylic Paint & Water

Katy | LaughCryDIY
by Katy | LaughCryDIY

If you're lazy and you love Mother Earth you might love today's episode about sun printing on fabric. I want to adopt more green practices in my life, including using cloth napkins. So, in the spirit of environmentalism, I have decided to show you how to sun print on fabric.

I also wanted to do a craft involving nature where Mother Nature could do the craft with us/for us! The sun is going to do most of the work. DIY sun printing on fabric is a very cool craft to try on things you have around the house.

Tools and materials:

  • Cotton or silk fabric (e.g. napkins)
  • Flowers and leaves
  • Wax paper
  • Large books
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Water
  • Waterproof sheet

1. Get your fabric

First, make sure that you have 100% cotton or silk fabric. I picked up these napkins at the thrift store. They are not 100% cotton, but I did a tester and the sun printing still worked, so try out your fabric first.

Napkins before the DIY

2. Collect flowers and leaves

Next, take a lovely walk outside and collect some flowers and leaves. Remember to only pick those on public property or from your own garden! Collect way more than you think you’re going to need.

Flowers and leaves

3. Press the plants

Press the plants on wax paper between the pages of big fat books for a few days.

Pressing the plants

Depending on how many napkins you're going to do, I would suggest pre-organizing your plants. I have four napkins so I'm doing four sheets of paper. When you lay everything out like this you'll make sure that you have an even distribution of things.

Organizing the plants into a design

4. Paint the fabric

Put down a sheet of plastic or cardboard or something waterproof that you can paint your napkins on top of.

Laying the napkin on a waterproof sheet

Normally you would probably be working with a white napkin. I am not because these are what I have but we are going to dye them using simple acrylic paint and water.

Basically, the key to this craft is to keep everything as wet as possible because you don't want it to dry without the sun's kiss. The sun's brightness is going to make the print of the florals and plants.

So, for that reason, I'm going to paint these napkins one at a time, one color at a time. I've just mixed up a loose watery mixture of acrylic paint. I'm going to dampen the napkin first, then paint it really quickly. The darker the paint, the more contrast we’ll get in the sun printing.

Painting the fabric with blue acrylic paint

5. Apply the plants

Now we're just placing the flowers and things on it. I'm being mindful of putting things in the corners because I know that once the fabric is folded up the way I want it to be, that's a part that's going to show a lot. I'm just putting stuff a little bit everywhere, pressing down. You want to make sure it's nice and flat on whatever part it is.

Applying plants to create the sun printed design

6. Take the napkins outside to dry in the sun

Or, do the whole craft outside! I realized this after the first one, as all the things moved once I took the napkin out.

If you didn't know, this is called, I believe, cyanotype printing, which is when you do printing through UV light aka the sun. If you're smarter than me, comment below and tell me what you know about it.

You can actually buy special solar print dye, which is cool of course, but if you just need to work with what you have on hand, acrylic works too.

Sun printing on fabric

7. Wait

Now, we pray that the sun printing works well, the wind doesn’t blow away the plants, and that our napkins will look fabulous. After a few hours, peel the plants away to reveal the final design.

How to do sun printing on fabric

8. Throw in the dryer

To heat-set the paint, throw the dried napkins in the dryer.

Sun printing on fabric

Well, I don't know about you but I am very inspired by Mother Nature's ability to create something beautiful with practically no effort. I think it would be so cool to do this on t-shirts, paper, throw pillows, or upholstery. Sun printing on fabric is such a fun, cool, creative, and different thing to do.

My biggest pro tips for sun printing would be to use more paint than water, get leaves or flowers that are flat and have very clear designs on the edges, and do the sun printing somewhere where there's no wind.

I'm very excited to have my first beautiful set of sun-printed cloth napkins. I hope that you will be inspired to try something similar. Also, if you're interested in more eco-friendly crafts, check out my previous project where I dyed a pillowcase using all-natural dyes.

Shout out to Mother Earth because she is the most beautiful DIY-er of all!

Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
Join the conversation