First Experiment with Sunprint Paper

I’ve had some Sunprint (2) paper hanging around for a few years now. I originally purchased it in 2014 for my children to experiment with while I was home educating them, but we never got around to using it so I thought I’d give it a try. Being well trained in the scientific method, I should have approached this experiment in a thorough, scientific way. Being me, I decided it would be best to wing it so I’d actually get it done.

I didn’t want to use solid objects for this. I’d had the (probably very unoriginal) idea of using an image printed onto inkjet transparency to produce the image. I’ve taken lots of images of the fennel in front of my house and so I picked one of those. It seems quite a classic subject for the medium, and I really like the shape of fennel.

The original image before it had been processed in Lightroom. The image is taken through a window. There are raindrops and the whole image is fuzzy as it’s taken through a muslin curtain. I wanted to see if any of this detail would appear in the final image.

First I increased the contrast of the image in Lightroom, and then I printed the image onto inkjet transparency (3).

Using sunprint paper is really simple. There are 15 sheets in the kit I have, and the basic idea is you use something solid (2D or 3D) to block the light and use sunlight to expose the paper. The blocked areas will appear white in the final image, and the areas exposed to light turn blue.

It was a reasonable August day (1), so I started in a shady area in my garden as I didn’t know how quickly it would work. However, after a few minutes I couldn’t honestly tell if anything was happening so I moved into a more brightly lit area, held the transparency on top of the paper with a sheet of clear acrylic, and waited until it looked like the paper was changing. I think I left it about 5 minutes, which is the upper time suggested in the instructions. I will admit, I wasn’t using a watch so it could have been longer. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, but when it looked like something had happened – that the paper looked a paler blue colour, I rinsed it in several changes of clean, cold water. I did try rinsing a corner under running water as suggested, but the paper just didn’t seem able to withstand it; I thought it might start disintegrating.

The initial exposure was in a shady area of my garden. Being sheltered, it was less windy and so there was less danger of the papers moving. (Ignore the weeds, I’m not a keen gardener).

At first it didn’t look like I had been very successful; the paper was pale blue and I could only just make out the shape of the fennel. But after it had dried for a few hours I got a much better result.

So, for a first quick experiment it’s okay. I need to dry it flat next time, and perhaps reading the instructions might actually work too.

The final print. I’ve left in all the edges so it’s clear how the transparency works.  I think the harder edges on the left of the image might be shadows from the acrylic sheet used to hold everything in place. The image needs ironing out; it’s got wrinkling in it and it’s quite bent up as I didn’t dry it flat as instructed.

For next time, I’ll also go back to my vague memories of using new paper in the darkroom and expose a strip of the paper for different amounts of time, with this paper probably for about a minute at first and then a minute for each subsequent exposure up to around 5-10 minutes. The problem, of course, is that the weather is unreliable, so I’m not totally sure exactly how useful this will be, but perhaps I can try it at different times of year. All I can expect is a better estimate of exposure time and the blues produced, but I’d like to experiment with cyanotype as I really enjoy the simplicity of it, and I love the colour. I also need to print a graduated strip onto inkjet transparency that runs from black, through grey and onto transparent (to stand in for white) to work out exactly how well that works. I’m not sure how sensitive the process is – could I get graduated areas of white, or is it just white/blue?

The question occurs as I’d like to try and make a print of clouds, but that will need variations as if they’re totally white then it won’t work. I’m waiting for some nice clear fluffy clouds and when I have a digital image I’m happy with then I’ll invert the image, make the sky transparent, and give it a go. I would also like to try mixing the chemicals myself so I can produce some images on canvas as I’d like some texture.

  1. I produced these images on 25/8/17.
  2. Sunprint paper; I have the Super Sunprint Kit, ISBN 0-924886-76-5 that has 15 sheets of paper and a 20x30cm transparent acrylic sheet and costs approximately £20 on amazon.co.uk
  3. Inkjet transparency; I got Q-Connect Universal Inkjet Transparency Film £13.45 for 50 A4 sheets from amazon.co.uk

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