Did you ever make sun prints as a kid? I remember getting a sun print kit that had special paper in it. I would lay it out in the sunlight and then place leaves from the yard on it and wait a bit. In about an hour, it looked like there were leave prints and botanical shapes against the blue background. I always thought it was the coolest thing ever! You can still buy sun print paper and kits, and it’s still a really cool art technique to try, but the sun isn’t always out and there isn’t always fresh greenery to use in the winter I thought it would be fun to show you how to make DIY sun prints with paint and Gelli plate printing to create beautiful art work for your walls with these step-by-step instructions. There is also a video of this project you can watch in the video player.
This post contains affiliate links such as amazon affiliate links. See our sponsor and affiliate disclosure here.
Can you make cyanotypes or sun prints without the sun?
YES! By using a Gelli plate, faux greenery and acrylic paint, you can mimic the look of sunprints and satisfy your inner botanist. You can also replicate this with fabric paint on a cotton fabric or use other colors of paint to print on darker color of paper or fabric, no direct sunlight needed.
To make this project you’ll need medium-bodied acrylic art paint in Prussian Blue,Yellow Ochre and Titanium White (don’t use acrylic craft paint, it dries too fast), matte cardstock or watercolor paper, A Gelli plate, a brayer (roller), and faux(plastic) greenery like fern leaves, fake leaves or flowers. In the spring and summer you can take a nature walk use real leaves, twigs and flowers to do the same thing! You can also find supplies here in my Amazon store.
Sun prints (or cyanotypes) can range from dark blue colors to lighter shades with a washed out look
Start by dotting a few drops each of Prussian Blue and Yellow Ochre on the Gelli plate. How much blue and yellow depend on how close you want it to look to traditional cyanotypes. They can range with darker colors to lighter tones with anywhere from a deep, dark indigo color to a more muddy teal blue.
Some that are aged and older can be faded from a darker blue to more of a light denim blue color. It all depends on how you mix you paint colors. I add more Prussian blue for a dark cyanotype look, and more yellow for that classic sun print look. For the light denim color add a drop of white. Only use a few drops of paint, less is more with this project.
Mix this together with your brayer (roller) right on the plate. You can mix it together until it’s completely covered. Once the paint is mixed, place your faux plant stem straight down onto the paint and press it to grab the details (FYI, this will ruin the faux leaves and leave them coated in paint. ). For skinny areas, I used a dowel rod or bamboo skewer to press the areas down. Once the leaf is pressed, lift it in one piece. Let the paint completely dry on the plate. This is important. And then clean your brayer before the next color.
Once the paint is completely dry, place a few drops of Titanium White paint and roll that right over the blue paint.
To play with other printing techniques, check out how to make a wood grain stamp with hot glue
Immediately place you paper of choice over the top and press firmly, making sure all of the painted surface has contact with with paper. Sometimes for firmer contact, I like to place a secondary piece of paper over the top and roll over it with my brayer pressing firmly. This also helps clean excess paint off the brayer and I use it to create abstract art paper I can use in other projects.
Let the paper sit on the gelli plate for at least 3 minutes. It needs time to absorb into the paper and grab. of you remove it sooner, you may not have your entire art image transferred. Once the image is ready, flip the entire thing over and carefully remove the plate from the paper and not vice versa or you could rip or bend your printed image.
It’s so exciting to see the reveal and see how it turned out! I love how it’s different each time! These can be left to dry completely flat and then ready to put into picture frames! By using different Gelli plates, you can make different sizes as well.
Are you ready to try making these DIY sun prints with paint? I love playing with Gelli plate printing because it’s so easy to create beautiful art at all skill levels!