Sun Prints

Did you know that you can use bright light to turn a piece of paper into wonderful art you can keep? In this simple and arty experiment we use the power of the sun to make sun prints!


  1. Find a nice sunny spot where you will be able to leave your paper for a few hours.
  2. Arrange your objects on the paper to make an arty picture. If it's breezy make sure you use a few heavy objects or weigh down the corners.
  3. Leave the paper in the sun for a good few hours - starting your print in the morning and leaving it all day is best. When you take the objects off the paper you'll be left with a beautiful sun print!

You could make several sun prints at once - for some ideas how about a scene of children playing, another that's underwater with fish and seaweed, and another of abstract or geometric art? We'd love to see your art!

So what's happening?

Where the opaque objects you laid on the paper stop sunlight reaching it - the paper underneath is in shade - the paper will stay the same colour as it started with. Where there are gaps between the objects or the objects don't block the sun completely the paper will go much lighter, sometimes almost white, leaving a striking print of what was on the paper to begin with!

The reason that the sunlight makes the paper go whiter is that the sun shines out a kind of light called ultraviolet or UV that we cannot see, and this light can alter big, fat molecules like the type that give coloured paper its colour. When those molecules become altered they lose their colour and the paper looks closer to its natural lighter colour. Some people call this effect sun bleaching, but no bleach is involved - only invisible UV light!

What if?

What would happen if you:

  • Used semi-transparent objects like marbles, glasses, vinyl gloves and plastic packaging?
  • Used ordinary white paper instead of coloured paper?
  • Used a desk lamp instead of sunlight?