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Heliographic Printing & Cyanotype Blue Printing

This decorative technique is simple and effective. It depends on direct light from the sun or a bright artificial light to fix the colour in the exposed areas - leaving the dye to vanish from the shaded areas!

Enjoy sitting in the sun waiting for the magical reversed-print transformation, your children will love it too. For best results, use Pébéo Setacolor Soleil fabric paints which work effectively for this method.

Here's how to create Heliographic Prints

  1. Brush colours onto the dampened fabric in a 'wet-on-wet' technique, flowing and blending together giving soft colour movement.

  2. The wet painted fabric can be stretched or folded into creases and covered with objects or stencil cut-outs. The items on it should be in close contact, to ensure good clear shadows. If outside, the wind could disturb the patterning so use weights if necessary.

  3. Leaves and light paper objects give wonderful effects, but must be sufficiently in contact with the fabric; experiment first to establish your technique. Salt effects can also be used.

  4. Heat set the finished design with an iron on the reverse side for 3-5 minutes on a cotton setting.

The example to the right was achieved by first spraying the fabric with water and washing the two colours across the fabric. Stencils (in this case pieces from a child’s construction toy) were put in place and the fabric was left in the sun to react. Take care when using three dimensional stencils as they will cast shadows which will effect the final ‘print’.

The example to the left was achieved by splashing the fabric haphazardly with two colours. The wavy paper stencil shapes were then placed over the fabric while the paint was still wet.

Experiment with feathers, shells, nuts and bolts, gloves, cutlery, leaves...

Cyanotype Blue Print

Cyanotype Blueprinting

Another type of heliographic printing is cyanotype or blue printing.  With this technique, you can create stunning photograms on fabrics and paper, such as this print made using a honeysuckle flower as a mask. 

In cyanotype printing the fabric is first treated with a solution of the chemicals and dried in the dark. A mask is placed on the prepared fabric which is then exposed to sunlight or UV light. The blue colour emerges and the covered area remains undyed. The unexposed chemicals are then rinsed from the fabric.  Find out more about the cyanotype blue printing process >


Print made from placing keys on wet paint in sunshine

Print made from paper mask

Print made using a child's toy as a mask

Print made from paper cut-outs on wet paint in sunshine

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