Make Your Own Sunprint and Engage in Science

photo credit: Sunprint via photopin (license)


  • To describe how to make artwork by capturing solar rays.
  • To create a sunprint.
  • To design an experiment using sunprint paper.

There are a variety of STEM projects that involve harnessing energy from the sun. One example is making artwork using sunprint paper that is sensitive to ultraviolet light.

You can be creative and put any object(s) on the sunprint paper and expose it to the sun. See the article How It Works by for a step-by-step guide on creating a sunprint.

A solid object will block the sun’s rays, such that the paper underneath that respective area stays blue, while the exposed area turns colorless.

This process happens because molecules in the paper are sensitive to ultraviolet light. When exposed to solar light two molecules interact and form a colorless compound, allowing the white paper to show through. The areas blocked from the sun remain blue. Several other changes occur when the exposed paper is placed in water. The blue molecules float away and the colorless compound turns blue. This creates remarkable contrast. 

Beyond making artwork you can perform science experiments with sunprint paper. For example, using sunprint paper, one can test how effective different sunscreens claim to be at blocking the sun. See Activity.

One can conceive of other projects to conduct with these special papers. For instance, nowadays there are some sports shirts that claim to block UV rays. Do they really? Could we put these on top of the paper and see  if there is any difference compared to regular t-shirts? What about sunglasses that claim to block UV light? How effective really are they? 

Although we are unable to see UV light with our human eyes, it’s there. The creation of a sunprint attests to the existence of this natural phenomenon.  Let’s consider it in STEM education.



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