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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Murton

DIY Cyanotype Shirt

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Cyanotype is the fun process of using light to do photographic printing. It creates this beautiful rich blue color. Today, I'm going to teach you a little bit about how cool cyanotype is and show you how we made our DIY cyanotype shirt for the 4th of July! It's a great summer project.

how to make your own cyanotype sun print shirt

History of Cyanotype

Cyanotype was developed around 1842 by a man named Sir John Herschel, a Greek chemist and experimental photographer (to name a few titles). Cyanotype creates a monotype print with a deep blue hue that looks like a blueprint. It was first publicly used to create the first ever photographic book called Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions by Anna Atkins. Cyanotype is one of the oldest photographic printing processes and is still used today.

How Does Cyanotype Work?

First, the cyanotype solution is created by mixing ferric ammonium citrate potassium ferricyanide to make an iron-rich sensitizer solution. The solution is brushed over a porous surface such as paper or clothing, you can add an object, and then expose it to light. When the chemicals are exposed to UV light such as sunlight, they react and create ferric ferrocyanide, also known as Prussian Blue around the object. The last step in the process is to use water to rinse away the chemicals. Over time the dark blue develops to reveal the final product.

DIY Cyanotype Shirt

We created a fun Cyanotype shirt for the 4th of July using this cyanotype dye kit, star stickers, and a plain white cotton shirt.

blue shirt with white stars for 4th of july

She wanted to create a blue shirt with a stars and fireworks pattern on it. We used foam star stickers to make the star shapes. The fireworks were created with these fluffy pom poms we found in our craft box from years ago.

make a cyanotype sun print

While don't need a dark room, we did our painting in a dim room before taking the shirt outside to expose it to light. For our shirt, we painted the whole area blue and then laid the stars on it in a pattern we liked. Then we took it outside to let it sit in the sun the sun for a while. We left it outside for a few minutes to develop the color.

Shop Cyanotype Supplies:

washing out cyanotype sun print

After letting our shirt sit out in the sun, we brought it in and removed the stars. She immediately washed the shirt in a sink with cool water. We used gloves to protect our hands from the chemicals. We let it air dry before putting it on.

diy fourth of july cyanotype print shirt

This is the final result. We used a pretty saturated layer of the cyanotype so the blue is pretty dark but the stars and fireworks are fun for the Fourth of July!

To help protect the shirt, I've only ever washed it by hand alone and let air dry, so I don't have good tips for laundering it in the future.

It's a fun summer project for older kids or teens! We are planning to experiment more with nature designs next time.

More Cyanotype Fun:


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