Solar Printing


Solar Printing

By Adventure Science Center

Summertime is here and the sun is shining! Did you know you can create art using the powerful rays of the sun? Try making your own sun print at home with this fun, sunny day experiment.


  1. Sun–
    (noun) the star around which the planets revolve, from which they receive heat and light, and which has an average distance from the Earth of about 93,000,000 miles, a diameter of 864,000 miles, and a mass 332,000 times greater than Earth
  2. Ultraviolet–
    (adjective) used to describe rays of light that cannot be seen and that are slightly shorter than the rays of violet light
  3. Radiant Energy–
    (noun) energy transmitted in the form of electromagnetic waves (as heat waves, light waves, radio waves, X-rays)
  4. Photodegradation–
    (noun) degradation by means of radiant energy (as light)
  5. Wavelength–
    (noun) the distance (as from crest to crest) in the line of advance of a wave from any one point to the next corresponding point.


  • Dark, bright colored construction paper (red, orange, blue or black are suggested)
  • Pennies
  • Tape
  • Lots of sunshine
  • Leaves & other objects (optional: for further exploration)


  1. Find a nice, sunny spot where you can leave your print without worry. A table or pavement surface works best.
  2. Tape down your construction paper to the surface so that it won’t blow away.
  3. Arrange your pennies in a design on the paper and don’t move them for several hours.
    • Check back intermittently to ensure pennies haven’t shifted.
  4. Make observations throughout the experiment about what’s happening to your print.
    • Is your paper getting darker or lighter?
    • What do you think is happening underneath the pennies?
    • How do the pennies feel?
  5. After a few hours, head back out to your prints. (Note: the longer you wait, the more contrast you’ll have.) What do you notice about your paper?
  6. Begin to remove the pennies and reveal your print!

Further Exploration

  • Try making prints with lighter colored construction paper (yellow and other light colors) and compare the difference in these sun prints to your darker colored construction paper.
  • Make prints using different objects, such as leaves and other household objects!


There are light-absorbing color bodies, known as chromophores, that are present in dyes. The colors we see are based upon these chemical bonds and the amount of light that is absorbed in a particular wavelength.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays can break down the chemical bonds and fade the colors in an object, ultimately “bleaching” the object. Some objects may be more prone to fading, while others may reflect the light more making them less prone to fading.




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