My First Date with Lumi
I have gone steady with several Sun Printing methods. We were so hot and heavy I even devoted a whole chapter to our love in my book “Print Workshop.” At the time I was head-over-heels for Cyanotypes, but this older, established technique has some fickle drawbacks. Cyanotype printing is a delicate chemical process that requires pristine printing surfaces which can be difficult to coat evenly. Exposure times can be a sensitive battle and, most importantly, it only prints prussian blue. But through the years I grew comfortable and never thought I needed more thrills and variety in my Sun Printing. When this young stud on the scene, Inkodye, arrived at my door promising me rich prints in a variety of colors, I was skeptical. I am adept at cyanotype printing and various stenciling methods so this product had a lot to prove to make it worth the time and expense. I opted for the craft equivalent of coffee date – a quick-and-dirty Lumi DIY. Just something to see if we could go all the way.
While Inkodye printing is related to alternative process photography, it is most helpful to frame it as stenciling with light. You create your stencil with objects or images which act as a shadows and use sunlight as your paint. Like stenciling, you want the stencil to lay flat and place stencil as close to cloth as possible for an accurate print. The main difference from regular stenciling is your want to prepare the cloth and arrange for printing in the dark- only exposing the prepared cloth to sunlight when the rays need to work for you.
I chose to paint a stencil for a brushed look and to utilize fine line quality I can’t get with traditional stencil methods. I used a 9 x 12″ (22 x 30 cm) Grafix Clear-lay film, but a copy shop would sell you one sheet of transparent film for a buck. India ink provides a rich, opaque black that the sunlight can’t creep through. Permament markers will do, but you won’t get a good solid black needed for high-contrast images. I dolled up with some quick fruit sketches and I was ready to go.
Like any new relationship, I treaded cautiously. I hedged my bets by cutting cloth in several sections so I could test exposure times. I cut a 15″ x 60″ (30 x 152 cm) silk scarf into 4 sections and ironed them them flat. In a dimly lit closet I used the inkoye roller to coat each silk piece and placed them in a plastic bag. I had another plastic bag handy for the exposed prints. I kept both bags under a dark cloth so they wouldn’t get any light.
For my print set-up I used the back of my black cutting mat. From my own experience I know that a dark surface is essential for preventing light from going through fabric and reflecting back. This results in a mucky print. The cutting mat is a stiff vinyl that makes it easy to carry flat without disturbing the stencil set-up and I can wipe it clean between prints. A piece of black foam core would work, too. I put one piece of cloth on cutting mat and smoothed it down with my rubber-gloved hands. I placed the stencil paint side up over the cloth and carefully carried to a spot outside with indirect sun.
After exposing the prints individually, I returned to my dark closet to tuck the finished print in the other plastic bag and prep unexposed prints. I tested exposure times from 12-19 minutes with midday February diffused sun in San Francisco. You will see the inkodye get brighter and darker as the clock tics. The red dye changed from a blush pink to a bright magenta during the sun exposure.
When all the prints were exposed, I tossed the finished lot in the washing machine with the Inkowash. In my town very few of my friends have washing machines at home so perhaps the company could add hand-washing instructions. Despite varying exposure times the prints were relatively consistent. The area of the cloth under the black of the stencil was white and it provided a good contrast to the vibrant magenta color. After years of Sun Printing with Cyanotype’s Prussian Blue prints, the luminous jewel toned hue is thrilling! This first date was a success by any measure and I am looking forward to fruitful and long term good times with this new INKODYE process. In fact the next day I cut out a shape from a dark file holder and placed a painted stencil below it to create a positive printed image. Now I just keep thinking of more things to do with it! Honestly guys this is really fun and forgiving process with a ton of possibilities. I would not recommend this unless I was certain you too could fall in love with this new rainbow-tastic Sun Printing process.
Give it a go and call me the next morning with all the juicy details!
A few quick tips:
- Coat cloth and prepare prints in areas lit only with dim artificial light-low-wattage traditional light bulbs preferred.
- The tested “red” dye was more magenta.
- Exposure times vary according to strength of sun rays but will work even in cloudy conditions.
- Use India ink or dark card stock paper to create stencil.
- Lay a piece of glass over the stencil to press it closer to the cloth for a crisp print.
- I used about 1/4 of the 8 oz (237mL) bottle on this 15″ x 60″ inch silk scarf. More absorbent fabric like cotton will likely soak up more inkodye.
- Rubber gloves and ventilation recommended. The product contains ammonia, but I didn’t find the fumes too harsh.