Using Cardboard Shapes for Shadow Printing

Using Cardboard Shapes for Shadow Printing

Jessica Jones

Reposted from How About Orange.

I played with Inkodye again—a photo-sensitive dye that uses the sun to develop prints on natural materials like wood and fabric. One nice thing about using this dye instead of fabric paint is that fabric stays soft and flexible, instead of stiffening like it does with paint. Plus watching prints develop is always fun!

I made a simple cloud design this time, since I knew that achieving perfectly crisp edges is tricky due to shadows that might occur. And clouds can have soft edges, so if that's what happened, all the better.


Inkodye ↗
Inkowash ↗
Foam brush
Large piece of cardboard (wrapped in plastic)
Masking tape
Cardboard (for cutting shapes)
Paper towel
Gather Supplies

1. Gather Supplies

To make your own cloud print, you'll need Inkodye, Inkowash, fabric, a foam brush, a large piece of cardboard wrapped in plastic for your work surface, masking tape, cardboard for cutting out shapes, a pencil and scissors.


2. Sketch

Sketch clouds onto cardboard. You could use a cereal box or other recycled cardboard for this; avoid regular paper since it might let light through and it will curl more easily if it gets damp.


3. Cut

Cut out the clouds.


4. Tape

Tape the edges of the fabric to your work surface to keep it in place while you brush on dye. (My "work surface" was a piece of corrugated cardboard wrapped in a garbage bag, which worked great.)


5. Apply

In a dim room away from direct sunlight, quickly brush the dye evenly over the surface of the fabric.

*Note: It's fine to use it straight from the bottle, but it's very concentrated so you can mix it with water to stretch it. Use a 1:1 ratio of dye to water, and colors will still be vibrant. I used about 1/4 cup of each for this project.


6. Blot

Blot up any excess dye with a paper towel until the surface feels barely damp. Less moisture will keep the cardboard shapes from curling up.


7. Arrange

Arrange the cloud cut-outs over the fabric. It's helpful to weigh down your shapes to prevent curling; I used some stacks of coins. Place them quickly to prevent the cardboard from shifting.


8. Expose

Carry the board into a sunny area, set it down, and don't move it while the dye develops. (About 8 minutes on a sunny day, 15 on a partly cloudy day.) For best results, expose prints around noon when the sun is directly overhead; it will help reduce cast shadows.

Once exposed to sunlight, the dye will begin turning color within seconds. When your print has been exposed long enough, bring it back inside before removing your shapes. Remember, the unexposed areas will immediately begin to turn color if you remove the cutouts outside, so resist the urge to peek immediately.


9. Wash

Quickly begin washing out the excess dye in hot water and Inkowash, scrubbing thoroughly. Rinse, and you're done! The resulting print will be permanent and machine washable. See the Shadow Printing guide for full washing instructions.


10. Enjoy!

You now have your own, unique fabric!