Solar Panels

It’s summertime and the garage fabric painting and dyeing studio is now open.  A friend succumbed to a display of Jacquard’s new SolarFast sun printing dye product and I benefited from her purchase.  There’s lots of information about this product on Jacquard’s website and the blog And Then We Set It On Fire, plus videos on YouTube.

Using violet, teal, and scarlet colors and recycled bits of fabric (previous dyeing failures and stained light colored fabric,) we experimented.

SolarFast coasters and washersViolet with drink coasters and washers.

SolarFast cardboard on Moda marblesTeal with shelf liner and packing material on Moda Marbles fabric. Note how the beige in the fabric dulled the teal.

SolarFast crochet on organzaCrocheted antimacassar over violet on silk organza.

SolarFast organza over coastersOrganza laid over drink coasters print.

SolarFast crochet detailCrocheted scarf over scarlet, front side. Below is the reverse side of the same piece.  I have no idea why the pattern came out so much clearer on the reverse.

SolarFast crochet wrong side

SolarFast 2 colors wrong sideSame thing with reverse side of this two color piece using the crocheted scarf.  The packing material looks about the same on both sides.

The keys to success with this product are having everything flat on the fabric (a piece of glass or plexiglass on top is helpful) and removing the resists in the shade. We lost some definition on a few pieces because we were so eager to see the results we removed the materials in the sun. In less than a minute the newly exposed fabric got darker.

My friend got lovely effects with plant material, especially leaves.  Blossoms shriveled too quickly in the hot sun to make a clear pattern.  She also used little bits of stamped metal shapes which left a sharp imprint.

Is this product worth it?  It depends on what’s important to you.

It’s premixed, easy to clean up after, and can be diluted up to 1 to 1 with water. We diluted it with about half part water to one part SolarFast. The resulting colors were pleasant, but not intense.

While the colors can be combined, it’s impossible to see the effect before sun exposure as the product is a murky, chalky color out of the bottle.  Other paints such as Setacolor can be more accurately mixed. The colors don’t blend well on fabric but remain distinct.

It seems designed to work especially well with photo negatives. This is demoed on the above YouTube link. You can get sharper detail than with other sun printing methods. However, Jacquard wants you to use their special transparent sheets for this.

It’s much less messy and works faster than other methods. We exposed our fabric for about an hour due to a doughnut break, but the instructions said the desired effect could print in as little as 15 minutes, varying with color used. Depending on time of year, that could be an advantage. It could also be used by children who are old enough to follow directions. No masks are needed though the product contains ammonia.

It leaves fabric with a soft hand and no stiffness.

It’s expensive compared with other paints that do the same job, and I don’t think it can be used for anything else except sun printing. However, the videos show some great t-shirts made with it, so it may be the best product for sun printing photos.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with this product or any sun printing you’ve done. I need to go back to my other paints and try sun printing with them so I can do some comparisons.



Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

15 responses to “Solar Panels

  1. Pingback: Multiple Technique Practice Piece – Deep in the Heart of Textiles

  2. Hmmm . . . I didn’t know anything about any of these products–they’re interesting. I’m not sure I’d find use for the technique, although I really do like the lace and crochet effect!

    • This year I’ve been on a fabric printing binge so I’ve been eager to try out different products. And I was happy to find a use for my great aunt Harriet’s crocheting.

  3. Have you tried using Inkodye? The colors turn out much better in my experience, I think the pigments in it are more saturated because I have been able to dilute 1:1 with water and still retain full color brightness. Also they provide a lot of good ideas for projects:

    • From what I just read on the link you gave, Inkodye seems to work pretty much like SolarFast. So far the only difference I can see is the price. On Amazon Inkodye is about $2 more for a 4 ounce bottle than SolarFast, though if the color is better the price difference is negligible. I haven’t seen Inkodye for sale in any retail establishments, but my friend picked up the SolarFast at an art/dyeing supply store. Often we keep using a product simply because it’s readily available. Thanks for suggesting an alternative product.

      • Give it a try if you get a chance. I know that they have it at JoAnn’s and lots of other stores (I think you can look them up in their store locator). I have tried both and Inkodye is by far superior in terms of the color fastness. If you’re diluting it with water it also has more pigment which makes it less expensive in the long run. They’re also the people who developed the process in the first place through Kickstarter… I like to support the little guys 🙂

      • I’ll look for it on my next Joann’s run.

  4. This:
    “We exposed our fabric for about an hour due to a doughnut break,”


  5. Thanks for sharing your experience with this. I think i want to try it with some printed images on transparency. I’ve promised myself that later in July I will set aside a few days for sun printing.

  6. I love the effects from the antimacassar and crocheted scarf!
    I saw some possibilities with shelf liner too, and tried it with printing. I like your results better than what I got.

    • This product gives more photographic details than other sun printing methods I’ve tried, so delicate laces would show up beautifully, as long as they’re flat against the fabric.

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