Use the Sun to Print Photos onto Fabric!

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial) As part of my job, every once in a while I schedule some time to walk through craft store aisles to peruse what new products have come out or see if anything interesting jumps out at me. There’s one product in particular that has caught my eye several times and I’ve always wanted to give it a try to see if it’s actually as cool as the photo on the box tells me it’s supposed to be. It’s this photo printing kit that allows you to print a photo using (wait for it) the sun. I’ve seen sun-activated ink or fabric before, but I loved the idea of being able to “print” a photo rather than only use objects to block out the sun to make negative space designs. I was a little skeptical that the process would work well enough to be worth it, but it totally does! So we’re teaming up with our friends at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores to show you how it worked.

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial)Supplies:
Lumi photo printing kit
white cotton fabric
8″ x 10″ canvas
-access to a washing machine
-staple gun
-glass from a picture frame bigger than 8″ x 10″ (optional)

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial) First you’ll want to pick the photo that you want to print. Try and pick something that is a relatively simple photo without a ton of pattern or busy textures happening (subjects against a light or white background look best too). Use a photo editing program to change the photo to black and white, increase the contrast so the image becomes more distinct, and invert the image so the darks become light and vice versa. Print your photo twice onto two of the transparencies that come in your Lumi printing kit (to get a really dense black that the sun can’t get through, it helps to stack two transparencies on top of each other). Line up the transparencies and use clear tape to tape them together. 

Gather your cotton fabric, double transparency, and ink packet from the photo kit. I had the clearest photo transfer when I used a thin smooth fabric as opposed to a textured canvas type cotton, so keep that in mind when you are buying fabric. Use tape to outline an 8″ x 10″ area on your fabric, pin the fabric to the thick foam core board that comes in the kit, and take your supplies into a dimly lit area that has a window (if possible) for ventilation (the dye smells pretty strong). Break the dye packet in half, squeeze the ink onto the fabric, and use the folded ink packet to spread the dye onto your fabric (just stay within your taped border). As you can see in the photo, this method shows the brushstrokes around your photo, so spread the dye in a manner that you’ll want to show up later. 

Once the dye is spread, blot the dye with paper towels to remove any excess (you just want a thin layer of dye), and position your transparency on top of your dye with the ink side of your transparency facing up. Either pin your transparency or place a sheet of glass from a picture frame on top to keep the transparency in place. 

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial) Place your fabric board out in direct sunlight and allow the ink to be activated by the sun. If you don’t use the glass on top, your photo can be done in about 12 minutes on a sunny day and about 30 minutes on a cloudy day, but you’ll want to double (or even triple) your exposure time if you use the glass sheet. The best time to do this is during peak sun hours in the afternoon (from around 11-2), but if you miss those times, just leave it out there a little longer. I left mine in the sun during peak hours for 45 minutes. The exposure is done once the dye has reached it’s darkest color (so pull it sooner if you want a lighter print).

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial) Once your photo has been exposed to your liking, bring the fabric inside and remove the glass, transparency, and tape from the fabric. Immediately drop it in your washing machine on the hot/cold cycle with one of the detergent packets from the photo kit to wash off the extra dye from the fabric (otherwise your white areas will just keep developing).

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial) I would definitely suggest washing it twice as the kit advises. You can see the difference above from the print I washed twice (on the left) and the one that kept exposing a bit longer after one wash (on the right).

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial) Once your print is washed and dried, you can iron it flat, center it on your canvas, and use a staple gun to wrap the fabric around the edges of the frame and secure in place. That’s it! You’re done!

Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial)
Use the Sun to Print Photos Onto Fabric! (click through for tutorial) This was such a fun project to try and I’m so glad that I finally got to play around with this product. I like how the finished photo kind of has a bit of a vintage feel to it and the scraped ink lines around the photo make a cool printed texture as well. Obviously you could do this method on lots of other projects like t-shirts, pillows, or fabric to make into purses, etc., but I’m really happy with how my little canvas project turned out. Here’s to trying new things! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with Stella from The Signature Collection.


  • Great advice!! In October I tried to use Inkodye and totally failed. Your suggestions would have helped. I guess I will have to try it again. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. Pinned and Twitted.

  • These pics are amazing. i will share them on my blog here:

  • This has such a great vintage look and is so personal – Makes for a great gift! We love that it’s perfectly imperfect. We’ll certainly be creating and adding this pillow to our bohemian home decor.

  • I love this idea! I hope I get to test it out sometime soon.

  • I totally saw them on Shark Tank and loved the product! Glad to hear that you enjoyed it… I might have to try it out myself!

  • Yay! I’ve been using Lumi for maybe a year now- making pillows, t-shirts. I have all the colors. It’s so cool! Here are some things I made for sale:

  • This is so cool! I had no idea something like this was doable.

  • I adore the look of this – and having it on a canvas is so special!

    Warm Regards,

  • Love it…but, will have to save this one for when the sun returns to Portland in another 2 months, unless I can use my Happy Lamp to make it work??

  • I’m so doing this! Definitely a craft I can handle…tgif!

  • This would be great for a mothers/fathers/grandparents day/anniversary gift instead of just a simple picture in a frame!

  • This idea is indeed really cool and creative.
    Thanks for sharing!


  • I’ve used Lumi before, and was really disappointed. You can wash it over and over and over – the print will still continue to develop to some degree. When I Googled it to see if I’d missed something, lots of other people had the same problem.

    Save your money until they improve the formula!

  • Wow! This is so cool! Definitely going to try it some day.

  • This looks so lovely ! I will check out if i can find it where i live or at least if i can find something similar ^_^


  • This is awesome! Does the fabric need to be washed by itself to get the dye out completely? If I washed it with another project would the dye bleed onto something else?

  • Yet another win for Mother Nature! So cool! Loved your framing too. Thanks for the inspiration!
    jen @

  • This is such an awesome idea, I love this effect! Definitely one to try out in the future xoxo

    ♥ Cateaclysmic ♥

  • THIS IS SO COOL! $35 is a lot (in my books) to drop on craft supplies in one go, so it’s nice to have a review and know that this is worth it. I love the idea of doing this on tote bags or something like that! Bookmarking for next Christmas. 🙂

    Oh and also – that picture of you and Todd is just the cutest 🙂 You’re such a photogenic couple!

    x Kathryn

  • This sounds like the coolest thing ever. I’d like to try it on a shirt or something wearable!

    :] // ▲

  • Laura, this is so neat, and looks pretty easy to do! Your final product looks so cute on display. Thanks for sharing another fun DIY. 🙂

  • I actually bought some supplies from Lumi awhile back but have yet to try it out, looking forward to trying this out 🙂

  • That is such a fun and interesting idea! I really wanna try that now- it looks so lovely and different with the brush texture border. x

  • you seriously have thought of it all! OMG, what an awesome gift!!!

  • Wow, this is SO COOL! I’ve done this before with photographic paper, but I adore the idea of being able to put it on fabric. It’s got that “beautiful yet messy” look I love, hehe 🙂


  • I’m surprised it actually worked! I love walking around the craft store and picking up new and interesting products. This one is worth a try!

    Monica – Mocha and Moccasins

  • Wow, what a unique project Laura! Now that it’s sunny in San Francisco, I better try it out!


  • i had no idea this was possible! love the graininess of the finished product.

  • I just recently came across this stuff and have bene dying to try it! I saw a tutorial of just the basic inks and was really wondering how the photo kit worked…thank you for sharing!!!

  • It turned out great! Your photo projects always catch my eye and this is another one to add to my to-do list. 🙂

  • What a cool project! I’d love to do it with a picture of my son when he was a baby. Thanks for the tip! Marta

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