How to Print Cyanotype on Jackets, Jeans & Clothes

It can’t be a big surprise that I am again working with Botanicals since I am sometimes known as the ‘crazy leaf lady’… How amazing is it that nature can assist to print on your favourite jacket or Jeans? How to print Cyanotype on Jackets, Jeans and clothes…

feature image of jean jackets with cyanotype, and un exposed fabric

Do you love jeans? Nature? Being Creative? Well, let me tell you that there is a method that allows you to print onto natural fabrics like cotton jeans and capture the beauty of all the details. It is a photographic printing process called Cyanotype printing! It is a simple method of applying an easily mixed emulsion to a natural fibre fabric (like cotton, rayon, bamboo, linen, silk, etc), letting dry and then using some silhouette materials to expose to UV light like the sun. Rinse away the excess in cold water and there’s your amazing magical blue Prints! Yes, it’s how blue prints were made.

me, in between a lot of plant material

Yes, I’m deeply immersed in green plant material lately as I’m looking closely at all the design possibilities of printing with them. Ferns, blossoms, weeds, seeds, wild flowers, and so much more…

picture of eBoo on Cyanotype

I’ve made an eBook!

Sometimes there is so much information and tips that I feel it needs a better way of providing easy reference. ‘How to Print Cyanotype on Jackets, Jeans & Clothes’ has over 70 pictures and 24 pages long. This book goes further than the basic printing and preparing the emulsion. I have designed a way to print on items of clothing that makes it much easier than using glass sheets and gives great crisp prints.

allium in garden

The Botanical Specimens:

There really is great material to use to print everywhere that you look! Even I spotted some weeds at the roadside that would be fabulous.

pressing plants and botanicals

You can use almost anything as stencils and be creative at how you arrange the designs. Even some tops from grocery store strawberries look like flowers.

cyanotype printed jackets on clothes line

Printing on Denim:

Since we love our denim and it’s blues, Cyanotypes are perfect for them! The sections of the clothing make great options for placement of leaves and flowers. My eBook explains how to overcome the challenge of printing on things that are not that flat.

bleaching sections of clothes

Design Options:

To open up even more possibilities to design on denim bleaching sections is also a great option. That allows the prints to have more contrast in certain sections as well as remain the traditional denim blue.

exposing to the sun

The Challenges of Printing on Clothes:

After printing on paper and flat fabric I realized that clothing is more complicated and it becomes a problem. After much testing and innovation I have devised a method that works with less frustration. Using binder clips and sheets of glass is difficult when working with buttons, zippers etc.

The items are still exposed with direct sunlight using predetermined exposures. Natural fibers like cotton and silk do work best but some blends also do.

The 2 Cyanotype chemicals are readily available, (ferric ammonium citrate & potassium ferricyanide) and easy to apply. There are some things to consider when working with clothes though. There may also be some mistakes and I address how to fix and prevent mistakes in the eBook.

cyanotype overalls on clothesline

I know; I always get so immersed in my current project that I’ve been making countless items… If you would love some of mine, I am happy to share.

cyanotype closeup

Such Pretty crisp Prints:

The intricacy of the negative space from tiny leaves in this photography method is magical. No drawing or painting skills are needed! You do not need a dark room, just some low light area like a basement or garage and a protected work surface.

printed overalls

My tutorial eBook also covers how to lighten areas to compliment the darker denim blue. Other things like Hydrogen peroxide help to create the strong blues and rejuvenate older prints.

cyanotype shirt

I share tricks to keeping things in place and allowing easier exposure.

cyanotype jacket

These are permanent prints on this jacket but it is suggested to keep washing to a minimum. Do not use detergents with Phosphates, sodium or bleach as it will affect the prints. Gentle hand-washing is best.

closeup of details

I never really tire of what nature gives me. What do you think? Does it not give just a small bit of relaxation?!

closeup of leaves in print

How crisp the prints that this method makes! ‘And such a lovely blue!

fern print on shirt

Perhaps you want one of your own, before they all disappear.

jeans with printed leg

Whether you are young or old, denim is a favourite. I have fond memories of my kiddos in overalls.

stack of cyanotype printed jackets

I’ll admit, I will probably never tire of my jean jackets, whether painted or printed, such a canvas for expression.

ebook on desk

This How to Print Cyanotype on Jackets, Jeans & Clothes eBook can be handy reference; in digital form or printed at your local print shop or printer.

clothes on the line

Soon, your laundry line may look like mine…

levi shorts with ferns

Another positive outcome is that it gives items a new life! After some preparations those old jeans can have new life.

back of jean jacket

Take a walk, look around… Let nature inspire you! Happy making!

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10 Comments

  1. Every outfit looks amazing! Congratulation with the book too! Thank you for sharing your adventure! ❤️❤️❤️

  2. Barb, Beautiful pieces. I bought the two chemicals years ago but never got around to using them. I’ve also done this but just the sheets you buy. I’ll have to try this. Thanks for the inspiration this morning.

  3. Hi Barb. Have you ever tried Solarfast? It seems to be much more washable than traditional cyanotype.

    1. I have not tried it, but it does look interesting. It seems to be much more expensive and they also say it takes a learning curve to work with Solarfast. I’ve done some Sunprinting with Dyna-flo, but it is not a photographic method, more like a silhouette method. Also, it seems more aggravating since you use it when it is still wet. That could complicate the procedure for sure if working with the jackets and jeans. ‘If’ the cyanotype fades over time, it could be a chance for a redo… Thanks for the info!

  4. Wow so pretty!!!
    I love your items.
    I’ve been trying to do my own clothes and I’m having trouble with bleeding.
    And some how getting blue in parts that i didn’t even put the chemicals.
    Been baffling.
    Thanks for the great encouragement and info.

    1. Some of the fabrics do bleed more than others. Sometimes the dye ends up redepositing after rinsing if not rinsed out enough. Not all denim is 100% cotton nowadays either.

        1. Sometimes I would get residual green after rinsing. It would seem like I rinsed enough but unexposed cyanotype chemical would appear and there fore need more rinsing. Hope that helps.