Sun Sensitive Fabric

Ultraviolet light creates colorful color-changing artwork with sheets of solar sensitive cloth.

Photographic paper has long been a popular warm weather activity for kids and adults, but did you know that you can use fabric, too? With Sun Sensitive Fabric, just lay objects on the UV reactive cloth and expose it to the sun’s rays. After ten minutes, rinse the fabric with water and lock the images in place. You even have multiple colors to choose from! Try making images from red, green, or even yellow fabric. Get out in the sun and enjoy Sun Sensitive Fabric!

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Experiment Materials

  • Sun Sensitive Fabric
  • Cold water
  • Small objects
  • Adult supervision

Experiment Videos



Start out by finding some flat objects that will leave a good shadow. Get creative. Look inside and out. Some of the best items we have found are leaves, scissors, cutout letters, charms, geometric blocks and stencils. Lay out and plan what you want your design to be first. Keep in mind taller items may cast extra shadows or create unclear patterns.


Take the fabric out into the sun. Lay the fabric out flat. Place your objects on the fabric in the pattern you have designed.


Leave the fabric in the sun for about 10 minutes. You can still do this on a cloudy day, but leave it out for about 20 minutes to allow for full processing.


When the time is up, bring the fabric inside and remove all of the objects. Rinse fabric under cold water for about 2-4 minutes.


Hang the fabric to dry.


Now that you have created a beautiful masterpiece, you can use the fabric to make handkerchiefs, pillowcases or doll blankets. Use your imagination. No matter what you choose, your creation is bound to be one of a kind.

How Does It Work

At first Sun Print Fabric appears to be normal cloth until it is exposed to the sun. Once sunlight hits the fabric, it’s clear that there’s something different about this cloth. Sun Print Fabric is treated with a special light sensitive chemical that causes it to change color when the sun hits it.

Materials like Sun Print Fabric are a fantastic way for young scientists to visually see the effects of the sun. Although the sun’s rays are invisible, they have great influence when they react with the world around us. Students can use Sun Print Fabric as a hands-on introduction to photosynthesis in plants, sun protection application, or even photo development.

Take It Further

You probably noticed in this activity that by placing a solid object on the fabric and placing it in the sun, you could create a beautiful, distinct and solid design on the Sun Sensitive fabric. What would happen if you used objects that weren’t solid (opaque), but were translucent or transparent? How are the designs created similar or different to those you created the first time?

You can also try making designs on Sun Sensitive Paper.

Science Fair Connection

Preforming the Sun Sensitive Fabric activity is pretty cool, but it isn’t a science fair project, yet. You can create a science fair project by identifying a variable, or something that changes, in this experiment. Let’s take a look at some of the variable options that might work:

  • Test your sunscreen! Draw a design on separate sheets of fabric with different strengths of sunscreen. Expose the fabric to the sun and see what happens! Record your data and document your research. Is a sunscreen with 45 SPF more effective than one with a SPF 15?
  • Try exposing the fabric to different light sources for set intervals of time, with zero exposure being your control in the experiment. Try other light sources such as light bulbs with different watts, black lights, fluorescent lights, infrared heat lamps, etc. Record your data and compare results between the light sources and exposure times.

These are just a couple of ideas, but you aren’t limited to them! Come up with different ideas of variables to test and give them a try. Remember, you can only change one variable at a time for each test. For example, if you are testing different light sources, make sure that all other factors in the test remain the same!

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