Monday, August 24, 2015

How to: Make a UV Exposure Unit for Alternative Processes

In this tutorial, Ashley Whitt and Ross Faircloth, share their experience creating an at-home UV exposure unit. If you live in a location that seldom sees sunlight, or would like to work on alt process any time of the day and night without buying an expensive pre-made unit, continue reading!

Items needed 

all can be purchased from Home Depot or Lowes

   Screwdriver (flat head)
   Wire Strippers
   Electrical tape
   48” Light Fixture (2)
   48” UV Bulbs (4)
   Fabric (Opaque) 
   Electrical wire, cut to length (2) 

Wire type: Carol 3/C 14 AWG SJOOW 300volt (the exact wire brand is unknown, your local hardware store should have this wire on a large rack to buy per foot, an associate will cut it down to size for you.  Just let them know you need standard wire (w/ ground wire inside) for a fluorescent light fixture)

   Electrical plug – three prong (2)
   Wire nuts (6)any size will work

1. Buy two Fluorescent light fixtures (48”) at your local hardware store. If you buy them and they are not pre-wired you will probably save a little money but add an extra step later in the process. 

 2. You will also need to buy 4 UV bulbs, at 48”. If you chose a light fixture without pre-existing wires, you need to also pick up two lengths of Electrical cable and two 120v plugs. 

3. We installed our light fixtures into a pre-existing set of storage shelves. This saved time because we did not have to create a wooden box or structure to house the light fixtures.  Storage Shelves:

4. When you get the lighting fixtures home, find the instructions inside the box. These provide a general outline of the way the wires run in the lighting fixture. Be careful of the sharp metal edges.

 5. After setting up the lighting fixture properly, you are now ready to attach the electrical cord you had cut to length to the wires in the lighting fixture.  You should see a power box inside the lighting fixture that has two wires (black and white) coming out of it.  There is also a green painted screw about mid-way down inside the light fixture, this is for your ground wire (green wire).  You will unscrew this just enough to fit the exposed copper around the threads of the screw then tighten it back down. 

6. Use the wire strippers or a utility knife to strip back 2-3” of the main cord. This will expose the black, white and green wires inside.  Now strip back about ½-1” of each wire (white, black, and green), that you just exposed from inside the main chord.

7. Use your wire nuts to attach the now exposed copper from the black and white wires to each corresponding wire (black to black, white to white).  After this is complete, the lighting fixture is ready to be closed up.  Electrical tape can be used to hold the cover tight, mine liked to slip and hit the bulbs every now and then. 

8. Move on to the other end of your electrical wire and strip back enough to allow you to connect each wire to the correct screws inside your 3-prong plug.  The amount to strip back can be tricky as it is a tight fit for all 3 wires so err on the side of to little, as you can always strip back more as needed.

9. Inside the 3-Prong plug you will see a gold screw, silver screw and green screw.  The gold screw will connect to the black wire, the silver to white and green to green. When you finish tightening all the screws down and close up the plug your U.V. box is ready for the UV bulbs.

10. The UV bulbs will slide into the grooves and twist counter-clockwise to set in place. Once both bulbs have been put in the lighting fixture is ready to be plugged in.

11. Hanging the lights is next and may vary depending on your placement. The simplest hanging method is metal hangers with a chain. These will either come with the lighting fixture or will be sold right next to them.  

Complete exposure unit (uncovered)

Complete exposure unit (covered)

12. Once everything is hung, the next stop is keeping as much UV light contained as possible.  We taped thin paper boards on the left and right sides of the shelf (like you find on the back of sketchpads or legal pads). You can use anything here that fits the space (approx.. 18-24” x 18-24”, depending on size of shelving unit).  Then use an opaque fabric to cover the long sides (48”), it should be large enough that it covers front and back down to the printing surface (approx.. 42”). 

Cover lifted to show cyanotype exposing 

13. To create an exposure, place a contact frame containing your image HERE and turn the exposure unit on. Set an alarm on your phone for the exposure time, and when it beeps turn the unit off. 

 Garments by Kristen Whitt. For inquiries about fabric and/or garments, please email:

P.S- the winner of the giveaway will be announced tomorrow