HowTo:SunWithSolarFlares

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sun with solar flares

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How to make a glowing sun with solar flares (and turn it into an epoxy resin lamp).

Introduction

Doesn't look so good: Left: sun with solar flares made of painted epoxy resin. Right: use toothpick to "paint" little flares onto cling wrap

This sun was used for the letter X of the epoxy resin XHAIN-letters. For epoxy resin tutorial read this page.

  • Difficulty: easy/medium (takes some crafty skills for step 6)
  • Time required: 2-3 days (for sun only, without resin enclosure)

This project was inspired by this video. However, I didn't have any glass paint and figured I could use watercolours instead. To be honest, I'm quite happy with the result and the idea to use superglue to create some bumpy texture really makes this sun look more realistic than in the original video.

Also I tried out the method from the video to create solar flares, but I didn't really like the result. As shown in the picture, I used a toothpick to "paint" little flares onto some cling wrap (wait for it to cure!), then glued them onto the sun and painted them with watercolours.
Again, I'm much happier with my hot-glue-gun version solar flares. So here's the documentation and instructions.

Tools and Materials

watercolours yellow, orange and red (K24 by Pelikan)
  • clear plastic christmas bauble or some other transparent sphere with a hole, you can buy them at hobby shops / art and crafts supply stores. Diameter approx. 5-7cm.
  • some (yellow/warm white) LED lights (I used these)
  • optional: black acrylic paint
  • tube of superglue (e.g. UHU Sekundenkleber)
  • watercolours (yellow, orange, red) and a flat/short brush
    • alternatively you can use glass paint colours or some other non-opaque colours (I haven't tried this though)
  • epoxy resin & accessories (nitril gloves, small letter scale, <100% alcohol, paper towels, cling wrap, toothpick, small plastic cup (e.g. take away sauce cup from your favourite sushi place))
    • maybe alternatively use wood glue that turns transparent when cured (e.g. Ponal), but I haven't tried this.
  • for cutting base: (hand-)saw or Dremel, cutter knife
  • hot glue and hot glue gun

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Tutorial

Note: On the images it can be seen that I removed the base (step 5) before sealing the paint (step 3). This is because I had borrowed the Dremel and had to return it quickly. It is easier to follow the steps in the order shown in this tutorial.

Step 1: create texture on sphere

Step 1: plastic christmas bauble without and with layer of superglue (for texture)
  • the glue you use must be transparent when cured
  • hold the bauble at the base and use the superglue tube tip to dab glue onto the sphere all around
    • create little bumps, don't wipe or create streaks
  • this creates some more realistic texture for the eye, as well as something for the paint to stick to
  • wait for the glue to dry/cure

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Step 2: paint the sun

Step 2a: cover the sun with thick orange watercolour paint
Step 2b: dab red paint on sun to create spots

Use watercolours or some other semi-transparent colours to paint the (dry) layer of glue on the sphere.

  • hold the sphere at the base
    • use a flat short brush to dab the paint onto the sphere. Use only a little water to take up paint, and make sure the paint is rather thick and not very runny on the brush.
    • start out with light colours, like yellow or orange and cover the complete sphere with paint.
    • when first layer of colour is dry, pick a darker colour like red and cover the sphere. Leave some spots unpainted where the yellow/orange will show.
    • you can create multiple layers of paint until you are happy with the result, but I recommend only 2 layers because the LED-light must still shine through. You don't want the paint to become too opaque.
  • to appear more realistic, you want the sun to have darker and lighter spots, both in colour and tranparency/opacqueness. Add or remove colour until you are happy with the result. If in doubt, shine a torch light inside the opening/base to check how the sun will look later on. Work with your paint until you're happy.
  • wait for paint to fully dry

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Step 3: seal the layer of paint

Step 3a: a little epoxy resin in a small cup
Step 3b: Seal watercolour paint with a layer of epoxy resin. Left: some spots are not fully covered yet. Right: It can be seen that the resin dissolves some of the paint and orange resin drips down.

Sealing the surface is important, if you:

  • want to use the sun for an epoxy resin project: watercolours (as well as glass paint colours) will dissolve and dissipate into the surrounding layer of epoxy resin
    • DON'T use hairspray or clear paint (Klarlack), as it will react badly with the resin!
  • want to leave the sun as it is: the watercolours will come off when touched by fingers

Cover the entire sun with a sealing layer of epoxy resin:

  • wear gloves
  • cover the table / workbench with cling wrap for protection
  • mix a small amount of resin (5-10g) inside a small plastic cup, measuring it accurately with an appropriate letter scale
    • stir it well with a toothpick until no streaks are visible in the resin
  • hold the sphere at the base
    • pour a small amount of resin from the cup onto the sphere
    • distribute it well on the sphere using the toothpick
    • make sure all areas are covered with resin, use the toothpick to pick up some more resin from the cup and smear it onto dry/dull paint areas.
    • if the sphere is shiny/glossy all around, you're done
  • set the sphere on it's base on the cling wrapped tabletop or into a larger plastic cup to catch the excessive resin (or cover a soup plate with cling wrap and put the sphere inside).
  • wait until the resin is cured (for my resin that's 12-24h).

You will observe resin flowing down onto the cling wrap, and it will have picked up some of the colour. The clip wrap will be covered in orange/red resin. Make sure the resin doesn't flow onto your workbench. You can raise the edges of the cling wrap.

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Step 4: check sealing layer

Make sure your sphere is completely covered in resin. Usually I miss a few spots and have to repeat step 3 (and wait anohter 12-24h) before proceeding to step 5.

  • you should now have a shiny sun. Try shining some light inside to see how it looks!

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Step 5: remove base

Step 5: remove base using Dremel, clear edges with cutter knife

Use a saw, Dremel, drill, or whatever else you have at hand to cut off the threaded base of the sphere.

  • I recommend using a Dremel since it's easy, fast and creates a flat base to work with.
  • clear the edges using a cutter knife or file

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Step 6: create solar flares

Step 6: Left: very thick solar flares, I didn't like them so I removed them. Middle: corrected solarflares, with dabbed orange paint. Right: solar flares with dabbed red paint.

The flares are made up of clear hot glue and painted with watercolours in the next step (alternatively you might also use yellow/orange/red hot glue, if you have it). This step takes some practice and you might have to do this several times until you are happy with the result.

  • hold sphere at the hole with one hand, and work with the hot glue gun with the other hand
  • heat up your hot glue gun, but only a little. You want the glue to be just hot enough to be processed, but cool enough to harden fast. Keep pushing the button until hot glue begins to flow. Disconnect from power source immediately.
  • create a string of hot glue which is attached to the sphere at one end:
    • push tip onto the sun to create a connection/base, then slowly pull away the gun while slightly pushing out some more glue.
    • stop pulling away and pushing the button when string is 3-5cm long (depending how big your want your flare to become, and how big your sphere is)
  • attach other end of "hot glue string" back to the sun, 1-2cm away from the origin
  • immediately: hold sphere in such a way that the hot glue dangles at the bottom. This is important because it will shape the solar flare. You can use your fingers carefully (it's hot!) to help shape it. Then wait until cooled off before moving/turning the sun.

You can create little mini flares and larger ones. I find that having 1-2 large flares is enough to appear realistic. Add a few smaller ones all around the sun. You can play around with the flares to practice. Since the hot glue we used was not very hot, it is not attached too well to the sun. Since we covered it in epoxy resin before, any messed up solar flares can be easily removed from the resin layer by carefully pulling them off. The surface of the sun should not be damaged by this. If, however, paint was pulled off, you can always go back to repeat the previous steps to fix this.

  • this actually happened to me once. I used the "blank" spot to attach a new solar flare, which means the flare will be better lit up by the LEDs. It creates a different visual effect. Both "dark-base-flares" and "lighted-flares" look nice though, so it doesn't really matter.
  • I find that thick flares don't look very realistic, I prefer thin strings.

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Step 7: add LEDs and seal base

Step 7a: sun with LEDs
Step 7b: hole partially sealed with hot glue
  • push some LEDs into the sun and arrange them to your liking. For my sun one LED happened to end up directly at the base of a solar flare, which lit up the flare nicely.
  • hold the wires of the LEDs in place with one hand and use your hot glue gun to seal the bottom as follows:
    • again, heat up the gun until the glue becomes runny, then disconnect the power (you don't want the glue to be too hot and runny).
    • push in some glue around inside the bottom/base of the sun and only cover up to 1/3 of the opening. Hold the sun in such a way, that the glue stays where you want it until cooled off.
      • if the glue starts flowing away, tilt the sun to make it flow back where you want it. You don't want a lot of glue to fill up your sun.
    • turn the sun and seal another part of the opening (you may have to briefly heat up your gun again).
    • repeat until the final hole in the middle is completely filled with glue
  • check to make sure the bottom is completely sealed with hot glue (waterproof). You can now cover the base (especially around the wires) with more hot glue to model a round (bumpy) shape of the sun.
    • sealing the base is important for later, to prevent epoxy resin from leaking into the sphere. It might create air bubbles, but also is a waste of epoxy resin.

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Step 8: paint the flares and base

Steps 7c, left: hole fully sealed; Step 8, middle/right: hole fully sealed and painted
  • use watercolours to paint the flares and their bases orange/red
  • also paint the hot-glue base of the sun where the LED-wires stick out.
    • optional: you can paint 1-2cm of the wires red to simulate a single streak of solar flare sticking out.

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Step 9: seal the new layer of paint

Step 9: Left: sun suspended above cling wrap. Right: sun covered in layer of epoxy resin, orange tainted resin can be seen on glove.

Optional but recommended: repeat step 3 to seal the painted flares and painted base with epoxy resin. Since the base is cut off, you can now instead suspend the sun dangling from its wires (I used my table lamp for this). You need to wait again for your resin to cure (12-24h).

  • If you decide not to do seal the paint, some colour may leak into the surrounding resin later on. This could be used as an artistic effect, since solar flares look messy and not very accurate in real life. But this is a risk and may end up looking horrible, so I decided not to take it.

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Step 10: paint it black

You can now use your short brush and black acrylic paint to paint the remaining wires of the LED black. This is only useful if you are going to use the sun in a larger project like I did for the XHAIN-letter "X", where I used black and purple dye to create an outer space feeling for the surrounding epoxy resin.
Your sun is now finished!

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Step 11: finish your project

Build a mould for your project, put the sun inside and fill it up with resin. Read the tutorial How To: Epoxy Resin on how to do that.
Instead of a larger project, you can also create a little box as a mould for your sun like shown in this youtube-video.

  • Caution: the hot glue base and solar flares will melt if you overheat the resin! Make sure to only pour thin layers (<1cm) to not overheat the resin.
  • Also: remember that the sun is lighter than resin and will float to the top. It's advisable to only pour a thin layer of resin first, place the sun inside and wait for it to cure. The sun will then be stuck in this layer and thicker layers (<1cm) can be poured next.

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