Avocado dye

Making natural paints and inks from plants

I’ve been making an exciting foray into the world of natural paints and inks. It’s not so different from natural dyeing really. You can use the same dye plants but just create a really strong dye bath by using a higher proportion of plant material to water. If the colour isn’t quite strong enough when you strain it, simmer it down until you reach the desired effect.

Natural ink made from onion skins and marigolds

For my first paints, I’ve gone with some classic dye plants. Above is red onion skin, brown onion skin and marigold flowers. I cooked these for about 2 hours, but the beauty of it is that there is no right or wrong length of time, just different colours and strengths. A lot of plant dyes will brown if you cook them at too high a heat though, so keep it at a low simmer.

Onion skin ink and iron on watercolour paper

Here I tried painting circles on watercolour paper with the red and brown onion skin paints, and adding in a drop of iron mordant (rusty iron dissolved in vinegar). It is so beautiful watching the plant dyes and the iron mix and blend. And I love having a new use for the mordants that I already use for my natural dyeing.

Avocado seed paint/ ink paper tests by Gumnut Magic

Next up was some avocado seed ink. The gorgeous peachy colour at the top was made after a short amount of cooking. The right sample is a simple brushstroke of the final colour, a beautiful earthy pink. The middle sample shows how beautifully it spreads on Japanese paper. And the bottom left two pieces have some iron mordant dropped in to modify the colour- which creates patches of gorgeous lavender purple and smoky blue.

After cooking, you do need to strain the liquid very well to remove any small particles of plant material. Use a coffee filter, or a piece of fabric folded over several times and placed within a metal strainer. Then you can use the paint as-is, or add a binder such as gum arabic to give it a more painterly consistency. Add a clove to each jar of paint or keep them in the fridge to prevent moulds from developing.

Making natural paints from onion skins, avocado seeds and marigold flowers

Here is my collection of paints so far. They look much darker and sometimes even a different colour in the jar to how they turn out on paper.

If you want more inspiration on making your own natural paints, I highly recommend the books Make Ink by Jason Logan and The Organic Artist by Nick Neddo.

If you want to come back to this idea later, you can pin the image below.

Use onion skins or marigold flowers to make paint or inkJ

Natural dyeing with avocado seeds: step by step instructions

Dyeing with avocado is a safe and simple process, perfect for beginners to natural dyeing. Both the seeds (also called stones or pits) and the skins contain colour. They produce a quite colourfast dye of the most unexpected and delightful pink.

The exact colour you get will be affected by which variety of avocado you use, the time of year, the pH of your water, and whether you use the seeds or the skins or both. For this tutorial I have used just the seeds, which contain more potent dye. I collected them over a couple of months, washing them well and storing them in the freezer. This keeps the colour better than drying them out.

Baby onesie naturally dyed with avocado seeds

You will need:

  • Avocado seeds or skin or a mix of both (well washed)
  • Soy-mordanted cotton fabric (find some instructions here), or wool/ silk
  • An aluminium or stainless steel dye pot (aluminium will provide a mild mordanting effect but is not necessary)
  • A long-handled spoon or stick for stirring
  • Loose weave fabric such as muslin for straining the dye

Step one: cover the seeds in water and simmer gently for 1-2 hours. Turn the heat off and let the dye rest for several hours or, even better, overnight.

Dyeing with avocado seeds. Step one: cover with water

Pink avocado seed dye bath

Step two: break up the seeds to make more of the dyes available. This is best done while wearing gloves because the tannins can irritate your skin. If the seeds are too firm to break up, repeat step one first.

Natural dyeing with avocado. Step two: break up the seeds

Step three: re-heat the dye bath for another hour or so to let the colour develop further. Let it cool again, then strain through the loose weave fabric.

Straining avocado stone dye

Step four: If you want to create a shibori effect, tie off sections of your fabric using rubber bands or string. For the top on the left, I tied off 3 sections to create 3 white lines. For the onesie on the right, I gathered fabric in the centre and wrapped it in rubber bands to create a circle pattern.

Shibori techniques for natural dyeing

Step five: Bring the dye bath back to simmering, then add your fabric (pre-wet it so that it will absorb the dye evenly). Add extra water so there is enough space for the fabric to move freely. This will also help to create even colour. Let it cook on a very low heat for about one hour, stirring from time to time. Leave it to cool overnight, stirring occasionally. The colour will continue to develop as it sits.

Adding soy-mordanted cotton to an avocado dyebath

Step six: When you are happy with the colour, remove the fabric from the dye pot. Keep in mind that the colour will lighten as the fabric dries.

Natural pinks from avocado dye

Squeeze out the excess dye, and rinse well. Then remove the rubber bands to reveal the resist pattern.

Shibori dyeing with avocado dye

Avocado seed tie dyeing

Results: Depending on the avocados you used and the pH of your water, you should get lovely peach to pink tones on your fabric. Below you can see that my soy mordanted cotton came out an earthy pink, somewhat lighter once it dried but still a rich colour. I also added a piece of silk to the dye pot and it turned a more peachy tone. You can shift peach dyes to pink by altering the pH of your dyepot with a small amount of washing soda.

Natural dyeing with avocado seeds: step by step instructions

Shibori resist lines on avocado dyed cotton

Pin the below image if you would like to come back to this tutorial later. And if you do try dyeing with avocado, let me know in the comments!

Tutorial for natural dyeing with avocado seeds/stones/pits

Natural dyeing with avocado seeds

I’ve been experimenting with naturally dyeing solid colours, aided by Rebecca Desnos’ beautiful ebook. I recently tried dyeing soy-mordanted cotton with avocado seeds (avocado stones/pits). When I first put the fabric in the dye bath I didn’t quite believe it would do anything. The dye looked quite pale. But I left it for about 30 hours and it slowly turned this vivid pink! Avocado stone dye- dyeing with avodado seeds/pits on soy mordanted cotton I tried eco-printing over this fabric but didn’t have much success. But I was able to create a beautiful resist effect on some watercolour paper. I covered some iron-mordanted watercolour paper with gum leaves, then laid a piece of my avocado-dyed cotton on top, pressed it between 2 tiles and boiled for an hour. Some of the avocado dye transferred to the paper and the pink turned to purple in reaction with the iron. Watercolour paper eco-printed with avocado and gum leaves You can Pin the below image if you want to come back to this later.
Use avocado dyed fabric as a dye blanket when eco-printing on paper