Here’s a video tutorial I made about eco-printing on paper using a rusty can. I love this method because it is easy to get interesting prints with most types of paper and leaves, although I have used some of my favourites for this demonstration.
This is one of the methods I share in my eco-printing on paper ebook, Plant Poetry, along with lots of information about plants, papers and bundling techniques to try.
If you just want to watch a quick preview of the whole process, check out this short video:
I hope that this inspires you to get creative with the plants around you. Have fun experimenting!
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.
You will need:
Avocado seeds or skin or a mix of both (well washed)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Squeeze out the excess dye, and rinse well. Then remove the rubber bands to reveal the resist pattern.
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.
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!
Eco-printing on paper is a fun and easy way to introduce children to the wonders of natural dyeing or to get started with it yourself. Here’s a tutorial for one particular method, using autumn leaves. Autumn leaves print particularly well because they are high in tannins and carotenoid and anthocyanin pigments, which will all give colour. But you could also try this process with any leaves you have around you (results will obviously vary).
You will need:
Strips of watercolour paper
Wood blocks or tiles to press the paper between
Autumn leaves- especially red and purple. I used maple, liquidambar and claret ash
Step 1: Fold your paper into a concertina booklet, slightly smaller than the blocks or tiles you are using. Wet it lightly, then arrange the leaves on each page.
Step 2: Fold your paper up with the leaves inside. You can also put a leaf on the front and back covers. Then press between the wood blocks or tiles.
Step 3: Wrap your wood blocks with string to hold the bundle together. You want firm pressure so that each leaf is pushed into the paper, to make a clear print. With tiles, you can clamp them together with bulldog clips.
Step 4: Once your bundles are wrapped, put them in a pot of boiling water and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. It is always best to use a dedicated dyepot, not one you also use for cooking. If the wood blocks float, weigh them down with a rock.
Step 5: Let them cool, then carefully unwrap, remove the leaves and let the paper dry.
If you want to learn further eco-printing on paper techniques, or find out about more types of leaves that will give good prints, have a look at my eco-printing on paper ebook, Plant Poetry. Or if you want to return to this project later, you can pin the below image.
This tutorial shares a simple method of eco-printing on paper. The effects you get will depend on your local flora, the paper you use and many other variables. Have fun experimenting!
Mordant- iron soaked in vinegar
Leaves and flowers
Tin cans (rusty if possible)
Select and prepare your paper. I like to use cotton-rag watercolour paper that I buy at art stores. It has a beautiful texture and doesn’t tear easily when wet. But you will get some sort of result on any paper. Cut your paper to the desired size. For this tutorial I cut narrow strips that can be wrapped around the tin can. You could also make small cards.
I pre-mordanted my paper using a similar technique as that described in my ebook – giving the paper a short soak in water with a dash of iron-vinegar. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the mordant. You can let the paper dry after mordanting, or continue with the process. If you are using a rusty tin can, you can also omit the mordanting process and just let the rust work it’s magic.
Gather plant matter. For my paper prints, I’ve been exploring a range of both native Australian and introduced flowers and leaves. I use some fresh, while others I soak for weeks or months in advance. Look for interesting outlines, and plants that will press fairly flat. And please avoid any toxic plants as you will be touching them and breathing in their fumes!
Arrange the leaves on the paper. Leave some gaps and spaces so that the outlines have more chance of being visible. You can also try experimenting with layering materials for a different effect. Try sprinkling crushed onion skins over the paper, to add extra colour.
Roll the paper around the tin can. If you are using a rusty can, the paper in contact with the rust will print darker than other sections. When you have rolled all the paper around the can, tie it with string or fabric strips to hold it in place.
Place your paper bundle in a dye pot (a cooking pot dedicated to dyeing only, to avoid food contamination) and cover with boiling water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 1 hour. If possible, do this step outside or open doors and windows to ensure good ventilation.
After the bundle has cooled down, it can be left overnight, or for a few days, to allow the natural colours to continue to develop. Or you may choose to open it immediately. Unwrap slowly and carefully to avoid ripping the paper. If some of the leaves seem stuck, don’t pull them off. Instead, submerge the paper in some water and rub them gently.
Allow your eco-printed paper to dry, noticing how some colours shift or fade in this process. Then enjoy your beautiful paper- use it for cards or scrapbooking, or display it as an art piece. And if you didn’t get the results you were after, keep trying!
If you are interested in learning more techniques for getting good eco-prints on paper, check out my ebook Plant Poetry.