Category Archives: eco printing

Ecoprinting with blankets and barriers.

There are several reasons why you would use blankets and barriers when ecoprinting.

  • A blanket provides good contact between paper and plant material.
  • When using thick plant material that could damage the paper a felt or wool blanket acts like a cushion levelling things up and allowing good contact with the paper.
  • A blanket can be dipped in a solution such as iron water to change/ enhance the print. There are other solutions that you can use too but I want to keep things simple as I hope to encourage beginners to try ecoprinting.
  • A blanket can be used as a carrier for dye to impart colour to the ecoprint. This can be a natural plant based dye or it can be a manmade dye, I use Procion dyes or natural dyes.
  • Fabric, paper or plastic can be used as a barrier to prevent the colour from one plant bleeding through onto the other prints.
  • Textured material like lace , hessian or log bags can give texture or pattern to the print.

How to ecoprint with dye blankets or plastic barriers

The method for ecoprinting with dye blankets or barrier is basically the same as my usual ecoprinting method only the blanket/ barrier is layered in between the papers when making the bundle.

Dye blankets.

I like to use acrylic or wool felt, or old wool blanket, old cotton sheets or even kitchen paper. These are not treated with any mordant as you want the dye to transfer to the paper. I find that often the foliage does leave a print on the blanket, especially on old cotton sheets, I like the added bonus of being able to use these in other projects. The poor ones get used again as blankets.

I soak the blankets in dye solution while I pick my plants, it’s then wrung out and ready to use.

Plastic barriers.

A lot of ecoprinters don’t use plastic but if I have some plastic bags that something came in I use those cut to size.

Texture barriers.

I also use the bags that logs come in, or lace fabric or trim which leave an interesting texture or pattern on the print.

In these photos the turquoise dye is Procion dye and the pink is Lac, a natural dye. I made two bundles, one with each colour and boiled them separately so the colours didn’t mix.

A reused felt blanket and a cotton sheet blanket
A plastic barrier

A couple of layers of kitchen paper.
Log bag and a cotton blanket, then leaves and paper were laid on top.

The bundles were tied and boiled in the usual way.

Here’s a video of me opening the bundles, it’s a bit shaky with only one hand.

The prints.

Left print has some fabric texture if you look closely where the leaves meet. Right print has log bag texture.

Procion dye leaf prints
ecoprinting with dye blankets
Lac prints

Here are the blankets washed and ironed, I will use these in some textile art.

Old cotton sheet
Old cotton sheet on the left, acrylic felt on the right.

Ecoprinting throughout the year – July

July.

Pot – Rusty roasting tin.

Water – Tap water with vinegar.

Paper – cartridge, watercolour, mixed media paper

Mordant – alum acetate

Leaf dip – rust water

Plants – Cranesbill geranium, coreopsis, corn marigold, crocosmia, clematis, tagetees, cotinus, rose leaves.

Cooking time – 45 minutes, turned, 45 minutes.

Blanket – none.

Images

Conclusion – .

Coreopsis gave a good orange/ rust print. The purple clematis was disappointing, as were corn marigold and crocosmia lucifer which only gave a ghost print. The tagetee leaves printed well.

One of the papers ( top photo, middle bottom) looked as though the papers hadn’t been stacked properly, but I know they were. So I believe this was caused when soaking the papers in the bath of mordant where they don’t sit directly on top of each other.

I also made some prints using dye blankets, I will tell you about this process in my next post but here’s some of the prints I made using a dye blanket.

If you want to see more ecoprinting posts for the rest of the year type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box.

Ecoprinting throughout the year – June

Today I’m trying out some different papers that I’ve not tried before.

If you want to see my ecoprinting posts for the rest of the year type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box.

June.

Pot – Rusty roasting tin.

Water – Tap water with vinegar.

Paper – Khadi paper, yupo paper, wet strength tissue paper, Tex Kraft paper fabric

Mordant – alum acetate

Leaf dip – rust water

Plants – Cranesbill geranium, red elderberry, herb robert, acer, cotinus, rose leaves.

Cooking time – 45 minutes, turned, 45 minutes.

Blanket -none.

Images

Khadi paper
Yupo paper
Wet strength tissue paper
Tex Kraft paper.

Conclusion – Prints on khadi paper are what I expected as it’s a watercolour paper but it’s not as strong as other watercolour papers that I’ve tried so needs to be used with care.

Yupo is a plastic paper, I wasn’t sure if this paper would accept a print at all. The prints are quite subtle but I might just need that in a project sometime.

Wet strength tissue is used to make carnival costumes, it’s lightweight but strong, it held up well considering how thin it is and the prints are good. I will use this ecoprinted paper for collage work, it will be good for layering.

Tex Kraft paper fabric, this is a new paper for me, I found it on Amazon, it can be used to make items such as bags and book covers. The prints are dull but this paper was brown /beige, I couldn’t find a lighter coloured one. The paper itself held up well to the ecoprinting process.

How To Ecoprint On Paper My Way.

There are plenty new leaves now so it’s time to give you instructions on how I ecoprint on paper. I have kept these instructions as simple as possible as I would love you to try this out.

Health and Safety.

You are solely responsible for your own health and safety. Some of the chemicals and plants used could have a harmful effect so please wear a mask and latex gloves when ecoprinting. Work in a well ventilated area, some plants may give off toxic fumes so use plants that aren’t poisonous. All equipment used for ecoprinting should not be used for food or drink once used for ecoprinting. Care should be taken to avoid burns and scalds.

What you need to get started.

(See Addendum below for more information on each item. )

  • Rectangular roasting tin, a bit of rust on it is good but if it’s not going rusty you can add some rusty iron metal such as nails, screws, hinges, to the pan but you don’t have to do this. (1).
  • A cover for the tin (2).
  • Rust water – see how to make it here.
  • Mordant – Potassium aluminium sulphate ( known as alum) or alum acetate. (4) I don’t bother to measure this accurately, I put 2 heaped desert spoons in about a litre of hot water and stir until dissolved.
  • Trays to put the paper in and one to drain it on, also a smaller one for the rust water. (5).
  • Paper a heavier weight watercolour or cartridge paper is best (6).
  • 2 ceramic tiles that fit your roasting tin, metal sheet, wood or thick cardboard would do (7).
  • String to tie the bundle (8).
  • Vinegar– malt vinegar will do (9)
  • Foliage – plants and leaves (10).
  • A hob ring – I used to boil my bundles on my hob indoors with good ventilation but now I use a portable electric hob (11).
  • Other useful items – mask, rubber gloves, old towels, a flat stone, small stones or pieces of pipe or nails to raise the tiles off the bottom of the pan, protective table cover, scissors, tongs, an old spoon, bicarbonate of soda (12).

Method.

  • Put the alum mordant in a tray large enough to take the paper . Add the paper to the tray and push it down, continue adding your paper. I leave it soaking while I go and pick some foliage, for about 15 to 30minutes. Lift it out and let it drain on another tray or old towel. If you aren’t using a mordant then soak your paper in water.
  • Choose your leaves (see addendum 10) .
  • Lay one of the tiles on the table glazed side up, lay a sheet of paper on top.
  • Put some rust water into a container, I have a jug that I use for this sole purpose, and I try not to stir up the sediment in the bottom of the container.
  • Dip a few leaves into the rust water, take them out and arrange on the paper.
  • Lay another sheet of paper on top and press it down gently, try and keep the edges lined up if possible. Lay on more dipped leaves.
  • Continue layering your paper and leaves. Don’t make the bundle too thick, about 10 to 12 sheets will be enough.
  • Put the other tile on top of the bundle, glazed side down. Press down to compact the bundle. Tie up tightly with your yarn or string, leave some long ends tied together to help with lifting the bundle.
  • Put the roasting pan ( with the small stones, pipes or screws in the bottom to raise the tiles slightly) on the hotplate with water and a few of squirts of vinegar and bring to the boil.
  • Carefully add the bundle to the pan, top up the water so it comes up to the top tile, put the heavy flat stone on top if there is room, if not don’t bother and then cover with a lid or foil.
  • Allow to boil gently for 40 minutes but check the water level now and then and top up if necessary.
  • After 40 minutes carefully turn the bundle over, it will be hot so I use tongs and gloves but I have very carefully used a spoon handle under the yarn to lift the tile then turned it over using a silicone pot holder. Take care not to scald yourself. Top up with hot water and boil for another 40 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and carefully lift out the bundle, let it cool a little until you can handle it safely.
  • Remove the yarn and open the bundle, remove leaves and gently wash off in water then rinse in water with a little ( a teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda if you want.
  • Lay the prints on a towel, cover with another towel, remove excess water with a gentle pat.
  • I then lay my prints on kitchen paper ( I save and reuse it) until almost dry, turning occasionally. Make a couple of piles of prints, lay them between kitchen paper and place a heavy book on top and leave overnight. They should be flat but if not they can be ironed. A flower press works as well.

Evaluation.

Hopefully you will have some great prints, notice which leaves print well. Does the top and bottom side of the leaves print differently? What colours did your leaves give? Did some leaves leave no print, or a ghost print? Are your prints very dark, too pale, do they have good tonal contrast?

In another post I will give suggestions on how you can improve or change ecoprints.

I would love to hear from you and see your prints in the comments. Keep experimenting and keep a record of your results.

My Prints.

Addendum.

  1. You want a roasting pan that you can lay your bundle in flat. A rusty pan is good, mine was one where the non stick started peeling off, now it’s gone really rusty. When my prints get too dark I scrape off some of the rust. I also have a couple of newer pans, the non stick coating can be scuffed up to encourage rusting. If you have an enamel pan you can always put bits of rusty metal in the pan when you boil your bundle. A Grundy tin (which are aluminium and often have a baking sheet lid) could be used too. Aluminium is a mordant so you won’t need to use one on your paper but I would probably add rusty metal or rust water to the pan. I haven’t tried this yet.
  2. I now use a metal sheet from my old oven as a lid but before that I used 3 layers of aluminium foil folded over the edge of the pan, however this dripped quite a bit. The foil can be used over and over again.
  3. See how to make rust water here.
  4. You can print on paper without a mordant but the results will be slightly different, see here. Today I am using potassium aluminium sulphate (alum), I don’t bother with accurate measurements, I added 2 dessert spoons into about a litre of hot water and stirred to dissolve. The solution is kept for future projects in a milk container. Label it well.
  5. I use plastic trays that meat comes in/ on but a plastic storage box would be fine. A takeaway container is good for rust water to dip leaves.
  6. Try different papers to see how they print, heavier weight paper is best as it doesn’t tear so easily when wet. I have printed on lightweight wet strength tissue paper so it’s worth experimenting. My favourite paper is Windsor and Newton cartridge paper, 200gsm as it’s very smooth and gives great detail in the prints.
  7. I use ceramic tiles to form my bundles but thin pieces of wood, glass, thick card or metal sheets can be used. I cut the corners off some of my tiles so they fit into the pan. As you can see with use the tiles absorb the tannins and iron, I don’t bother washing them as it helps to get dark prints.
  8. I tie my bundles with leftover acrylic yarn as I always have plenty. Strips of T shirt can be used as well.
  9. White vinegar or brown, it doesn’t matter.
  10. Try to avoid thick plant material and waxy leaves. Don’t use any plant material that may be toxic. Good plants to begin with are rose leaves, cranesbill geranium, blackberry, sycamore, coreopsis, herb robert, cotinus and onion skins are good too. Have a look at examples in my other posts.
  11. I used to boil my pot on my hob indoors with good ventilation but now I use a portable electric hob outside or in the studio.
  12. A mask and rubber gloves are essential safety equipment when working with chemicals. A table cover and old towels are good for protecting surfaces and mopping up. Tongs are useful for turning the bundle but I have used a spoon handle taking care not to splash hot liquid. An old spoon is handy for measuring but not one used for food afterwards. I use small stones, nails or screws, or pipe to raise the bundle off the bottom of the pan, it stops it rattling about so much. A large stone can be put on top of the bundle to weight it down to get good contact and good prints. Bicarbonate of soda is used when rinsing the prints to neutralise them, but I don’t always use it.

If you want to see my monthly posts for the year so far type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box.

Have fun and I look forward to seeing your ecoprints.

Ecoprinting throughout the year – May

This post is about different pots and how new versus used equipment gives different results, as well as continuing my ecoprinting throughout the year theme.

If you want to see the posts for the rest of the year type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box.

May.

Pot – Rusty roasting tin, and also a new roasting tin. Also new tile supports as well as used tiles.

Water – Tap water with vinegar.

Paper – Cartridge paper, mixed media paper, watercolour paper.

Mordant – alum acetate

Leaf dip – rust water

Plants – Cranesbill geranium, red elderberry, herb robert, cow parsley, red ligularia, astilbe, beech and rowan leaves.

Cooking time – 40 minutes, turned, 40 minutes.

Blanket -none.

Images

This bundle was left overnight before going in the rusty pot. I don’t think it has made any difference to the prints.

Plants from the rusty roasting pan

The print below was cooked in the new roasting pan.

Plants from the new roasting pan

Below is a comparison of prints, on the left is the old rusty pan, on the right the new pan was used.

A comparison of the rusty pan on the left and the new pan on the right. The new pan print is much brighter but less tonal contrast than the one done in the old rusty pan.

This ligularia leaf is a good example of how some leaves give different prints from each side of the leaf.

A great example of how some leaves print differently depending on which side is in contact with the paper.

Conclusion – The plants in the rusty roasting tin are less vibrant in colour than the ones with new tile supports, cooked in the new roasting tin. The prints done in the rusty pan have more tonal contrast due to the iron in the pot. The ligularia leaf prints show how sometimes each side of the leaf prints differently.

My next post will give step by step instructions for ecoprinting on paper, I hope you will try it for yourself. You need some rusty water so if you haven’t started yours off I suggest you do so now, you can read about making it here. Adding some fine grade wire wool and vinegar will speed up the process.

Ecoprinting throughout the year – April

It’s April and there’s lots of new foliage about now to print with. I have deliberately picked new leaves from my favourite plants which I know print well throughout the year. Also I had to try some of the flowers that are out this month.

If you want to see the rest of the year type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box.

April.

Pot – Rusty roasting tin

Water – Tap water with vinegar.

Paper – Cartridge paper, mixed media paper, watercolour paper.

Mordant – alum acetate

Leaf dip – rust water

Plants – Flowering currant, rose, cranesbill geranium, elder, astilbe, herb Robert, grape hyacinth, dandelion, bluebells.

Cooking time – 40 minutes, turned, 40 minutes.

Blanket -none.

Images

New rose leaves, the top 2 pictures show both sides of the leaf.
Flowering currant, the one on the left was printed this time last year in a different pot.
Cranesbill geraniums showing both sides of the leaf.
Herb Robert and astilbe.
Grape hyacinth, dandelions and bluebells.
Elder leaf.

Conclusion – As I already mentioned I chose leaves from plants I know print well, but a lot of plants are not so good at this time of year, the bluebells, grape hyacinth and dandelions didn’t print so well, but it really depends on what you want to use the prints for, sometimes a delicate print is what’s required.

I used a very rusty roasting tin for these prints which I believe has interacted with the leaf tannins to produce the dark prints. But there are so many variables, which for me makes ecoprinting exciting.

Happy Paste Egg Day! – Ecoprinted Eggs

Happy paste egg day, or should that be pase egg? It depends where you live I suppose. In the north east they are paste eggs but in the north west they call them pace eggs. Both names are derived from ‘pascha’ meaning Easter.

I used to make these with my Gran when I was a little girl. As they are a form of plant printing I thought I would have another go.

Then we used different plants and flowers such as pansies and grasses, bound to the egg with thread, or put in old tights and tied at the top. Then they were put in a pan of onion skins and water and hard boiled. Sometimes eggs were just put in the pan of skins and boiled, giving a nice random pattern, I decided to try both.

I couldn’t get any white eggs anywhere so I used the palest brown eggs. I wanted some onion dyed cotton fabric for a course I’m taking so I used cotton fabric squares to make my bundles.

Please note, the cotton has no mordant, and I used herbs just to be sure there are no toxic substances going into my eggs.

I laid some sage leaves and rosemary sprigs on my eggs and tied them up in a bundle using string. I also put some eggs in the pan and filled with onion skins. I put some pieces of fabric in the pan and I think this prevented my eggs from banging into each other as none of them cracked.

The pan was topped up with onion skins and water and put on to boil for 10 minutes.

Then took out the eggs and I opened up the bundles. The ones in the pan were a little disappointing as they weren’t as marbled as those I remember but the bundled ones were better, especially the sage leaves.

I wiped them with a little cooking oil to give them a shine.

If I was still a little girl I would roll the eggs on the garden path, or Gran and I would do egg jabbing to crack the shells but we shall just eat them in a sandwich.

Happy Easter.

eco dyed easter eggs

Ecoprinting throughout the year – March

March is here, it’s time for more ecoprinting / botanical printing experiments.

If you want to see the rest of the year type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box.

In the future there will be posts comparing plants for example, and a beginners step by step guide to printing on paper my way.

March.

Pot – Rusty roasting tin

Water – Tap water with vinegar.

Paper – Windsor & Newton cartridge paper, watercolour paper

Mordant – alum acetate

Leaf dip – rust water, the cranesbill leaves were soaked for about 5 minutes rather than just dipped in rust water.

Plants – dried acer leaves, dried wild cranesbill , aquilegia, new rose leaves, hellebore, gerbera from a bouquet of flowers.

Cooking time – 40 minutes, turned, 40 minutes.

Blanket – hellebore and gerbera being thick flowers benefit from a thick blanket like felt or old blanket.

Images

The gerbera flower in this photo is just the stain coming through from the flower on the other side of the paper.

Conclusion – Aquilegia leaf printed rust , which was unexpected so was the print from the new rose leaf. The dried acer and cranesbill were as good as I expected. The cranesbill prints were dark due to the longer soak in iron water. The bright pink gerbera printed yellow.

As the leaf buds are starting to open next month I will be trying out ecoprinting on paper with new foliage.

Ecoprinting throughout the year – February

February has come around quickly, it’s time for another post about my ecoprinting / botanical printing journey throughout the year. During my journey I will share photos of my prints to see what works best at what time of year, and more.

If you want to see the rest of these “year posts” type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box. There will be other posts comparing plants for example, and a beginners step by step guide to printing on paper my way.

February.

Pot – Rusty roasting tin

Water – Tap with vinegar, I used the boiling water from the day before topped up.

Paper – Windsor & Newton cartridge paper

Mordant – alum acetate

Leaf dip – rust water

Plants -hellebore, cranesbill, aconite, herb Robert, daffodil, snowdrop, dried leaves.

Cooking time – 40 minutes, turned, 40 minutes.

Blanket -fabric dipped in iron water and rung out. Used on the snowdrops and dried sycamore leaf. (More about blankets later).

Observations – The wine coloured hellebores printed blue grey the prints are ok but some of the plant material damaged the paper as they are bulky flowers.

The daffodil printed better than I expected.

The dried leaves soaked in iron water printed well especially the sycamore leaf.

Snowdrops didn’t impart much colour (as expected) however ghost prints were achieved by using the iron blanket and the reused rusty water in the roasting tin helped in making darker prints.

Herb Robert printed black, probably because there was a lot of iron present in the pot.

The cranesbill didn’t print as well as expected. Maybe this was because the bulky flowers of the helebores prevented the cranesbill leaves having good contact with the paper.

The aconite leaves printed but the flower didn’t leave any colour at all.

Images

Conclusion – Bulky plant material like hellebores would probably be better with a thick fabric blanket between the papers acting like a cushion which gives better contact with the paper and less damage. Good contact with the paper is essential for detailed prints.

Ecoprinting throughout the year – January, part 2.

This is the second post about my ecoprinting / botanical printing journey throughout the year. During my journey I will share photos of my prints in order for you to see what works best at what time of year. Even in the depths of winter we can still achieve good results.

I will try different papers and mordants, dye blankets etc along the way.

If you want to see the results for the rest of the year ( I will post each month) then sign up to my blog to get email notification of new posts or type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box. There will be other posts comparing plants at different times of the year for example, and a beginners step by step guide to ecoprinting on paper, my way.

January – Boil 1. The Control – no mordant or leaf dip.

Pot – Rusty roasting tin

Water – Tap with vinegar, about 2 tablespoons to 2 litres of water.

Paper – Seawhites and Windsor & Newton cartridge paper, printer paper.

Mordant – none

Leaf dip – none

Plants – cranesbill geranium, rose, strawberry, bramble, fern, herb robert, spleenwort.

Cooking time – submerged and boiled 45 minutes , turned and boiled 45 minutes.

Observations -This is my control reference with no mordant or leaf dip.

Images

Boil 2 – as boil 1 except:-

Leaf dip– copper sulphate 2%

Images

Boil 3 – as boil 1 except :-

Mordant – Alum Acetate 2.5%

Leaf dip – copper sulphate 2%

Images

Conclusion – Copper leaf dip gives brighter colours, more gold/ yellow/ brown prints. The fern that printed a light blue green and was totally unexpected. Spleenwort printed rust.

Comparison photo

Top left no mordant or leaf dip, top right no mordant and copper leaf dip. Bottom AA mordant and copper leaf dip.