Tag Archives: Ecoprinting how to

Making rust water for ecoprinting.

If you would like to join in and ecoprint later in the year now would be a good time to think about making some rusty iron water.

You need a bucket preferably with a lid (not essential), I use an empty container that fat ball bird food came in. You need some rusty metal items, or just iron items will do. I have nails, a bicycle chain, and pieces of rusty iron that I have picked up on my walks. An old horseshoe, pipe, washers, iron rods or door hinges would be great.

To get my bucket of rust water going quickly I added some wire wool which rusts away quite quickly. Water is then added to the bucket, I think I half filled my bucket but it depends how much iron you have, it’s not an exact science, this is left to sit somewhere where to rust.

Tip – Adding vinegar with the wire wool helps speed up the rusting process.

It takes a while for the iron water to develop but eventually it will look like this. I have tried not to disturb the sludge on the bottom so you can see my bits of metal more easily.

The bucket gets topped up with water now and then so I always have rust water to hand, and I might add more bits of rusty metal when I find them.

Ecoprinting throughout the year – January, part 1.

This is the first post of my ecoprinting / botanical printing journey throughout the year. During my journey I will share experiments and photos of my prints in order to see what works best and at what time of year.

Even in the depths of winter we can achieve good results. I will try out different papers and mordants, dye blankets, different foliage etc along the way.

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

Now lets start our journey. January doesn’t seem like the month to find great foliage for printing at first sight but there’s still plenty of plant material around. Plants that are good all year round and readily available (which makes them a good choice for experimenting and comparing results) are hardy geraniums ( cranesbill ), rose leaves, blackberry / bramble leaves, herb Robert, also strawberry leaves.

January – Boil 1. The Control

Pot – Rusty roasting tin

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

Paper – Seawhites and Windsor & Newton cartridge paper.

Mordant – none

Leaf dip – none

Plants – cranesbill geranium, rose, strawberry, bramble, fern, herb robert, dry coreopsis stems.

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

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


Boil 2. – as boil 1 above except:-

Mordant – Alum Acetate 2.5%


Boil 3 – as boil 1 except:-

Leaf dip– rust water.


Boil 4 – as boil 1 except :-

Mordant – Alum Acetate 2.5%

Leaf dip – rust water


Conclusion – In the comparison photo below you can see the ecoprints with no mordant or leaf dip are pale, any dark areas are probably from the iron in my rusty old roasting tin, and the tiles used to hold the bundles of paper, (more on this in the ‘how to’ PDF coming later in the year).

The prints with the A A mordant and no leaf dip have more colour, the leaf edges are darker too.

The prints with the leaves dipped in rust water ( no mordant) have good strong dark tonal prints with not a lot of colour.

The ecoprints with AA mordant and rust water dip have good colour and nice strong darks including the veins.

There is no right or wrong way to print as long as the end result is what you want to achieve. There could be a time when you want pale prints as in boil 2, an album for example where the prints are not the star of the show. Or if I want something bold and graphic looking I would choose boil 3.

Comparison photo

Top left no mordant or leaf dip, top right aluminium acetate mordant no leaf dip. Bottom left no mordant rust water leaf dip, bottom right aluminium acetate mordant and rust water leaf dip.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing my first experiments for January, in part 2 I will show you what happens with a different mordant.

Happy New Year to you all