How to dye paper with food coloring

Hi Creative Mamas! In this post I want to show you how to dye paper using food coloring.

I use this method as a way to enhance naturally dyed or eco printed paper. It’s super easy and it’s very quick!

You can create amazing gift wrapping and gift cards by printing and dyeing paper using natural dyes, leaves and flowers and food coloring as well.

tea dyed paper sprinkled with food coloring

My daughter always likes to be involved in my natural dyeing practice and the use of food coloring was a way for her to start experimenting with naturally dyeing wool, fabric and paper in a child friendly way.

This tutorial is great to share with kids and it’s a lot of fun.

Just make sure that you wear gloves and that the surfaces are covered with plastic or paper to avoid the excess dye getting everywhere 🙂

Food coloring dyed paper tutorial

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Materials & Equipment

Preparing the liquid dye

The first step is to prepare the food color dyes. There is a huge variety of colors and for this tutorial I am using food color in powder form.

This allows me to be a little bit more creative with the technique.

3 different food coloring powders on a dish

Choose your colors and prepare different containers filled with warm water. For this tutorial I am using yellow, red and purple.

dissolving the yellow food coloring in  cup of water

Dilute the powder in the water.

dissolving red food coloring in  cup of water

Mix well so that there are no lumps.

mixing in the food coloring in with water so that there are no lumps

Once you have your food color dyes prepared you are ready to get started!

3 different food dyes dissolved in water

Food coloring on watercolor paper

The dye immersion method works wonderfully well with watercolor paper.

This is because the paper is thick enough to stay in the color dye long enough to dye properly without disintegrating.

Immersion method

Immerse your watercolor paper inside the dye liquid and leave inside for 5 minutes or so.

paper immersed inside a cup filled with yellow  food coloring liquid

You can dye a portion of the paper or you can fully immerse it.

To do this you may need the help of a fork or a chopstick to make sure the paper is totally submerged.

paper immersed inside a cup filled with red  food coloring liquid

These are the results of dyeing paper with food coloring using the immersion method.

yellow and red paper partially dyed using food coloring

This is the basic method of dyeing paper using food coloring but there are a lot of other creatives things you can do to enhance your paper crafts using food coloring.

Food coloring on Eco printed paper

I want to show you how I use these food coloring powders in combination with eco printed paper.

You can create amazing botanical prints on paper as long as you are using the appropriate flowers and leaves.

Download the FREE List of the best flowers and leaves to use in Eco Printing by completing the form below!

Adding some food coloring is a great way to further enhance your eco printed paper and to give it more layers of texture and depth.

I am using paper cards which were eco printed and tea dyed using black tea.

They have already gone through 2 different processes so I am finishing them with this extra layer of color!

For this method you don’t need to dissolve the food coloring powder. Choose your colors and place them in a shallow dish.

a plate with 3 food color dyes: purple, red and yellow

Make sure your paper is wet. You can submerge them or spray them with water.

In the photo below you can see how I have layered my wet paper cards inside the shallow tray on top of each other.

tea dyes and eco printed paper being sprinkled with the food color powder

Using the top end of a spoon, sprinkle food coloring all over the cards or on the desired area of your paper card.

tea dyes and eco printed paper being sprinkled with the food color powder

In this case I have sprinkled yellow food coloring randomly. I like this effect.

yellow powder dye sprinkled on tea dyes and eco printed paper

Food coloring on tea dyed paper

For this example I am using a watercolor 300grams paper card which was previously tea dyed.

This is a great way to give the papers a vintage look or an aged look. You can also create an antique look on fabric by the way!

wet tea dyed paper

Wet the paper by spraying it with water and sprinkle the food coloring powder randomly.

wet tea dyed paper sprinkled with food dye powder

You can place the cards on top of each other so that the color transfers from one paper to the other as shown in the photo below.

transferring he food dye powder from one paper card to the other.

Tea dyed paper using food coloring and fabric

Another creative way to use food coloring is to place a piece of lace or other similar textured fabric on top of your tea dyed paper.

Place the paper on a flat surface and place the fabric on top. Spray the paper and fabric using your spray bottle.

using lace to create texture on a tea dyed paper

Sprinkle the food coloring on top of the lace.

using lace to create texture on a tea dyed paper by sprinkling food dye on top of the lace

The fabric will act as a resist pattern and will stop the powder from reaching the areas where the fabric is touching the paper.

Leave for at least one hour and then remove the lace.

creating a  resist pattern with lace on top of tea dyed paper

This is the kind of result that you can expect. You can play around with different paper stencils or textured fabrics.

the result of using lace fabric to create a pattern using food color powder

I also like to use this method with paper gift tags as well as scrapbooking paper, brown paper and regular printing paper.

When you finish adding color to the cards, lay them flat on top of sheets of newspaper on your counter top or working table.

different samples of paper cards which have been tea dyes and eco printed

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial! This is another a way of staining paper and dyeing paper.

It adds color and texture to your paper crafts (notebooks) and enhances your printed papers.

One thing is for sure when you use the food coloring in powder form: The results are random.

But that’s the beauty of this method!

different samples of paper cards which have been tea dyes and eco printed and then dyed with food coloring

Save this tutorial to your favorite Pinterest Board!

a card dyed with tea, food color and eco printed with coreopsis flower

2 thoughts on “How to dye paper with food coloring”

  1. Hi There!
    Just came across your website and love your ideas. What I am wondering is how long food colour on paper will last? I did some experimentation on paper with pen and food colouring. I would like to give the piece, framed, as a gift but not if the food colouring fades.
    Thanks for anything you can tell me.

    • Hi Irene,

      thanks for your question! The samples that I did for this tutorial are still as bright as the day I did them and that’s a year ago. However, they have been inside a folder with my eco print samples so they haven’t been exposed to the sun. So I guess it will depend on where it’s placed like any photo or textile…but to answer in simple terms my experience is that food coloring used in paper results in color that lasts. Hope this helps! Cheers!


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