In this post I want to share my best tips for getting the best results possible when eco printing on paper.
Please note that since paper is a cellulose fiber these tips are totally when you are printing on cotton and linen fabric as well as described in this natural dyeing guide.
10 best tips for eco printing on paper
Ok, so I prepared this list in the order that you would normally do things when you are eco printing. Lets get started!
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Download your Eco Printing leaves and flowers list
1- Have all the eco printing materials ready to go
It’s very important that before you start the eco printing process you spend some time gathering everything that you need.
Place all your equipment and materials on your working table so that when you start the process you can move quickly and you can make the eco printing bundles one after the other.
Remember that you do need watercolor paper for this technique to work.
2- Choosing the right leaves and flowers
You must be mindful of the type of plant material that you are choosing to work with.
Some leaves and flowers might be toxic and you definitely don’t want to be steaming toxic plants in your kitchen.
Always make sure that you do a quick google search to ensure the leaves and flowers that you have chosen are safe to work with.
Best leaves for eco printing:
- Black alder
- Gum tree
- St John’s wort
- Crepe Myrtle
- Sweetgum or Liquidambar
Best flowers for eco printing:
Flowers are easy to plant in your garden or buy a pot from the garden center so I have linked to the ones that I have in my garden at the moment 🙂
3- Using the appropriate mordant
It’s very important to use a mordant to soak your paper in. This will make your paper fiber receptive to the dye from the leaves and flowers.
The mordants that I recommend you use are:
4- Soak your paper long enough
You will need to soak your paper in the mordant before you attempt to print anything on it. But how long do you need to soak the paper for?
My recommendation is around 1 minute (minimum time). However you can extend the time up to 1 hour. Don’t leave it any longer because you risk the paper dissolving in the alum acetate.
5- Applying pressure
When making your bundle you need to apply lots of pressure so that the leaves and flowers are sandwiched in between the 2 layers of paper.
Press firmly with you hand making sure that there are no bubbles in between the papers.
Finish the bundle with hard cardboard, purspex or a tile to make sure nothing is moving and lots of pressure is applied to those papers and plant material.
I like using cardboard and making it super tight using these paper clips. The tiles are usually too heavy for my little hands so I try to stay away from them.
However, if you are strong and your steam pot can handle the weight then the tiles are an excellent option to sandwich your prints.
6- Using barriers
You need to use a barrier in between each single bundle, otherwise the dye from the leaves and flowers will bleed during the steaming process.
I like to use biodegradable plastic because it lasts forever and its a great barrier.
I have tried baking paper with mediocre results but I encourage you to try different barriers until you find what works best for you!
7- Use the moon side of the leaves for intense prints
The leaves have a wrong side and a right side… or a moon side and a sun side 🙂
The moon side is the side of the leaf that is facing the earth. This is where the most color will be stored.
The sun side of the leaf is the side that faces the sky or sun. this side won’t deliver as much color as the under side.
So make sure that you consider this when you are placing your leaves on the paper.
The photo bellow shows 2 prints created with a leaves placed on the moon side on the left papers and on the sun side on the right papers.
As you can see there is a big difference in terns of the intensity and the quality of the print.
8- Steaming time
I have discovered with practice that the optimum time is 60 minutes of steaming.
Any less and your print won’t be intense enough and any longer and you risk water getting inside the paper and washing off the print.
Some people like boiling instead of steaming but this will result in diffused prints. If this is an affect that you want you may want to try boiling for 30 minutes instead of steaming for 60 minutes.
9-Using mordants as dips
You can also get great results by using mordants as dips.
The photo above shows a ferrous sulfate pot being used as a dip for the paper and the leaves.
As you can see the paper instantly turn brown and the leaves have come up a dark grey.
10- Use fabric for texture
This is a bit out there but I use this method a lot in my eco printing practice.
Simply dip a piece of textured fabric (such a tulle or lace) in a ferrous sulfate bath and place it in combination to the leaves and flowers.
The prints below were created by mordanting the paper on alum, using avocado leaves and dipping the lace on ferrous sulfate.
I love this print!
If you enjoy eco printing, you may be interested in learning more about natural dyeing in general.