Eco-Printing on Paper: Simple printing techniques using leaves, flowers and foliage | Linda Matthews | Skillshare

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Eco-Printing on Paper: Simple printing techniques using leaves, flowers and foliage

teacher avatar Linda Matthews, Digital & Mixed Media Textile Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (60m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Supplies

    • 3. Quick Rust Technique

    • 4. Basic Eco-Printing Technique

    • 5. Making Eco-Prints Using Rust & Onion Skins

    • 6. Making Eco-Prints Using Dyes

    • 7. Making Eco-Prints Using Tin Cans

    • 8. Final Thoughts

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About This Class


In this online class learn creative techniques for making eco-prints on paper.

Eco-printing or eco-dyeing, is a fun and easy technique for transferring the imprint of leaves, flowers and foliage onto a surface such as paper, using heat as a transfer method. Every print you make will be unique and beautiful.

You can find the supply list by accessing the "Projects & Resources" link on the menu above.

If you enjoyed this class, check out my other classes:

And make sure to visit my website for more free creative journaling tutorials and resources

Meet Your Teacher

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Linda Matthews

Digital & Mixed Media Textile Artist


I’m a full time digital and mixed media textile artist, designer and teacher and I love nothing more than sharing what I’ve learned as a way to encourage and inspire the creative spark in others. If you love to tell your story using images and words, visit me at

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Related Skills

Crafts Lifestyle Eco-Printing

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Linda Matthews and in this class I'll be showing you simple techniques for making eco prints on paper. Printing or Eco dying is a fun and easy technique for transferring the imprint of leaves, flowers, and foliage onto a surface such as paper using heat is a transfer method. This process is done using things that can be found around the home or recently purchased locally. And you can use flowers, leaves, and other types of foliage from your garden, the local POC, or around your neighborhood. The process relies on the natural tenants and pigments that are found in the foliage. So this type of printing his experimental in nature and results will vary. Some plants will print with better results than others. But even if your print star turn out quite perfect, I have included some additional techniques that you can use to enhance so camouflage the imperfections. If you've never done any eco printing before, you shorter find this process easy and fun and even a little addictive. So I hope you enjoy exploring these creative techniques. 2. Supplies: For making eco prints, you can use any type of fresh leaves, vines, and flowers. You can pick these just prior to using them, where they can be picked several days in advance and kept fresh, but submerging the money container of water. Each different type of plant will give you a different result, some better than others. So this process is very experimental. However, it's also a lot of fun just to see what emerges on the page. Once the process is completed. My garden is a bit bare of interesting foliage. However, I'm surrounded by beautiful parklands with native plants. So on my daily walk I collect branches and leaves and sometimes the occasional flowers. The best type of paper to use for Rico prints is good quality paper, such as 140 pound watercolor paper or mixed media paper, or even caught stroke. You can really use any type of paper. However, as the paper will be submerged in water, thinner papers such as copy paper, will tend to become more French Alban thicker paper, and therefore more prone to tearing. Lm is used as a mordant for ICO prints and will ensure that the color and shape of the foliage imprints and adheres to the paper in fabric. You can purchase alum from wherever you purchase your drawing supplies. And you can also find it in small quantities in the baking section of your local grocery store. Guys can be used to add watercolor effects to the ICO prints on both paper and fabric. You can use any type of liquid dye, such as proscenium dye, which is what I use, recti, which you can find in the supermarket. Well, you can even use food coloring. You will want to use colors that contrast against the colors of the ICO prints. Deep dark colors make a great contrast. But it's also fun to experiment with other different colors. Written yellow onion skins are also a quick and easy way to add splashes of color to pages, and these colors transfer quite well during the process. Rusted objects can be used in various different ways to add interesting color and texture to your prints. Rusted cans can be used to make long narrow prints that have wonderful detail and color. And small rusted objects like nails. Or as I've used, all ten pigs can be used to enhance prints and modify the color when using a water bath. For making eco prints, you'll need either a roasting pan or stock part that is large enough to submerge a stack of journal sides papers. My pen and part are just large enough to hold papers up to six inch wide by nine inch high. But you can purchase larger pots and pans if you want to make larger prints. You also need two pieces of wire mesh about the same size as your journal pages. I'll use rigid wire mesh, but you could also use floor tiles. Will something else that is thinner and rigid. These pieces will be the outer layers of you paper foliage sandwich. And once wrapped and twine will compressing people will papers and foliage intact during steaming or boiling? You will need a small weight or something heavy to sit on top of the paper bundles to weigh them down and keep them submerged underwater. I've been using a large cans of soup. However, you can also use a heavy stone or even a small break. You will also need tongs to remove the bundles from the hot water once the printing process is complete. 3. Quick Rust Technique: Rested objects can be used in Eco prints as a way to deepen the color and enhance the detail of the prints. You can use the rest of the objects themselves. And you can also make crusted water or ion liquor, as it's known in Eco printing, which can be used as a modern and a color enhancer. To make ON liquor submerged some small rested objects in a glass jar filled with one part vinegar to two parts water. I've used some old metal ten pigs, but you could use nails, bolts, or even some steel wool. Put the lid on the gel loosely, and then leave the job to sit for several weeks until the solution turns rust colored. As you use the liquid, simply replace the water and vinegar solution in the jaw at the same two to one ratio. If you don't have any rusted objects, you can make them quickly using white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and salt. I found some old metal tint pigs. So I'm going to use these and Ross them. These pigs are too long for my container, so I'm just bending them so they fit inside. It's worth noting that some metal objects have a coated surface which might prevent the autumn from rusting. So it may be necessary to first use some sandpaper to remove the coding. You don't have to be perfect about removing the coating. Simply sand the surface of the object to remove most of it so that the rest can begin to activate. Place the mental objects in a container with enough white vinegar to cover them and let them soak for about half. Now, the vinegar acts as a corrosive, which begins the rusting process. After half an hour, remove the metal bits from the vinegar and allow them to dry. You can store the vinegar and reuse it. To make the resting solution. In a plastic container. Mix half a cup of hydrogen peroxide with two tablespoons of white vinegar and a teaspoon of salt. As a safety note, when you mix hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, it creates parasitic acid, which is highly corrosive and Skinner tint. So you may want to wear a safety mask and gloves to protect yourself from fumes as well as splashes and drips. If you're concerned about working with this type of acid, you cannot soak the middle in peroxide and salt or vinegar and salt, but it will take longer for the metal to rust. Then when you combine these liquids, mix the solution until the salt dissolves, Then at the objects to be arrested, you should be can see reaction almost immediately. This is what it looks like after five minutes, two of the ten pigs are different from the other two and have begun to rust quite quickly. The two that are not rusting quickly look like the made from a different type of metal. Perhaps it's galvanized and although it looks like they're beginning to rust, it will probably take longer. After 15 minutes, the two small attempt pegs are ready to be removed. I think I'll leave the other two and the solution to see if they eventually rust. Once removed from the solution, rinse the middle clean. I can see that these 210 pigs have rusted quite nicely in such a quick time. Once rusted, that can be put in the vinegar water solution to create IN liquor. Using the same resting solution. You can also quickly rusting cans. Cans in a tray with the rusting solution in a spray bottle. Spray the cans generously, and then I add some salt to quick in the process. You will need to rotate the cans from time to time and ensure that they remain wet all the way around until they're arrested. 4. Basic Eco-Printing Technique: For these eco prints on paper, I've selected a variety of leaves. I found these beautiful eucalyptus gum tree leaves at the local supermarket. The word that expensive. So I bought a bunch and I think that should print quite nicely. I've also selected a range of leaves from my garden. I have central Lily pili trees in the garden. When new growth occurs, the leaves start out pink. Then as they age, they turned green. I'm not sure how the pink leaves will transfer. So this will be a bit of an experiment. These leaves look like some sort of gum tree, but I'm not sure which one. These are green literally pili leaves the HIPAA beautiful shape. So I'm hoping the shape will transfer distinctly. And finally, I've picked some Lily, lily flowers. So I'm not sure how these will transfer, but they might given interesting in print. For Rico prints, you can use any type of paper really. However thicker paper will work best. One sweat, thin paper becomes French aisle and we'll take a more easily. I like to use are the cod stock, which is quite thick, or a 140 pound watercolor paper, which is very thick and has noise texture. And I also like to use mixed media paper, which is not as thin as cod stock and not as thick as watercolor paper. For the C code prints, I'm using six sheets of mixed media paper that I've caught at 10 inches wide by eight inches high. I'm going to use these prints, this pages in a journal. When folded, the pages will be five inches wide by eight inches high. You can use the page is flat if you have a pot or pan large enough to fit them. However, I like to fold them in 1.5th so that they are smaller and easier to handle. To make a good center crease, fold the page in half and run a bone folder down the fold. There are lots of different types of models and methods of using them for ICO prints an eco dying. However, I like to stick with simplicity. So I use LM as a mordant for all these techniques. The amount of alum required will vary depending on who you ask. However, I use a standard one tablespoon of alum per gallon of water. Mixing elements, some hot water to dissolve it, then tip it into a one gallon bottle or container and top it up with cold water. I'm using these old fruit juice bottles, which are two liter bottles. There's about four liters per gallon. So I've split the alum solution between the two bottles, which gives me about one gallon in total. I'm going to be submerging the paper stack and mortar. And although it's not necessary to more than the papers as Yalom will be in the water itself. I still like to do this just to give the plants the best possible chance to transfer. More than painting the papers doesn't take long at all, and you can do it in several ways. I've seen some people spray or paint the papers with the mordant. I like to dip, will soak the papers to make sure there's an even coating. To do this at some of the alum water to a tray. Then submerge the paper for a few seconds before removing. You can stack the papers on a plastic bag or an old tale to catch the groups. Alternatively, you can leave the papers submerged for a while, say about half an hour. However, this workspace for papers that are thick, collect watercolor paper. Thinner paper will tend to become fragile if submerged for too long. Once the pipe is coated with the mordant, you can start adding the foliage and stacking the pages. Will the best types of prints you want the foliage to lays flat as possible on the paper. Some plants will transfer better than others. So we can printing is very much experimental with no guaranteed results. Unless of course you've studied this process and kept records of which plants and leaves transfer best. As I've just returned to Australia and I'm not familiar printing with the Australian plants exactly sure how things are going to turn out. However, I do prefer to allow things to unfold as I will because it's always a surprise. And even if the print start turn out very well, you can't go back and redo the process up to the pages have dried. And there are also other ways that you can enhance lists than spectacular prints, which we'll look at later on in the process. Because I'm using these pages to make a journal, I'm going to fold them so I get a reverse imprint on the opposite page. After placing the fall each on each page, fault the next page over or add another page on top and continue adding leaves and more foliage. To do that. Really. Two and diverse. The other two. Dr. Okay. Okay, so this bundle, six folder. Once you've structural your pages, final bunch of foliage on the outside with some end papers on top. I'll use pieces of cod stop cut to size. Once this is done, place the why of great on the top and bottom to sandwich everything together. With a wire grid in place tightly want some string around the bundle to keep everything together. There are several ways to make Eco 1 and steaming the papers. And one is submerging the papers and water. I've always had better luck with submerging the papers in water because I seem to get better colors as well as lovely watercolor effects. So I'm going to be submerging this stack. The panel pop need sullied and this roasting pan doesn't have one. So I've made a temporary really aluminium foil. This foil wasn't widen enough, so I just joined two pieces together. If you need to make a foil lid, doing this before you heat the water, otherwise you'll end up getting burned. Steaming and submerging the stack is very similar process. I'm going to be submerging my stack in water. However, if you wanted to try steaming, the only difference is you need a Rassa was something with height that you can place in the pain to hold the paper stack above the water. You could use a rack of some sort. But when I've tried the steaming technique previously, let's just use this old metal cat food bowl, which is high enough to hold the stuck-up up a few inches of water. Once everything is ready, put your bumbling the tray and add enough water to cover the bundle. Bring the water to the boil, and then turn it down to Sigma. I like to first boy, my water in the kettle simply because it's quicker. Put the lid on the tray and let it simmer for an hour and a half. To keep the bundle from floating. Put some sort of white on top of it, such as a heavy stone or a small break. This can go inside the try if it's small enough. However, I'm simply use the lacZ can of soup and place it on top of the aluminium lid. After an hour and a half, turn off the heat and allow the bundle to cool in the water or remove it completely and allow it to cool on an old towel. I'm like to leave it in the water to give it a little extra steam time after the bundle is cool enough to handle. Now it's time for the big reveal, which is the most exciting part of this process. Because the paper is still wet. Handle them carefully as you peel them back and remove the foliage. Some of the prints turned out better than others, and the prints on the underside of some of the leaves turned out better than the MBA side. Okay. Okay. These are the end papers. This one turned out beautiful, so I'm going to keep it and use it in one of my journals. The other one didn't turn out so well, so I'll probably scrap it. I'm really pleased with most of these prints. A couple of them didn't turn out so well, but they still have a kind of abstract nature look about them. So not totally disappointed because the bundle was submerged. All of the prints have lovely watermark stains, which I really like. If you find your paper is all creased and crumpled after they dry, simply ion with a warm iron and you'll be able to flatten them out a bit. If you want to work with digital processes, decide to go to scan and Mike digital files of the print before you use them. Hi. 5. Making Eco-Prints Using Rust & Onion Skins: To create prints that are a little more interesting than what emerges, opt to simply boiling or steaming the pages. You can add columns and modifiers to the water bar. You can add natural color by throwing in vegetable skins, such as red and yellow onion skins, or even lift over leaves, flowers and foliage. Modifies the things that enhance or affect the colorant some way, such as rusty bits, divine and metal, pieces of coppa and even vinegar. Although I have heard others referred to vinegars a mordant, it is actually a modifier because it changes the pH of the water. I prepared this bundle of papers using the basic technique. And now I'm adding to the water, Bob, some of my recipe tent pigs and a rusty tin can. I'm also throwing in some red and yellow onion skins because I like the color they produce. Once the rusted pieces on the onion skins are added. But the lead on the pan and allow the pages to sit for an hour and a half. Once finished simmering, remove the bundle from the pan and allowed to cool. Once you lift the lid, you can see that the color of the water has changed and it's now deepen doc. And hopefully the principal have some of this lovely color on the pages. I lift this bundle to cool overnight to allow the colors and patterns to deepen. When I made this bundle, I ended a layer of cardboard underneath the middle grids with the idea that I wouldn't get any grid lines on the end papers. However, things worked out a little unexpectedly. As you can see, the corrugated lines of the cardboard bled through. Plus I didn't notice that the time. But there was a light blue on the inside of the cardboard and the encroaching on that label also bled through. While this wasn't what I was expecting, it is a happy accident and opens a door for experimentation using the lines of the corrugated cardboard plus sink. So paints to create creative backgrounds on the prints. In comparison to the previous bundle made using the basic technique. The prints on these pages paid to have more well-defined lines and deeper colors. Close by the addition of the rest of metal. Plus some lovely natural color on the background, calls by the onion skins. Okay. After the pipe is what, dry flat. I'm pleased with most of the prints. However, I think I wrapped the bundle a little too tightly, which prevented the onion skin die from seeping through a bit more. We can now. 6. Making Eco-Prints Using Dyes: Another way to add color for watercolor effects to your paper prints is to add die to the water bath. Liquid dye is preferable. However, you could use powdered dye and allow it to disperse in the water bath. However, I find this option a bit messy. You can use proceed and dy, which is what I use to dye my fabrics, and it also works well on paper. You could also use rit dye, which is readily available in the supermarket. Or you can even use food coloring. I'm using indigo prescient die, which will add a blue color to the pages. Because and coming out mostly yellow. Blue makes a great contrast in color. Preparing your bundle as per the basic technique with the water on similar at one or two tablespoons of liquid dye and allowed to simmer for an hour and a half. After an hour and a half removes the bundle from the water and allow it to cool. Once the papers are cool, you can open them and remove the foliage. I've added several pieces of card stock at the top and bottom of the bundle to use as end papers. I'm a bit disappointed in the result as it appears that the dye hasn't penetrated through the pipe is properly. This is caused by tying the bundle too tightly, which compresses the papers and doesn't allow the water to penetrate through. So bear in mind when working with dyes and toddlers that you shouldn't tie the bundle too tightly. However, even though the pages didn't turn out well, it seems easy to read guide them, which will also deepen the dye color on the areas with the dye has attached. I included in this bundle some of my previous papers that didn't turn out so well. But even with the over die, they still don't look very good. So I'm going to redraw them again. When rejoining pages, it's best to use thicker paper, like mixed media paper or watercolor paper. You can actually raise steam or recent merged thick paper several times. However, if you are using thin paper like copy paper, then this might not be an option and the paper may disintegrate. Hi. In order to read all the pages, I bound this bundle quite loosely so that the guy can penetrate rights through the pages. I also added some foliage between some of the pages where the prints didn't transfer very well. I'm not sure they'll print because the bundle is tied quite loosely, so there's probably not enough contact between the pages to get a good print. But you never know. Two radii place the bundle in a pan or pot of boiling water and bring the water back down to a CMA. I'm also adding half a cup of white vinegar to the water. White vinegar is a modifier and changes the pH of the water. Generally speaking, it will produce prints that have a slightly darker color than when using alum. This may help to improve the prints on the pages for I've added foliage and I'm going to let these similar for 15 minutes before I add the dye. After 15 minutes, I'm adding two tablespoons of indigo dye. Then let the pages CEMA for an hour and 15 minutes. After an hour into how off removes the pages and allow them to CU I added several pieces of folded card stock to use as in papers in the hope that I get a couple of blank died pages. And they've turned out really nice with some lovely watercolor patterns. I'm really pleased with the way the override pages turned out. The dye has penetrated further into the pages this time and also deepened and dark and the original blue color. The pages were added foliage did print, but not very well. And some of the other prints is still not the best. But overall, I'm happy with the over dy process. There's lots of lovely prints. Well, let's cement strike. I can work with 59. Okay. Okay. Dr. Okay. 7. Making Eco-Prints Using Tin Cans: My personal favorite type of Vico print is made using a simple Rus Deaton can. Limitations of using a tin can are of course, that the width of the print will be determined by the width of the tin can. One of the cans that I'm using is four inches wide and the other is five inches void. Because the paper is wrapped around the can, there is good contact between the surface of the SDK and under paper. So the prints usually come out with beautiful detail. And the rust on the can helps to give definition to the outline and detail of the foliage. You could rip the paper and alum. However, for these particular prints, I'm using plain dry paper. This paper is mixed media paper, 14 inches long. I'm using dry paper because I'm going to add white vinegar to the water bath instead of Val and water. Vinegar changes the pH of the water. And as a result, the principle be darker in tones of gray and black instead of yellow, which occurs when you cut the piper to size the width of the tin can. Then start arranging some foliage along the length. Once the foliage is positioned, carefully, roll the paper around the can and rep some string along the links to keep the foliage from escaping during the boiling process. Instead of string, I'm using some twisted strips of white fabric because they'll die a natural color during the process. And I can then use the fabric and other projects. Okay. Hello. Okay. Hi. Thank you. Good. Once the tens erect and tied, place them in a pot. So the pocket with enough water to cover the tin, bring the water to boil, then back to similar. I'm adding some red and yellow onion skins to keep the pipe is some color to simmer for 15 minutes, then add half a cup of white vinegar. There's no rule as to the amount of vinegar you should use. Every time you change a variable in the boiling process, it affects the print in different ways. So you could try adding different amounts each time you do this process and you'll get different results. After the vinegar is added. Semaphore a fear that 45 minutes an hour in total. After an hour of cooking time, remove the cans from the water and allowed to cool. You can leave the cans overnight in order to let the prints development deepening color further. However, I always have a hard time waiting, so I'd like to unwrap them as soon as possible. Once some wrapped carefully remove the foliage. I'd like to run the paper under some running water to remove all the little bits and pieces, and then allow the paper to dry. The color on this print is very dark, but it's worth noting that when wet, the color is always DACA. And when it dries, it will lighten up. On the side. Where will the foliage was placed? You'll get a full length print. On the other side, you will get a partial print plus the imprint of the string. After the prints have dried, there's still a bit darker than I expected, probably because I use too much onion skins. However, I absolutely loved the way they turned out. There was a lot of definition on the foliage prints, as well as some interest. Stripes caused by the ridges on. These types of prints are ideal for making constituted journals. So it's possible to make two or three cans at a time. So they have a similar color palette and then join the pieces into one long strip. 8. Final Thoughts: Thank you for watching and I hope you enjoyed learning how much fun it is to make eco prints. Once you've made your paper eco prints that can be used in all sorts of different ways, such as making greeting cards for family and friends, turning them into bookmarks. You can put them in a picture frame and hang them on the wall. And of course, you could use some to make pages for handmade books or journals. I look forward to seeing the results of Eureka print experiments. So be sure to upload a photo or two.