Eco-Print on Paper Using Flowers and Leaves

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What are you doing that's creative this summer? If you are looking for projects that get you outside and looking at nature, eco-printing might fit the bill.

I’ve been eco-printing on paper for several months. Last fall, after the leaves had fallen, I gathered the dry, brown leaves and printed some great fall colors on paper.

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eco-print fall leaves.JPG

Now it’s summer and the plants couldn’t be more colorful because of the unusually wet spring we’ve had.

I can’t wait to use the leaves, flowers, and stems of every plant I can get.

My Process

When I first began eco-printing, I used the electric skillet I’ve had for many years. Now I know that you shouldn’t use the same tools for art that you use for cooking. So I bought a new electric skillet to cook with and kept the old one for art projects.

I couldn’t stop there, though. I bought another one so I would have separate skillets for different mordants; one for alum as a mordant and one for vinegar.

The papers printed using alum are cleaner-looking with white background.

The vinegar/water prints sometimes have a yellow cast which I love.

Here are a couple of batches of papers I recently eco-printed.

My Eco-Printing steps:

I collect the plant material I want to print with. The color and shape of the leaves and flowers are the main design elements. I’m never really sure what will result, but I’ve found some favorite and reliable plants. I choose commonly-found plants and I sometimes buy flowers from the grocery store or plants from the garden center.

(Next year I will have more plants in my own garden but I have to plant them first.)

Some of my favorites right now are:

  • Japanese maple leaves

  • Smoke bush leaves

  • River oak leaves

  • Rose leaves

  • Thread leaf coreopsis flowers and stems

  • Eucalyptus leaves (any variety I can get)

  • Redbud leaves

  • Peony bush leaves

  • Frozen blueberries

Smoke bush leaves
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I lay out the leaves on a single layer on wet watercolor paper and make several layers with different plants. I use 140 lb watercolor paper for all of my eco-prints.

The bundle is made of the stack of paper and plants, two ceramic tiles and two binder clips.

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I’m using alum mixed with the water as a mordant. A mordant is a chemical that will help the color soak into the paper during printing.

I use little stone risers to keep my bundle out of the water. This process uses steam inside the skillet to draw out the colors from the plants.

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I lay the bundle on the stones and cover the skillet with foil to hold in the steam. Steam for 20 minutes.

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Taking the bundle out of the skillet and opening it is the most fun!

In the video, I used some coreopsis I found in a field and then bought a coreopsis plant at the garden center so I could have my own!

I strung a piece of string across my garage to have a place to dry the papers out of the sun and wind.

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Look at what I’m doing with these wonderful printed papers. And look here.

If you think you might try eco-printing for your art, I’ve made a supplies list of everything I use in my process with a description of how it’s used.

join my bi-monthly email list and I’ll send you this supplies list to help you get eco-printing right away!

If you are doing any eco-printing and would like to share what you’re doing, I’d love to see!

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Eco-print on paper with flowers and leaves