Eco Printing on Fabric (for Beginners)

This page may contain affiliate links. Please see our full Disclosure here for details.

Basic steps of Eco Dyeing or Eco Printing on Silk and Cotton Fabric

This cool natural dyeing technique goes by many different names from Eco Print and Eco Printing or Eco Dyeing. I’ll show you step by step the basic technique of Eco Printing with black walnut and maple leaves printed on silk chiffon and cotton using an iron modifier.

I know, I’m late to the party but I just had to try this Eco Printing on Fabric stuff. It looks like such fun! And look out, there are printed fabrics in various stages of development all over this house.

Hey! My second prints worked out much better! Scroll to the bottom to see the new pictures.

How to Eco Print with Leaves on Fabric

This page may contain affiliate links which means if you click and buy, we may receive a small commission. See full Disclosure here for details.

What is Eco Printing or Eco Dyeing?

The way I understand it, Eco Printing is a form of natural dyeing where the colors from plant material are transferred to paper or fabric via steaming or boiling. (If anyone out there has a better definition, by all means let me know).

Eco Leaf Printing was first created (discovered?) by fiber artist and teacher, India Flint.

SAFETY NOTE: Even tho it’s called ‘Natural Dyeing’ and ‘Eco Printing’ and ‘Eco Dyeing’, be aware that some substances used can be very toxic. Follow safety precautions by using gloves and a dust mask.


Eco Print Supplies:

White Silk Chiffon
– Various Leaves
– PVC Pipe or Dowel Rod
– Old Roasting Pan
– Stove or Portable Burner (so you can do this outside)

So, here’s my very first piece of Eco Printed fabric. I chose silk chiffon (only because I have plenty of it left over from nuno felting) and also because the info I’ve read says that silk does not need a mordant for eco printing. However, you can use mordants to achieve different colors and textures.

Eco Print Leaves on Silk Chiffon, a Tutorial

Black Walnut leaves printed on Silk Fabric without Iron Mordant

For my first eco printing experiment, I used what leaves I have available in the yard: black walnut, red maple, green maple, cleome, croton and redbud. These were laid out on half of the dry silk chiffon.

I’ve since learned that the fabric is supposed to be wet when you begin laying out the leaves.

lay out leaves for eco printing or eco dyeing

I folded the other half of the chiffon over the leaves and rolled the whole thing, very tightly onto a piece of pvc pipe. You can use a dowel, stick or even a piece of pipe for this.

Note: depending on what metal the pipe is, it may act as a mordant s.a. a copper pipe which will alter the result.

Next, I wrapped a cotton string around the package, again very tightly to make sure there is good contact between the fabric and the leaves for printing.

Roll up the fabric and leaves for steaming

Rolled up bundle for eco printing

I steamed the bundle over plain water for about 1 1/2 hours. Let this cool completely and left the bundle to set overnight. The longer the better but I don’t have the patience to wait. It’s too much fun opening it up to see what you got!

Not surprisingly, the black walnut leaves printed the best. Black walnut contains its own mordant (tannin??) and is washfast and colorfast.

Here’s how I dyed some yarn with black walnuts.

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a Tutorial

I was also very happy with the red maple leaves which left a pale but very pretty lavender/lilac colored print.

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a Tutorial

The other leaves didn’t do much, altho I did get a pale yellowish print from the redbud leaves.

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a Tutorial

Considering this was the first attempt at eco printing on fabric, I was very happy my results. The second batch turned out much much better.

I learned how to make an iron modifier which dramatically changes and deepens the colors of the printed leaves. (See my UPDATE below)

There are so many wonderful websites out there with great info on eco printing but I must give a special shout out to Threadborne. So much information there on eco printing, I think I read every word on the whole site.


For my second Eco Printing project, I used an Iron Modifier. People sometimes call it a Mordant but in this case it’s used to “modify” the color. (See how to make an iron modifier below)

Eco Print Leaves on Cotton with an Iron Modifier

Instead of silk chiffon, I used cotton flour sack dish towels. FYI, those are the BEST kitchen towels ever made.

I dipped the leaves in my iron modifier before laying them on the fabric. That’s really the only difference in the technique. The rest of the process was the same as above.

As you can see, the resulting prints are much deeper and clearer.

Maple Leaves Eco Printed on Cotton Flour Sack Towels

Black Walnut Leaf printed on cotton

Small black walnut leaves eco printing

A friend recently gave me some eucalyptus leaves so that’ll be my next eco printing experiment. I’ve seen some beautiful results with those.


SAFETY NOTE: Even tho it’s called ‘Natural Dyeing’ and ‘Eco Printing’, beware that some substances used can be very toxic.

Before you try any natural dyeing methods at home, please do your homework first! Here’s a great article on various mordants and their uses.

How to make an Iron Modifier

I wanted to get more in-depth with this so I recently wrote an entire article on how to make an iron modifier.

Books on the Eco Printing Method

Related Fabric Dyeing Tutorials

Shibori Dyeing Tea Towels with Rit Dye
Exploring Shibori: Kumo Fabric Dyeing
Reverse Tie Dyeing with Bleach
Marble Dyeing Silk Scarves
How to Tie Dye a Heart Shape
Printing on Fabric with Silk Ties

Related Natural Dyeing Tutorials

Natural Dyeing with Black Beans

Natural Dye from Plants: Dandelions

How to Eco Print on Paper

Easy Iron Mordant Recipe

Natural Dyeing with Black Walnuts

Eco Printing Beginners Tutorial by

Eco Leaf Printing on Cotton and Silk Fabric. A fabric dyeing tutorial

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon

Eco Printing on Fabric. Learn basic Eco Printing Techniques with black walnut and maple leaves printed on silk chiffon and cotton with an iron modifier.

Eco Printing for Beginners


Eco Printing on Fabric

Sharing is caring!


Craft More Happy Moments with our FREE Creativity Care Package 3/26-4/9/20! Watch over 1,300 creative education classes ranging from sewing, cooking, family crafts, and more!

Did You Know That This Blog Makes Money? Here's How!