What is the difference between various Flowers Eco Printed on cardstock paper with liquid Iron or rust water and without a color modifier?
Last week, my family and I took a mini vacation to the beautiful Red River Gorge here in Kentucky. The Goldenrod, Milkweed and Ironweed plants were in stunning full bloom which inspired me to ecoprint with flowers only on cardstock paper.
I was mainly interested to see the difference between using iron or rust water and not using any modifier at all.
In addition, I did a few of my prints with a watercolor ‘blanket’ just to see how they would come out.
What is Ecoprint?
Ecoprint, Eco Printing, Leaf Printing, Eco Dyeing or Contact Printing … this art form goes by many different names but they all pretty much mean the same thing.
With this natural dyeing method, the dye that is present inside plants, leaves, flowers, mushrooms and other organic materials is transferred to a medium such as fabric, paper or leather by a combination of compression and steaming or boiling.
This fabulous printing technique was first discovered by fiber artist and author, India Flint.
Ms. Flint is the author of Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles and Second Skin: Choosing and Caring for Textiles and Clothing
As I said above, for this experiment I mainly wanted to see how different my prints would be if using iron or rust water as a modifier and not using any modifier at all.
(Iron water aka Rust water deepens and darkens many eco prints and natural dyes which are normally a lot lighter and paler. You can learn how to make your own liquid iron here)
I also did a third experiment where I painted watercolor paints on one side of the cardstock paper to act as a ‘blanket’ and transfer the color to the other side during the processing of the prints.
Check out How to Eco Print on Fabric
How do you make an Eco Print on Paper?
Since I have already covered the full step by step tutorial in this post, I will not go into the details. Mainly, this article is to show the difference in the prints depending on whether or not a modifier is used.
1: First you need to mordant the paper
2: Then, gather your flowers (Hint: keep them in water until ready to use)
3: If using, dip the flowers in iron or rust water
4: Next, place the flowers on one side (half) of each of your papers
5: Fold over the paper and compress the flowers
6: Finally, you need to steam or simmer the papers for 1-2 hours minimum
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Flowers I used for Eco Printing
As I said above, I was super inspired by the beautiful wildflowers I found in the Red River Gorge. Namely, Goldenrod, Milkweed, Ironweed and Chicory which I gathered and brought home.
Additionally, I also used some flowers from my home garden: Orange Cosmos, Veronica, Four O’Clocks, Nasturtium and Zinnias.
If you are going to experiment with this type of ecoprinting, I recommend testing every single flower you can find!
And, if you don’t happen to have any flowers blooming in your garden right now (or if it is Winter where you live), you can always check out your local grocery store or flower shop. Some florists will even give you their cuttings for free.
How I made my flowers prints
For each of these flowers, I made one print where I dipped the blooms in iron water prior to printing. I also printed the Veronica, Zinnias, Ironweed and Cosmos without dipping them in iron first.
(Unfortunately, I did not have enough of the Milkweed, Goldenrod, Chicory, Nasturtium and Four O’Clocks for another print.)
Also, for the Ironweed, Zinnias, Cosmos and Veronica I did a third ecoprint by painting the cover paper with watercolors. Those blooms were also not dipped in the rust water.
Check out My Top 9 Eco Printing Tips and Tricks!
Ironweed may be my new favorite flower. Next year, I will definitely make more prints with the blooms and leaves and a variety of different mordants and modifiers.
Honestly, I never expected these Veronica blooms to leave much of a print. The flowers themselves are super pretty but fairly pale in color so I was really surprised to find these strong images.
These might be my absolute favorite prints yet! The Cosmos blooms are the only ones that actually dyed with a color other than dark gray or brown.
Check out the detail in each flower when I dipped them in the iron modifier.
The iron water prints (top photo) are super detailed compared to the non iron prints. The iron really emphasized the edges of each petal of the Zinnias.
These Milkweed blooms were just past their prime so I honestly did not expect them to have much dye left in them. These prints were a pleasant surprise.
I look forward to trying Milkweed again next Summer when the flowers are still fresh.
Since I picked these Four O’Clocks in the morning, the blooms had not yet opened fully. The prints along the bottom of the paper are from small clumps of flower buds and the leaves that were attached. Love the deep browns!
Honestly, I was a little surprised that the chicory blooms did not leave stronger prints. The base of each flower printed deeply gray and the petals came out a pretty brown shade.
Also, the chicory stems printed quite clearly. I did not use any of the roots but it is my understanding, that chicory root makes a great natural dye on its own.
I love the bright green of the flower stems of the Nasturtium. The orange of the petals did not translate to the paper but the shapes are there.
Too bad I did not have more Goldenrod to experiment with. It tends to have a super bright yellow dye. I will have to try again next year.
As you can see, my ecoprints with flowers dipped into rust water modifier first came out much darker and stronger. The rust also brought out the greens in a few of the flower stems such as the Nasturtium.
Overall, I am super happy with my results! Especially with the Zinnias, Veronica and Cosmos. Not only are those prints stronger but the iron brought out a lot of the finer details of the flower petals.
Now I need to print them all using other modifiers and mordants such as Copper and Soymilk? Make sure and check back for those articles.
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How do you Print Leaves on Fabric?
Just like you can ecoprint with flowers on paper, you can also print flowers and leaves on fabric. In general, protein fiber fabrics such as wool or silk will take the prints better and show more color.
Plant or cellulose fibers such as cotton and linen can also be used but they are a little more difficult to get strong or colorful prints. If you decide to use cellulose fibers, you will need to appropriately mordant your fabric first.
Check out how to eco printing on fabric in this article.
How do you make Iron Water?
Again, it is not absolutely necessary to use iron or rust water for this technique. This modifier does, however, create much stronger prints.
It is super easy for you to make your own iron or rust water using rusty old nails and screws. Please note, though, that it takes a week or two to complete. Here is the recipe.
If you do not have the time or want to fool with making your own modifier, you can also buy this soluble iron.
Can you eco dye with dried flowers?
The short answer is, yes you absolutely can use dry flowers, if those flowers are also appropriate for dyeing in the first place. In other words, if a flower does not contain any color in it when fresh, it won’t have any color after it has been dried.
To use dried flowers, simply soak them prior to using in warm water for about an hour. This will reconstitute the natural colors within.