How to Ecoprint on Paper

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Eco Printing or Eco Dyeing on Paper

Learn how to print beautiful papers using leaves and flowers with this step by step Eco Printing Tutorial

Last year, I started my venture into eco printing with leaves, stems and flowers gathered in my garden which I then printed onto silk chiffon and cotton fabric. Those prints turned out to be awesome – I even eco printed some t-shirts for friends.

How to Eco Print on Paper. Learn the basics of eco printing with this step by step fabric printing tutorial

This time, I experimented with Ecoprint on Paper. I used plain, white cardstock paper which I soaked in alum to mordant. I also used iron and copper (modifiers) to shift or ‘sadden’ the color. Both worked really well to strengthen and bring out the color of the leaves and flowers.

(Note: Iron and Copper modifiers take about 2 weeks to make, so plan accordingly)

How to Eco Print on Paper.  Learn the basics of eco printing with leaves and flowers in this step by step tutorial.

What is Eco Printing

EcoPrint or Eco Printing is a form of natural dyeing created by Artist and Author India Flint where the colors from plant material are transferred to paper or fabric via steaming or boiling.

Is it spelled Ecoprint or Eco Print? Since I’ve seen it spelled with a space and without, I figure both ways are correct. Ms. India Flint spells it Ecoprint.

Here’s how my Eco Printing on Cotton Fabric turned out. It’s a great fabric dyeing method for t-shirts and tank tops. DIY Gift Idea!

Best Plants for Eco Printing

From my research, it seems some of the best plants for eco printing are the ones that contain tannin. That would include Black Walnut, Oak, Chestnut, Maple, Alder, Gum Tree and Sumac. Other great plants for eco printing are Eucalyptus, Blackberry, Strawberry, Choke, Marigold, Geranium (perennial) and Oak Leaf Hydrangea.

Personally, I’ve had the best luck with Black Walnut, Maple, Dogwood, Blackberry, Strawberry, Nasturtium (leaves and flowers), Marigold (flower) and Four O’Clocks (leaves, stem and flower).

The eucalyptus leaves I used for the ecoprint paper didn’t print very well. They were at least two years old so that probably had something to do with it.

Make sure to use fresh leaves. It’s late October here but we still have plenty of green, juicy leaves left on the trees. Autumn leaves that have changed color probably won’t work very well for eco printing.
(CORRECTION! I have actually discovered that this is not true. Autumn leaves do not have as much pigment in them as fresh Spring leaves, that part is true. However, you can still get great eco prints from them when you dip them into an iron modifier.)



Supplies for Eco Printing


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Heavy Cardstock Paper
– Various Leaves and Flowers
– Iron and/or Copper Solution (See Recipe)
Alum Powder (check your grocery store spice section)
Large Roaster Pan with rack (for dyeing purposes only)
Large Cookie Sheet for soaking paper
Clothes Pins
– Stove or Hot Plate (for outside use)
– Water
– Table Cover
– Old Plastic Containers (no longer food safe)

Supplies for eco printing on paper

Marigold Cosmos and Four O Clock flowers for eco printing

Eco Printing Safety

Safety First! Honestly, I don’t know if this process is hazardous to your health or not. Coming from many years of yarn dyeing, however, I tend to err on the side of caution. If you’re going to use iron and copper modifiers, please use gloves. Also, it’s probably best to steam or boil these prints outside, if possible.

Iron and Copper Modifiers

These two substances are not required to successfully create Ecoprints, however, they tend to darken and strengthen some prints. Here is a super easy recipe for making your own iron or copper modifier or mordant.

Copper Modifier Recipe. For use with ecoprint or eco printing as a mordant or modifier

Mordant the Paper and Soak the Plant Materials

Mordant the Paper
The night before you want to ecoprint, soak your sheets of paper in an alum/water solution.

How much alum you use depends on how much paper you wish to mordant. I soaked 10 – 8 1/2″ x 11″ pieces of paper in water mixed with 1 Tablespoon of Alum. That’s probably more than the recommended amount but I didn’t feel like weighing each sheet of paper lol.

Dissolve the alum in some very hot water. Mix that with enough water to almost fill the cookie sheet.

Place the paper in the water, one sheet at a time, making sure the paper is covered with water on both sides. Let this sit for a few hours or preferably, overnight. Note: I folded my paper after soaking.

Soaking the Paper in water with an Alum Mordant

Note: some eco printers presoak their paper and plant materials in vinegar. Personally, I have not tried this so I can’t speak to its effectiveness.

Soak the Plant Material
Soak all of your leaves and other plant materials in water to keep them from drying out.

Soaking the Blackberry and Strawberry leaves in water

Soaking the Maple Leaves and Oak Leaves in water prior to eco printing on paper

Lay out the Leaves and Flowers

Cover your table. If using, pour the iron solution in one container and the copper solution in another. Remove one sheet of paper and fold it in half (optional).

Now, place various leaves and flowers on your paper, dipping them in one of the modifying solutions first, if you’d like. I dipped half of mine in copper and the other half in the iron modifier. Fold the paper to close it or place another sheet on top of the first.

Continue laying out the plant material on each of your sheets of paper.

Eucalyptus, Nasturtium bloom and leaf, Four O Clock blooms and leaves laid out to ecoprint

Oak leaves, Nasturtium blooms and leaves ready to eco print

Maple leaf, Nasturtium bloom and leaf and Black Walnut stems for eco printing

Take your stack of folded papers and press down firmly to get good contact between the paper and the leaves or flowers. Secure the bundle with clothes pins.

Secure the eco printing bundles of paper with clothes pins

Steam the Ecoprint Papers

Place a rack inside the roaster pan and lay your bundle of papers on top. Add water to the roaster and turn on high. Once the water begins to boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Turn off the heat and let the paper cool but don’t allow it to dry out. If you can, leave it to set overnight. The longer it sits, the better your prints.

Bundle of papers and leaves ready to steam

Bundle of eco print papers after steaming

Reveal your EcoPrints

Here’s the fun part! Opening up your eco printed cards. Pay close attention to your leaves as you remove them. Did they print better on the front side or the back? Do you notice any negative prints?

The bottom part of my stack of cards – the iron dipped part – partially slipped into the water so they are much more saturated with color. Overall, though, I’m pretty happy with the result of both the iron and the copper prints.

Maple leaves Nasturtium Bloom and Leaf Four OClock leaves dipped in iron
Maple leaves Nasturtium Bloom and Leaf Four OClock leaves dipped in iron

Ecoprinted Blackberry leaves dipped in copper
Blackberry Leaves dipped in Copper. Note the positive print on the left (back of leaf) and the negative print on the right side (front of leaf)

Eucalyptus leaves, Nasturtium Blooms and Leaves, Four O'Clock Blooms and Leaves dipped in Copper modifier. Eco printed on cardstock paper
Eucalyptus leaves, Nasturtium Blooms and Leaves, Four O’Clock Blooms and Leaves dipped in Copper modifier

Oak and Eucalyptus leaves dipped in iron
Oak and Eucalyptus leaves dipped in iron

Dogwood and Rose leaves Black Walnut stems and Marigold Blossom dipped in iron
Dogwood and Rose leaves Black Walnut stems and Marigold Blossom dipped in iron

Maple Leaf, Four O'Clock leaves Black Walnut stems and Nasturtium Flower dipped in Copper
Maple Leaf, Four O’Clock leaves Black Walnut stems and Nasturtium Flower dipped in Copper

Oak and Eucalyptus dipped in copper
Oak and Eucalyptus dipped in copper

Eco Printing on paper or fabric is a wonderful way to make some stunning and unique pieces of art. Pop a piece of eco print paper in a frame and hang it in your foyer or give it as a Christmas gift!

Eco Printed Silk Scarves also make fabulous DIY gift ideas. I hope you will give this amazing process a try.

India Flint, the originator of the EcoPrint process also teaches eco printing and fiber art workshops around the world.

How to Eco Print on Paper. Step by step tutorial shows you the basics of Leaf and flower eco printing which can be done on paper or fabric

How to Eco Print with Leaves on Paper

Eco Printing on Paper

Eco Printed Paper

Eco Printing on Paper Tutorial

How to EcoPrint on Paper

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