What is Eco Printing or Leaf Printing?
Posted: May 11, 2020
This method was first discovered by artist India Flynt who calls the process Ecoprint.
In a nutshell, it is a form of natural dyeing whereby leaves, flowers and other natural materials are printed onto another material such as fabric, paper, leather and even ceramics.
The natural dye present in some plants can be transferred by a combination of direct contact and some form of heat such as boiling or steaming.
Not all plant material will print, however. Leaves and flowers that contain natural tannins work particularly well for eco printing. Tannins also help to make the printed piece more colorfast and washfast meaning they won't fade with washing or exposure to sunlight.
Plants that work well for Eco Printing:
Maple leaves, black walnut leaves and stems, oak leaves, willow leaves, sumac leaves and flowers, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry leaves, rose leaves and flowers, eucalyptus leaves, stems and flowers.
Also, not all fabric will take eco prints. Silk and wool tend to create the best prints. Plant fiber fabric such as cotton, linen and bamboo also work well. Synthetic materials don't print as well although that also depends on other factors.
The Basic Steps of Eco Printing:
Whether you are eco printing on fabric or paper, the basic steps are the same.
For best results, your fabric or paper should be mordanted which helps the dye to bind to the fibers. This can be done with a simple alum powder. (Learn more about mordanting here )
Begin by gathering your plant materials. Fresh leaves and flowers are best, however, you can gather them and press them for later use.
If your leaves have been pressed and dried, you will need to soak them in warm water to reconstitute the natural dye within.
(Note: to get stronger prints, many dyer will dip the leaves and flowers in a liquid iron or copper solution. This is optional.)
Place your fabric or paper on a covered table. Then take your leaves and flowers and lay them on top. (Usually the back of a leaf prints better than the front)
Once you are happy with the layout of your plant materials, place another piece of fabric or paper on top. Press down firmly. To ensure good contact between the material and the plants, you will then roll the whole thing onto a pvc pipe or stick. (If you are printing on paper, you can sandwich them between two boards and secure with clips).
These bundles will then be either boiled/simmered or steamed for several hours. The longer they cook, the better the prints.
Allow the bundles to cool completely. The waiting is the hard part!
The fun part, however, comes now when you get to reveal your lovely eco prints. It is always a surprise.
I hope you will give eco printing a try. It is a super fun and creative way to make lovely greeting cards or to upcycle a thrift store t shirt.
You can find full step by step instructions at How to Eco Print on Paper
Hey, I'm Annette, check out FiberArtsy.com for lots more crafting tutorials