Eco prints on paper

Lovely results from eco leaf prints on water colour paper! Blackberry, Cotinus Coggrygia, Chokecherry, Japanese Maple and Tagetes petals on water colour paper, folded. Amazing that the same red Chokecherry leaf prints both blue and green.

In my search online for “how-to’s”, I found great instructions in Cassandra Tondro’s delightful blog on eco friendly art: My change was to add alum to the soaking water. My process:

I made a stack of “leaf sandwiches”. I soaked watercolour paper (from a pad) in an alum and water solution (about 10% alum) for at least a few hours. Then I laid leaves over the water colour paper, covered that layer over with a fresh piece of w-c paper, then repeated that until the pad was used up and I had a nice stack of leaf sandwiches. I laid one cardboard backing from the pad on the bottom of the stack and the other on the top. The whole stack was placed in my old aluminum turkey roaster (with three inches of water in the bottom) on a rack raised above the water level. I set three brick on top of the stack to weigh it down and placed the roaster’s cover tightly . I steamed the stack for  about an hour – maybe more.

I printed the following leaves in various combinations: Sweet Gum, gingko, blackberry (with vines), Japanese Maple (acer palmatum), Chokecherry (red leaves), Cotinus Coggrygia, Magnolia, Eucalyptus (Silver Dollar, Seeded Euc., Baby Blue), Alder.  I gathered the leaves from the ground, not from the branches.


This red Chokecherry leaf printed in many shades of green and yellow. The veined side of the leaf gives the stongest colours, so by playing with the placement of leaf, veined-side-up or veined-side-down, or layering leaves over, under or beside each other, I was able to make different prints appear on the two pieces of water colour paper sandwiching the leaves. In addition, leaves exude different amounts of colour as well as different colours so frequently, one can obtain a delightful “colour wash” effect around the prints, with the wash sometimes even a different colour from the leaf print. Amazing.  

These photos were taken immediately as the papers were removed from the dyer bath. Yellows and browns predominate , with some blue-greys from the Japanese Maple. But as the time passed, colours began to change even more deliciously: greens, purples, oranges, blues, greys appeared. The darkest leaf print in this collection is from the blackberry (middle row, far left)- it is dark green, near black: But we see in the image at the top of this post that the blackberry leaf , after a few hours resting and developing, has  changed colour to multiple shades of green.

Sweet Gum leaves printed face-to-face on two sheets of watercolour paper. The variation in the colours is due to the placement of the leaves, either veined-side up or veined-side down. Most of my prints with Sweet Gum on paper have produced colours in a relatively narrow  yellow-ochre-brown range but with much variation in printed textures – dots, lines, washes. On silk they seem to produce much more in the way of greens, including chartreuses.

Next post : More eco prints on silk – and with some of the same leaves as used here on watercolour paper.

This post’s Honour Roll:

About wendyfe

I am a fibre artist working in mixed media textiles with a focus on vintage cloth reworked with stitching, natural dyeing, eco printing and rust printing . My work can be seen at
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13 Responses to Eco prints on paper

  1. Stunning collection of papers! Absolutely beautiful, and inspiring me to go leaf collecting again. Thanks for the detailed instructions too………very generous of you!

    • wendyfe says:

      Thanks, Julie! What you see on my blog from start to finish is the result of what I have learned from generous online artists who have shared what they love. I started eco printing in June this year, and thanks mainly to online (unwitting) mentors, I have been inspired to share what I am learning, too. When it comes to leaves and their colours, one wonders what effects the time of year, climate and geography have on the colour concentrations in any given leaf. Do send us some pics of your next collection!
      Check out Cassandra Tondro for her lovely tutorial, so helpful.

  2. terriea says:

    I stumbled into your blog for eco print on paper. Amazingly to find the effect you got. I’m going to do today. Thanks for sharing.
    Terriea from Hong Kong

  3. Stitchworks says:

    Thanks for sharing. I will follow your lin.

  4. Susan Jensen says:

    I am new to this so I REALLY appreciate your explaining your process…thank you so much, your prints are beautiful by the way..
    Can you tell me where I find ‘alum’?
    Thank you
    Susan Jensen

    • wendyfe says:

      Thank you, Susan.

      I get alum from Maiwa in Vancouver and also from Bulk Barn, a bulk foods retail chain here in Canada.

      Hope you find some!

  5. Kirsten says:

    I love this post. I Will try it today I think. Thanks

  6. Jane Brown says:

    I am just learning eco printing.
    Is there a way to simplify mordant proportions?
    I don’t understand “10% alum” 10% in relation to what? Water?
    Do different mordants have different proportions?
    Is there an easier way to measure….tablespoons , cups etc.
    Can anyone suggest a good beginners guide?
    Every tutorial I seen or blog that I’ve read , does not go into depth about mordants!
    Please help!


    • wendyfe says:

      There is a link on my blog for the references (books, papers etc) you need to find info about mordants all in one spot.

      To use a blog is not the same as consulting a book – the info is spread all through the text so you have to be prepared to slog through the blog. Consult the cloud of terms and follow the ones that you have questions about.

      I have spent many hours gathering info and experimenting to find more info. You have to be ready to do that also

    • wendyfe says:

      Hi Jane, Fear not, Jenny Dean has the book you need! look at my list of references and you all be happy

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