Introduction: How to EcoPrint on Paper

How to EcoPrint on Paper

a tutorial

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.

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 (recipe below), so plan accordingly)

Step 1: 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.

Step 2: Supplies for Eco Printing

– Heavy Cardstock Paper

– Various Leaves and Flowers

– Iron and/or Copper Solution (optional)

– 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)

– Gloves

– Water

– Table Cover

– Old Plastic Containers (no longer food safe)

Step 3: 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.

Step 4: 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 how you can easily make your own modifiers:

Iron Modifier Recipe

Handful of Rusted Nuts, Bolts, etc.
1 Cup White Vinegar
1 Cup Water
Mason Jar

Place all in the Mason Jar and loosely screw on the top. Let it set for about 2 weeks.

Copper Modifier Recipe

Piece of Copper pipe or tubing
1 Cup White Vinegar
1 Cup WaterMason Jar

Place all in the Mason Jar and loosely screw on the top. Let it set for about 2 weeks.

Step 5: 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.

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.

Step 6: 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.

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.

Step 7: 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.

Step 8: 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.

Step 9:

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.

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


Full Step by Step Tutorial at