Introduction: Naturally Dyed Recycled Indigo Butterfly Pea Flower Paper!

About: Hi my name is Zoe, with two dots over the "o". I like to express myself through cooking and art.

So the other day I was scrolling across the web because I have a lot more free time and I came across this girl who was making her own paper and I wanted try it out, and then today something insane came through my head as I was ordering this cool color changing tea. Butterfly pea flower tea naturally has this rich indigo color but if you put lemon in it it changes to this purple. What if I could combine the two to make a natural pastel color changing paper. Wish me luck on this fun journey of magical paper making.

This project can be a little time consuming but it is a great way of recycling old school work and could be a fun science project to do with your kids.

Butterfly Pea flowers are used as natural food dyes for making beautiful vibrant blues, indigos, purples and pinks.
They have recently become quite popular in restaurants to make color changing drinks like unicorn lemonade using the flowers. Besides being packed full of color the flower is also a super food. The butterfly pea is a pH indicating flower and gets its color from anthocyanins, a mixture of acylated delphinidin compounds. The tea produces a blue color which changes to purple as acid is added and all the way to hot pink in the presence of high acidity.

Below are some links to more info on butterfly pea flowers and recycling paper.


  • recycled paper
  • butterfly pea flower tea (you can get it easily on amazon or online.)
  • a strainer or sifter for the tea
  • two picture frames around the same size
  • a mesh fabric like window mesh
  • a blender
  • a big water proof bin to put the pulp and water in
  • lemon juice if you want to make it change color
  • a sponge or a cloth (get a sponge unless want to end having to wash multiple cloths like had to.)
  • and a old sheet or scrap material to lay the paper on to dry

Step 1: Prepping Your Pulp

The first thing you are going to want to do is cut up a bunch of old paper into small pieces and put it into a large bowl. I used a bunch of old notes and some watercolor paper I messed up on.

Step 2: Making Butterfly Pea Tea Ink

For a pretty pastel paper you should put about half a cup to 2/3 of a cup of butterfly pea flowers into a mug and pour boiling water over them, stir and steep for about 10 minutes.

Doing this project I had a hiccup and I realized that if you want a darker hue you will have to paint the paper with the ink afterwords which will allow for a stronger color and a more visible color change if you wish to write or paint in lemon juice. Alternatively if you want your paper to be purple or pink you can add lemon to the tea beforehand, the more lemon the warmer the hue will be.

Step 3: Soaking Your Paper

Remember the tea and bowl of paper, well now we are going grab a little strainer and poor the tea in over the paper. You'll have to keep pouring bowling water over the flowers and repeating until the inky tea covers your paper and your flowers start become less potent. Then cover your bowl and it has to sit over night before you can blend into pulp.

Step 4: Lets Make a Mould and Deckle.

While your paper is soaking you'll want to start making your mold sifter, you'll need two wooden picture frames around the same size and a mesh fabric most people use window screen, however I just moved so I didn't have access to that at the moment so I used a large mesh ribbon fabric that I got from Micheal's. I would recommend using the window screen for an easier release of the paper and for so it will last longer, however the mesh ribbon does work but you may need to glue or tape the sides down the ends like to fray.

First step is take out the picture frames backings and inserts and set them aside for the future. Cut your mesh a little bigger than your frame as to stretch over the sides then staple or use push pins to pin them in place and for added comfort tape the sides down. Your deckle will just be the other frame which will just sit on top and you hold it in place when your shaping your paper.

Step 5: Lets Make Some Pulp

After your paper has been marinated for the night you can take it out and carefully ladle it into your blender. For more liquid I would brew another cup of tea but only with a couple flowers each time, pouring the flowers straight in with the tea when blending, this will add pretty small flowers to be pressed into the paper which just looks really magical.

Step 6: Lets Start Making Some Paper!!!

Okay so here comes the process, it can be tricky at first and it may take a few hours but its worth it.

Your going to fill your container with water and your pulp, for other colored papers you could add a little paint to make strong colors but we are making natural butterfly pea stained paper this time. Mix the water and pulp and then at an angle put your deckle and mold in to the water swaying back and forth slowly so all the pulp is over the mesh before in drains so you have a consistent thickness. Wait for all the water to drain before taking off the deckle and carefully pressing the paper against a canvas material, sheet or a t shirt would work to but it might stain. I didn't have a sponge so I used a cloth however use a sponge if you can so you don't have to use multiple cloth's to soak up the excess moisture. Keep dabbing out the moisture until you can slowly lift the mold away from the paper if parts rip try to reshape and press the mold back over to keep the pattern then repeat until you have a bunch of paper and let them dry overnight or up to 24 hours.

Step 7: Good Morning Paper!!!

Depending on the thickness of your paper it could 12 to 24 hours for your paper to fully dry but then have this beautifully flower pressed paper. Once they're fully dry, lift the paper carefully to avoid ripping and then you have your lovely pastel indigo paper. I wrote a little rambling poem and went on to testing the color changing abilities of the paper, which is where I came into that hiccup I mentioned earlier. As the paper turned out so light so does the color changing ability so if you want stronger color change I would add a dark coat of more of the tea early in the morning and it should be dried by the afternoon/evening, or you can paint with tea and lemon on certain spots like I did making cloud like areas to create a pastel sky or icy tie dye effect. It dries very pastel, light and beautiful.

The process was long but it was fun and I cant wait to start making recycled paper with lots of different stuff like gold leaf, edible glitter, paper confetti or pressed flowers.

Step 8: Enjoy and Have a Good Day

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