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Eco Printing on Paper

Updated: Jun 28

During my artist residency with City of Port Coquitlam at Lions Park, I explored eco-printing using iron water and leaves from invasive species plants growing in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. At first, this was mainly for making eco-printed fabric for a community-led art installation at Lions Park.

During my research, I learned that you can eco-print on paper, and set the prints using a microwave.

This method requires significantly less labor than setting eco-prints on fabric, and create some fun little pieces of art that you can frame as-is, or add watercolour paint or ink to jazz 'em up a little more! Here are a few close ups:

I learned this method from Made By Barb, who has been an incredible resource for me in learning how to eco-print, and I have been able to branch off from her teachings to further explore and refine the method in ways that work for me.

Here is the how-to

Supplies needed:

- Leaves, or flowers

- Water

- White vinegar

- Iron water

- Natural dye(s)

- Heavy weight paper (such as Watercolour paper or Stonehenge

- Ceramic tiles (at least 2)

- Elastic bands

- A bowl for dipping paper and leaves

- Microwave safe bag, such as a freezer bag with zip seal.

- A microwave

- disposable gloves

Iron water: you can purchase iron oxide from art stores and follow the directions from the company, OR you can make your own using rusted iron, vinegar and water by placing the iron in a bucket, adding 2/3 water and 1/3 vinegar and let it sit for a few weeks. There are many resources on Google and YouTube to learn more. Caitlin Ffrench also has a lesson on how to do this if you join her Patreon.

Natural dye suggestions: I encourage you to research natural dyes! Some that I like to use are strong brewed teas, such as hibiscus, butterfly pea flower, or orange pekoe. Brew a very strong tea, let cool, and put into a 1 oz dropper bottle to apply to paper with ease.

Preparing your space: work outdoors, and cover the surface you are using with a table cloth or tarp to protect it. You want to use caution when working with iron water. It's best not to get it on your skin, so use gloves and if any gets on your skin simply wash off with soap and water.


  1. Prepare the water solution: Water with 35-50% vinegar in it (approximately 1 part water to 1 part vinegar). Add a small amount of iron water to it.

  2. Add plant material to water solution, let soak for at least 30 minutes before going on to the next step.

  3. Take paper and slide through water solution. Place on one ceramic tile, smooth side up.

  4. Take soaked plant materials, blot on paper towel (so it isn't dripping), and place on paper.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until paper and plant materials are used up.

  6. Put 2nd ceramic tile on top, smooth side down, sandwiching the paper in.

  7. Bind with elastics to squish the plant material further, and to help keep paper flat.

  8. Put the ceramic tiles in microwave safe bag.

  9. Squirt dye into stacks and let it run through. Turn and squeeze stack (be conservative with dye application).

  10. Squeeze air out of bag and seal.

  11. Microwave for a 1-2 minutes, flip, and microwave for a few more minutes making sure bag does not pop!

  12. Remove with oven mitts, and put bag into a blanket or towel to keep heat in. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

  13. Remove from bag (careful-may still be hot!)

  14. Let your prints dry on a flat surface.

I love seeing your creations! If you post your eco-prints online, feel free to tag me @kaitlynbeugh 

Thank you to Made By Barb and Caitlin Ffrench for sharing your knowledge so generously.


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