DIY Natural Fabric Printing Inks

DIY Natural Fabric Printing Inks

Did you know that you can make your own fabric printing inks with things you’ll find in the nature? 😀

homemade natural sloe laundry ink sloe dye

Sloe or blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is great for DIY printmaking ink. You can use the berries as well as the bark.

Other berries also work well such as bilberries (vaccinium myrtillus).

Red Cabbage + Baking Soda - Print Samples

Red cabbage is also great.

Preparing The Fabric

I used cotton fabric for the print samples. You can also use silk, but the blues will be more purple on silk. Prewash and iron your fabrics before printing. I didn’t use mordant – except for the iron tannin print – because I wanted to show you the natural print colors.

Natural Dye Ink From Plants

Natural Ink Colors

Blue: red cabbage, bilberries, sloe berries (without ironing)

Teal: red cabbage + baking soda (turns grey after some month)

Brown: onion skins, walnut hulls, sloe berries (with ironing), blackthorn bark, horse chestnut leaves

Grey: bilberries (ironed before washing)

Dark brown or black: iron + tannin

DIY Natural Fabric Printing Ink

Natural Blueberry Fabric Printing Ink Recipe

Bring berries (bark, leaves, onion skins etc.) with some water to a boil. Simmer it for about 10 minutes (berries, red cabbage) to one hour (bark, onion skins).

Natural Fabric Printing Ink Made With Blueberries

Strain the dye solution through a sieve. Bring it to a boil again and simmer it till the consistency is thick and syrupy.

Natural Fabric Printing Ink Tutorial

Now use your DIY natural fabric printing ink just like ordinary fabric printing ink.

Natural Fabric Printing Ink

I used a fork and a heart-shaped cookie cutter as stamps. But you can also use other stamps such as wood block stamps.

Homemade Natural Fabric Printing Ink
Fork dots
DIY Print Fabric With Fruits
Back view of painted bilberry hearts

DIY Natural Fabric Printing Ink With Gum Arabic

If the fabric printing ink is too watery, you can thicken it with gum arabic. Stir in some gum arabic while the ink is still warm.

-> Tutorial: How To Make India Ink/ Edwardian Mascara With Gum Arabic

Natural Fabric Printing Ink

Let the fabric dry overnight after printing. Then wash it with soap and water.

Bilberry Blueberry Dye Wool Fabric
Bilberry dye before and after washing

Washing and ironing might change the color, because some natural printing inks are ph-sensitive and heat-sensitive.

DIY Onion And Coffee Fabric Printing Ink
Onion skins and coffee fabric printing ink before washing
DIY Fruit And Vegetable Fabric Printing Ink
Coffee, onion and bilberry dye before washing

DIY Fabric Printing Ink RinseThe Fabric

I washed all the printed fabric with castille soap and 60°C hot water.

Homemade Fabric Printing Ink
Turning blue

Natural fabric printing inks will bleed during the first wash.

Natural Printed Fabric Care

After the first wash, you can wash your natural printed fabrics with similar colored clothes in the washing machine.

Use the lowest heat setting when ironing your natural printed fabrics – especially the blue printing inks are heat-sensitive.

Natural Printmaking Inks After Washing

DIY Natural Sloe Laundry Ink
Sloe fabric printing ink

Natural Dye Fabric Printing Inks Bilberry Blueberry Coffee Onion Skins Red Cabbage

Because I love blue, my favorite natural printing inks are bilberry and red cabbage (without baking soda).

DIY Natural Plant Inks
Bilberry print after washing
Blueberry Bilberry Fabric Print And Sugar Hearts
Bilberry fabric print and sugar hearts

While sugar hearts colored with bilberry juice are pink, fabric printed with bilberry is blue after washing.

-> Naturally Colored Sugar Hearts & Sugar Sprinkles

DIY Natural Fabric Printing Ink With Red Cabbage
Red cabbage fabric printing ink

-> Natural Blue Sugar Hearts Colored With Red Cabbage

red cabbage dye sample bleeds while washing
Red cabbage + baking soda fabric printing ink

Red cabbage-baking soda dye isn’t very lightfast, after washing and some month exposure to sunlight, the teal turns grey.

Natural Dye Ink From Plants
Bilberry print: grey if ironed before washing, blue if not ironed before washing

If the bilberry print is ironed before washing, it stays grey even after washing. Otherwise bilberry printing ink is blue, even if ironed after washing.

Natural Dye Ink From Plants: Onion Skins And Coffee
Onion and coffee print

Coffee print is very pale after washing.

How To Make Medieval Blackthorn Ink - A Tutorial
Blackthorn fabric printing ink
DIY Natural Fabric Printmaking Inks
Horse chestnuts leaves print before and after washing
DIY Natural Fabric Printmaking Ink With Onion Skins
Onion skin tie dye samples after washing
DIY Curcuma Fabric Dye
Curcuma print

Curcuma doesn’t work as DIY fabric printmaking ink because the whole fabric is yellow after washing.

Iron fabric printing ink

If you try out natural fabric printing inks, I’d love to hear about your experiments and results. And if you have questions, just ask them in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “DIY Natural Fabric Printing Inks

  1. Did you ever figure out a way to make these more colorfast? I want to do this on some of my daughter’s clothes but since they need regular washing I want to be sure it won’t fade too quickly.

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