How to Make Natural Dyes for Crafts

natural vegetable dyes for crafts with easter eggs

Creating natural dyes for crafts can be a source of both savings and pride. While there are plenty of commercial coloring options, many crafters prefer dealing with natural substances, not least because they're easy and cheap to grow. If you're among those who wish to make your crafts beautiful without using artificial colors, here are some ways you can use natural materials to make tints for your crafts.

Sources of Natural Dyes

There are two primary sources of natural dyes used by most crafters—mica clay pigments or natural vegetation. The mica pigmentation process is as simple as mixing the pigments with your crafting material. However, the pigments are expensive and have to be purchased in large amounts to offer sufficient coloring for your work. On the other hand, vegetation based coloring is much cheaper but more labor-intensive.

Mica Pigment Dye

mica powder for natural dye

Mica is best suited for applications where the pigment is mixed with the craft material. For instance, if you'll be making soap at home, you can simply mix the powder color you wish to use in the soap before the saponification stage. You may also use mica pigmentation on crafts such as pots and other clayware. In such items, the pigmentation is mixed with the clay used to make the pot. If you want the pot to have a solid color on the surface, you'll have to finish making the pot before adding a thin layer of pure mica pigmentation on the exterior.

Plant-Based Dyes

Plants present a cheaper, though more involved, craft coloring option. Vegetation can easily be accessed and offers plenty of color options. Some of the best plants for dyes include:

Red

Raspberries, beetroots, and red hibiscus flowers.

Pink

Strawberries, cherries, roses, and lavender.

Orange

Carrots, onion skin, squash, and turmeric.

natural powders for dyes including turmeric and others

Purple

Lilies and blackberries.

Yellow

Marigolds, sunflower petals, and dandelions.

Green

Spinach, artichokes, and peppermint leaves.

Blue

Red cabbage leaves, blueberries, and cornflower petals.

Brown

Dandelion roots, oak bark and walnut.

Grey or Black

Walnut husks, sumac leaves and jade plants.

gloved hands squeezing blue dye out of fabric

The only way to prepare your dye from the plants is to dissolve the plant in water, or any other solvent, to release the pigments. Here's a step by step process for preparing natural dye from the plants.

Step 1 - Chop

Chop the plant into one inch thick slices. You may also use a grater to cut roots like carrots or turmeric into small shavings. To ensure you get the right color, use the freshest possible plants—avoid plants that have been in the freezer or in the refrigerator for long.

Step 2 - Combine with Water

Add about twice as much water as plant material. For instance, if you're using one cup of raspberries, combine with two cups of water. Mix the contents in a heat-safe bowl or cooking pot.

Step 3 - Boil and Simmer

On medium heat, cook the contents with a lid on until they boil. Once boiling point is attained, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about an hour, or until you get a rich color. Some plants may take longer to give out their coloring materials. Observe the contents in your pot regularly to watch the color change.

hands wringing out fabric in natural yellow dye

Step 4 - Strain

Once you've attained the desired color, use a sieve or cheesecloth to strain out the plant material. You may use the plant material for your cooking or another purpose. Let your dye cool down and apply it to your crafts however you like. Since plant-based dyes may be a bit more diluted than artificial dyes, you may need to apply the dye more than once, in which case you should let the first coat dry before adding another.

Pro Tip: When using plant-based dyes to color a woven fabric, it's best to place the entire fabric in the pot containing the simmering dye. This will result in a stronger, longer lasting tint.