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DIY Plant Dyes and Paints

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Explore how to use a variety of vegetables, herbs, and spices to produce beautiful natural dyes at home.

Gardens provide an array of colors that awaken our sight, taste, and smell and invite beneficial insects. How can we use these fruits, vegetables and other common pantry items to bring those colors indoors? In this workshop led by New York Restoration Project, we learned how to use a variety of vegetables, herbs, and spices to produce beautiful natural dyes and paints that awaken the senses in this DIY tutorial.

Watch the recording of the virtual workshop hosted on March 23, 2021. This series of workshops is hosted by GrowNYC and National Wildlife Federation.



For many of the fibers to keep their dye longer it is important to wash &

use a mordant.

Wash/ Scouring

1) Pre-was your fabric in washing machine WITHOUT fabric softener

2) Fill water ½ full in a large enamel/stainless steel pot

3) Add one ounce of soda ash per pound of fabric into pot

4) Stir & bring to boil

5) Bring down to simmer and let sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally

6) Remove and rinse with water

A mordant is a fixative that allows dye molecules to bind to fiber. Some

of the at-home mordants can be:

• Alum

• Crème of tartar

• Nails/rust

• Soda ash

Note: You can find most of these in your grocery store (spice & baking aisles). Soda Ash can be found at a craft store or online.


1) In a stainless steel pot, mix 2 cups of water with 1 cup of each fruit or vegetable or plant material you're using. Bring to a boil over medium heat and leave to simmer for about one hour.

2) Add fabric, stir occasionally. Leave for 1-2hours.

3) Turn off the heat and allow the water to cool to room temperature. Leave fabric overnight.

4) Remove fabric. Hand wash with pH neutral soap (such as Dove /Irish Spring).

Alternative: Strain the juice into glass containers & store for later use.

Below is a pdf of the recipes for the plant dye and spice paint:

Download PDF • 458KB

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