DIY Paint using two simple ingredients without leaving home

how to make ink with tea using 2 ingredients in your kitchen

Hi there! As a natural ink maker and abstract artist, I am excited to share a recipe for those looking to dive into the world of natural inks or looking to be creative with simple ingredients and materials without leaving home.

First of all, without journeying too far into the technical differences between paint and ink, I made use of the word “paint” in the title of this post to help reach more people looking to create from home. But for the remainder of this post, I will refer to the “paint” created from tea as INK.

I adapted this recipe from a blog post entitled “Natural Plant Inks” by Jyotsna Pippal, a scientist, an artist and a maker of sustainable and non toxic watercolours. Jyotsna sells her Artisanal Handcrafted Watercolors in her Etsy shop LostinColours.

A few notes about the ingredients:

You may not have distilled water on hand, but you can still experiment with tap water, and then when you find distilled water, you can compare colour outcomes.

You can experiment with different types of tea and their colour outcomes. I used orange pekoe tea for this particular dark brown colour in the photos, but rooibos tea will create a more orange colour.

Gum Arabic thickens, helps with controlling ink flow, binds the ink to the paper and helps preserve. Gum Arabic is sometimes called acacia gum or acacia powder and it is made from the natural hardened sap of two types of wild Acacia trees. You probably won’t have gum Arabic powder lying around, but if you are a watercolour artist, you may have a bottle of liquid gum Arabic. Either way, you don’t need to have gum Arabic to paint with tea ink and you can just skip that part of the recipe. Also, there is no absolute rule for exactly how much gum Arabic to add to ink. You can test different amounts with test strips to figure out what amount works for you.

If you don’t have 99.9% Isopropyl Alcohol, you can also use different purity levels (ie. 60%) or preserve with a clove, or a few drops of wintergreen oil or thyme oil.

Tea Ink Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup distilled water (regular tap water is fine too)

1 tbsp loose tea (or two tea bags)

½ tbsp of baking soda

½ tsp gum Arabic (not necessary)

8-10 drops of 99.9% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (not necessary)

Materials:

stainless steel or glass (these are nonreactive materials) pot, bowl, 2 jars (make sure that one has a lid), stirring spoon and fork

measuring spoons

coffee filter and small funnel OR panty-hose sock (you can wash and reuse) OR a piece of cheesecloth or fabric and an elastic

dropper (not necessary)

Directions:

-steep tea in boiling water for about 20 minutes

-strain the tea into a jar using a coffee filter and a small funnel OR to create less waste, stretch a panty hose sock over the jar and strain OR stretch cheesecloth or fabric over the jar and secure with an elastic (strain again if you wish into the second jar)

-stir in the baking soda and boil the tea in your pot for a few minutes

-pour the tea into a jar again and whisk in gum Arabic, a little at a time, with a fork until dissolved (if it is not dissolving, heat the ink again but don’t bring to a boil) *you can skip this step if you don’t have gum Arabic powder on hand*

-when cool, add 8-10 drops of alcohol per 1-ounce bottle of ink , OR add a clove, OR add a few drops of wintergreen oil or thyme oil *if you don’t have these items on hand, just be sure to keep cool in the refrigerator*

-secure the lid on your jar, label the name/date on the jar and refrigerate to help preserve (tea tends to go moldy)

-shake before use

NOTES

Gum Arabic thickens, helps with controlling ink flow, binds the ink to the paper and helps preserve

Alcohol helps to prevent mold

A few final tips:

  • It can be helpful to make ink samples during the slow process of creating inks. I use scrap pieces of watercolour paper, but just use whatever paper that you have available. Be sure to write down the time and other details (I have learned the hard way by thinking that I will remember).
  • This recipe helps you extend the life of the ink with preservation ingredients, but if mold does appear in the tea ink, simply scoop it off.
  • Experiment with the light-fast nature of tea ink by leaving your samples in a sunny windowsill (be sure to label the date).
  • Be sure to label the jar and to keep out of the reach of children or pets.

You may wish to refer to my blog post entitled How to Paint with Natural Inks: Part 1 where I give suggestions as to how to paint with ink. A few tools or supplies that may come in handy are rags, lids or bottle caps, paint brushes, a dropper, a palette knife, a spray bottle of water and even your fingers.

I look forward to viewing your tea ink adventures using my hashtag #natureswildink or send me a photo at melissajenkins@live.ca

DIY avocado ink without leaving home

an easy avocado ink recipe using baking soda and avocado

I thought that I would share my secret avocado ink recipe for all those who are looking to create with their little ones or to explore natural inks while “retreating” at home. I like to say that avocado ink is a “gateway” into the world of natural inks. You can create ink from both the shells and the stone (pip or pit). The beauty of avocado ink is that you can create a variety of colours from peach to blush pink to a deep brownish red. The range of colours can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • the age of the avocado pit
  • if the pits or skins have been frozen and at what stage of freshness the pits and skins were frozen
  • the age of the avocado skins (the older the avocado skins the deeper the red colour)
  • the ph level of your water
  • if you have completely cleaned off all of the flesh (bits of flesh can dull the colour)
  • if you cook the whole stone or chop it up (chopped stones release more colour) and
  • how long that you simmer the pits or skins

A few notes about avocado ink ingredients:

Soda ash otherwise known as sodium carbonate (the active ingredient in washing soda), is an important part of my recipe. It acts as an alkali mordant to help bring out a more vibrant colour. You should have this on hand, because all that you need to do to make your own is to heat baking soda in a 200°F oven for an hour.

You may not have distilled water on hand, but you can still experiment with tap water, and then when you are able to find distilled water, you can compare colour outcomes.

Gum Arabic thickens, helps with controlling ink flow, binds the ink to the paper and helps preserve. Gum Arabic is sometimes called acacia gum or acacia powder and it is made from the natural hardened sap of two types of wild Acacia trees. You probably won’t have gum Arabic powder lying around, but if you are a watercolour artist, you may have a bottle of liquid gum Arabic. Either way, you don’t need to have gum Arabic to paint with avocado ink and you can just skip that part of the recipe. Also, there is no absolute rule for exactly how much gum Arabic to add to ink. You can test different amounts with test strips to figure out what amount works for you.

If you don’t have 99.9% Isopropyl Alcohol, you can also use different purity levels (ie. 60%) or preserve with a clove, wintergreen oil or thyme oil.

Avocado Ink Recipe

*if you wish to make Avocado Skins/Shells Ink, simply substitute 1 cup of cleaned avocado skins in place of the stones

Ingredients:

1 cup of distilled water

2 large fresh avocado stones, cleaned and chopped (the more pits that you add, the darker the ink)

1 tsp soda ash

1/2 tsp gum Arabic

8-10 drops of 99.9% Isopropyl Alcohol

Materials: *keep these materials for making inks ONLY *

stainless steel or glass pot (nonreactive materials), bowl, jar, stirring spoon, fork and sharp knife

fine mesh strainer

coffee filter and small funnel OR panty hose sock OR cheese cloth and elastic band (you can wash and reuse)

dropper and ink bottle (or any glass jar with a lid)

Directions:

  1. Bring the chopped avocado stones, water and soda ash to a low boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. The chopped avocado pits will begin to turn the water pink and then a deep maroon. This should take anywhere between 20-40 minutes to see the colour change.
  2. When the desired colour is reached, turn off the heat (*take care not to “cook” the pits).
  3. Soak off the heat for an hour or as long as desired (I usually leave overnight).
  4. Strain the pits into a bowl with a fine mesh strainer.
  5. Strain the ink again into a jar using a coffee filter and a small funnel or to create less waste, stretch a panty hose sock over the jar or use a piece of cheese cloth and elastic band. This is a slow process and you will be tempted to squeeze the filter. Resist the temptation.
  6. To add in the powdered gum Arabic, heat up the ink again but don’t bring to a boil (you can use a microwave). Whisk the powder into the heated ink a little at a time with a fork until dissolved. I have also used a blender to quickly mix in the powder.
  7. When the ink has cooled, add 8-10 drops of alcohol per a 1-ounce bottle of ink to help preserve the ink.  If you don’t have alcohol on hand, you can also preserve with a clove, wintergreen oil or thyme oil.
  8. Make sure that there is no air space inside the bottle (to help prevent mold growth) but if you don’t have a small bottle on hand the ink will be just fine.
  9. Secure the lid and refrigerate to help preserve.
  10. Shake before use

A few final tips:

  • It can be helpful to make ink samples during the slow process of creating inks. I use scrap pieces of watercolour paper, but just use whatever paper that you have available. Be sure to write down the time and other details (I have learned the hard way by thinking that I will remember).
  • Avocado ink lasts a long time even when it is not refrigerated. In fact, I love how thick it can get when left in a heated room. If mold does appear, simply scoop it off.
  • Avocado ink is also very lightfast. You can experiment with fading by leaving your samples in a sunny window.

I look forward to viewing your avocado ink adventures using my hashtag #natureswildink or send me a photo at melissajenkins@live.ca

How to Paint with Natural Inks : Part 2

Painting onto canvas with natural inks.

In the few years that I have been on this journey of handcrafting and painting with natural inks, I have developed my own pathways and discovered a few new trails along the way. Recently I was inspired, from a practical perspective, to collect recycled bottle caps and lids to use as ink vessels in my natural inks workshops. But filling avocado shells and milkweed pods with natural inks helps me to establish a much more organic atmosphere as I create in my studio.

In my last post, I focused on painting natural inks onto watercolour paper. But I have had quite a few enquires asking if natural inks can be painted onto canvas. I was directed by a fellow artist (Pamela Bates) to experiment with painting watercolour ground onto canvas. Watercolour ground is a primer that can be applied to a multitude of surfaces. The finish and appearance is very much like cold press watercolour paper.

Although painting onto a canvas with watercolour ground certainly doesn’t have the same magical absorption of watercolour paper, I found that there was an upside. Unlike watercolor paper, I was able to wipe off the ink with a damp rag if I wasn’t happy with the placement. Please note though, that even with a ground, canvas doesn’t typically like water and can create buckling (thank you Lisa Mclinden Art for the tip).

A watercolour painting by Lisa McLinden

Since natural inks are water-based, you may need to experiment with how much water that you add to the canvas.

Fellow artist Carrie Ann Hall has created gorgeous paintings with my natural inks on both gessoed board and unprimed canvas and she doesn’t add water.

natural inks on canvas by Carrie Ann Hall
natural inks on canvas board by Carrie Ann Hall
natural inks on canvas board by Carrie Ann Hall

What about you? Have you had success painting natural inks onto canvas?

How to Paint with Natural Inks: Part 1

A few tips on painting with natural inks.

First of all, in my mind, there is no right or wrong way to paint with natural inks. I have developed a system that works for me, that I will share, but I also look forward to hearing how others approach painting with inks.

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Tools:
-music
-watercolour paper
-bottle caps, lids or watercolour palette
-jar of water
-rag
-spray bottle
-palette knife
-2 eye droppers (one for water and one for the ink)
-a few paint brushes (I like an angle brush for applying ink)
-rocks (to weigh the paper down)

The first thing is to “set the mood”. Not to get too “woo” on you, but choosing music that puts you into a “flow” state will help your hands work with the fluidity of the inks.
Pour a small amount of your ink (you can always add more) into a bottle cap, lid or watercolour palette. Have a bottle of water on hand and a rag to dry off your brush.
Depending on the style of art that you hope to paint, will also determine how you apply the inks. If you are creating realistic and detailed art, then adding water may not be necessary at all. I work in an abstract style that embraces the movement of liquids, so adding water is an integral part of my process.

I usually begin by spraying or dropping water in a few places on my watercolour paper and then use my palette knife or my fingers to spread the water around. I love to create magical moments by using an eye dropper to drop the ink onto the water and watch it travel into and along the water trails. I take a rather intuitive approach and use either my palette knife, paint brush or fingers to spread the ink or help the ink along on its journey with the water.

If I am trying to create a more solid or intense colour, I use an eye dropper or paint brush and directly apply the ink to the watercolour paper.

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I also like to use rocks not only for colour inspiration and as a way to “ground” my thoughts in natural objects, but also as paper weights. The more water that I add to the paper, the more that the watercolour paper will buckle. I place rocks on the paper to counteract the buckling. This way, I don’t bother with painting tape and the risk of ripping my painting. Once the painting is completely dry, I will flip over the painting, spray a bit of water on the backside, iron it flat and then quickly place it under heavy books to flatten it.

Note: If you are dipping your paint brush directly into the ink bottle, be sure to wash your brush out before dipping it into another ink. Simply dip your brush into your jar of water and then dry it on your rag. When you are finished painting, you can wash out your paint brushes with a little bit of dish soap.

Those are a few of my methods of working with natural inks. Do you have any tips for painting with natural inks?

DIY Eco-Friendly Valentines Day Kit with Natural Inks

Are you looking for unique, creative AND sustainably-minded Valentine’s cards for your child’s class? Here is an easy, eco-friendly DIY Valentine kit designed to create with your little one. You can purchase this kit (with free shipping) here.

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82082678_2691553757560633_2991483801571426304_nYou will create your own sustainable stamps (only revealed once purchased) and using the avocado ink supplied, you and your little one will decorate mini organic cotton bags and a larger linen bag, designed to carry all the valentines to school in.

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You will then paint two avocados and stamp a heart onto the natural paper provided using the avocado and buckthorn berry ink. After the ink is dry, you will use the Uni Ball pen to add in arms and legs.

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Next, you will choose from a collection of fun avocado themed sayings and you or your child will write these sayings onto the cards. Finally, your child will write his/her name on the cards and tuck the cards into the mini bag.

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Place all the mini bags in the larger bag and cinch shut. Your child will now be ready to take all the adorably handmade, yet sustainable Valentines to school.

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How to Make Avocado Ink

work inprogress in blog form.jpg

When an artist friend showed me her avocado ink painting a year ago, my artistic life was absolutely transformed!  Avocados play a major role in our home.  I have avocados in my morning smoothie, my lunchtime sandwich and we have guacamole once a week for Taco Tuesday! I have an abundance of empty shells and stones (pits) so I am constantly creating new ink for my paintings. Creating avocado ink is very simple and I often create a batch as I am preparing meals or cleaning the kitchen.

46011098_1212020345634734_7913503016978743296_nSupplies:

large cooking pot
large spoon
water
avocado stones and empty shells (the more stones and shells, the stronger the colour)
fine mesh strainer
small paper samples
whole cloves
mason jar with lid

Preparation:

Scrub all the green avocado remains off the stones and shells (I find that using my finger nails works the best).

Fill your pot with all of your cleaned stones and shells and then cover with water.

pot of stones adn shells

Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. After about 20-40 minutes, the water will begin to change colour from clear to pink to a reddish brown. I like to stir the contents occasionally. The skins will begin to come off the stones.

Use a tiny piece of paper to test the colour and when you are satisfied, strain your ink with a fine mesh strainer.  Inevitably bits of shell will make its way into your ink, but I love the texture and authenticity that it provides in my paintings.

ink samples not square.jpg

I store my ink in mason jars in the fridge and you can also help preserve the ink by adding a clove to the sealed jar.

cloves.jpg

Each batch that you make will produce a slightly different shade of pink depending on how many stones and shells that you use. Have fun experimenting and be sure to label each batch with a colour sample and date. Try a batch with just one stone and shell, or just stones, or adding less water or simmering for different lengths of time. You can also freeze the stones and shells if you aren’t able to make the ink right away.

Have fun creating your own ink!

 

finished piece for kristen.jpg

 

Color Block Christmas Ornaments

The holiday season is edging closer and I have been very happily creating new ornaments in my studio.  These ornaments have been inspired by the earthy colours that I find foraging each day on my walks with our puppy Mylo. They will be launching first at  The Canadian Makers Holiday Online Marketplace from November 15-26 where where I will be offering FREE SHIPPING on all my products!

color block bark ornamentscolor block ornaments in mustard and blush pinkcolor block ornaments in chocolate and rust4 color block ornaments in green and blush pinkcolor block ornaments in black and whitemudcloth and colour block ornaments in blush pink and cinnamon2