Are There All-Natural Watercolor Alternatives?

Homemade Paints that Are Safe for the Environment
By Alina Bradford

all natural watercolor paintArtists don’t need to use chemicals to make beautiful watercolor paintings. Plants can provide vivid colors without the harmful additives that may pollute the water system when they are poured down the drain. All-natural watercolor paints can be made with a simple process.

Finding Plants for All-Natural Watercolor Paints

There are many common plants that can be used to create all-natural watercolor paints. Here is a list of plants that artists can find in the yard or grocery store and what colors they will produce:

  • Red onion peels: crimson red and burgundy
  • Pokeberries: deep red
  • Orange pekoe tea: brown
  • Black walnuts: black
  • Queen Anne’s Lace: green
  • Marigolds: yellow
  • Goldenrod: lime green
  • Blueberries: blue
  • Cayenne pepper: rust red
  • Yellow onion peels: various hues of yellow and tan
  • Coffee beans: browns and tans
  • Dandelions: mossy greens

How to Make All-Natural Watercolors

coffee used for paintingThe easiest way to make rich, natural watercolors is by boiling the plant with water to release its natural dyes.

  1. Before hand, each type of plant material, except for teas and ground coffee beans, should be soaked. Walnuts should be soaked for one month. Flowers and berries should be soaked in water overnight. Stems, peels and leaves should be soaked for 3 to 4 days.
  2. Boil the plant in its soaking water until the water becomes the desired color. To test the color, dip a spoon in the water and drag it across a scrap piece of watercolor paper. The longer the plant boils, the more saturated the color becomes. To get several different hues from one plant, collect the paint at different stages of the boiling process.
  3. Once the homemade watercolors are done boiling, the plant parts should be strained out using a colander or cheesecloth and the liquid should be poured into a clean jar or an air-tight food container.

How to Use Homemade Watercolors

Watercolor paint made from peppersHomemade watercolors can be used just like any other watercolor that has had water added to it. Most of these types of watercolors are transparent and can be combined with other colors and they work particularly well with homemade watercolor paper. The only downside is that each plant will need to be a little testing and tweaking to find the perfect hue.

Note: The archival quality of homemade watercolor paints varies depending on what type of plants it’s made of.

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