Print 1. Comparing paper

A few days ago I boiled up my pots and did some natural dyeing, always a fun experience.  The examples here are comparisons between some paper I dyed a while ago in a pot with eucalyptus leaves/bark/twigs + iron sulphate mordant, and my new pot with avocado stones and skin, eucalyptus leaves, a few other leaves + a mordant mix of alum and copper sulphate with a smidge of iron sulphate (as the colour was very light).

On both occasions I trapped plant material between the pages, added a resist and clamped the paper between wooden blocks, and the colour has taken well.  However, this time I deliberately changed my paper choice as, up until this point, I have always ensured I’ve used 100% cotton rag paper.

For my previous dyeing I used *BFK Reeves 250gsm 100% cotton paper, a high quality print paper which I have used throughout my OCA assignments.  This time I used Mont Marte 190gsm 100% acid free watercolour paper.  The results speak for themselves.

Dyeing-1Many of the pages are very average and the resulting prints are fuzzy and undefined.  The gum leaves, top left, have a good green tinge to them which I’m happy about and they are also the most well-formed image transfers.  Here I compare these prints with previous work:


The sprigs on the dark print are well-defined, crisply outlined and there is a depth and layering aspect to the imagery.  My new sprig prints are flat, watery and hard to identify.

Dyeing-3These fern fronds usually dye beautifully and I have some wonderful images on fabric as well as paper.  Again the new print is washed out and has lost all detail.

Dyeing-4The gum leaves have a terrific colour, faint, subtle and with a water-colour feel to them.  Quite nice but there is still much more depth and interest in the darker prints.

Dyeing-5Again the leaves are faint but with more bleed-out, less defined.  On the right, the fern has taken well and I think this is because I ‘basted’ the paper when it was in the pot.  Part of it was above the water level and from time to time I poured some of the liquid between the clamped pages.  So more colour was introduced and the effects have improved.

So, what have I learned?
Keep water-colour paper for water-colour painting, not printing or dyeing in any form.  It simply absorbs too much liquid and has a tendency to bloat, causing the surface to lift.  It doesn’t towel dry well enough to obtain successful monotype or lino prints and creates a water mark within oil based image transfer.

This has been a useful exercise and has demonstrated what can go wrong when you don’t know which paper to choose.  Evey day I’m learning more and am becoming a much better judge of which papers are for what purpose.  Trials like this enable me to view differing results and make more informed decisions.

Back to 100% cotton paper when dyeing in future, and ignore the advise from the local art shop!

*Note: It is variously referred to as Reeves or Rives throughout the internet.


About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, Print 1: Experimentation, Printmaking 1 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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