Eco prints are prints of leaves and plants made by steaming the plants between leaves of paper. The results can be stunning and surprising or disappointing. There are many “recipes” and trial and error methods for producing these prints. I am sharing my experience here. More results may be seen in my Eco-prints gallery.
I gathered freshly fallen leaves while walking around my neighborhood. The ones that gave the best results were oak leaves which never disappointed. Beware of eucalyptus and other leaves that have a lot of oil. Though it was tempting to pick them, I found that the oil caused them to stick to the paper after they were steamed resulting in some torn pages. I rinsed my leaves off and stuck them between the pages of a book overnight to flatten.
I used mixed media paper 98lb acid free by Canson. I used this paper because I wanted to produce single strip accordion books and this paper comes in an XL size 18 x 24 inches, is very inexpensive and was on hand at the time of my experiments. Many other artists use water color paper or handmade papers.
Soaking the Pages
I did three experiments: one with apple cider vinegar, one with washing soda and the third with white balsamic vinegar. I can’t say which came out best because I varied other elements of my experiments as well. The pages that used the washing soda came out whitest and so had more contrast. I generally mixed two tablespoons into a quart of water in a shallow plastic container and soaked the pages in it for at least 5 minutes. I noticed the bubbles coming off the pages and made sure they were totally soaked before I began the stack. Adding the pages one at a time helps them to get water in between the sheets and come out of the solution easier. Thicker pages should soak longer. I folded my accordions before adding them, a folded leaf at a time, to the solution.
I use metal on the outside and sometimes on the inside of the bundles. (It’s supposed to have some reaction with the vinegar. I don’t really know but there is another technique called rusted paper that can be combined with the leaf prints and relies on that chemical reaction. I’ll check that out later. ) I used tin cans lids and scraps of copper from another project on the outside of the bundles. On top of the metal I used a thicker watercolor paper that had also been soaked. Then I began the first leaf sandwich: my mixed media paper, leaves and another sheet of paper. The mixed media paper has one side smoother than the other. For some reason, I choose to put the smoother side away from the leaves. Another piece of paper, more leaves, more paper; paper, leaves, paper; paper, leaves, paper until I ran out of paper. For the accordions I did the same thing but I could have placed leaves between all of the layers. At the end of the stack is another sheet of the thicker paper, and a layer of metal. That all gets clipped together with binder clips.
I use a deep pot that has a steamer basket. I’ve also used a regular pot with a steamer insert. I generally placed the bundles in the steaming basket over boiling salted water and allow to steam on a low boil for 4 hours. I generally have to add more water about every hour. I might do better if I steamed for longer or waited longer before opening my packets but I was using cheap thin paper and an impatient mindset.
I did let the bundles cool off some before opening them. I laid them out to dry and brushed or peeled the remaining leaves away gently. Whala! After they dried I ironed them to flatten the paper out. The accordion books were a hit at the BABA group’s mini-book exchange!