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Natural Ink: How to Make Your Own

Making natural ink is a highlight of TerraTime for both children and adults. Nature has long been a source of pigments and dyes made from natural materials.

This activity can get messy but the process of experimenting with different materials is worth it! Here’s how to make your own natural ink.

What You Need:

  1. Natural materials with color (i.e.: wild fruit, berries, leaves, grass, flowers, spices, etc.)

  2. Mortar and pestle, spoon or stick

  3. Small bowls or containers (these will get stained)

  4. Water

  5. Vinegar

  6. Salt

  7. Tablespoon

  8. Fine-mesh strainer (optional)

  9. Paper

  10. Old clothes (colors may stain)

  11. Natural paint brushes* or feathers with a hallow shaft

Step 1:

Encourage children to collect a variety of natural materials that have the color they want to paint with.  These may include wild fruit, berries, vegetables, leaves, grass, flowers, and spices.

Step 2:

Place one material at a time in a mortar or container and mash it using a pestle, spoon, or stick. 

Step 3:

For fruit and berries: Add 3 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to the mashed material.

Everything else: Add 3 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the mashed material.

Step 4:

(Optional) For a smoother texture of natural ink, pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a container.

Step 5:

Using natural paint brushes or feathers with a hallow shaft, paint a picture with natural ink on paper and let dry.

Color Sources:

Red & Pink: beets, pomegranates, rose petals, avocado pits, raspberries, red berries

Orange: carrots, turmeric, butternut seeds/skin

Yellow: marigolds, sunflower petals, paprika, celery leaves, onion skins, crab apples

Green: spinach, mint leaves, lilacs, artichokes, grass, leaves

Blue: blueberries, blackberries

Purple: purple cabbage, black beans, elderberries

Black: black walnut husk


Only use berries from non-poisonous plants.

Take a field guide with you if you are unsure about a plant.

Have children wash their hands thought when they are finished.

*Not sure how to make natural paint brushes? Find out how here >>>

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