How to Extract Colour Dye From Plants

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There are a wide range of plants that create brilliant dyes when simmered in water. Some are readily available at the grocery store, while others have to be gathered from your garden or the wild.

Plant dyes are a delight to experiment with. It requires patience and flexibility to get the results you are looking for.


The roots of plants are a great source of natural dyes. Many notable varieties produce a variety of colors and are easy to locate and harvest. A few examples are the purple leaf, a variety of grasses, ferns and more weeds than you can count on one hand. For the most part, the best plant materials can be found in your backyard or along a local hiking trail. To be safe and sound, make sure you have permission before nabbing the goods from a neighboring property. To make things even more fun, try collecting your wares in an eco friendly way by bundling them up for a fun scavenger hunt. The end results will not only provide you with a novel artifact to display on your wall, but a whole new way to experience the natural world around you.


The fruit of many different plants can be used to extract colour dye. Some of the most famous examples include indigo and madder, but you can also use oranges, carrots, berries and even avocados to create a variety of colours.

Getting started with natural dyes is relatively simple. All you need are a few ingredients and some time.

First you need to decide what type of plant material you want to extract colour from. Flowers, leaves, roots, seeds, bark and wood are all potential sources of natural dyes.

When using these materials, make sure to rinse them well and add a mordant to help the color adhere to your fabric. You can also bundle the materials together into a fabric bunch to enable the dyes to seep into the fibers.

For example, you can combine a handful of blueberries with a few tablespoons of salt to create a dye bath that produces an almost-invisible green. A few drops of alum will also help the dye to stick better, but it is not essential.

Alternatively, you can try boiling the fruits in water for several minutes to produce a more intense and longer-lasting dye. Be careful not to over-simmer the ingredients or they will turn hard and brittle.

Some plants produce very rich colour extracts while others produce lighter, more mellow shades. The exact colors you get depend on the amount of pigment in the plant and the time of year it is harvested.

A few simple steps can yield a wide range of colours including black, blue, green, purple, peach or salmon, pink, brown and orange. In addition, the dyes produced by a few plants, such as indigo and madder, produce a spectrum of red tones that can be used to create unique, beautiful color combinations for fabric.


Vegetable dyes are a great way to get bright, one-of-a-kind shades on fabrics. They require a little extra preparation to ensure the dyes can bond to fibers, but they are eco-friendly and long lasting.

To extract colour dye from a vegetable, chop up the item into small pieces and place it in a pot covered with water twice the size of the piece. Heat the water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for an hour or so. Then strain it through a sieve to remove the bits of produce and set it aside.

There are many types of plants that can be used as natural dye sources, from fruits and vegetables to flowers and even bugs! Gathering the right plant material can be a bit of a challenge, but you can learn what to look for with Rebecca Burgess’s book Gathering Color.

For the best results, be sure to collect only as much dye material as you need. This means leaving enough for the plants to survive and the animals to eat.

Fruits are often available year-round at the grocery store, but they have a higher dye potential when they are fresh. Try to collect them when they are at their ripest and most beautiful, and remember to cut the fruit low on the stem for the most dye-making potential.

Flowers are also a great source of color, but they are most impressive when they are in bloom. Using them as a dye material requires a lot of patience and attention to detail, but it is well worth the effort.

Bugs are another wonderful natural dye source, especially when they are at their most vibrant. They are easier to collect than a flower and they can create a wide range of color. The process is a little tricky but once you master it you will be amazed at the color that can be produced!


Bark is the tough outer covering of the woody stems and roots of trees, shrubs, and other woody plants. It includes all tissues outside the vascular cambium, a layer of actively dividing cells that forms water conducting xylem tissue towards the inside of the plant and sugar conducting phloem tissue towards the outside.

Bark can be a beautiful and interesting surface texture on some plants. It can be rough or smooth, stringy or flaky, or curl like chocolate shavings on an elaborate gateau. It can also be colorful, ranging from blue to orange to green.

The bark of some plants is also used for medicinal purposes, as it contains substances that are useful in treating certain types of cancers and other diseases. For example, a chemical called sclerotiatoside is found in the bark of some plants that help to prevent the spread of skin cancer and may also reduce the risk of lung tumors.

Another bark product is rubber, which is extracted from the latex of some trees such as the amazonian rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). The oily substance from this extract is refined into natural rubber for use in shoes and other products.

Dyeing is a process where plants are boiled in water or other solutions that are then soaked in fabric to produce a range of colours. Many plants can be processed for dyeing fresh, whereas others need to be preserved before extracting the dyes.

When storing the dye extracts, it is best to keep them in plastic bags that have a grip seal. If they go hard or change colour, re-seal them and store them in a cool place. Some extracts, such as coreopsis, will go hard and black after a long time in the open but this does not seem to affect their dyeing potential at all.


One of the simplest ways to extract colour dye from plants is to use leaves. Indigo, for example, is obtained from the leaves of the indigo plant. These leaves contain two precursor molecules which need to be combined in order to form indigo. This can be achieved by rubbing the leaf (or a piece of it) between your hands or even bruising it with something hard! The resulting dye is very beautiful and it’s a great way to use up discarded leaves, if you have any!

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Arushi Sana is the Co Founder of NYK Daily. She was a Forensic Data Analyst previously employed with EY (Ernst & Young). She aims to develop a global community of knowledge and journalism par excellence through this News Platform. Arushi holds a degree in Computer Science Engineering. She is also a Mentor for women suffering from Mental Health, and helps them in becoming published authors. Helping and educating people always came naturally to Arushi. She is a writer, political researcher, a social worker and a singer with a flair for languages. Travel and nature are the biggest spiritual getaways for her. She believes Yoga and communication can make the world a better place, and is optimistic of a bright yet mysterious future!

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