Natural Sun Ink

I have been skimping on the craft posts lately, mostly, because I have been busy with large scale outdoor projects like painting decks and refinishing lawn furniture.  It’s the time of year to spend time enjoying the outdoors, and finding projects, like this one, that reflect that.  I have been playing around with natural, non-toxic dyes and inks for a few years now with varying degrees of success.  It takes a lot of time and plant material to dye fabric and yarn, and even then the results are fairly muted.  I decided to take some of those techniques and apply them to producing natural ink this summer.  I realized quickly that the last thing you probably want to do during the summer is stay indoors cooking ink, not to mention the waste of resources it would take to produce these inks on a stove (hours of cook time), and so the idea of using the natural power of the sun to create these inks took form – after all, it works for sun tea, right?


  • 1 quart mason Jar full of the Plant Material harvested to dye the ink
  • boiling water
  • a 5″x5″ piece of Tulle or Netting to cover your mason jars
  • 1/4 cup White Vinegar
  • 3 tbsp Iodized Salt
  • 1 1/2 pint mason Jar
  • 3 whole Cloves
  • 3 tbsp Gum Arabic (optional. Gum arabic keeps the ink from being too runny, but can be hard to come find, outside specialty art supplies stores, and pricey.  Since I was experimenting, I only used it in half of my inks.  It does make a difference in the spread of the ink, but you can get around this by dabbing you quill lightly on a paper towel before use, and I am not sure how long the inks will last to make it worth the expense.)
  • 3 – 4 days worth of Sunny Weather.

Plant Materials:

  • ground Coffee
  • loose Green Tea
  • Black Plum Skins and sun-wrinkled Cherries
  • Onion Skins
  • Golden Rod flowers
  • Sumac flowers
  • Pokeweed Berries (these can be poisonous to humans when eaten, so be careful in your harvesting, and keep your ink away from children or anyone that might ingest it.  The only reason I even tried this type of ink was that it is supposed to have a beautiful rich purple color, but I was not able to harvest enough berries though to get the appropriate results.)



  1. Harvest your plant of choice, place them in a quart sized mason jar.
  2. Add the vinegar and salt.
  3. Pour the boiling water over the plant material in the mason jar, until the plant material is fully submerged.
  4. Carefully, cover the jars with a piece of tulle – the glass will be hot.  Screw on the metal lid-lip around the tulle.
  5. Place the jars in a sunny spot outside.
  6. Leave the jars there for a couple of days, bringing them inside when there is the threat of rain and overnight.
  7. After a couple days, pour the liquid out through the tulle (it should strain out all of the plant pieces) into a 1/2 pint sized mason jar with the cloves in the bottom of it.
  8. Clean the tulle, and then place the tulle on the smaller jar.  Place the jar back outside in a sunny spot in the hopes of evaporating off some of the excess liquid, and further concentrating the color.
  9. Test your ink by dipping strips of paper into it to see if it’s done.  I then used those paper tests to label my jars.
  10. Once you have achieved the color you desired, or as close to it as it’s going to get, stir in the gum arabic.  The jar should only be about half full.  Double the amount of gum arabic used if your jar is full.


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