Recently I had been itching to try dyeing Japanese paper (washi) with some natural dyes so I went and bought some natural dyes already in a concentrated liquid form from my favourite dye shop in Kyoto, Tanaka Nao (

Although you can use these dyes as is, they apparently have poor fastness when used without a mordant or some kind of fixative. I found that using alum as a mordant made fixed the dyes well but I have also read that these dyes can be cured over a period of time when mixed with soy milk. This is something I want to try in the future (when I’m not working to such a tight deadline!)
To make things simple, I only made small postcard sized pieces, applying a binder to the paper first to give it strength before stenciling on the resist paste and dyeing with natural dyes.


Japanese paper with resist paste applied (brown areas), just starting to brush on dyes
Once the dye is dry, I just wash the paper to remove the resist paste.

The dyes I tried out this time were Walnut (dark greyish brown), Persimmon (a greenish yellow), Lac (strong pinkish red) and “Gardenia Blue” (an indigo-esque blue). I mixed these 4 together to get a surprisingly wide colour range. By watering them down, I could also achieve more subtle gradations.

Here’s some of the finished postcards. I’m really happy with how they turned out and have had very good feedback from people I have shown them too. Hopefully in the near future I can start selling these online and in Kyoto.

Musk Lorikeet and Eucalypts ユーカリとジャコウインコ
Eucalyptus blossoms and gumnuts ユーカリの実と花
Superb Fairy Wren & Royal Bluebell ルリオーストラリアムシクイとブルーベル
On this one I attempted to use colours true to the real thing
Superb Fairy Wren &Royal Bluebell ルリオーストラリアムシクイとブルーベル
Here I used simpler colours which aren’t true colours but it gives it a more designy feel perhaps
This is just the start of my experimentation with natural dyes and Japanese paper and I’m hoping to try much more in the coming year. Stay tuned for the next adventure!