Homemade Natural Colouring

I’ve been wanting to have a go at making food colouring/ liquid watercolour paint from natural ingredients for so long, and finally had a go this week. It’s so easy! I decided to try just three colours to begin with, green, purple and yellow, although I’m pretty sure it’s possible to make a whole rainbow of colours using a little imagination.

So, for green I used a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves and simmered them in a pan with about 1.5 cups of water for 10 minutes. When the water was starting to look green I turned off the heat and strained the leaves through a sieve, squeezing out some more colour.

For purple I used a small punnet of blueberries and simply put them in a dish in the microwave with a few tablespoons of water, for about one and a half minutes. Then I mashed it into a pulp and strained the purple juice through a sieve. You could mix the pulp into yoghurt or make it into baby food. I topped up the juice with a little warm water and stirred it through.

For yellow I used a few tablespoons of turmeric, a bright yellow/orange spice used commonly in Indian dishes. This was really simple to create! I just stirred in about two to three times as much warm water to the amount of dried spice and stirred until it was dissolved. It made a lovely, thick liquid, reminiscent of old school powdered paints.

I put the new dyes into old jam jars which double up as nice paint pots with lids. Here’s the result when they are painted onto watercolour paper.

To be honest, I couldn’t bear the smell of the spinach dye at all so after they experimented a little that one was immediately ditched! But the other colours are being stored in the fridge and I will post about what else we are using them for later this week!

15 comments to Homemade Natural Colouring

  • LOVE this post, the colours are just gorgeous! We’ve been doing the same with our home-grown veggies, after we were inspired by our sunflower dye. http://sunhatswellieboots.blogspot.com/2011/06/sunflower-leaf-print-natural-dye.html
    Just need to get round to writing up that veggie dye post!

  • Will remember this. We found some wool in hedgerows on holiday which fits in really well with something we plan to do a bit later in the year. Dyeing the wool would be great. Had wondered about blackberries although it is a shame not to eat them.

  • oh so interesting… I wonder if you could add something to the spinach to disguise the smell??

  • Could you add peppermint to the spinach colour?

  • I was going to suggest te same as Erica – using mint for the green.

  • Oh good ideas ladies! I have lots of mint growing in my garden so I could try it! Anything is better than that putrid smell in my house! Thanks :-)

  • Aaah how lovely!!
    Reminds me of good old days When I started playing with my daughter with paints, I used only what I had at home. Turmeric and vermillion (red dye used for worship in Indian homes). And please be aware that turmeric stains cloths!
    Perhaps you add a pod of crushed garlic to spinach while boiling to avoid the smell.

  • I’ve always been fascinated by natural dyes and paints, and have been experimenting with them since I was a teenager. I did a post about it
    last year. In my experience something which makes a good dye will not necessarily make a good paint, and vice versa.

    Paprika is also good for orange, as is Chilli powder, and don’t forget the earth pigments (literally mud!) and chalk. Soot is good for black. Oh, and I also discovered that the colour you get from berries changes with the addition of vinegar – I managed to change pink to blue that way. Nothing like a bit of chemistry to liven up the art.

  • Lovely! If you get a bit of turmeric stain on your counters, I’ve had success with lemon juice and baking soda.

    Jude, thanks for posting the tip about vinegar changing the colors!

  • Sarah- I love the idea of dyeing wool! That would be so effective.
    Roopa- how wonderful! Vermillion is the actual base in old fashioned red powdered paint isn’t it?! And yes I can see that turmeric could stain- such a vibrant colour! Are there any other spices that would work?
    Jude- what a wealth of knowledge! I LOVE the idea about changing the colour by adding vinegar! I think we will have to try that for sure.
    Rebekah- great cleaning tip! I surely need plenty of those around here!

  • Lovely! Actually I was thinking of making some paint with Beetroots! Beetroots yield beautiful cherry red color
    Do you know, Mixing turmeric to blue soap/dish wash liquid yields a beautiful red soapy solution!

  • Oh and the tumeric looks wonderful! What a breautiful earthy and warm colour!!! Great idea!

    Thanks for joining Kids Get Crafty!


  • @Anna,
    The traditional Vermillion (kumkum as its called in India) was made with turmeric and lime.
    But the modern day ones are all dyes most containing lead and mercury:(

    Other things I can think of are cinnamon powder and coffee. And as Jude mentioned chilli powder but not ideal for kids!
    Coriander powder which is cilantro seeds powder, yet another staple in our homes might give a yellow-green too (will try and let u know)

  • @Jude,
    Lovely remainders there especially the soot, brings many childhood memories with it:)

    And great tip about vinegar!!


  • Some great alternatives or additives to the green spinach mentioned already but I think you can do the same with basil and it smells divine :)