DIY Blueberry Ink from Fresh or Frozen Berries

Reader Contribution by Sarah Hart Morgan

Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

It’s blueberry season! If you have an extra amount this season, may I strongly suggest that you use some to create blueberry ink — I don’t think you’ll regret it! At the beginning of last month, I led an in-person workshop (it was so great getting to see people again!) on making wild inks where we created this blueberry ink. I ended up using frozen blueberries during the workshop, so if you are reading this in the off season, know that using frozen berries is a good alternative.

6 Colors, 6 Papers

Using my method for creating ink and using several different modifiers — baking soda, washing soda, citric acid, apple cider vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide — we were able to make six different ink colors in beautiful natural hues. We also experimented and played with different watercolor papers and quickly found out that those six inks reacted differently to each type of paper, expanding what the inks could do even more.

Here’s the short version of those steps, but see the longer post for details:

1. Boil plant material in a stainless pot. Depending on how much ink you want to make and for what purpose, you’ll want to add more or less water. I use water straight from the tap but depending on your own water, you may want to use spring or distilled water. With the way I work, I end up with 1 or 2 ounces of ink and I probably start with about 4 cups of water when I start.

 While the water/plant mixture is boiling, keep an eye on the plant material, I pull the plants out of the pot once all the color has been extracted. Depending on the plant, the color will actually disappear from the plant while boiling. At this point, just keep an eye on the water so the pot doesn’t boil dry.

2. Test for color. I like to test my color while the water/plant mixture boils, testing at different times. I tear a few strips of paper (use a heavier weight paper for this. Watercolor, cardstock, etc.) and dip them into the pot to test the color. Once you are happy with the color, you can stop the boil.  I like to make test strips of color on watercolor paper, being sure to make any notes on the strips for future reference.

3. Strain your ink into your sanitized bottle of your choosing through a mesh sieve.  To preserve you can add Wintergreen essential oil or Clove essential oil. I found in my own research that some recommend a whole clove bud but I’ve noticed the ink will color shift after a few weeks with a whole clove bud so I choose to use Clove essential oil instead.

Blueberry Ink Keeps 1 Month or Longer

It’s now the middle of July and those inks from the beginning of June have stayed in my fridge and I am happy to report that each ink is just as fresh as the day they were made. I’ve been experimenting with new techniques for using the inks in my creative practice and I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve been up to.

Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

Sarah Hart Morgan is a designer, photographer and author of Forrest + Thyme Apothecary: simple skin care formulas you can make uniquely your own. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley, where she works with foraged plants in her skincare and apothecary products, camera-less photography, using plants as a developing agent in film photography, and creating natural inks for painting. Connect with Sarah on her website, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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